Tides Canada's lawyers (not shown) take aim at a North Vancouver single mom
In the annals of Canadian politics I can't think of any individual, let alone a woman working single-handedly, who would take on a more formidable and media-savvy opponent. Vivian Krause has self-financed through mortgaging (later selling) her home, and accepting loans and good will from family members so she can tell a story that no one has had the time, the will, nor the courage to tell.
If Krause were taking on some corporate bad guys in Erin Brockovich fashion, she would have made her third appearance on The Strombo Show by now. She would have a Fifth Estate documentary about her airing on CBC, and she would be the toast of the Hogtown elite. Alas, it has not come to pass. You could say she picked the wrong adversary to make it into the Mothercorp's good books.
Vivian Krause has become Canada's leading expert in explaining how millions of dollars flow through environmental non-governmental organizations with charitable status, and into select causes around the continent. Her research has shown that vast sums have been moved from US-based foundations through Tides Canada to a campaign to keep oil tankers off a strategic section of North America's coast.
Krause has been published in the National Post, Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette, Business in Vancouver and Vancouver Sun among other media venues. Yet, the lawyer's letters from Tides Canada – five in total since December – don't get sent to publishers. They go only to Krause herself. If Tides through their legal counsel are so concerned about the accuracy of her work, why let these newspaper publishers off the hook?
After several years of reaching out to Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation for answers, and being repeatedly rebuffed and ignored, Krause has kept a detailed record of all correspondence. She takes care not to ambush her subjects, and respectfully writes a letter with all of her findings well before ever putting her research in print.
Joel Solomon, if he ever cared to comment publicly on this, could confirm that he has received detailed emails with all of Krause's well-documented questions well in advance of that information appearing on a blog, or in a newspaper column. Krause seeks answers to what she describes as "fair questions," but rarely gets a respectful reply.
Vivian's rock solid research has been featured on CityCaucus.com several times. In one post she cuts straight to the chase by asking "Did Vision Vancouver get $153,783 in campaign funds from a charity?" Her questions and supporting documentation are compelling to read. Have Vision Vancouver found a surefire way to make sure that their campaigns will always be flush with cash like no other political party in our city's history?
If Tides Canada's goal is damage control, it would appear that strategy is backfiring. Each time Krause receives another correspondence from the lawyers, she discovers more facts which raise even more questions about what Tides Canada is up to.
For example, if it wasn't for the lawyer's fourth letter, Vivian may never have noticed that Open Media removed its web-pages and re-wrote others about getting cheques through Tides Canada. In her response to the law firm of Bull, Housser and Tupper she states:
Your letter prompted me to re-examine the web-site of Open Media where this information was posted as of Feb. 11. I notice that this web-page has since been removed. I also note that another web-page about donations to Open Media being accepted by Tides Canada, has been re-written.
Now, another week, and yet another letter – the fifth from Tides Canada's lawyers. Her response to the fifth letter is here, and it's practically a work of art. Once again she refutes all the lawyer's claims, then provides substantial documentation for her initial claims, including screen shots of altered and removed web pages by Open Media and other Tides entities.
(Interesting side note: Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer supported Open Media by helping to kick off their campaign against the CRTC's decision on user-based billing decision. It's an example of Vancouver City Hall being used as a bully pulpit to launch political action beyond city boundaries.)
Furthermore, with a little digging Krause discovered something she hadn't even considered earlier. The same law firm which represented Tides Canada also represented the Endswell Foundation – that of Carol Newell fame, which has turned over (according to Krause's research) 99% of all grants to Tides Canada. Remember what Vivian told us earlier about Endswell Foundation, and Joel Solomon, his vice-president and Vision Vancouver treasurer Martha Burton?
Between 2004 and 2008, staff at Renewal Partners, were paid salaries by Endswell - to the tune of $1.9 million, according to U.S. tax returns. Would Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications have been able to afford to contribute $153,783 to Vision Vancouver if salaries and who knows what else weren't paid by Endswell?
But if charity money had been used to fund Vision Vancouver, how would we know? That may be part of the problem. The sr. vice president of the Endswell Foundation, Martha Burton, is also the treasurer of Vision Vancouver and the Sr. Vice-President at Renewal Partners. U.S. tax returns show that between 2007 and 2008, Ms. Burton's salary nearly doubled from $72,036 to $135,325.
One of the campaign finance contributions to Vision Vancouver was a total of $6,000 from Interdependent Investments Ltd: $5,000 in 2008, and $1,000 in June of 2010. The B.C. Company Summary says that the president of Interdependent Investments Ltd. is Joel Solomon and that the secretary is Martha Burton.
It will be very interesting to see the lawyer's response to Vivian's most recent letter in which she asks sobering questions about the assets, revenues and expenditures of the Endswell Foundation – including what she calls "the $11.4 million dollar question" about why Endswell needed to spend $11.4 million on overhead while it was simply transferring 99 percent of its grants to Tides Canada.
Perhaps it's an insignificant detail about the correspondence from Tides Canada's lawyer, but not once do they bother to defend Joel Solomon nor the Endswell Foundation. Click here for a complete list of correspondences between Vivian Krause and Tides Canada's legal team.
Of course, the stakes are extremely high for anyone who might be using charitable funds merely for political ends. Charitable status is a precious thing, and if it is revoked from an organization it can trigger a domino effect whereby other charities can be implicated.
After ignoring Vivian Krause outright for years, Tides Canada is finally taking notice of a North Vancouver single mom who has quietly taken these Goliaths on from the comfort of her kitchen table in her apartment. Let it be a lesson in humility for us all.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen on Twitter, or follow Vivian @FairQuestions.