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The Alberta government's public inquiry into "anti-Alberta energy campaigns" is facing a legal challenge by B.C.-based not-for-profit Ecojustice.
This summer the government tasked the inquiry with digging into the role of foreign organizations and funds in creating roadblocks for the energy industry and "disseminating misleading or false information" to that end.
Ecojustice responded to the inquiry by filing court documents in Calgary on Nov. 15. The documents outline allegations that the inquiry "has been called not to address a matter of pressing public interest, but to justify a predetermined intent to harm the reputations, economic viability and freedom of expression of certain organizations who have opposed the Government of Alberta's position with respect to oil and gas development."
The application for judicial review argues the inquiry should be stopped because it is improper use of the Public Inquiries Act, it impinges on federal jurisdiction, and because the commissioner of the inquiry is biased towards support for the United Conservative Government.
In an interview with National Observer, Ecojustice executive director Devon Page said that the lawsuit is necessary because the inquiry is meant to target dissent and create a fear around climate action advocacy.
"When they announced to the public inquiry this summer, it had the desired effect," Page said. "We received calls from Canadians across the country who were alarmed and were worried about being targeted and victimized by the inquiry. So in its first instance, we believe there's evidence the inquiry had the intended effect and that again, was to intimidate environmental charities and Canadians who were concerned about climate change."
Page says this is a case where the judicial process is being abused to pursue political gains.
No legal response has been filed in court at this time. However, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy Kavi Bal responded to the challenge by email saying, "Ecojustice accepted US$815,000 from the US Tides Foundation for its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign to land lock Canada's natural resources. A foreign-funded activist group opposing the inquiry on foreign-funded attacks on Alberta's oil and gas workers is not surprising and speaks for itself."