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MakeWay’s response to Alberta Inquiry Report: We need leadership to tackle climate emergency

Today the Alberta government published Commissioner Allan’s Inquiry report. While we were never interviewed as part of their Inquiry, in July MakeWay was given a few days to access and comment on a draft report. We submitted a response expressing concerns with the un-democratic process as well as misinformation in the draft, which we include here below.

The report is a distraction from pressing issues including the world’s climate emergency. What we need right now is leadership that is focused on moving us forward, to ensure that communities can thrive, that workers are secure, and that nature is protected.

We do agree with the recommendation of Allen’s inquiry to support better transparency. We are committed to constantly improving these efforts—and MakeWay regularly publishes all of our grants activities online and lists all of our funders, Canadian and international. We hold ourselves to the highest standards for transparency in the charitable sector, which is why the information in the Inquiry report was sourced from publicly available information.

July 15, 2021

J. Stephens Allan
Commissioner
Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns
Edmonton, AB

Dear Commissioner Allan:

Re:      Public Inquiry Into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns Notice to Participant for Response

I write on behalf of MakeWay regarding your June 18, 2021 letter concerning the next phase of your inquiry. You advised that you would be making potential findings about MakeWay being allegedly involved in “anti-Alberta” campaigns and granted our organization standing as a Participant for Response. We were surprised not to receive any further information or details from you about these potential findings or the information you relied upon until July 1, 2021, with a July 16 deadline. We are making submissions below out of an abundance of caution, but we formally request a three week extension so we can review the materials further and make supplementary submissions on factual issues.

Overall, we take exception to your characterization of our organization as being “anti- Alberta” and would like to respond to several aspects of your potential findings and the process of this Inquiry.

MakeWay (formerly Tides Canada) is made up of the MakeWay Foundation, a national public charitable foundation, and MakeWay Charitable Society, an operating charity.

MakeWay’s purpose is to build partnerships and solutions that enable nature and communities to thrive together. We provide a wide range of supports for both funders and charitable initiatives including: a shared operational platform; donor advised funds; advisory services; funder collaboratives; strategic grantmaking; and impact investing.

We are deeply concerned that the publication of this Report will threaten the safety and well-being of our staff. Based on misinformation over the years, we have experienced significant amounts of abuse and hate speech via phone calls, social media, email, and even a bomb threat that appears to have resulted from this ongoing narrative. We are attaching a sworn affidavit setting out the nature of the threats we have received and the impact is has had on our staff. We believe that the contents of this Report, particularly the speculations in the Motive section, will be extracted and used to stigmatize and vilify MakeWay through this process, and people may respond with violence and abuse towards our staff. We would ask you to remove from your report the many negative comments about the purported motivations for the organizations named in your report. You openly refer to these comments as speculation or opinion without evidence. Given the safety interests of our staff, we would ask that you remove the entire Part VI of your report, in particular the entire “Motive” section.

As we have clearly stated, Tides Canada was never a participant of the Tar Sands Campaign. Just 1% of MakeWay’s grantmaking over the last decade has gone towards pipeline and oil sands-related initiatives. This support went to Indigenous communities and environmental organizations as they address the impacts that such projects would have on their communities and the environment, two things that are deeply connected. We are proud of this work. MakeWay, along with the scientific community and a rapidly growing population of Canadians, believes Canada must swiftly transition to a clean energy economy. We support activities that move us in that direction.

We are proud to receive both Canadian and international funding, just like thousands of universities, churches, hospitals, and other charities across the country. Between 2009-2019, MakeWay received 34% of total revenue from US funders, and 66% from Canadian and other international funders. International foundations often support work in other countries to further their mission. This is not new nor surprising.

The Report falsely claims that conservation efforts like the historic Great Bear Rainforest campaign were “anti-Alberta” oil and gas efforts. This is simply not true. The Great Bear Rainforest campaign had nothing to do with oil sands. The Great Bear Rainforest funding was geared to building a sustainable First Nations-led conservation economy in one of the world’s last and largest intact coastal rainforests. The work to protect this special place began long before any whispers of a pipeline in the region.

Out of the $97 million of revenue Tides Canada received from U.S.-based funders between 2009-2019, 74% came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation to support First Nations-led environmental stewardship, protect wild salmon and marine ecosystems, while strengthening local economies and Indigenous cultures. Not a penny of this was for anti-Alberta oil and gas efforts. Your Report misconstrues the purpose of the international funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation by lumping it in as anti-Alberta, and we ask you to strike references to these funds from your report just as you have removed other international conservation funding (Table 3, Deloitte report, p135 Allan Report).

In fact, the one-sided and biased nature of the sources and findings in this Report is striking. It refers multiple times to the research of Vivian Krause, whose arguments have been clearly de-bunked by credible journalists. In the section regarding “eco-colonialism” the Report quotes just a handful of Indigenous commentators and conservative columnists and their speculation about the motives of funders and environmentalists. With over 630 distinct First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across Canada, Indigenous voices are as diverse as communities themselves.

The report effectively silences the voices of so many First Nations and Indigenous communities who are concerned about resource extraction in their traditional territories. The section “Motive” (p173) of your draft report is particularly concerning, as it is highly speculative and has no concrete evidence. These excerpts will likely be extracted and used against organizations once in the public sphere, including MakeWay. See our above statement about how we believe this poses serious threats to the safety and well-being of our staff.

We do however appreciate two aspects of your report. First, you have appropriately made the distinction that Tides Foundation in the US is a distinct organization from Tides Canada. Conflation between the two organizations, first promoted in Vivian Krause’s work and spread by Premier Jason Kenney himself, has been confusing and problematic.

Secondly, we agree with your conclusion that transparency of funding within the charitable sector can be improved (Report p91,123,137). MakeWay has voluntarily increased public transparency and accountability of our activities (detailed grants data and funding publicly available on our website). Yet there is still more to do and more to learn to improve our transparency. We deliver MakeWay’s work to the highest standard of charitable compliance and are proud to be recognized in the sector as a leader in this space.

A public inquiry process should be both fair and transparent, unfortunately it appears that this Report is neither. You rely to a large extent on unnamed sources and interviews, the evidentiary value of which is questionable. We have included an affidavit of sworn evidence to establish the veracity of the statements in this submission. We are also attaching an Appendix with our concerns about specific inaccuracies.

Commissioner, climate changehas never felt more real in Western Canada, with people dying and entire towns burning to the ground in record-breaking heat waves.1 To tackle the urgent challenges of climate change, biodiversity collapse, and social injustice, we will need international cooperation on a grand scale. Global philanthropy is just one tool in the toolbelt that the global community will need to build solutions to these quickly arising challenges.

 

1 The Supreme Court of Canada has referred to the climate crisis as “an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world”: References re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, 2021 SCC 11 at para 171

 

Appendix – Inaccuracies and corrections regarding MakeWay in draft Report

Contact

Alison Henning
(236) 317-2778

alison.henning@makeway.org