November 14, 2014 12:24 pm
Updated: November 14, 2014 12:29 pm

Friends of Science tackle Alberta Wilderness Association

Alberta Wilderness Association

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EDMONTON – A group that doesn’t believe carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming has taken aim at a prominent Alberta environmental group’s charitable status.

The Calgary-based Friends of Science has asked its supporters to write the Canada Revenue Agency about the activities of the Alberta Wilderness Association.

“We think there are some questions that should be asked of the CRA,” Friends spokeswoman Michelle Stirling said Thursday.

The Friends object to the association’s refusal to print a rebuttal to an article critical of the group in the Alberta Wilderness newsletter. The article referred to a billboard the Friends rented in Calgary that said the sun is the cause of climate change, not rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The Friends of Science billboard in Calgary .


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“Groups like the Friends of Science prey on our values and comforts,” said the article.

“They tell our luxury Lexus LX 570, 5.7L SUV owner, as she speeds by the billboard driving the kids to school, that all is well. To follow this group’s message will deliver this and future generations a fate no better than that of the children who followed the Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

The article compared the Friends to the Flat Earth Society, although the latter agrees that humans cause global warming.

The Friends billboard was criticized elsewhere, including in the U.S.-based online magazine Slate, which pointed out energy from the sun has declined in recent decades despite climbing temperatures.

Still, the Friends demanded the wilderness association publish a rebuttal in its newsletter. The association refused and the Friends began examining the association’s funding sources, said Stirling.

Among those sources are foundations that have been critical of Alberta’s climate change and environmental policies.

“They’re a charity,” said Stirling. “It says in the Canada Revenue Agency documentation that promoting a particular point of view or political orientation is not charitable.

“It’s taxpayers that are underwriting this organization and we’re also taxpayers.”

Ian Urquhart, president of the wilderness association, said the environmentalists have not broken any legal requirements. He said the Friends campaign is an attempt to squelch his group’s voice.

“This is just simply an effort on the part of that organization to silence those they disagree with.”

Urquhart said the association is under no obligation to give space to an argument the great majority of scientists consider long settled.

“The AWA is not going to use its magazine to propagate views the Friends of Science have.”

The association has filed a complaint of its own against Friends of Science president Len Maier with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, to which Maier belongs. Urquhart said Maier has distorted the results of studies contrary to professional ethics.

A spokesman for the engineer’s group said privacy rules prevented him from saying if an investigation has begun.

Friends of Science does not release its donor list, but says on its website it is supported by individuals and corporations.

Stirling said most of its board members are geologists.

The Alberta Wilderness Association is a long-established group that has often been critical of the province’s policies on development, especially with regard to the destruction of caribou habitat along the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

The Canadian Revenue Agency would not comment on whether it has been asked to begin an investigation or whether one has already begun.

The agency is currently conducting audits into whether registered charities are breaking a rule which prohibits them from spending more than 10 per cent of their money on political activities. The government is spending $13.4 million on the audits that began in 2012 around the same time as Conservative ministers were attacking environmental charities as being terrorists.

Since then, nearly four dozen groups have been called for review, many of whom have been critical of the Conservative government on issues ranging from environmental concerns to poverty issues.

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