Posted on November 21, 2019 (updated: November 20, 2019)

Ecojustice launches legal challenge against divisive Alberta public inquiry

Premier Kenney tours forest fires - Alberta public inquiry - Ecojustice
Photo by Premier of Alberta via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

CALGARY – Ecojustice is taking the Jason Kenney government to court over its controversial inquiry into environmental organizations and “anti-Albertan” activities.

Canada’s largest environmental law charity announced Thursday that it filed a judicial review in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench earlier in the week.

The lawsuit challenges the inquiry on three grounds. First, that the government brought the inquiry for an improper, political purpose.  Second, that the inquiry proceedings give the perception of bias. And third, that the inquiry sets out to deal with matters that do not actually land under provincial jurisdiction.

Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page issued the following statement:

“From a legal standpoint, Jason Kenney’s inquiry process cannot go ahead as is. The inquiry was never about truth-seeking. The government launched this process for political purposes, with the goal of intimidating Canadians who challenge the pace and scope of Alberta oil and gas development.

“Furthermore, the inquiry’s terms of reference fail the basic tests for fairness and transparency and create a perception of bias.  And, Ecojustice argues, the inquiry deals with matters beyond the province’s jurisdiction.

“In addition to these fundamental legal problems, it is deeply concerning that the Kenney government appears hell-bent on sinking millions of dollars into a partisan exercise that does not serve Albertans’ long-term interests.

“This public inquiry is a blatant and irresponsible attempt to divide Canadians. At a time when the science demands we come together to combat the climate crisis, the idea that charities and individuals working to fight the climate emergency are ‘anti-Albertan’ is not only inaccurate, it’s dangerous.

“The climate emergency threatens all of our health, safety, and wellbeing. Canadians should be coming together right now to combat the climate crisis. We cannot afford to let politicians like Jason Kenney play politics with our future.”

Background

Ecojustice first raised concerns about the inquiry’s terms of reference in a letter to Steve Allan, the commissioner in charge of the public inquiry, on Sept. 17, 2019. Allan responded to the letter saying that he had not yet decided how the inquiry would proceed. However, the terms of reference were not amended and Allan has continued to conduct interviews under the auspices of the commission.

Ecojustice sent subsequent letters to the commissioner in October, raising further concerns about the inquiry and drawing attention to public documents that appeared to link him with donations to the United Conservative Party in 2018 and the leadership campaign for Doug Schweitzer in 2017. Schweitzer, now the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, is in charge of overseeing the inquiry.

Allan has not acknowledged or accounted for the donations.

About

Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity. Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

Ecojustice is proud to be 100 per cent funded by individuals and organizations who share our vision of a thriving environment, safe climate, and healthy communities protected by effective, well-enforced laws.

For more on Ecojustice’s funding, please visit: https://www.ecojustice.ca/about/financial-information/

For media inquiries

Sean O’Shea, communications specialist | Ecojustice

1-800-926-7744 ext. 277, soshea@ecojustice.ca

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