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Green Charities Clash With Harper Conservatives

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OTTAWA -- The Conservatives have taken their battle with environmentalists to new levels of lunacy, some groups said Tuesday, after a Tory senator suggested they would accept funding from Al Qaeda.

"Let me ask you this, honourable senators: If environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians, where would they draw the line on where they receive money from? Would they take money from Al Qaeda, the Hamas or the Taliban?," Senator Don Plett, the party's former president, asked in the Senate.

"It's jaw-droopingly bizarre," Devon Page, executive director of EcoJustice told The Huffington Post Canada late Tuesday.

"I have no idea where this comes from. To me this defies reason, logic and all of this is so bizarre I have a hard time responding to it. To me, it's a good example of why we need an elected Senate," he said. "They are being irresponsible, I think they are not representing the Canadian public, I think the Senate is disassociating itself from reasoned debate."

Plett, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009, made the comments during an inquiry into the foreign funding of Canadian charities.

He told the upper chamber that Canada is a sovereign nation and "foreign entities should simply not be allowed to meddle in the Canadian regulatory process under the guise of charities."

Many environmentalists are upset with Harper's seeming obsession with the millions they receive each year in charitable funding from the U.S., while ignoring the millions more spent in Canada each year by foreign business interests.

Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell pointed out that the Tories have no trouble with foreign funding as long as it benefits it's own causes, such as the National Rifle Association petitioning to kill the long gun registry.

"Funding flows in all directions across borders, and to somehow single out a subset just because you don't like the stance of certain organizations and then demonize them for it for receiving the funding...is really a reprehensible treatment," Peter Robinson, the chief executive officer of the David Suzuki Foundation told HuffPost.

The David Suzuki Foundation, EcoJustice and several other groups, including Tides Canada, Sierra Club Canada and Greenpeace found themselves on another Conservative senator's hit list of "bad" charities Tuesday.

Harper-appointee Percy Mockler told the Senate it had to stop the interference of foreign foundations who were "muddling" in the business of our country.

"I believe they do abuse the laws of Revenue Canada," he said.

Not all foundations, of course, were "evil," Mockler said. "Just some of them."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did good work, as did The Rockefeller Foundation and the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families.

But others were "qualified bad, not to mention ugly, foundations," Mockler said, listing: The David Suzuki Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Greenpeace International Foundation, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Ecojustice Canada Bullitt Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Tides Canada and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (MOTT).

"They are all anti-Canadian," said Senator Mike Duffy, a former television personality and another Harper-appointed Tory.

"To suggest that David Suzuki hasn't made a strong contribution to Canada is just insane," said Sierra Club Canada's executive director John Bennett.

"Here is a Canadian icon who has devoted his life to informing Canadians about the 'nature of things' and because he's done that he's now considered an Al Qaeda sympathizer?"

Bennett said his organization, which receives funding from American and Canadian foundations and donations from individuals on both sides of the border, doesn't support civil disobedience let alone a violent armed struggle.

"Clearly, this is just a continuation of the (Conservative government's) smear campaign to try to cripple the environmental movement," he said.

The federal government has lashed out at environmentalists after the Northern Gateway pipeline's public hearings were delayed because too many participants wanted to have their say in the controversial project. The Tories labelled environmentalists 'radicals' and they now plan to streamline the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment agency's reviews as a result.

Bennett said environmental organizations like his are only asking to halt expansion of the tar sands until the federal government figures out how it will reduce its overall emissions and clean up the toxic mess.

"All the polling we've done say that I'm representing the majority and he's (Harper) is representing the lunatic fringe," Bennett said. "This makes the case for an elected Senate because obviously members of the lunatic fringe can be appointed by the Conservative government."

The Senate's debate on foreign funding of charities happened the same day that another Conservative senator, Nancy Greene Raine, said she doesn't believe that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for climate change.

Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall said he had "no comment on the opinions of Senators."

CLARIFICATION: The Rockefeller Foundation was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. Also, Senator Mockler meant to suggest that MOTT was a "bad" charity, not MADD, as was originally recorded in the Senate. He requested a formal change to the written record. This story has been updated to reflect his intention.

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