Of ethics, forests and fuelling fury: the CBC in action

[Please see UPDATE at end of this post -hro]

Canada’s “national” broadcaster, the CBC. used to have a reputation for excellent journalism. This was in the days of the late Barbara Frum who once said:

I hate falseness…I hate a lie – the big ones as well as the little tiny ones…and that really fuels me.

Yet, particularly when it comes to matters environmental, the CBC long ago lost its moorings; its reports are guilty of both big and little lies – not necessarily of commission, but of omission. Consider the following which it picked up from Canadian Press (CP) today:

ForestEthics giving up charity status to take Tories on

Environmental group spearheaded campaign to get U.S. companies to boycott oilsands-derived fuel

An environmental group that angered the energy industry has given up its charitable status so it can take on the federal government.

ForestEthics, which spearheaded campaigns to get U.S. companies to avoid oilsands-derived fuel, is splitting into two in response to Ottawa’s crackdown on charitable groups in the recent budget.

One half will continue conservation work and remain a charity, but the other will no longer offer tax receipts and will focus its efforts on what it calls Conservative attacks on the environment.

Neither group will be associated with Tides Canada, a charitable umbrella group.

The move “shows our resolve in this very hostile climate to continue the work that we feel Canadians actually want,” said Valerie Langer, who will head ForestEthics Solutions, which will remain a charity.

[...]

Civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby, who will help lead the other group called ForestEthics Advocacy, said the Harper government has started a “relentless” attack on the environment and environmental groups,

[...]

ForestEthics has also worked to get people to sign up to address a National Energy Board review currently underway into Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline between Alberta and Kitimat, B.C. More than 4,000 people have asked to appear.

There are some links in the above article: five to other CBC stories and not a single one to ForestEthics.org. Yet the reader is left with the distinct impression that ForestEthics is a Canadian charitable organization. Well, one of its three offices does have a Vancouver, BC address [350-163 Hastings Street W]; but the other two are in the US.

I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or convenience that 163 Hastings Street W. also happens to be the address known to Canada Revenue Agency as the home of the TIDES CANADA INITIATIVES SOCIETY as well as the TIDES CANADA CENTRE SOCIETY and TIDES CANADA FOUNDATION. The latter of which is the only one which lists a website – where one finds an April 17 press release indicating that:

Tides Canada supports the reinvention of ForestEthics in Canada

VANCOUVER – Tides Canada today affirmed its support for ForestEthics Canada in splitting away from the Tides Canada family and reorganizing itself into two new independent entities.

“We are proud of the work that ForestEthics Canada has done since it joined the Tides Canada family eight years ago,” said Ross McMillan, President and CEO [of Tides Canada -hro].

“As a project of Tides Canada, ForestEthics Canada has played critical roles in both the Great Bear Rainforest and Canadian Boreal Forest agreements—two landmark conservation initiatives that Tides Canada continues to support along with government, industry and First Nations,” added McMillan.
[...]

I’m not sure how one goes about “reinventing” something that, for all intents and purposes, never was!

There is no indication that ForestEthics.org is registered as a Canadian charitable organization. Not unlike Peter Gleick’s pet project, it does have US charitable status – at least according to its website [backup link]. But, to ForestEthics credit, it does indicate that:

ForestEthics is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization incorporated under the laws of the State of California in 1999. In Canada, ForestEthics is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives who have full governing, legal, and fiduciary responsibility for the project.

Notwithstanding the “project” status of this non-entity – sometimes known as “ForestEthics Canada” – in the process of “reinventing” itself, Valerie Langer (mentioned in the CBC article above) is listed as “Director of BC Forest Campaigns, ForestEthics Solutions” on the ForestEthics.org staff page [backup link]. I’m sure her degree in Semiotics makes her eminently qualified for the semantics games being deployed in the marketing of this “reinvention” story.

Someone certainly managed to convince well-known criminal defence lawyer, Clayton Ruby of the worthiness of “the cause”. Then again, Ruby is Chair of the Board of Directors of “Earthroots” (yet another green advocacy organization) whose “Community Affiliations [include] Board Member, Greenpeace Canada; Advisory Board Member, Ecojustice”.

