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Ecojustice Threatens Legal Action Over Alberta’s ‘Foreign Interference’ Inquiry

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Ecojustice is giving Alberta 30 days to respond to concerns about its C$2.5-million inquiry into supposed foreign interference in the province’s fossil sector, asserting the probe is “unlawful and potentially unconstitutional” in its current form.

The Vancouver-based environmental law charity is threatening legal action unless commissioner Steve Allan agrees to changes.

“It is Ecojustice’s submission that the inquiry is ill-conceived, promulgated for purely political purposes, and does not meet the test of expediency or being in the public interest,” lawyers Barry Robinson and Kurt Stilwell wrote [1] in a letter released Tuesday.

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On a teleconference from New York Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said [3] the letter was “entirely predictable”, adding that he hadn’t read it. He called it a “regurgitation” of a “laughable” open letter [4] last week from Amnesty International that was similarly critical of the inquiry. 

“I understand why these groups are hyperventilating,” he said. “These responses confirm that we are on exactly the right track.”

But Ecojustice sees “a reasonable apprehension that the inquiry will be biased against the groups it’s investigating,” The Canadian Press writes. “It says Kenney’s public comments—as well as the wording of the inquiry’s terms of reference—prejudge the outcome and label environmental campaigns as ‘anti-Alberta’,” adding that the inquiry “risks violating rights to freedom of expression and assembly protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“Robinson and Stilwell suggested the terms of reference be changed to make the process fairer to the groups who may be called to testify,” CBC writes. “The suggested changes include: giving people the right to legal counsel; allowing them to call witnesses and table evidence; permitting cross-examination of testimony; and making transcripts of the commissioner’s interviews available to all parties.”