Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 26, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 26, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Environmental group’s lawsuit seeks to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ inquiry

UCP launched inquiry into where Canadian environmental charities get their funding

An environmental law firm is asking a court to strike down Alberta’s inquiry into the role that foreign money has in financing the activities of charities that oppose the oilsands.

Ecojustice claims the province’s inquiry into what it calls anti-Alberta activities is politically motivated, prejudges conclusions and is outside provincial jurisdiction.

“It really means something when a government decides to use the judicial process to silence people,” said Devon Page, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday.

Soon after the election last spring, the United Conservative government created a $2.5-million inquiry to examine concerns that U.S. environmental charities are funnelling money to their Canadian counterparts in an effort to landlock Alberta oil to benefit U.S. energy companies.

Inquiry commissioner Steve Allan has already been conducting interviews.

The inquiry’s factual premise has been seriously challenged several times, but this is the first challenge to its legality.

“The inquiry has been called not to address a matter of pressing public interest, but to justify a predetermined intent to harm the reputations, economic viability and freedom of expression of certain organizations,” says the lawsuit.

The inquiry’s terms prejudge its findings, alleges the lawsuit, because they assume that such campaigns exist, that they spread lies and that there is a plot to frustrate an industry assumed to have been doing a good environmental job.

The document notes that the government’s order in council applies perjorative terms such as “anti-Alberta” to those who may be subject to the inquiry.

The lawsuit also alleges that inquiry commissioner Steve Allan was a donor to the UCP leadership campaign of Doug Schweitzer, now Alberta’s justice minister, who appointed him to the job.

Those concerns, it claims, “(transform) the inquiry from an independent fact-finding mission into a predetermined demonstration of misconduct, resulting in a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

Two government spokespeople emailed identical responses to the lawsuit: “A foreign-funded activist group opposing the inquiry on foreign-funded attacks on Alberta’s oil and gas workers is not surprising and speaks for itself.”

Ecojustice says about 14 per cent of its funding comes from outside Canada.

Jonah Mozeson of Alberta Energy forwarded an article to The Canadian Press from the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London that suggests Russian money has also fuelled energy disinformation campaigns.

It’s not the first time concerns have been raised about the inquiry.

Amnesty International has said it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Last week, a longtime Edmonton charitable foundation that doesn’t fund environmental groups or receive U.S. money released an open letter that said the inquiry’s assumptions come “dangerously close to government direction of speech and thought.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

(Pixabay photo)
Alberta surgeon who hung a noose in a hospital found guilty of unprofessional conduct

College of Physicians and Surgeons says sanctions will be determined at a later hearing