Posted on September 18, 2019 (updated: November 4, 2019)

Kenney should expect legal action if commissioner fails to address flaws in ‘unlawful’ inquiry

CALGARY – Jason Kenney’s government could be at the receiving end of a court challenge if the commissioner in charge of a controversial public inquiry fails to address “fundamental issues of fairness,” Ecojustice has warned.

In a letter to the commissioner sent Tuesday, Ecojustice concluded the inquiry raises issues of bias, freedom of speech, and fairness, and cannot legally proceed under its current terms of reference. The environmental law charity gave the commissioner 30 days to respond.

Ecojustice warned the commissioner that characterizing criticism of oil and gas development as “Anti-Albertan” constitutes bias and could lead to government interference in freedom of speech. Canada’s courts are clear that government interference in free speech is an abuse of power and harms democracy.

Ecojustice has given the commissioner 30 days to respond to three fundamental flaws with the inquiry and its process:

  • First, that the political context around the inquiry and its structure give the appearance of bias;
  • Second, that the results of the inquiry could lead to a violation of Canadians’ basic Charter rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association;
  • And third, that the inquiry does not provide basic protections of due process and fair participation.


Devon Page, the executive director at Ecojustice, issued the following statement:

“The Kenney public inquiry is a political exercise intended to silence and intimidate environmental charities like Ecojustice.  It is a targeted attack on organizations working to combat climate change and prepare Albertans – and all Canadians – for the necessary and inevitable shift away from fossil fuels.

“It is indisputably unconstitutional for the Government of Alberta to interfere with organizations lawfully participating in social and political discourse about Alberta’s energy resources and the environment. Government interference in free speech is unconstitutional, an abuse of power, and ultimately a threat to democracy.

“Instead of taking steps to protect Albertans from the climate crisis, Premier Kenney is sinking millions of dollars into a political exercise that is unlawful in its current form, and not in the public interest. Ecojustice will not be intimidated.

“If the commissioner does not address the fundamental issues of fairness at the heart of this inquiry, Premier Kenney and his government can and should expect further legal action.”

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.

For media inquiries

Please contact Sean O’Shea, Ecojustice Communications Specialist, at 1 800 926 7744 ext. 277, soshea@ecojustice.ca

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