This is the story of the Harper government's attack on the world's most respected foundations, organizations which only a short time ago, the government regarded not only as friends, but key strategic partners in improving the quality of life in this country. It started with an attack on science when the Canadian government made it clear it preferred its scientists the way the Victorians preferred their children:
“Be seen and not heard, and speak when you are spoken to.”
In Dark Age Ahead, the foreboding work that closed her career and life, the Canadian urban criticism giant Jane Jacobs pointed to decay in the critical and effective practice of science as one harbinger of cultural collapse in modern civilization.
Science under fire
Jacobs had reason for concern, because science in Canada is under the strongest attack in living memory.
In a move that stunned the global scientific community, in March 2010 the Canadian government forbade government scientists from discussing their findings in public without permission. This development brought a storm of censure from the global scientific community, from internationally acclaimed academic journal Nature, the World Federation of Science Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers Association and leading Canadian academics.
It is not only scientific conclusions and opinions that are being suppressed. In the name of cutting expenses, valuable research activities, facilities and programs are being cut as well. One example is the closure of Canada’s, and the world’s only pristine freshwater environment research facility, the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario. This move again drew international criticism from world leading scientists, academics, researchers, as well as scientific associations from Israel to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre.
In an era where budget restraints limit neither our multi-billion dollar fighter jet program nor the building of prisons to cope with an as-yet undetected crime wave, the shuttering of scientific research facilities speaks volumes.
And most recently, the Canadian government opened another front in its attack on science, challenging Canadian conservation based non-profits and advocacy groups that accept donations from reputable American charitable foundations.
In an open letter to Canadians in January, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver came out swinging against “environmental and other radical groups", singling out “jet-setting celebrities” that seek to influence Canadian policy and public opinion on resource extraction and development projects such as the proposed Enbridge pipeline.
Not to be outdone, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews proposed putting environmentalists on Canada’s terrorist watch, while Environment Minister Peter Kent publicly accused American charitable foundations of laundering fortunes through Canadian environmental NGOs.
In our own Senate, Conservative Senator Donald Plett rose to liken US charitable foundations to terrorist groups such as “Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Taliban.” To the braying of Senator Mike Duffy, who called them “anti-Canadian,” Senator Percy Mockler announced to his fellow Senators: “…I want to bring to your attention some of the qualified bad, not to mention ugly, foundations, namely…” then read their names to be recorded in Hansard for posterity.
When scientists become the enemy of government, the language shifts, and suddenly they are “environmentalists” and “radicals” “bad” and “anti-Canadian.”
This is a very bizarre twist, and here’s why:
Five years ago, the Harper government was thrilled to do business on exactly the model that it now vilifies as anti-Canadian money laundering. It entered into a conservation agreement to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in partnership with several American foundations in an agreement negotiated by Tides Canada.
The Harper and BC governments both put in $30 million each, while The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation put in $10 million of the amount that foundations gave to match the government's $60 million. With funds topped up by other major foundations including both Packard and Hewlett, the total funding commitment from all parties came to $120 million--almost half of which was provided by these same American foundations.
The purpose? Promoting environmentally sound practices in the world’s largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest. Pretty benign.
At the time, Environment Minister John Baird applauded the historic agreement, and said that the government acted out of concern that the $60 million raised by Tides Canada was in jeopardy of being lost. "I was tremendously concerned . . . that we could lose that, particularly the money coming from abroad*, so we didn't want to have that happen," Baird said at a Vancouver event where he shared the stage and microphone with First Nations leaders and Tides chief executive Ross McMillan.
* My emphasis
Everything was going so smoothly, when all of a sudden…
Out of the blue came a great rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over a completely open and transparent process in which the Harper government itself was an active participant. The attack, when it came, was fierce and ruthless.
What on earth happened to bring it on?
Context, of course, is everything. In January of this year, Barack Obama bowed to pressure south of the border and shelved the Keystone XL pipeline expansion carrying Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico, adversely affecting the price Canada can get for our oil.
