Inquiry – Foreign Interference
Involvement of Foreign Foundations in Canada’s Domestic Affairs
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Eaton calling the attention of the Senate to the interference of foreign foundations in Canada’s domestic affairs and their abuse of Canada’s existing Revenue Canada Charitable status.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to speak on the subject of Senator Eaton’s inquiry. First, let me make it clear where I stand. I care about the environment. I represent in this chamber, and have great respect for, the Inuit of Nunavut who, more than many other people in Canada, are spiritually bonded to the land and depend on its natural renewable resources more than most urban Canadians. I believe the original inhabitants of the North should have a primary role in determining what happens on their lands and waters, a role which is guaranteed in the Nunavut land claim.
I believe in the Inuit land claim, which established the co-management boards with guaranteed representation from Inuit and governments to consider resource development issues, from socio-economic and environmental impacts, to protection of water, land-use planning and wildlife management.
I believe in informed, balanced public debate on environmental and resource development policy. We Canadians are proud of our great country and its abundant natural resources. It is in our own best interest to safeguard these resources and ensure they are managed sustainably. We cherish our freedom of speech in Canada and I do not seek to muzzle public debate. However, I do think that Canadians, through their elected governments and the indigenous residents of affected regions, should be the ones to decide on the balance we all seek between environmental protection, social development and resource development.
What is the problem? U.S. and foreign-funded interest groups are spending vast amounts of money helping, they would say, to provide information and increase awareness of environmental issues in Canada. How could we be critical of that? How could we not welcome many millions of dollars that are being channeled into Canada by foreign donors to help us take care of our environment?
The first problem, as honourable senators will see, is that in some cases these groups are presenting inaccuracies, misinformation and only telling part of the story.
Second, thanks very much, but we do not need help. We have a flourishing democracy. We have institutions which have been established to provide a balanced and transparent forum for considering environmental impacts and benefits.
We do not need interference and manipulation from outside, even from our good friends in the U.S.A., and even from the European homelands of many Canadian settlers. If they want to set aside their own environmental challenges, U.S. citizens’ obscene consumerism; their rapacious consumption of fossil fuels and water; their extensive coal-fired power plants; their obsession with cars; and if the Europeans want to overlook the destruction of their forests, natural environment and massive unpublicized and wasteful slaughter of what they consider animal pests, let them send their money to the developing world. We do not need foreign aid in Canada. In fact, there are some who would say that instead of calling this foreign aid, we should describe this phenomenon as making philanthropy an instrument of foreign policy. We do not need that help either. We can make our own made-in-Canada policies.
We in Canada cherish our sovereignty over lands and resources in the North, but sovereignty also means control over our right to determine our destiny in an environment where foreign, economic and trade interests are not exceeding the limits of political activity masquerading as environmentalists. In my research, I have come to realize that even remote Northern Canada is the recipient of foreign aid aimed at helping us to make decisions about managing our lands and resources.
I am participating in this inquiry because I respect our rights as Canadians to manage our lands and resources. I believe this right is threatened by unreported, unaccountable, foreign influences in public policy making, misinformation, bad science and non-permitted political activities.
Foreign money is flooding into Canada to influence public policy in Canada and in the North. In the last 10 years, Canadian environmental groups have reported to the Canada Revenue Agency a staggering $2.4 billion in total revenue. Ducks Unlimited took in $970 million. Another, Tides Canada, took in $173 million. They took in so much money they could not spend it all, so they socked away $40 million. They now have 250 employees; 10 years ago they had 9. The David Suzuki Foundation took in $80 million.
As I will demonstrate, this money is even flowing into the remote regions of Northern Canada.
Why is this so important and of such concern? I believe foreign funding is a concern because it is coming from foreign foundations with agendas that are not necessarily in the best interests of our country and because these groups have become immensely powerful. Aided by press which oftentimes repeats misinformation without independent verification, they get the public worked up against the seal hunt, against the oil sands and against polar bear harvesting. They have sophisticated websites. They run ads.
These charities often thrive on misinformation or incomplete information. Coca-Cola, working with the World Wildlife Fund, is at this moment funding a campaign to convince the public that Canada needs to create what they call “the last ice refuge” for threatened polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Never mind that the scientific research they are sponsoring is yet to be completed, or that Inuit hunters say polar bears have never been more plentiful.
