Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Devon Page, executive director at Ecojustice, stands near a Coastal Douglas fir tree in Stanley Park in Vancouver, in this file photo from Nov. 30, 2013.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

One of the targets of Alberta’s public inquiry into environmental groups will be in court this week to argue that the process is an unconstitutional attempt to intimidate critics of the province’s oil sector.

The Vancouver-based legal charity Ecojustice filed a court challenge after the inquiry was launched in 2019 to investigate the funding of Canadian environmental advocates who oppose the oil industry. The case is scheduled to be heard in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday and Friday.

The inquiry was a campaign promise from Premier Jason Kenney, who contends that a foreign-funded campaign has spent years attacking Alberta’s oil sector. It has been plagued by delays and is $1-million over its initial budget of $2.5-millon. Commissioner Steve Allan’s final report was due last July but he has received three extensions, which he has blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Story continues below advertisement

Ecojustice argues in court documents that the government launched the inquiry in a blatant effort to intimidate and harm critics of the oil sector, pointing to Mr. Kenney’s public statements condemning environmental activists and accusing them of “economic sabotage.”

The court filing goes on to say that the inquiry’s terms of reference are unfair and that the process is unconstitutional because it deals with an issue – the funding of federally registered charities – that is outside the province’s jurisdiction. Ecojustice also argues that there is possible bias because Mr. Allan donated to the campaign of UCP cabinet minister Doug Schweitzer, who was justice minister when the commissioner was appointed.

Devon Page, Ecojustice’s executive director, said it’s completely inappropriate to use a public inquiry, which has legal powers to compel evidence and make findings of misconduct, to go after political opponents.

“A political leader saying, ‘We’re going to go after you,’ and then manifesting that in a judicial inquiry will have the effect of silencing opposition,” Mr. Page said in an interview.

“We want to defend not only the right of Ecojustice to participate in public debate about things like whether we’re developing our energy assets appropriately in the context of climate change, but also to defend Canadians at large.”

Environmental groups have said that non-Canadian funding makes up just a small portion of their overall revenues. Mr. Page said the theory around foreign funding also assumes that U.S. funders are directing the activities of Canadian environmental charities.

“We determine what the significant environmental legal issues are, and then we go out and fundraise for them,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Ecojustice sought an order to stop the inquiry’s work while the court case was under way. A court rejected that application in November. Mr. Page said the group will ask the court to prevent the inquiry’s final report from being released until there is a decision in the case.

Mr. Kenney has defended the inquiry in the face of repeated delays and its increased budget, saying that the province needs to understand who is opposing Alberta’s oil industry and why. He has blamed campaigns funded by American philanthropists for derailing proposed pipelines, including the Keystone XL pipeline that was recently cancelled by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. In its court filing, the province says the inquiry is lawful and that its findings will help the government respond to critics of the energy sector.

“The [cabinet order establishing the inquiry] appoints a commission to make an independent inquiry into matters that, if true, would be of significant concern to the province of Alberta,” the document says.

The province also rejects the assertion that Mr. Kenney’s public statements about the inquiry before it was launched are relevant, arguing that there is no evidence that those views informed cabinet’s ultimate decision to launch the inquiry.

Mr. Allan’s spokesman declined to comment and referred to the inquiry’s legal filing. The document says Mr. Allan’s political donations don’t show bias, as he has also made donations to other political parties. It also agues that it is premature to allege bias because Mr. Allan has yet to release his report and any claims about what he might find are speculative.

Story continues below advertisement

There is also a group of interveners that include the Indian Resource Council, the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, and Calgary businessman and former Dragons’ Den star Brett Wilson. They argue in their court filing that the inquiry is performing a valuable fact-finding role and that it would be wrong to prejudge that work before its final report is released.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies