New film probes funding of anti-oil activism

The documentary film Over A Barrel focuses on the work of researcher Vivian Krause, who has studied the links between wealthy American foundations and Canadian environmental groups who oppose oil and gas development. (YouTube image)

The work of researcher Vivian Krause has been compiled into film format with the new documentary Over A Barrel.

Through her writings and research Krause has uncovered financial links between deep-pocketed American philanthropic foundations and Canadian environmental groups opposing oil and gas development.

The new, 30-minute film opens up a wider audience to Krause’s ideas beyond natural resource industry watchers and activists.

Her message is familiar for many people in the northwest, such as the audience who came out to see Krause give a presentation in June in Burns Lake.

LOOK BACK: Rich U.S. donors fund anti-oil activism, meeting hears

But the documentary adds more layers of detail and perspective by including interviews with such figures as Wet’suwet’en First Nation councillor Karen Ogen-Toews; Russell Tiljoe, a hereditary chief from the Burns Lake Band; Ellis Ross, Skeena MLA and a member of the Haisla Nation; and Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman, among others.

Ross explained that the work of anti-logging environmentalists he encountered several years ago helped save the Kitlope rainforest but brought no jobs to local First Nation communities who were facing problems like drugs, unemployment and suicide.

He notices similarities between those environmentalists and activists today who support the Great Bear Rainforest – where logging is mostly prohibited – but who also oppose pipelines and oil tankers.

“The people who are organizing the Great Bear Rainforest are proposing to set up the Great Bear Sea. Is it a coincidence that the Great Bear Sea includes a shipping lane that LNG tankers will travel to take LNG from Kitimat over to Asia? I think it’s another tactic. Let’s sterilize land, let’s sterilize waterways. Indirectly, we can shut down industry.”

Krause is interviewed several times throughout the film and she speaks about her main thesis: that organizations like the Rockefeller and Hewlett foundations have for several years been giving millions of dollars to Canadian charitable groups like Coastal First Nations, Tides Canada and West Coast Environmental Law to oppose oil and gas development.

The ultimate aim of bankrolling those groups is what Krause calls the “landlocking of Canadian energy industries” to hold an American monopoly on Canadian oil and keep it out of international markets.

Ackerman has sharp words for this situation.

“[These are] charitable organizations that have ulterior motives that damage Canada. Their charitable status needs to be pulled. They need to be banned from working in Canada. Our national government needs to audit them and look deep into where the money is coming from and where it’s going.”

Notably absent from the movie are the voices of 19 environmental organizations and foundations, which did not respond to interview requests or declined to be interviewed, according to the documentary.

Over A Barrel was produced by filmmaker Shane Fennessey, who told Lakes District News that the film sold out on its opening night in Edmonton on Oct. 5, followed by three more sold-out shows in Calgary.

“We originally released the film online for sale ($4.99) but were inundated with pleas to make it free in advance of the Canadian federal election,” he said.

Since it was uploaded to Facebook and YouTube on Oct. 16 it has been streamed hundreds of thousands of times.

It is free to watch online until Oct. 31.


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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