Senate security prevents man from wearing “I heart oil & gas” t-shirt — security cites fear of offence

“Nowhere does the shirt say anything negative, defamatory or insulting to others,” Lacey continues.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal QC

UPDATE: Parliament Protective Service has since made a public apology to Lacey for the “misinterpretation” of the shirt’s potential offence on the part of security.

In an open letter to Ottawa, Chief Financial Officer of Steelhead Petroleum William Lacey claims he was asked to remove his shirt or leave the Senate by security. Security allegedly did this due to the potentially offensive content the shirt depicted. This content was “I heart oil & gas.”

Lacey begins his letter by describing a pleasant family outing to the nation’s capital, stopping in to show his kids all the usual attractions: museums, monuments, the House of Commons, and, of course, the Senate.

“In all, the experience was a good one, with one very notable exception,” Lacey writes. “When my wife and I went to visit the Senate, we were taken aside by security and told that the shirt I was wearing needed to be removed as it may offend some people. What was the offending shirt?”

“Nowhere does the shirt say anything negative, defamatory or insulting to others,” Lacey continues. “Far from it – it advocates a responsible and ethical approach to resource development. Last I checked, freedom of expression is protected under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moreover, there were other people on the tour who had graphics of things like a skull with a cross on the forehead, an anti-discrimination shirt (ironic) and one with a peace symbol on it.”

According to Lacey’s employee description on the Steelhead Petroleum website, he has been in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years, almost always occupying a leadership role, whether as CFO or vice-president. He has won numerous awards from various organizations, such as the Wall Street Journal and Brendon Wood, during his time in the industry and has been successful in integrating oil companies and infrastructure investments.

Put simply, Lacey is an earner for Canada in one of our most lucrative industries and has every right to be proud of the industry which allotted him such an opportunity.

“The last time I checked there was nothing illegal about the Canadian energy sector, and yet I was made to feel as though I should be embarrassed for what I was wearing,” writes Lacey. “The solution? I was told I could either leave or I could turn my shirt inside out and take part in the tour – I chose the latter option.”

In 2016, Energy Exchangereported that the production and exports of oil products, natural gas, and electricity contributed roughly $170 billion to Canada’s $1.8 trillion GDP. This means that the oil and gas industry made up roughly 10 percent of Canada’s economy.

Statistics from Natural Resources Canada showed that the country exported $132.2 billion in 2018, representing 23 percent of Canadian exports last year. Canada reportedly exported energy products to 148 countries, with the U.S. being our biggest customer.

In 2018, oil and gas trades represented 11 percent of Canada’s total GDP.

As an energy producer, Canada ranks 6th in the world, constituting 3 percent of the world’s energy production, with Alberta contributing $71.5 billion alone from energy sales.

These statistics are all relevant because it really goes to show that the oil and gas industry in many ways is the backbone of our country and our overall prosperity. To see one of the industry leads disparaged for promoting such an integral part of the economy is quite disconcerting.

Some in the Senate were appalled by the manner in which security handled Lacey’s t-shirt.

“This is unbelievable and unacceptable! Mr. Lacey was told he couldn’t go on a tour of the Senate wearing an “I love Canadian Oil and Gas” T-shirt! Conservative Senators on the CIBA committee have asked for a full investigation into the matter,” said Senator Don Plett in a Facebook post. “I agree with Mr Lacey that we should all be proud of Canadian oil and gas! If we don’t get to the bottom of it I’ll be wearing one of the T-shirts to the Senate myself!”

He says his next stop on his Ottawa tour was the House of Commons. Here, he experienced no problem for his “offensive” pro-oil shirt, and not a single security member found his shirt potentially offensive or even noteworthy.

Lacey is now demanding the Government of Canada to explain the actions of their security and answer why a member of the Canadian energy should be personally shamed for being happy about their contributions to the economy.

“I would like an answer as to why I was treated in such a manner at the Senate and if it is the policy of the Government of Canada to shame members of the Canadian energy industry,” says Lacey.

“I am proud of the industry I work for and I know firsthand that we are leading the way globally in terms of improving environmental performance as well as other aspects related to ESG (environment, social and governance) standards.”


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