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Victoria-based anti-pipeline group defends its funding

Jan 12 2012

A Victoria-based environmental group is under attack from a national group supporting Alberta oilsands development.

The Dogwood Initiative has accepted foreign funds to fight against development of the oilsands and the Northern Gateway pipeline, according to Kathryn Mitrow Marshall of Ethical Oil. A posting on the group's website is titled "How the foreign-paid Dogwood Mob is stealing our decision."

The Gateway project would see a pipeline built from the oilsands to Kitimat, where bitumen would be shipped overseas.

A debate is needed, Mitrow Marshall said. "But it needs to be a Canadian debate, not one that is hijacked by foreign special interests and their hired hands," she said.

However, Dogwood spokeswoman Emma Gilchrist said the attack has backfired and galvanized support. "We have been absolutely inundated. The phone has been ringing off the hook," she said. "We've got 4,794 new unique signatures on our No Tankers petition in the last 72 hours and a surge in donations."

One donation came from Daniel Terry, owner of Denman Island Chocolates, who was outraged by what he said was the government lashing out at "environmental and other radical groups." Terry gave $7,400. His company donates one per cent of gross sales to conservation groups.

"I was offended by some of the things said about people who are not happy about the Northern Gateway pipeline," he said.

Mitrow Marshall said Ethical Oil is funded by small donations from individual Canadians. The most offensive part of Dogwood's campaign is "Mob the Mic," which is designed to bog down hearings that started this week, she said.

"Of the astounding 4,000 people registered to testify before the panel, Dogwood says its campaign succeeded in signing up 1,600," says the Ethical Oil posting.

"Forty per cent of the registered witnesses are apparently being sent to the hearings by one single anti-oil organization."

Gilchrist said the response is a testament to British Columbians who want to protect the coast from oil tankers.

Dogwood's budget last year was $600,000, most of which came from single donations. But the organization also seeks funding from environmentally supportive foundations, some of which are in the U.S., Gilchrist said. "We disclose all our funding sources in our annual report. Our annual budget is just tiny compared to those interests we are up against this week," Gilchrist said.

This fiscal year, $176,000 has come from individual Canadians and $92,000 from U.S. foundations, she said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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