Whistleblower Claims Public Opposition Being Silenced by PMO

Earlier this week whistleblower Andrew Frank  released an open letter to Canadians alleging that the Prime Minister’s Office threatened to withdraw Tides Canada’s charitable status if it did not cease funding to the environmental group ForestEthics. The allegations stem from an apparent bullying campaign in which the PMO allegedly characterized ForestEthics as an “enemy of the Government of Canada” because of the organization’s work opposing oilsands expansion and the construction of pipeline/tanker routes in Canada.

Frank is the former Communications Manager at ForestEthics, but he reportedly lost his job upon notifying senior management of his intention to go public with his accusations. Tides Canada CEO Ross McMillan denies Frank’s claims that the PMO put undo pressure on the organization.

Frank’s allegations, especially with regards to ForestEthics being construed as an “enemy of the State,” is reminiscent of recent statements made by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who claimed that “radical” environmental groups were hijacking the review process for Enbridge Inc’s proposed pipeline and standing in the way of industry and progress.

According to Frank, it is the heavy-handed treatment of public opposition that is a troubling breach of public trust. His open-letter states,

“The language of anti?terrorism, when applied to Canadian citizens who legitimately question the wisdom of an unsustainable oil tanker/pipeline plan, is an affront to the rights of all Canadians. It is the language of bullying. It is language that is violent and above the law, and harkens to previous examples of RCMP surveillance of Canadians for political rather than legal purposes, including Tommy Douglas. The casual use of such loaded language at the top of our government is immoral, unethical and probably illegal.”

Since the release of Frank’s public statement on Tuesday, this issue has gotten major coverage in both mainstream and social media. In just over 24hrs, Frank’s online letter has received over 46,000 views. If it is possible for a letter to go viral, then that’s exactly what this one appears to be doing. As his letter continues to light up the blogosphere, individuals on either side of the debate are increasingly coming forward. ForestEthics co-founder Tzeporah Berman says that he has no evidence to support Frank’s claims, and asserts that Frank was fired “for unprofessional conduct and breach of trust.” However, in a statement released yesterday, ForestEthics other co-founder Valerie Langer confirms Frank’s claims that the PMO targeted the organization.

ForrestEthics is an environmental organization that discourages the use of oil-sands derived fuel. They also encouraged speakers who oppose Enbridge Inc’s proposed pipeline between near Edmonton, AB and Kitimat, BC to signup for the National Energy Board review currently underway. Joe Oliver’s public statements criticizing environmental groups that had worked to drum up public opposition towards the Northern Gateway pipeline were in direct response to concerns that the over 4000 people slated to speak at the review would cause significant project delays.

Tides Canada is a non-profit organization that funds a range of social and environmental charities including Big Brothers/Big Sisters and World Wildlife Fund. According to Frank’s open-letter, Tides Canada was phasing out its support of ForrestEthics because of pressure from the PMO.