Suddenly, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline route looked like the only way for Alberta oil to get to Asia and other markets, where it could probably command a much higher price.
Suddenly that conservation deal with Tides Canada and all those American foundations didn’t look so good. Check out this cool map from National Geographic showing the location of the proposed Enbridge pipeline port in Kitimat. Right in the middle of the Great Bear Rainforest's waters.
*Click on the white arrow icon in the image to enlarge
Because it is here in Kitimat, and in BC’s protected forests and coastal waters, that the Enbridge pipeline proposal will meet its fiercest opposition.
Here’s a fair question. Does the location of the proposed Northern Gateway tanker route through the protected waters and coastline of the Great Bear Rainforest -- funded by the Moore, Hewlett and Packard foundations in a Tides Canada deal -- have anything to do with the fact that all of these organizations are now being pilloried by the very government that partnered with them?
Has the federal government decided to get out of the Great Bear Rainforest partnership, and calculated that the best way is to vilify and smear its own partners?
Meanwhile, it might be worth getting to know if we’ve really been palling around with terrorists.
With enemies like these, who needs friends?
Here then, are some of the American foundations which have been named and accused by our government of fraudulent money-laundering and “ugly” “anti-Canadian” conduct:
- Constitutional scholar and former Dean of Stanford Law School
- Former Provost of Harvard University
- Former Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health
- President of the US National Academies Institute of Medicine.
- TED talk on evolutionary biology can be viewed here.
- former Editor-in-chief of SCIENCE, journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.
- President Emeritus of Stanford University
- Trustee, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Co-chair US National Academies’ Committee on Science, Technology and the Law.
- Former interim president and CEO of the US Council on Foundations
- Director, Institute for Global Ethics
- Director, University of San Francisco Institute for Nonprofit Management, among other designations.
- Global leader in non-profit ethics and values.
- $219 million to forest and river conservation of the Amazon River basin in Columbia,
- $250 million to design and build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii,
- $600 million to the California Institute of Technology, the highest ranked university in the world. The Gordon and Betty Moore gift is the largest donation to an institute of higher learning in history.
Gordon and Betty Moore, Co-Founders
- Co-founder and former CEO, Intel Corp.
- Co-inventor, semi-conductor, author of Moore’s Law
- former Chairman, California Institute of Technology, the world’s top-ranked research institute
- Recipient, US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the US.
- 12 year president of the US National Academy of Sciences
- Editor-in-chief, SCIENCE
- former Co-Chair, InterAcademy Council, an international association of presidents of 15 national academies of science.
- Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Former Dean, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment
- US Scientific Expert, Permanent Court of Arbitration on Natural Resources, the Hague
With enemies like these, who needs friends?
Maybe they could pick up the tab and save the Experimental Lakes Area.
Far-fetched fish tale
Of course, the Conservative accusations were not plucked out of thin air. Our senators and MPs are simply parroting the allegations of celebrated at-home blogger and nutritionist Vivian Krause. They may have bought her claim, or maybe they are only using it.
Ms. Krause, a very engaging and rather lovely woman who looks much younger than her years, lost her employment in the fish farm industry several years back, and has not had gainful employment since. She is carrying on a lone crusade against the science in favour of wild salmon fishery. She is an excellent communicator and it’s noteworthy that she may be correct that the science is not conclusive on the controversy surrounding wild vs. farmed salmon.
Ms. Krause is tireless in her pursuit and review of mountains of data, and has found very interesting information. But her interpretation is deeply flawed. She is prone to making huge and unsupported conceptual leaps without rigorous critique, ending up with conclusions that just make no sense at all.
Such as that these foundations and others are not really concerned about the environment, as they assert, but are secretly part of a vast conspiracy to advance American national interests at Canada’s expense.
“In various environmental campaigns in Canada, American economic and trade interests are being protected. For example, the campaign against oil tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia would landlock Canadian oil and continue the virtual monopoly that the U.S. has on our oil exports - all in the name of protecting the environment. … The "antifarming campaign" against B.C. farmed salmon sways market share towards "wild" salmon, most of which is Alaskan.”
