Ecojustice Represents Farm Interests Too

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You described Ecojustice as a “subsidiary” to a similar organization, EarthJustice, that operates in the United States. We are not (and never have been) a subsidiary of EarthJustice

Re: “Green lobby group’s motives suspicious,” March 15. As the Ecojustice lawyer referred to in your editorial, I read this with interest.

Acknowledging that you may have intended this as an opinion piece unencumbered by factual accuracy (inferred in part because you ascribed motives to me without talking to me), I still thought it important to address a few of the several errors in your editorial.

Firstly, you describe Ecojustice as a “green lobby group.” Ecojustice is a non-profit charity that provides free legal services to protect and restore Canada’s environment. Our primary tool to meet this mission is the use of litigation. While we occasionally lobby to seek policy or law reform to address systemic environmental concerns, lobbying is only incidental to our purpose and activities. We represent both organizations and individuals in legal matters, including recently representing farmers in southern Alberta in a surface rights and land reclamation dispute.

You described Ecojustice as a “subsidiary” to a similar organization, EarthJustice, that operates in the United States. We are not (and never have been) a subsidiary of EarthJustice. We operate independently but your comment that we maintain close ties to them is certainly true. We like what they do.

You ascribe to us motives in seeking reform of Alberta water law without, it appears, having read our proposals. These are presented in our publication, Share the Water: Building a secure water future for Alberta and available online at primary objectives of our recommendations in Share the Water are to ensure the protection of water for basic human needs and for the protection of aquatic ecosystems in times of drought. Your readers might find it interesting that our recommendations for restrictions on the marketing of water licences are intended to protect the agriculture industry from being out-bid for water rights by industrial or municipal developments.

Finally, you state in your editorial that, “Few citizens are aware that the word ‘tar sands’ was invented by lobby groups testing the word on focus groups.” Your readers may wish to read the 1914 publication Preliminary Report on the Bituminous Sands of Northern Alberta prepared by geologist S. C. Ells for the Canada Department of Mines, where Mr. Ells states:

“The bituminous sands of Alberta, heretofore commonly referred to as ‘tar sands,’ outcrop at a large number of points along the Athabaska river and its tributaries, for many miles to the north and south of McMurray.”

Apparently, focus groups have been around a lot longer than I thought. Mr. Ells would be surprised to learn some 96 years later that this term was invented by environmental lobby groups – but then again, one never wants facts to interfere with a good editorial.

Barry Robinson is the staff lawyer for Ecojustice.

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