It may or may not be worth noting that “Earthroots Fund” and “Ecojustice Canada Society” were both beneficiaries of largesse from Tides Canada according to their 2010 Annual Report (pdf p. 17)

This same Annual Report indicates (p. 14) that:

Tides Canada Initiatives (TCI) is home to 40 of Canada’s leading social change initiatives. As an operating charity, TCI has pioneered a shared governance and administrative platform to support initiatives and collaborations that advance our mission. We take care of financial transactions, contracts, and human resource needs, allowing the leaders of these initiatives to drive real-world change without the administrative challenges of managing a stand-alone charity

How very kind of TCI, eh? The non-entity sometimes known as “ForestEthics Canada” is listed as one of these “Initiatives”. But certainly the CBC didn’t seem to think that any of this was worth noting while ensuring that the article focussed on the non-entity rather than the questionable source of its funding.

I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe that the CBC has reported on the recent Angus Reid poll which indicates that – contrary to Langer’s claim regarding what they “feel Canadians actually want” – there is:

High support for requiring charities to provide more information on their activities and foreign funding (80%) [emphasis added -hro]

As for the questionable activities and funding of Tides Canada which CBC (and, it would seem, Clayton Ruby) would prefer that we not concern ourselves with, be sure to check out the excellent investigative work of Vivian Krause.

I do look forward to the CBC (or Clayton Ruby) explaining how a non-existent organization can “give up” a “status” it never had!

In the meantime, no doubt we can continue to count on the CBC to fuel the fury of its readers with its lies of omission: such biased and deceptive story-lines will ensure that many readers are likely to miss the forest surrounding the transplanted cross-border tree branches that Tides washes up on our shores.

UPDATE 04/20/2012 02:40 PM PDT: On a related note, Vivian Krause has an excellent piece in yesterday’s Financial Post in which she discusses David Suzuki’s funding. (As Donna Laframboise has documented, Suzuki is no stranger to the game of smoke and mirrors being played by the likes of Langer and Ruby)

Vivian Krause: Suzuki’s funding

On top of the U.S. funding that the David Suzuki Foundation has received directly from U.S. foundations, the foundation has also received U.S. money indirectly through Tides Canada.

For example, in 2008 Tides Canada granted $377,586 to Suzuki’s foundation. That money originated from the [US Gordon and Betty] Moore foundation, which has granted at least $92-million to BC. environmental organizations, including $32-million to Tides Canada. [h/t Clipe via comment at WUWT]

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5 thoughts on “Of ethics, forests and fuelling fury: the CBC in action

  1. Hilary: I posted at CBC, using your references to FE, TCI and Clayton. It is eye opening to see such networking among the enviro groups. I suspect its like an iceberg, and this only 10% of what is transpiring. The other 90% goes unseen.

  2. Hilary, I found the following article, written last year, about ForestEthics and its funding:

    http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/08/03/a-tar-sands-partnership-agreement-in-the-making/

    The writer (and website) are approaching this matter from a very different point of view, I suspect, than yours or mine (there’s mention of “social justice”, the “climate crisis”, etc. and so forth). But nevertheless I’ve found much there that’s interesting about corporate environmentalism – and also indications of where some of the fault lines in the green movement might be.

  3. Tides reach is pretty good. Their Toronto office shares space with Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network http://www.cegn.org/ founder by Bruce Lourie, a director of the Ontario Power Authority and the Trilium Foundation and co-author of the book “Rubber Duck” along with Rick Smith of Environmental Defence. Tides also raise money (charitable) for OSEA http://tidescanada.org/support/osea-education-and-research-fund/ Lourie and OSEA’s past ED were very instrumental in convincing Smitherman to enact the Green Energy Act. Tides has received in excess of $1.3 million in grants from the Trillium Fund. If we could make all the connections I think we would be shocked at how inbred these groups and individuals are.

  4. Yes… these people have connections. As humans, we make connections with those that share our views and our fighting for/working towards the same thing. If this were about key players in various animal cruelty organizations doing extensive networking with eachother would you be expressing the same outrage? How about if it were between the oil industry and the federal government?
    Your show of horror and outrage that people working toward the same goals talk to and collaborate with eachother is misplaced and misguided.

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