VANCOUVER -- Well-known Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki has stepped down from the foundation he helped create so he can continue to speak out on issues without harming the foundation's charitable status.
"I want to speak freely without fear that my words will be deemed too political and harm the organization of which I am so proud," he said in an open letter posted Friday on the foundation's website.
"I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special-interest groups are working hard to silence us. They use threats to the foundation's charitable status in attempts to mute its powerful voice on issues that matter deeply to you and many other Canadians," he said in the open letter.
"This bullying demonstrates how important it is to speak out," he said.
Suzuki noted that he had made the decision last year to step off the board of directors of the David Suzuki Foundation.
High-profile environmental activist Tzeporah Berman also recently left Greenpeace International, she said so she could focus on Canadian politics.
Their decisions come as the federal Conservative government has targeted groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation as "environmental radicals" that are stopping resource development in Canada, including for projects such as Enbridge's $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline.
The federal government accused the environmental groups of sourcing money for their campaigns from U.S. foundations, and committed $8 million in its recent budget to help the Canada Revenue Agency target registered charities.
The money will be used to "improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources," according to budget documents.
The David Suzuki Foundation has raised concerns about Enbridge's proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline, saying it has the potential to harm the environment.
But the foundation has said it gets less than 10 per cent of its funding from foreign sources and very little of this is used for climate and energy work.
-- Postmedia News