Another problem I see is there is not enough transparency. I know a senior employee of Oceans North in Canada, another environmental group which has targeted Northern Canada. He is a good guy, a Newfoundlander, a sealer and a fisherman. I met with him recently to get a briefing on Oceans North and ask him some questions. Oceans North employs five people working in Canada, three in the U.S., plus consultants, has funded three major studies and a conference, and spent money on a 45-foot refitted trawler research vessel and a four-person crew to study whale migrations in Lancaster Sound last summer. The trawler got stuck in the ice and could go nowhere, by the way. However, that senior employee could not tell me what Oceans North’s budget was, nor what was the source of their funds, other than to say that he believed that the American Pew Foundation’s money was filtered through Ducks Unlimited to Oceans North.
The Pew Foundation, according to their 2009 annual report, has annual revenues of $360 million, assets of $5.8 billion and its CEO reportedly earns $1 million a year. The Pew Foundation — which is named after an American oilman who made his fortune from, among other sources, Suncor, the great Canadian oil sands company — is disbursing funds to Oceans North through a Canadian charity.
Under our present laws, Canadian charities are required to disclose only minimal information about donations or gifts from foreign sources and need not reveal the purposes for donations.
Honourable senators, it therefore seems that not enough transparency is required of non-profits. We need to know more about the source and purpose of their funds, especially their foreign funding. It is hard to find out, because the funds are channeled through what I have learned can be a very tangled web, which in some cases includes public relations firms, including those active in some prominent political campaigns, and some owned by Canadians but receiving significant foreign money through charities.
Greater transparency would help us to better understand the motives and objectives of the donors. Yet our limited requirements on reporting for Canadian charities seem to allow massive non-profit corporations from foreign countries to donate to campaigns which sometimes seem to be engaged in improper political activity without enough scrutiny. If their own Canadian representatives do not know how much money is spent and how it is channeled, then how can Canadians? How can we consider what the true motivations might be?
I believe there may be much more to the environmental movement in Canada than meets the eye. If we look behind the fuel quality directive initiative in the European Community, we might find American charitable foundation money, directly or indirectly, undermining economic growth in Canada. Is this to benefit U.S. business interests?
The Great Bear Rainforest initiative, the Coast Opportunity Funds project area and the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area propose to restrict shipping in a huge area which covers the entire strategic course north of British Columbia, from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the southern tip of Alaska. The Great Bear Rainforest initiative is aimed at protecting the habitat of the iconic spirit bear, even though its habitat is only a tiny fraction of that area.
Honourable senators might then ask: Why would U.S. interests want to strand Canadian oil in Canada, restricting Canadian oil exports overseas, forcing Canada to export only to the U.S. market for its abundant energy sources? The answer may lie in a study done by University of Calgary economist Michael Moore, who studied this question. Professor Moore noted that due to the lack of alternative markets for our oil, Canada pays a significant discount on oil sold to the U.S., a discount which is not small change. Over 15 years, Professor Moore estimates that this discount robs Canada of $130 billion in oil revenues. Is it conceivable that by working to shut down the oil sands and ban tanker traffic on the West Coast, American foundations are working to advance the interests of the solar and wind industries in the U.S.?
The Energy Foundation, which has had more than $500 million in revenue in recent years, admits very plainly that it seeks to develop a renewable energy market worth $65 billion over the next 15 years. These American groups state clearly that the purpose of their campaigns against what they call “dirty energy” is to sway investment capital towards what they call “clean energy.”
This may sound sinister, honourable senators, but think about this for a minute: Why do many environmental activists seem to pick their causes in Canada and ignore others? Why polar bears and not elephants? Why Canadian seals and not muskrats in Europe? Why the oil sands and not coal-fired power plants? As has been verified by a recently published independent analysis, coal-fired power generators emit a lot more greenhouse gas than all the oil sands operations combined. They seem to have been given a pass by environmental activists, even though they are ubiquitous in the U.S., Ontario and Alberta.
My other big concern about some of these unaccountable environmental organizations, with their camouflage budgets and convoluted financial structures, is that they are sometimes using bad science and misinformation and getting away with it, aided by lazy journalists. Examples abound.
An environmental group called Corporate Ethics says the oil sands cover an area larger than England. This self-labelled ethics organization does not let the facts get in the way. Here are the facts: England is 130,000 square kilometres. The oil sands are 660, including a lot of remediated lands. That is exaggerating the truth roughly 200-fold.
The public has been made to believe that people in Fort Chipewyan have high rates of cancer even though the respected Royal Society of Canada has clearly shown there is no credible evidence to the support the commonly repeated media accounts of excess cancer in Fort Chipewyan caused by contaminants from oil sands operations.
