Foreign funds flowing to fight oilsands – by Daniel Proussalidis (Sudbury Star – December 19, 2011)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

OTTAWA – While debate rages about the Northern Gateway pipeline project to connect Alberta’s oilsands to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, B.C., European financing is pouring in to environmental and aboriginal groups who lead the charge against the projects. The stakes have never been higher.

A major University of Calgary study released Thursday concluded if pipeline capacity existed to take full advantage of the oilsands, Canada’s economy would see a $131 billion boost between 2016 and 2030.

Yet opposition to the oilsands has been active for years, and now QMI Agency has learned Swiss and British money has been pumped into Canada, adding a new element to an issue that has focused on billionaire American foundations so far.

Janet Annesley with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said oilsands opposition isn’t all “grassroots.”

“In reality, they’re accepting cheques for hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign foundations,” she said. “Canadians need to know who is behind these campaigns in order to think critically about what position they’re putting forward.”

Since 2007, Geneva-based Oak Foundation, set up by British billionaire Alan Parker, has divided almost $2.6 million among six groups for campaigns against the “tarsands.”

While Oak did not respond to QMI Agency’s interview request, the foundation’s database of grants shows Greenpeace Canada has swallowed more than $860,000 “to create financial and political uncertainty” about the oilsands.

Tides Canada took money to stop “new infrastructure development” like pipelines, while Forest Ethics accepted cash to stop the Northern Gateway and for “creating a perception of economic risk” around the oilsands.

West Coast Environmental Law, Environmental Defence Canada, and the World Wildlife Fund Canada received Oak’s anti-oilsands money, too.

The British government has gotten into the act, funding a recent Pembina Institute study critical of the oilsands, carrying on the kind of work former U.K. High Commissioner Anthony Carey would do in Canada.
“If we can’t deal with (climate change) it is going to lead towards bloodshed and tremendous international tensions in the future,” Carey said in 2008, as quoted by the Vancouver Sun.

Meanwhile, British conglomerate The Co-operative has used its profits to vilify the oilsands as “toxic fuel.”

It’s also become a gusher of funding for native activists like Respecting Aboriginal Voices and Environmental Needs (RAVEN), which aims to convince the Supreme Court to void more than 17,000 oilsands permits by arguing they infringe on aboriginal treaty rights.

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