Dear Editor: I am responding to the letter, “Separating frack from fiction,” by Dennis Bruce published in your paper on Feb. 4. I am the chairperson of the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group.
I, and several members of our group, were in attendance to hear Dr. James and Dr. Dusseault present on the evening of Jan. 30.
Firstly, I want to correct a factual error in Mr. Bruce’s letter to the editor. Mr. Bruce states that at the beginning of the question and answer session a member of our group was given a microphone and then “rambled on for seemingly 15 minutes walking around the room, flipping a document of some sort to Dr. Dusseault, and gave a “speech” covering many issues including: fracking and health, fracking and the economy, fracking and social impacts and fracking and the environment.”
I have checked the Harris Centre’s video of the event. The individual spoke for two minutes and 15 seconds, asking a question and referencing key aspects of the public debate on fracking. Mr. Bruce’s inaccurate comment leaves the impression the speaker deliberately used up an inordinate amount of time and prevented others from speaking. This is not the case.
Mr. Bruce also states: “The microphone was passed on to several people from seemingly the same row or section of the audience who proceeded to provide their own lengthy speeches on the topic but there were a few questions sprinkled in during their respective filibusters.”
Once again, I want to correct inaccuracy. The individuals who spoke next were not all in the same row. The individuals introduced themselves, asked specific questions and gave response to answers given. Characterizing this as “filibusters” is inaccurate and insulting.
Mr. Bruce then states, “I was hoping to get the chance to ask a question or two as well but that opportunity was not feasible due to the lengthy diatribes from many in the audience. I would guess that many others in the audience felt the same way.” I challenge this view from Mr. Bruce. Ample opportunity was given by the facilitator of the session for those in the audience to be identified if they wished to ask questions.
If Mr. Bruce did not ask questions, it was because he chose not to do so.
Mr. Bruce continues in his letter, “It should be noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom’s gives us all the right of freedom of expression and the represent-ative(s) of the Fracking Awareness Group were well within their Charter rights to come and disrupt the meeting and make their speeches and continue to preach that all aspects of fracking are bad, very bad.”
I take great exception with this commentary. Our group did not attend the presentations to “disrupt” the session.
Members of our group attended to listen and ask questions, as did many other individuals. If we had intended to “disrupt” the meeting, our members would have interrupted the presenters and been disorderly. We did not do this.
We are respectful of others and have always presented our views in a moderate, thoughtful manner.
To verify this, all one needs to do is check with the hundreds of people who have attended our 27 public presentations across the province.
Near the end of his letter Mr. Bruce offers this advice to the Harris Centre: “However, next time please don’t pass out the microphones to the masses, do not allow speeches from the floor and ensure the question and answer protocols are enforced.”
This is a very insulting comment. Who are “the masses”? I assume Mr. Bruce is referring to anyone having an opinion different from his. Mr. Bruce’s commentary seems to imply only those with his opinion should be heard.
This is a very dangerous perspective in an open, democratic society that is strengthened by free debate.
The Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group welcomes such public dialogue and will continue to engage in it.
Wayne Hounsell, Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group