Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 30, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - Tides Canada says it takes no position for or against the oilsands, but admits part of its mandate is to ensure funding for the "environmental voice."
Conservative senators forced Tides - appearing before a Senate committee probing Canada's energy sector - to take the defensive Thursday for accepting cash from foreign foundations to fund anti-oilsands projects.
"Issues like climate change and dirty water don't stop at the border," said Merran Smith, Tides' energy initiative director. "That's why we attract international money."
Smith appeared with her colleague Sarah Goodman, vice-president for business development.
In January, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver slammed foreign-funded environmental "radicals" for attempting to block pipeline development.
Tides and related organizations have since been under increasing scrutiny.
But Goodman argued Tides received just over $6 million from U.S. foundations last year and only a nominal amount - 3% - went to projects related to energy companies.
She added that Tides had partnered with the federal government on a number of projects.
Senators also peppered Smith and Goodman with questions over whether Tides partners had an anti-oilsands bias.
"We're for having clean water, we're for protecting the environment," Smith said.
Conservative Senator Judith Seidmann responded: "That answers the question - you're funding one side of the debate."
Tides also says it is reviewing its funding of Forest Ethics, one of the biggest environmental groups opposed to oilsands development and pipelines.
Forest Ethics has said it "played a role in registering close to 600 speakers" for current public hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, slowing down the review process.