Uncharitable Rejection: Lost in the Alberta Wilderness

In the July 2014 edition of Wild Lands Advocate, on page 14 of the magazine of the Alberta Wilderness Association, the editor published a picture of our famous billboard under the title of – “With friends like these…”along with a short negative commentary about Friends of Science. The article misrepresented the facts about our organisation, our purpose and mandate and smeared our reputation. (Note: Due to a web-site update by AWA, some links in this article to their site don’t work anymore. We have included relevant scans and screenshots below to support our statements. New link to magazine: http://albertawilderness.ca/archive/publications/2014-07-16-vol-22-no-3-wild-lands-advocate )

Scan of Alberta Wilderness Assoc article

Scan of Alberta Wilderness Assoc article

No one from Alberta Wilderness Association had contacted us to verify anything about our billboard, our organization, or our mandate prior to the publication of this piece.

We wrote a detailed letter to the editor and demanded that they publish our rebuttal response on their web site and in the next edition.  They refused. We submitted a further request. They refused.

Rejection of Rebuttal Not in Keeping with Typical Publishing Policies

First of all, we find this not in keeping with the general policy of most publishers.

For instance, the Montreal Gazette published two articles recently related to the climate science findings of Shaun Lovejoy of McGill University in which Friends of Science was referred to in a negative light.

We objected to how we were characterized in the articles and also disputed Shaun Lovejoy’s science claims. The Montreal Gazette was very receptive to publishing a rebuttal. They did ask us to rewrite one paragraph for clarity and later to shorten our article in terms of available space. We were happy to comply. Here is our recent published rebuttal.

In general, this has been our experience with other major publications – rebuttal comments are accepted in the interests of fairness and open, democratic debate.

Not in Keeping with AWA’s Stated Values

But not so at the Alberta Wilderness Association which claims the following as some of its ‘values’:

    We conduct our advocacy with truth, honesty, respect for others and within the full limits of the law.
    We develop rapport with individuals and communities through active listening, openness and free access to information in a democratic way.
    We promote effective environmental decision making through an empowered and knowledgeable public that is inclusive of all segments of society.”

We were more annoyed to find out that Alberta Wilderness Association is funded by taxpayers through Alberta Spirit lotto funds and tax deductible charity donations. We are taxpayers too!

Charities have Special Requirements Under the Law

Yes, Alberta Wilderness Association is a charity.

Regarding charities, the Canada Revenue Agency stated:

“…promoting a particular point of view or political orientation is not charitable. Presenting selected items of information and opinion to the general public without the necessary element of instruction is not regarded as charitable.”

Friends of Science Society has actively promoted public debate on climate science and even hosted speakers who completely oppose our position that the sun is the main driver of climate change. We are scientists and have science-minded members. Science is about exploring all the facts, not just the convenient ones. We welcome and encourage open, rational, civil debate on topics of climate science.

An example is this 2002 debate about the Kyoto Protocol, published in the PEGG – the magazine of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. The debate was conducted between two representatives of the Pembina Institute (for “The Point”) and three of our scientific advisors (for “The Counterpoint”). The Kyoto rhetoric of “The Point” side has been proven false over the years while the scientific argument by our advisers has strengthened.

Vivian Krause has Raised Questions About the Motives of Some Charity Sponsors

A further review of the Alberta Wilderness Association revealed that this charity has a number of high-profile funders – some of which are charities themselves. Researcher Vivian Krause has raised questions about the activities and motives of some of these large charities and their funding.

