02.17.2014 08:17 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: uncharitable

The Hebrew word for charity – tzedakah – means justice. It’s a better definition than the English, because charity shouldn’t mean simply giving to the poor. It means (or should) seeking a righteous, fairer world. Justice, in other words.

In the Jewish tradition, then, charity isn’t merely something you do if you feel like it. It is, instead, an obligation owed to God. If you are to live a godly life, you have an actual ongoing responsibility to make the world a better place. This is why, I think, we consistently see so many Jews at the forefront of charitable ventures in Canada – to them, charitable work is an article of their faith.

Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper don’t think Environmental Defence, Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation are trying to make the world a better, fairer place. They don’t think those charitable groups should exist, even.

Environmental Defence, Tides and the Suzuki folks are now being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency. More than a half-dozen environmental groups are being similarly audited, in fact. The Conservatives say the environmental groups are too political (which is a lie). The environmental groups say the Conservatives are using their power to silence them, or put them out of business (and that’s the truth).

Environmental Defence has been around for 30 years. Its mission is to “inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.” Sound too radical or political to you? Me neither.

A few years back, they tested various MPs bodies’ for toxins. One of the participants was Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement – he apparently didn’t consider Environmental Defence too political back then. Thereafter, his government smartly decided to declare one of those toxins, triclosan, a threat. Again, sound like a bad political thing? Nope.

The Suzuki Foundation – with which David Suzuki himself is no longer affiliated, because he didn’t want the group to be targeted by the Harper regime, so great is their hatred for him – does stuff like “science-based research, education and policy work” about the environment. Radical? Um, no.

Environmental Defence, the Suzuki folks and others aren’t wild about the oil sands – and, last time we checked, neither is the President of the United States, who calls them “destructive.” Being unenthusiastic about the oil sands is what you’d expect an environmental group to think, no? It’s not a big deal.

Not to Flaherty and his ilk. The Finance Minister recently even insinuated that environmental groups are honest-to-goodness terrorists. “If the critics of the government are terrorist organizations and organized crime, I don’t care,” he told Postmedia, in a story that was about charities. Seriously? If I were legal counsel to an enviro group, I’d sue Flaherty’s Irish ass for linking my client to terrorism.

But that’s me. The environmental groups, you see, are too nice. They are quietly going along with the audits. They should, instead, be fighting like holy Hell. The Conservative, meanwhile, should back the Hell off – because their obsession with these environmental groups will ultimately persuade Canadians that (a) they’re scared of the environmentalists’ message and (b) they favour free speech, but only for them and their friends.

They’re charities, doing good work. If they are engaging in terrorism or money-laundering, put ‘em in jail, and throw away the key.

But if they’re not? Back off, Jimbo.

Justice demands it.


  1. Yukon Cornelius says:

    Well, given how the local environmental agencies in the Yukon (and the US foundations that fund them) have co-opted our land planning process, I’d say that the federal government is on to something. Calling them terrorists is silly but there is no question that they can wield tremendous power. If you want to advocate on behalf of a position, fine, but don’t seek charitable status when you’re doing so.

    • Patrick Deberg says:

      Hey Yukon!

      I didn’t see your moniker anywhere when some of the fly by night gold mines left toxic arsenic leaching pits when they went tits up in the north? Did you miss those? *7 of the worlds most toxic mines in the world are in Canada’s north. But I guess that’s ok to you cause they were “policing themselves.” I spent ten years in the Yukon close to the miners and such. Ever vist the tailings in Dawson or watched the hydrauliking? Ever hear of Giant mine in Yellowknife? Peggy Dewitt was paid 4 million a year to run the mine picking up “businesswoman of the year in the process. She left and the company went belly up and Canadians have been paying 30 million a year to contain the arsenic tailings pond ever since with no end in sight. So tell me who’s the terrorist?

    • david ray says:

      I’ve seen the drilling
      and the damage done
      A little part of it in everyone
      But every miner’s like a setting sun.
      when the night will come
      and they can’t run.

  2. Steve T says:

    David Suzuki not political? Are you kidding me?

    David Suzuki is no more neutral than the National Citizen’s Coalition. Suzuki just happens to have a better p.r. machine, and touches the politically-correct buttons that the left loves.

    A charity needs to be exceedingly neutral – almost falling over itself to be neutral and apolitical. Otherwise, don’t expect tax relief or any other perks of charitable status. Far too many organizations have forgotten this.