“I can see how a campaign to prop up Alaskan fisheries and a campaign to bolster American energy security provides a tangible benefit to the American people, but I do not see how it benefits Canada.”
It’s just a world-class whopper to suggest these US foundation gifts have no benefit to Canada.
As just one example, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is now funding measurement of the Pacific pathway and impact of radioactive material released from Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor during the tsunami disaster, so affected regions can formulate prompt and appropriate responses.
Most would call that a benefit to Canada.
And then there is the Great Bear Rainforest, which is all about benefiting Canada, and in particular BC. Its benefits are evidenced by the $60 million that provincial and federal governments committed to the deal, as well as the active participation by local First Nations and major forestry companies such as Canfor and Interfor. This historic agreement assists in the development of sustainable forestry practices, and helps First Nations build markets for sustainable local businesses with long term employment and growth opportunities. It turned BC’s rainy north coast into a successful tourism and cruise ship attraction, and preserves for Canadian posterity the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world.
Without US foundation support, this deal would never have happened.
One look at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation geographical projects, covering the entire northern arc of the Pacific Ocean from Russia, across the Bering Sea, and down the North American coast to the California-Mexico boundary makes it clear that the Alaskan fishery is not their paramount priority.
Moore Foundation Marine Conservation Initiative Areas
If there is a pro-Alaska conspiracy here, it’s incredibly convoluted and inefficient, and attended by huge risk for to the reputations of some of the most respected scientists and philanthropists in the world, and not to mention their life-time work. For something supposedly cooked up by some of the brainiest people on the planet, this is a pretty dumb plan.
Until the XL Keystone pipeline deal was cancelled, almost no one paid attention to Vivian Krause. But now Enbridge has pride of place in the federal government plans, and suddenly people can’t get enough of her, from the Vancouver Board of Trade to Senate Finance Committee hearings to a column in the Financial Post.
It’s easy to understand her feelings as a casualty of the fish farm controversy.
Yet her objectivity is obviously compromised. She’s got a bone to pick with the wild salmon crowd and has devoted years of her life to this cause.
In attempting to expose some of the world’s most eminent scientists and philanthropists as pawns of industry and political interests, Krause has become precisely what she warns against. Today she’s a convenient foil for government purposes, but they’ll have little use for her tomorrow. Just look how they treat the Moore, Hewlett, Packard and Tides Foundations, whose millions they were happy to take when it suited them.
Much to answer for
It is our government that has much to answer for.
Unimaginably well-funded foreign and domestic corporations and their lobbyists have unlimited marketing and communications budgets, partially care of the taxpayer via full business expense write-offs.
Meanwhile, we shut down and curtail independent research, suppress our scientists, silence, de-legitimize and intimidate independent charitable foundations with the resources to conduct needed research, bury complex environmental legislation in massive omnibus bills, and increase CRA budgets for scrutiny of charities.
The public’s ability to make informed and rational decisions about matters of vital concern lies at the heart of our democratic institutions, and it’s at our peril that we allow anyone to interfere with full, free and open public debate.
Senators Mockley, Plett and Duffy, and Ministers Kent, Oliver and Toews have made cynical and unprincipled attacks on some of the world’s most eminent scientists, scholars and philanthropists. Offering no opportunity for answer and defense, they carelessly trampled the good names of people whose money and favour their own government slavishly pursued just a few brief summers ago.
Credit where credit’s due: that takes guts.
Is society, as Jane Jacobs foretold, pitching headlong down a steep decline? A decline in our values of honesty, integrity and fair dealing, our value of fundamental respect for balanced debate, facts, and the scientific method as the unwavering North Star of sound public policy? Perhaps we are.
If so, then this entire sorry episode also marks something else--the end, for now, of our tryst with that most faithful Canadian servant, common decency.
And that is how a Dark Age begins.
Part 2 of this series will explore the role and function of charities and non-profits in Canada, the rules around advocacy and political activity, and freedom of expression in the non-profit context.