All this hysteria generated by questionable science has one great benefit for fundraisers. It is very effective in generating gobs of money from well-intentioned but impressionable people who often live in polluted cities and have little or no understanding of Canada’s natural resources and know nothing about the North. Resultant hysteria can be mobilized to pressure governments to change policies or reverse decisions.
I watched as this happened three summers ago in the High Arctic of Nunavut. Canada announced the establishment of a marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound in 2009. No oil and gas development would be allowed. This is in keeping with one of Oceans North’s stated objectives.
Oceans North became involved. Their Nunavut director, as a spokesperson for Oceans North, began to whip up public sentiment against seismic testing, which was aimed at delineating the boundaries of the marine conservation area, not oil and gas exploration. He was interviewed on the radio rallying public support against the seismic testing. He made public statements exhorting the Government of Canada to stop seismic testing in Lancaster Sound. He not only exhorted the Government of Canada to reverse a decision made following the approval of regulatory authorities, he also turned his sights on a minister of the Government of Nunavut saying in a press release at the height of the controversy:
We urge Nunavut Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk to intervene and not issue the permit for seismic work in Lancaster Sound.
Remember what Senator Wallace said earlier in this inquiry in his thoughtful discourse on the permitted political activities of a charity under Canadian law.
McGovern v. Attorney General defines political purpose as not being permitted to procure a reversal of government policy or particular decisions of governmental authorities in this country.
To me, the actions of Oceans North as a charitable organization in publicly pushing for a minister of the Crown to overrule an independent quasi-judicial co-management board set up under the land claim is political activity not permitted under our laws.
In closing, I want to make the following recommendations: Canada Revenue Agency should require more disclosure from Canadian charities, at least as much as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires from U.S. charities. The IRS requires non-profits to file a complete list of all grants made, including the name of the recipient, the stated purpose and the amount.
The IRS makes public all this information, whereas the CRA, which collects some grant information, recipient and amount, does not make all the information public. The CRA should investigate and expose charities that pay staff and directors excessively and channel charitable funds for other purposes through charities or public relations firms. The IRS requires non-profits to report the salaries of the highest-paid employees, their names and the actual amount they are paid. This same information is required for the five highest-paid contractors. CRA requires non-profits to report the number of employees in each income bracket but not the names nor specific amounts.
The Canada Revenue Agency should monitor more closely spending with respect to political activity and withdraw or revoke charitable status from charities that exceed permitted spending or engage in non-permitted activities.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable senators, Senator Patterson has run out of time. Would the senator like to request more time?
Senator Patterson: May I have five more minutes? Thank you.
In closing, I want to make the point with regard to the issue in Nunavut this summer that regardless of what one thinks about seismic testing in Lancaster Sound in the summer of 2010, I do not believe that charitable organizations should be allowed to engage in political activities that are not permitted, such as openly pressuring governments to make certain decisions. We should know more about where their funding is coming from, how much they are spending and for what purpose, and what proportion of their budgets are devoted to political activities. Our laws can be improved in this regard.
Finally, honourable senators, I would like to acknowledge and thank Vivian Krause, who has done research and published articles in the Financial Post on the subject of American money influencing environmental activities in Canada.
Hon. Jim Munson: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Patterson: Yes.
Senator Munson: Speaking about transparency and about foreign money flooding into this country to produce oil from the oil sands in Alberta, the multinationals that are already here producing this “ethical oil” and that have carte blanche on where this oil is diverted to, how much money they spend and the amount of money these foreign oil companies make —
Senator Tkachuk: What does that have to do with charitable donations?
Senator Munson: It is about transparency — the transparency of oil companies — and, of course, the poor impoverished lobbyists here in Ottawa who are walking the streets with their pockets empty before they start to lobby government on so-called “ethical oil.”
In the interests of transparency and this inquiry, would the honourable senator agree that we should bring oil corporations, multinationals and these impoverished lobbyists to the inquiry so that we can have a bigger picture —
Senator Tkachuk: You asked that same question —
Senator Eaton: What does that have to do with it?
Senator Munson: It has everything to do with it because it is about transparency. It is all about transparency.
Senator Patterson: With all due respect to the honourable senator, the subject of this inquiry is the interference of foreign foundations in Canada’s domestic affairs and their abuse of Canada’s existing CRA charitable status.
I am all for transparency. It was the honourable senator’s prime minister who decided that corporations should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns so that politicians would be free from the influence of large corporations. In that spirit, I am advocating transparency and openness with respect to charitable foundations. Perhaps there are other areas that should be examined in other inquiries. I encourage the honourable senator to take an initiative on those. However, this is about charities and the full transparency that is needed but lacking at the moment.