    • Swervin' Merv says:

      I suggest that both Steves (this one and the one occupying the PM’s office) really believe that “a charity needs to be exceedingly” NEUTERED (not neutral).

      This is Warren’s most important column of the year to date, and one of the best written.

    • !o! says:

      So, let’s take that line of logic a little further.

      Let’s say that you want to advance the issue of some facet of environmental sustainability. If the government of the day treads all over that mandate, do you have to shutter your charity while the government is in power?

      Let’s turn this issue on it’s head. Let’s say you have a charitable organization that’s committed to something else, say freedom of the press. Let’s say the government of the day curtails press freedoms, and passes a law that requires everything going to a print publication intended for mass consumption to be vetted by some government branch appointed by the party. Does your charitable organization then lose its charitable status because the policy is against it’s mandate?

      Neutral shouldn’t mean neutered.

  3. smelter rat says:

    And yet the Fraser Institute and the Manning Foundation get a free ride. Go figure.

  4. Matt says:

    IF any of the seven are doing anything shady, it wouldn’t be the first time an environmental group lost charitable status.

    Greenpeace lost their charitable status twice.

    Revenue Canada pulled it under Mulroney, Greenpeace got it back, then had it pulled again by Revenue Canada under Chretien.

  5. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    I never really supported any environmental movement until Industry Minister Joe Oliver’s Jan 9th/2012 open letter attack on environmental groups……that very day, I picked up the phone and joined the David Suzuki Foundation……and have been proud to support the organization with a small monthly donation ever since…..
    It’s was my own very personal fu to Dear Leader, his oil patch cabal, and the minions(see above) who do his bidding…….

  6. debs says:

    well written Mr Kinsella. I too wish the environmental groups would go after the conservatives for defamation( forgive me if thats the wrong term;)) but I fear this govt has managed to scare many organizations into silence. Perhaps the environmentalists can join with the scientists and have one big lawsuit for oppression and fear tactics being used against them. This govt seems to get away with fraud, corruption, lies and oppressive tactics to silence their opponents, whats next….murder:P If I were JT I would have round the clock security:P

  7. Kev says:

    When was the last time a government in Canada used so many of its powers to settle political and personal grudges with the enemies it kept finding under its bed?


    Selective tax audits, selective leaks of protected private medical and financial information… can a Padlock Act be far behind?

  8. Domenico says:

    Nothing it seems is too petty, mean spirited, and bullying for the sleazy cabal that currently passes for a federal government.

  9. KP says:

    I look forward to Ezra shouting at someone tonight in response. Maybe that guy who used to be in Greenpeace.

  10. Al in Cranbrook says:

    About a year or so ago, as reported by Sun News I believe, a one hundred and forty some page submission was presented to the appropriate authority that documented possible abuses by environmental organizations. As I understand the report, said agency (CRA?) was thus obligated to investigate the claims. Seems natural to me that, if they concluded there was indeed evidence of such, they would proceed accordingly. Nothing political about any of this, at least as far as the government is concerned. Nevertheless, it would seem logical that the ministry responsible for said agency would be advised of such findings if there indeed was concern, given that taxation law and administration comes under their purview.

    Frankly, it is the CRA’s mandate to ensure that the letter of the laws regarding taxation are adhered to. Given the amount of funds involved, it is imperative that they be every bit as vigilant in this regard as would be expected with similarly sized corporate and/or individual interests.

    These groups are NOT above the law (no matter how holy they think their cause is). There is no reason for them to be alarmed if they are in fact abiding by the law.

    All that said…

    I was pretty much giddy with elation when I heard about all this.

  11. AlexK says:

    Wanna bet that the Cons have already targeted an enviro group that has been funded by US anti-oil sands interest, and they will use this as election fodder claiming that the Americans are covertly meddling in Canadian politics. They will claim that oil sands development is necessary for continued Canadian economic welfare and without the oil sands revenue we will not be able to sustain our welfare system. So the choice will be between oil sands wealth and Suzuki poverty and peace of mind.

  12. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Estimated value of the oil sands over the next 25 years to the Canadian economy: $2.1 Trillion. Revenues to the federal government in excess of $200 billion, with similar amounts to provincial governments.


    Economic losses due to reduced prices for our oil in 2012 caused by lack of pipeline facilities: $24 billion, and thus $8 billion in royalties to federal and provincial coffers.


    Fact: Canada, and in particular, Alberta, has the very highest environmental standards for oil/gas resource development in the entire world, far in excess of even the US. Most energy producing nations, such as Russia, do not even come remotely close.