The sponsors of AWA, according to their website, include: Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Ecotrust, Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, Alberta Lottery Fund – Community Initiatives Program, Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Alberta Sport, Recreation Parks & Wildlife Foundation, Community Lottery Board Grant Program  Calgary, The Calgary Foundation for Calgary… Forever, FRIENDS of the ENVIRONMENT Foundation, Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, Canadian Technology Human Resources Board, Alberta Gaming Community Facility Enhancement Program, Edmonton Community Foundation, Geospatial Information & Technology Association, glasswaters Foundation, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, HSBC, LaSalle Adams Fund, Lethbridge Community Foundation, Mountain Equipment CO-OP, Calgary/Edmonton, Patagonia Inc. and Tides Canada Exchange Fund of Tides Canada Foundation, The Richard Ivey Foundation, Shell Environment Fund, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, Suncor Energy Foundation, TRAFx Research Ltd., Turner Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. (new web link: http://albertawilderness.ca/sponsors)

For instance Vivian Krause’s opinion article in the Financial Post indicates that some funders were associated with an anti-Alberta tourism campaign, and various website grant funding details were withdrawn after she began investigating.

vkrause npost wilburforce

According to other related research, Wilburforce has provided grants of $1.7 million to Canadian organizations in 2009, including $21,200 to the Alberta Wilderness Association. (Note: Krause indicates that currently Wilburforce does not appear to be a funder.)

In light of Krause’s extensive review, in our option one has to wonder – if these organizations are party to destroying Alberta’s tourism reputation, what were/are they doing funding Alberta Wilderness Association?

Screenshot of List of Sponsors from AWA website (1/2) as it appeared in July 2014

Screenshot of List of Sponsors from AWA website (1/2) as it appeared in July 2014

Screenshot 2 of AWA Sponsors as it appeared of July 2014 on their website

Screenshot 2 of AWA Sponsors as it appeared of July 2014 on their website

According to the Ecofascism web-site: http://ecofascism.com/article21.html

“The ubiquitous, opaque Tides Foundation and Tides Canada Foundation are clearing houses for foundations wishing arm’s-length relationships with the unwashed mass of ENGOs. Tides Canada owns assets worth $31 million. In Alberta they fund: Alberta Wilderness Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canadian Wilderness Federation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, Southern Alberta Land Trust, and Western Wilderness Committee. (7)”

This article outlines other sources of giving to Alberta Wilderness Association. http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/articles-cars/26574

We Simply Wanted a Fair Statement – Now we Have Many Questions 

Though our request for the publication of a rebuttal commentary in Alberta Wilderness Association’s journal began as a simple effort to clear our name, this research has now raised many questions in our minds about the agenda-driven nature of the Alberta Wilderness Association and the motives of its many sponsors.

Our sub-contracted communications manager, Michelle Stirling-Anosh, wrote an opinion piece on her own blog some time ago that outlined her concerns that these many conservation groups were building what she calls “The Great Eco-wall of Canada” – an invisible barrier to resource development and product export.

In our opinion, Albertans and Canadians may find themselves questioning the Alberta Wilderness Association in light of its uncharitable response to our request to post a rebuttal to their derogatory and misinformed commentary about Friends of Science. With freedom comes responsibility – with charitable tax status, even more so, as recently noted by Andrew Coyne in the National Post.  Coyne is not opposed to groups engaging in advocacy – he just doesn’t think anyone should have charitable tax status to do so.

In light of this experience, we agree with him.

We, as taxpayers and scientists, are appalled at Alberta Wilderness Association’s refusal to engage in factual, democratic debate.

With Freedom of Speech Comes Responsibility; With Charitable Status comes a Requirement to be Factual and Apolitical

If you share our concerns, this is the CRA website where you can get more information or send a letter of complaint.


If you are writing the Charities Compliance Division, you will need the following information: AWA is a federally registered charity and functions through member and donor support. Our charitable number is 118781251RR0001.”


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1 Comment

  1. harebell

    As taxpayers and scientists?
    Unless you tell Canadian who is funding you and who your members are, we only have your word for this.
    Your M.O. is also very similar to that of the “Ethical Oil” astro-turf mob. Complain about others, but insist that all your information is secret and refuse to be open yourself. Whining to the tax office doesn’t strike one as a very scientific way to progress either. It is highly censorious in nature and paints you and your cohorts in a bad light.
    You come across as secretive bullies who are just doing what some very rich people want you to do.

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