EDMONTON — Canadian environmental groups did nothing wrong when they accepted foreign funding for campaigns opposing oilsands development, a public inquiry has reported.

In his much-delayed report released Thursday, Steve Allan, commissioner of the Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, says the groups were exercising their rights to free speech.

“I have not found any suggestions of wrongdoing on the part of any individual or organization,” Allan writes.

“No individual or organization, in my view, has done anything illegal. Indeed, they have exercised their rights of free speech.”

Allan also says the campaigns have not spread misinformation.

While he finds that at least $1.28 billion has flowed into Canadian environmental charities from the U.S. between 2003 and 2019, only a small portion of that has been directed against the oilsands. Auditors Deloitte Forensic Inc. estimate that money at between $37.5 million and $58.9 million over that period. That averages to $3.5 million a year at most.

Alberta’s United Conservative government funds its so-called “war room,” an arm’s-length agency instituted to counter environmental groups, at up to $30 million a year.

The report also finds that what it calls conservative/market-oriented charities that worked in support of the oilsands received at least $26.7 million from foreign sources.

Allan recommends a series of reforms to improve transparency in the charitable sector. He says charities should be subject to the same standards of disclosure as private corporations.

He also calls for an industry-led campaign to rebrand Canadian energy.

“Industry associations, governments, and the industry itself have failed to counter (environmental groups’) efforts, such that the public has not had ready access to complete, reliable and balanced information,” Allan writes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2021. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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