(Guest column by Dave Johnton & Steve Simons with B.C.-based The North Matters)
In Canada, a new movement is afoot. It is one of accountability for a lobby effort that has escaped critical examination for many years: the professional anti-resource activist movement.
This movement has pressed their agenda so hard it is now experiencing pushback; and that pushback includes public dialogue and public record exchanges on activist’s funding, strategic intent and allegiances.
And the activists don’t like it. They are not used to transparency.
In the spring of 2019 two Canadian Senate hearings were running simultaneously. One in review of Bill C-69, dubbed the Anti-Pipeline Bill, and the other, Bill C-48, created to impose a west coast Tanker Ban.
In British Columbia the hearing venues became a place where witnesses, and the senate themselves, spoke openly about the impacts of foreign influence on Canadian resource developments.
In some cases the professional activists became defensive decrying questions regarding their funding and intentions. These activists attempted deflection techniques by taking shots at the messengers instead of being open about the message.
The deflection is really unnecessary if only the activists would practice a level of transparency required by most other organizations.
After all, in the age of the Internet, activist’s strategies and their funding sources have made their way into public view.
In Terrace, BC, the C-48 hearings heard from 3 activist organizations and each was pressed on their funding sources. It turns out all of them have been the beneficiaries of US anti-development funds through direct grants or by way of regranting (money funneling through a Canadian intermediary source).
Representatives of Skeena Wild, Douglas Channel Watch and The Raincoast Conservation Society were all pressed on the source(s) of their funding.
It turns out they all benefit from US based funds. Further, it turns out each have been directly funded, regranted funds and/or have served as a re-granting organization themselves.
Skeena Wild confessed that a full 70% of their funding comes from the US foundations either directly or indirectly, through a Canadian regranting body. The Raincoast Conservation Society couldn’t answer the question directly but was later advised the research shows they have received millions of dollars in US foundation funds. The Douglas Channel Watch escaped the question, but it turns out they are the recipients of regranting through Skeena Wild and, with a little digging, are listed as a partner with Forest Ethics, Natural Resources Defence Council (US), and Nextgen Climate America in an anti-resource initiative designed to throw multiple roadblocks in front of Canadian resource development.
Skeena Wild has also acted as a regranting organization, in association with others, to support Mike Sawyer’s litigation to slow or stop natural gas pipelines across B.C.
The lack of transparency practiced by these organizations has created a situation where the interested public is doing their own research. The results of the research are revealing the extent of the anti-resource network including the sophistication of their large-scale public relations campaign.
The following quotes tell an interesting story and are drawn from professional activists websites.
“In 2008 two major U.S. foundations asked CorpEthics to recruit the groups, develop the strategy, create a coordinated campaign, and act as a re-granting agency for the North American Tar Sands Campaign.” – Michael Marx, CorpEthics Website - Strategic Advisors and Central Coordinators to Environmental Campaigns including the Great Bear Rain Forest Campaign
“To constrain the growth of tar sands production by increasing the perception of financial risk… by choking off the necessary infrastructure (inputs and outputs)”. Michael Marx – 2008 Tar Sands Strategy
“This may be articulated in Canada as a “tar sands reform agenda,” but in the U.S. it needs to be clearly articulated as a “tar sands termination agenda”. Michael Marx – 2008 Tar Sands Strategy
“By raising the visibility of the negatives associated with tar sands; initiating legal challenges in order to force government and corporate decision makers to take steps that raise the costs of production and block delivery infrastructure; by generating support for federal and state legislation that pre-empts future demand for tar sands oil” Michael Marx – 2008 Tar Sands Strategy
“This meant national and grassroots organizing to block all proposed pipelines. This strategy is successful to this day. All the proposed pipelines in Canada have effectively been blocked, as have those proposed in the U.S.”. Michael Marx, CorpEthics Website - Strategic Advisors and Central Coordinators to Environmental Campaigns including the Great Bear Rain Forest Campaign
By 2008, nine Canadian and ten U.S. players were listed in the Tar Sands Strategy supported by American Funding.
“There are a number of NGOs involved in this campaign and funding to support their work is considered a high priority. In Canada, Pembina Institute, Environmental Defense – Canada, ForestEthics – Canada (Now Stand.Earth), Ecojustice, Greenpeace – Canada, Sierra Club Canada, Canadian Boreal Initiative, World Wildlife Fund Canada and Polaris Institute are all key players. In the U.S., Natural Resources Defence Council, Rainforest Action Network, ForestEthics – U.S., Ceres, Oil Change International, Earthworks/Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Boreal Songbird Initiative, Global Community Monitor, Sierra Club – U.S., and Indigenous Environmental Network are leading the national groups with a host of regional groups playing an indispensable role to block specific infrastructure projects.” Michael Marx - 2008 Tar Sands Strategy
“From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel”. Michael Marx, CorpEthics Website - Strategic Advisors and Central Coordinators to Environmental Campaigns including the Great Bear Rain Forest Campaign
The campaign designs and initial funding are based out of San Francisco and New York. Strategy funding was initiated at $7 million per year.
It’s easy to see why the public are starting to ask questions. Granting and regranting is a means to cover tracks and hide strategic intent. Any organization associated with the regranting practice and sources of campaign strategy are going to be suspect. But they’ve done it to themselves.
A little transparency might have solved their growing credibility problem. But, then again, that transparency might also out the actors completely.
Dave Johnston & Steve Simons
The North Matters