A tour by two Albertan ministers through 11 European countries in an attempt to undermine the implementation of the EU's Fuel Quality Directive suffered a serious setback when a Canadian court ruled that the exclusion of environmental groups from environmental hearings is "fundamentally flawed".
This week, the Albertan environment minister Diana McQueen and the minister for international relations Cal Dallas embarked on a tour through Eastern European countries to "educate" decision makers about Alberta's environmental record, as they claim. In reality it is an attempt to lobby national governments on the implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive, which, as it currently stands, would assign Canadian tar sands, among other fuels, a higher value for greenhouse gas emissions, making it more difficult for EU oil companies to import crudes from Canada.
However, this attempt to green-wash tar sands, which are one of the world's most destructive fossil fuels, suffered a serious blow, when a court ruled yesterday that Alberta's environmental hearing process is "fundamentally flawed" and "a direct apprehension of bias". The court case was brought on by two Canadian civil society organisations that had previously participated in environmental hearings on the expansion of tar sands projects. Yet from 2009 on they were excluded from the hearings, because the government deemed them "less inclined to work co-operatively", as a now released memo stated. This exclusion of critical voices was a "breach of fundamental justice", the court ruled. An opposition leader in Alberta said the behaviour of the Alberta government towards its critics reminded her of a "banana republic".
And it has not been the first time the Canadian government has interfered with the working of civil society and other independent voices. The prestigious German Helmholtz Institute has stopped its cooperation with Alberta, citing risk for its environmental reputation as the main reason. And journalists and scientists have long complained that the Canadian government is restricting government scientists to speak on issues they research on.
The renowned scientific journal Nature published an editorial last year, in which it accuses the Canadian government of showing "little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge" and concludes that "it is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free".
Earlier this year Friends of the Earth Europe also exposed the vast lobbying efforts of the Canadian national government to open up the European market to dirty tar sands.
Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaigner from Friends of the Earth Europe said "European governments should resist Canadian pressure and stand up to the independent research that shows the scientific basis for the Fuel Quality Directive. There is no need for them to be "educated" by a government that prevents civil society from participation and muzzles its own scientists."