Contributed by Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager © Sept. 2017
Some people have been extremely curious about Friends of Science Society – so curious that they could not phone, email or send us a letter asking about our organization.
Instead, they went to the most powerful trade enforcement agency in Canada – and not privately – publicly. On Dec. 3, 2015, Ecojustice Canada Society, a federally registered charity, representing six high-profile signatories, demanded that the Competition Bureau investigate our tiny organization and recommended that we be thrown in jail for putting up billboards about science, because Ecojustice claimed the billboards were false and misleading.
- There is a quirk in the law related to the Competition Bureau, described herein by lawyer Michael Osborne. But since we are not a commercial group, and our ratio of influence is very small, as is our $150K annual budget, and the billboards complained about had run the year prior to the complaint, it’s hard to imagine that we were/are somehow stopping the $1.5 trillion/year global Big Climate Industrial Complex from moving into the #SmartGrowthCentury… or whatever we are supposed to be guilty of.
- Ecojustice rested much of its claim on the fact that the Ad Standards Council had received some 96 complaints about our billboards when they ran in French in Montreal. Ad Standards Council had done a very extensive review of materials from ourselves and from some individuals representing the side of those complaining. They had decided that our billboards should be more ‘nuanced’ and less definitive in the statements we made – so we complied!
We did not object to their process and we were pleased when in the Ad Standards Council ruling, they did recognize our perspective in part saying: “global warming and climate change are caused by the serious effects of the sun and carbon dioxide.” (This is a direct quote from their letter to us, referred to in our Advertiser’s Verbatim Statement below.)
3. The Ad Standards Council is a voluntary organization with no legal authority, but with an agreed upon Canadian Code of Advertising Standards for signatory media organizations. The objective is for industry partners to maintain appropriate communications to the public and not misuse their Charter Right of Freedom of Speech to mislead – especially on topics where public safety or finances might be at risk (i.e. making unsubstantiated claims about potions or treatments related to health, or advertising ‘come on’ deals at stores that offer only 1 item on sale but no other stock, etc.) We complied with the Ad Standards Council’s process and feel they provide a valuable service to Canadians.
Ecojustice still insistent on Sept 11, 2017, MONTHS after the start of their public campaign, that we should be investigated for ‘deep-pockets’ funding us. Friends of Science Society’s annual budget is about $150K/year. Ecojustice? about $6 million.
4. The public framing of these affairs has made it appear to some that Friends of Science Society has something to hide because to date we have not published an annual report like most charities do. There is a simple answer as to why – we are not a charity. We do not and cannot issue tax receipts for any donation. Consequently, people do not get a tax benefit when they donate to us. Public reporting of such details is not required (since there is no public tax subsidy at play). We do not fall under those charitable guidelines.
5. Thanks to the Ecojustice high profile publicity about Friends of Science Society, we now have total strangers demanding that we reveal our sources of funding!
What insatiable curiosity everyone suddenly has about a small non-profit that runs on $150K a year, powered by a handful of volunteers and consultants!
Of course we don’t publish the names of our members, who are individuals and who donate the nominal funds for our operation. Again, the reason is simple and two-fold.
a) as a small non-profit with no charitable status, we are not required to.
b) under Alberta’s PIPA – Personal Information and Privacy Act – by law we are forbidden to disclose without the person’s express consent; and privacy is also part of our agreement with our member/subscribers who receive our bimonthly Cli-Sci and Friends of Science Extracts. Our agreement is that their privacy will be protected. These terms are the same as with almost any organization you purchase subscriptions or services from whether it is Amazon, National Observer, Simons retail or American Express or other credit service. However, it seems hard for people to grasp that.
6. So, after setting that context, here’s our Annual Report. The contents were presented in a public forum for members in Calgary on June 8, 2017, with a sandwich board outside advertising the event to the public, not behind closed doors. Enjoy this overview of our work and finances.