Pulling back the curtain on Tides Canada

Postmedia newspapers have for years provided a platform to spread Vivan Krause’s conspiracy narrative about Tides Canada

Ed. Note: Tides Canada changed its name to Makeway mid-summer of 2020. This provoked accusations from political conservatives like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney that the non-profit charity was “still” funding anti-oil and gas activism, which in turn prompted Makeway to issue a rebuttal. Energi Media interviewed CEO Joanna Kerr on June 16, 2020.

When Vivian Krause comments upon the influence of American foundation money on Canadian oil and gas development, she often refers to “Tides” funding. Over the years, this has led to the widespread belief that Tides Canada has funded much of Canadian anti-pipeline activism. The organization vigorously denies it funds anti-oil and gas activities.

Vivian Krause.

As part of the reporting for my deep dive that debunked Krause’s claims about the Tar Sands Campaign, I interviewed the CEO of Tides Canada, Joanna Kerr, and was provided information by email from Alison Henning, the organization’s director of communications and marketing.

The interview below has been edited from my April 26 conversation with Kerr and comments provided by Tides Canada for attribution to Kerr.

Tides Canada does not fund anti-pipeline activism, says Kerr

Markham: Has Tides Canada ever participated in the Tar Sands Campaign?

Kerr: For the record, Tides Canada was never a member of the Tar Sands Campaign. In much of the rhetoric of Vivian Krause and her supporters, there is a conflation between Tides Canada and Tides Foundation in the US. We believe this is intentional.

Markham: Are Tides in the United States and Tides in Canada not the same?

Kerr: The Tides Foundation is American and here in Canada we are known as Tides Canada, which is comprised of Tides Canada Foundation and Tides Canada Initiatives. The American and Canadian organizations are completely separate. They share absolutely no governance, no legal, no financial ties.

I understand it would be confusing to people because we share the same name. The founders of Tides Canada were inspired by the Tides Foundation and they wanted to start a very similar model in Canada that could essentially bring more money to community-led environmental and social justice work within Canada. But other than that, we don’t share anything.

Markham: I understand that since 2005 only one per cent of tides Canada funding has actually gone into anti-pipeline or anti-oil sands activism. Is that accurate?

Kerr: Tides Canada wouldn’t even characterize them as “anti-pipeline” activities, they would, they would characterize them as “pipeline-related” activities. This one per cent [of funding] would go to communities that are being affected by extraction projects, by pipeline projects.

Joanna Kerr, CEO, Tides Canada.

For example, in 2011 [Tides Canada] funded public outreach about the potential effects on wild salmon ecosystems of proposed oil pipelines. Another example is supporting a community-led engagement around conservation issues in the Sacred Headwaters where three of the Northwest salmon rivers [ Skeena River, Nass River, Stikine River] are born and where many local indigenous people call their homes.

It’s really more about dealing with the impacts of [oil and gas development] as opposed to funding anti-pipeline campaigns.

Tides Canada, along with the scientific community and a rapidly growing population of Canadians, believe Canada must transition to a clean energy economy. We support activities that move us in that direction.

Markham: What type of initiatives does Tides Canada fund?

Kerr: Of the 451 grants we gave last fiscal year, 94 per cent of them were under $100,000 and they went to a wide range of community-led initiatives. Only a small portion of these would be considered ENGOS. And 50 per cent of these grants were under $10,000. And none of them went to anti-pipeline actions.

The larger grants went to initiatives like Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund ($426,000) for work on [indigenous] reconciliation in Canada; $400,000 went to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for species conservation; $380,000 went do the Staal Family Foundation to support programs for children fighting cancer.

Tides Canada is a unique organization. Sometimes we host projects in our shared administrative platform, and sometimes we do donor-advised grantmaking to other charitable initiatives like other charitable foundations.

To my knowledge, there are no organizations that receive all their funding from Tides Canada.

Markham: Who supports Tides Canada?

Kerr: Like many other Canadian foundations and charities protecting the environment and building sustainable livelihoods, Tides Canada receives donations from Canadian and international donors – all of which are within the CRA guidelines. Between 2015 and 2018, Tides Canada received 43 per cent of its total revenue from international contributions.

Because important global issues like land, freshwater, oceans, and species conservation and climate change cross borders, international foundations often support work in other countries to further their mission. This is neither new nor surprising.

Krause’s allegations don’t stand up to scrutiny

One of my criticisms of Krause is that, in many – perhaps most – cases she did not follow up with the recipients of American foundations to verify how funding was actually spent. Since she has frequently included Tides Canada in her public comments, I asked Henning to check the charity’s records to determine if Krause had tried to verify her research about Tides Canada.

“I slogged through a whole bunch of archived emails I could get access to back to 2014,” Henning wrote in an email. “Although in one email I found she asked a question about where the funding went, for the overwhelming majority, she would simply list a whole bunch of info she had collected, and then ask for us to reply and confirm it was correct.”

Krause has also implied in a number of tweets and on the April 11, 2018, episode of 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show that Energi Media and my journalism have been funded by Tides Canada. I asked Kerr to review her organization’s records to determine if Krause was correct.

“I double checked and, indeed, neither you nor your company has ever received a grant from Tides Canada,” she said during the interview.

At the very least, Kerr’s interview and the information provided by her organization demonstrate that a significant portion of Krause’s research is inaccurate and her allegations are seriously flawed.

Krause was asked for an interview for the deep dive about her work. She refused, but agreed to answer written questions. Emails asking for those responses were not answered. Since then, she has refused to answer my questions posed to her on Twitter and made it clear she has no interest in responding to “fair questions,” which she claims she is asking about US funding of Canadian environmental groups.

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