Pro-oil blogger Vivian Krause makes her case at BC mining industry lunch

Vivian Krause and her work are welcomed with open arms by mineral exploration industry.

In the luxurious Hyatt Regency ballroom Thursday afternoon, mining executives and geologists from across British Columbia gathered for an annual luncheon held by the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC). A crowd of about 100—both men and women clad in business attire—sat around white-linened tables, sipping ice water and talking shop as they waited for a steaming entrée of fresh salmon.
 
The association's members are involved in all sorts of mineral exploration around BC, from gold and diamond drilling to uranium extraction. Amidst casual conversations about land reclamation and new mining safety workshops, the discussion eventually turned to what many see as the topic of the day: environmental resistance.
 
Over lunch, a few attendees recalled a 2010 protest outside Enbridge’s offices that was trying to raise awareness about the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline. Environmentalists from Greenpeace had made a scene downtown Vancouver when they showed up with a makeshift pipe, unfurled a big sign and pumped a dirty brown liquid out onto the street.
 
What one mining industry representative said was that none of these protesters seemed to think about being complicit in the evils they were railing against. Their props, she said, were likely made of petroleum products. And even if they took the bus, they were still using fossil fuels. From the industry's point of view, it seems, eco-protesters just don't get it.
 
These comments point to the disconnect between industry and environmentalists, a “widening gap” in the increasingly polarized debates over new resource developments in Canada. The diverging worlds these two groups inhabit are not only evident in the clothes they wear, but in their conflicting attitudes. On one side, natural resources are seen as a financial asset. On the other, they're considered an asset of a completely different kind.
 

Enter Vivian Krause— the keynote speaker at this year’s AME event. Dressed in a sharp black skirt and jacket, the North Vancouver-based blogger fit in well with the crowd, and was welcomed on stage with a measured round of applause. While some at the luncheon were aware and interested in her work, others had no idea who she was.

Known for her research into foreign funding of the Canadian environmental movement, Krause was invited by AME BC to explain to curious members her allegation that American foundations are turning the country’s west coast into a “no-trade-zone”.

“The Great Bear Rainforest has become the Great Trade Barrier,” she told the mining crowd, referring to Northern BC's treasured coastal rainforest—one of the last of its kind in the world. 

Even after a groundbreaking agreement to protect millions of hectares of this precious land, the coastal region around the Great Bear Rainforest has remained a primary target for environmental action in Canada. According to Krause, the U.S. foundations funding this action are contributing to an attempt to ban tanker traffic along the coast, which could affect transport routes not only for oil but for the entire resource sector.

“Of all the places in our country where money could be going, a large part of it is going right here, which happens to be our strategic gateway to Asia,” she told the audience, pointing out BC’s northern coast on a map. 

“It’s also one of the largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforests in the world. These are global assets, so it’s to be expected that there would be global interest in protecting them. But nevertheless, some foreign foundations have spent an inordinate amount of money in our country compared to in other parts of the world where natural resources are just as precious.”

The charitable foundations Krause is talking about—which she says have funneled a total of $300 million into environmental campaigns in Canada—include the heavily targeted Tides Foundation, along with other U.S. charities like the Hewlett Foundation, Packard Foundation and Pew Charitable Trust. Krause has also taken aim at recipient group Tides Canada, claiming the organization used charitable funding to attempt to sway BC voters to political parties more aligned with their environmental concerns.

Since some of Krause’s findings were published last year in the National Post and Vancouver Sun, Tides Canada’s lawyers have responded citing “serious inaccuracies and misrepresentations” in her work. And while Krause claims American funders spend an "inordinate" amount in Canada compared to other places, only 36 of over 3,500 Tides U.S. grants in 2010 went to Canadian groups.

Tides and their lawyers are not the only ones taking issue with Krause's allegations—during a recent appearance in the House of Commons, she came up against tough questioning from Liberal and NDP MPs growing increasingly wary of her motives.

The national foreign funding debate

Krause and her research laid the foundation for attacks on green charities by both industry proponents and Harper's Tory politicians in Ottawa. First it was Ethical Oil’s “Our Decision” initiative, quickly followed by anti-environmentalist rhetoric from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself. Now the debate has moved into the Senate, where Conservatives have attacked green charities suggesting that they’re “anti-Canadian” and willing to take money from Al Qaeda.

Krause has appeared twice now in the House of Commons, before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. After her speech to the committee in February, she was heavily criticized by Opposition MPs, who drew attention to what they called her “hidden agenda” and presumed ties to the petroleum industry.

Her response to these attacks echoed the explanation being repeated since the beginning: she’s a single mother working out of her home conducting research into foundations and charities as an independent citizen concerned about her country.

“I am not funded by anyone, I am not part of any industry or any political party,” she told the parliamentary committee in 2010.

Since then, however, Krause said she was paid a $5000 honorarium by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)

As for her appearance at the AME BC event, Krause told the Vancouver Observer: "Today's lunch came about at AME's request. No one else was involved. My daughter used to babysit for someone involved with AME, so they've been aware of my blog for years."

After her speech, organizers also made sure to divulge, in the spirit of transparency, that the AME is in fact a lobby group funded by corporate interests in the mining industry—a comment that earned a few hearty laughs from the crowd. 

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