    Nevertheless, environmental groups have made the oil sands the poster child of their activism…while remaining virtually silent on the matter in much of the rest of the world.

    I am forever galled by the reality that the biggest opponents of oil sands development inevitably are those of left wing, whom at the same time relentlessly demand ever greater “free” benefits and massive social spending programs from governments. Not to mention their willingness to write off with a mere shrug tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people and families whose very livelihoods are derived from this resource. Livelihoods that pay for mortgages, vehicles, higher education, and one helluva pile of taxes!

    Lastly, I would dearly love to see a thorough investigation into just exactly where some of the funding that finds its way into environmental activism originates. Nothing in this regard would surprise me in the slightest.

    Oh, yeah…

    When it was thought that US money, supposedly via the NRA was being sent to Canada to fight firearms legislation…which turned out to be utter nonsense…the usual suspects on the left were having fits of indignation of American meddling in Canadian politics. But on this issue, with only God knows the economic, and thus social impacts, on the nation, who gives a good GD, eh?

    • !o! says:

      “Fact: Canada, and in particular, Alberta, has the very highest environmental standards for oil/gas resource development in the entire world, far in excess of even the US. Most energy producing nations, such as Russia, do not even come remotely close.”

      Maybe the rest of the universe outside of the ethical oil bubble doesn’t care to accept this narrow, bizarro definition as to what constitutes ‘highest standards’.
      The evironmental damage isn’t worth it, the co2 emissions per barrel extracted are not worth it.

      And you talk a lot about benefit to the economy…. Canada spent over $26 billion subsidizing oil and gas in 2011. That’s nearly $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. You say that reduced prices are due to lack of pipelines? Without subsidies, EVEN WITH pipelines, it wouldn’t be economical to extract.

      Revenues of 200 billion over 25 years? Great, if we only maintained 2011 levels of subsidization, then the gov’t is only 450billion in the red because of subsidies

      • Al in Cranbrook says:

        Canada has the highest standards, period. Naturally, no amount of standards of any kind will ever be acceptable to those who start their day each morning by chugging three gallons of environmental alarmist, human race detesting kool-ade.

        Scanning the report, we find that post production “subsidies” are, by and large, an estimate of costs of energy consumption not built into the price. This includes such items as the eternally fuzzy economics of attaching a dollar figure to a ton of CO2 relative to its impact on AGW.

        Which is essentially the same as attaching a corresponding tax on, f’rinstance, a hamburger relative to its impact on human arteries and the costs incurred by public healthcare systems over the long term.

        Both of which are just fuzzy enough that it permits pulling numbers out of asses of/by far away people in far away towers, and kept track of on far away computers, none of which anyone can seem to put their fingers on, but the authenticity and credibility of which is reputed to be sacrosanct in the same manner as are, oh, say, the two tablets Moses brought down off Mount Sinai.

        You know, kinda like “carbon credits”…which, interestingly and relevantly enough, got blown all to hell on global financial markets quicker than it took to dream up the silly crap in the first place. (But not before organized crime skimmed $5 billion off the top of the first $7 billion worth of trading in Europe. Yes, that’s another story, but thought I’d throw it in just for the hell of it.)

        Forget that…

        CO2 represents 0.0387% of the atmosphere, or 387 ppm.

        Human generated CO2 represents 4% of global CO2 annual emissions.

        Canada’s share is 1.9% of the total 4%.

        The oil sands share is 7% of 1.9% of 4%.

        My calculator thus works the oil sands share of CO2 to be something in the order of 0.017 ppm.

        I can certainly see where choking off 0.017 ppm of oil sands CO2 is going to change the world, and is bloody well worth forfeiting $2.1 Trillion worth of economic activity and associated benefits to Canadians.


    • Kaspar Juul says:

      “Fact: Canada, and in particular, Alberta, has the very highest environmental standards for oil/gas resource development in the entire world, far in excess of even the US. Most energy producing nations, such as Russia, do not even come remotely close.”

      Fact: neither of your articles cited mention this point. Prefacing your statement with “fact” does not make it so.

  13. Environmental Defense: “inspire change in government”

    Ummm, that’s not political?

  14. Paul Brennan says:

    there are rules and all should abide by them….I beleive they should limit the amount of monies folks get paid out of these foundations as well – both left and right wing – we are making millionaires out of folks plus giving tax credits to those contributing… I dont think any Canaidan chairites should be funded by foreign interests..can we not look after ourselves…

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