Two sides to every story

A Canadian charity exists to pursue eligible charitable purposes governed by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) under stringent obligations, regulations and reporting.

There is an exception that allows a charity to carry on its activities with other charities, including non-Canadian charities.

These joint or cooperative ventures must adhere to the Canadian organization’s charitable purposes, be under the direction of the Canadian charity and follow Canadian law.

Political action by any charity is limited and tightly controlled.

On July 4, 2019 Premier Jason Kenney launched a $2.5 million inquiry to uncover foreign groups and billionaires who fund Canadian charities to spread misleading information against pipelines and Alberta’s energy sector.

In May 2012 the federal Conservative Harper government, of which Kenney was a senior cabinet minister, ordered the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to audit all environmental charities arguing they were ‘foreign-funded radicals’.

In 2012, no wrong doings were found, no charges were laid and no environmental charities lost their registered status. At the time, even the conservative-friendly National Post, through an independent review of charitable tax returns, found most foreign money received by Canadian charities did not go to environmental groups.

The top five recipients of foreign funds or gifts-in-kind were Care Canada, World Vision, Hamilton’s McMaster University, the Canadian UNICEF Committee and Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Other than Ducks Unlimited finishing as one of the top five recipients of foreign donations, the next environmental charity on the list, Tides Canada, was in the sixteenth spot.

Great Bear Rainforest, a 6.4 hectare area along BC’s north and central coast, is the largest remaining tract of unspoiled rainforest in the world.

Tides Canada and other environmental charities were instrumental in planning for and saving much of this old growth forest.

Canadian environmental charities have received over $400 million (M) from US foundations for this specific project.

In a twist of irony, the Harper government in 2007 also partnered with Tides Canada to save the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Harper government kicked in 30 per cent, $30M, and through Tides Canada, The Gordon & Betty Morris Foundation donated $27M.

The partnership was a success.

A compromise agreement was reached with conservationists, loggers, hunters and First Nations to protect 85 per cent of the rainforest from logging. All competing interests left the table with something.

The American directors of the Gordon & Betty Morris Foundation had absolutely nothing to gain financially from their donation to the Great Bear Rainforest. It was completely altruistic—saving a precious corner of the world.

The same cannot be said for Vivian Krause, Mr. Kenney’s current ‘expert’ on foreign-funded propaganda campaigns that defame Alberta’s oil industry, or The National Post which is giving her a ‘legitimate’ platform to spread a conspiracy theory.

Ms. Krause admits that 90 per cent of her income is derived from the oil and gas industry.

Krause also admits that American donations represent a small fraction of Canadian environmental charities’ overall budgets. But most important, she has never linked any environmental campaigns in Canada to specific US companies or billionaires who might financially benefit from such work.

The relevant facts are simply environmental charities governed by stringent laws, reporting requirements and CRA audits, whereas Krause can use cherry-picked numbers to support the one industry that pays her way in life.

In a free society, both sides have legitimate claims along with rhetorical exaggerations, but both sides need to be heard respectfully.

There are always two sides to every story and honourable government leaders, at a minimum, need to mediate those competing and conflicting priorities, not become a cheerleader of one.

 

B. Schimke

ECA Review

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