Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

At U of W, the end justifies the means

Oil cash fuels eco program

  • Print
Enbridge doesn't sponsor the Eco-Kids Summer Camp, but is a primary sponsor for the Eco-Kids On Campus, a related program run during the academic year.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Enbridge doesn't sponsor the Eco-Kids Summer Camp, but is a primary sponsor for the Eco-Kids On Campus, a related program run during the academic year. Photo Store

I did ask the question.

Problem was, the question didn't dig deep enough into the story that lay beneath, like a labyrinth of crude oil pipelines. In fact, precisely like a labyrinth of crude oil pipelines.

Which is why, last week, after my column lauding University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy for co-founding the Eco-Kids Summer Camp for inner-city children, the Free Press received a letter from a group of U of W students who noticed something was missing. The rest of the story.

The letter began:

"Gordon Sinclair's article, (Inner-city kids hungry to succeed, July 20), praises Lloyd Axworthy, Kevin Chief and the Eco-Kids program at the University of Winnipeg for providing indigenous and inner-city youth with environmentally conscious educational programming. Conspicuously absent from the article is any mention of the program's main sponsor: Enbridge, the Calgary-based corporation that operates the longest crude oil and liquids pipeline network on the planet.

"Enbridge has a disastrous environmental record, racking up over 800 spills between 1999 and 2010. These spills have resulted in nearly 20 million litres of crude oil being released into the environment, and include the 2010 spill on the Kalamazoo River, the largest and most costly inland oil spill in U.S. history, which, three years later, has yet to be fully cleaned up. It is unacceptable that the University of Winnipeg has ties with Enbridge at all, never mind the irony that the program they fund gives children the opportunity to measure their own ecological footprint. Surely, the University of Winnipeg can find a more appropriate source of funding."

The letter was signed by Mathieu Paille, Robert McGregor and Rachel Dunsmore.

Actually, Enbridge doesn't sponsor the Eco-Kids Summer Camp, which was the focus of the column. I asked who the sponsors were before writing the column and Enbridge wasn't mentioned. But, as the letter suggested, Enbridge is a primary sponsor for the Eco-Kids On Campus, a related program run during the academic year that offers Grade 6 students from the inner city a chance to study science and the environment and hopefully aspire to post-secondary education.

All very impressive.

Except for Enbridge's oily involvement.

So what kind of money is Enbridge paying the U of W it can't possibly replace from another source?

The energy giant donates $25,000 annually to Eco-Kids On Campus program. That $25,000 for the U of W is a financial pittance for a corporation involved in that massive oil spill three years ago on the Kalamazoo River that, by one estimate, could cost nearly $1 billion to clean up.

So why does the U of W administration persist with its Enbridge partnership, even after being confronted in the past by the leaders of the students' union? An emailed answer from the university's communications department pointed out that Enbridge's School Plus Program, from which the Eco-Kids program was created, was initiated with the blessing of the Assembly of First Nations. That was in 2009, mind you, just as Phil Fontaine was leaving office as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Enbridge was sponsoring his farewell gala in Calgary.

The email from the U of W went on to offer another answer from a question I hadn't even asked yet: "Programming content is not directed by the initiative's supporters."

Perhaps not, but I doubt Enbridge would continue its funding if the Eco-Kids wanted a course on the tarsands and how it has resulted in Canada becoming a dirty word among many environmentalists around the world.

In any event, without a direct answer to my question, I was left wondering why the U of W can't say no to such a small amount of money from such a big environmentally controversial corporation. Until, that is, I was directed to an article in The Uniter from nearly 18 months ago, wherein Jennifer Rattray, a former CBC journalist who is now the U of W's associate vice-president of indigenous, government and community affairs, was quoted as saying without Enbridge's donation, the Eco-Kids program wouldn't exist.

Having dispensed that bunk, she got down to what serves as her best answer for why the university has sold its integrity for money from dirty oil.

"Bottom line, it helps those kids. Anything I can do to help those kids, I will do."

There you have it.

The fundamental life lesson the U of W is really teaching all you Eco-Kids out there.

The end justifies the means.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 B1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Brian Brohm on standby for Willy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A squirrel enjoys the morning sunshine next to the duck pond in Assiniboine Park Wednesday– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Jets' three pre-season losses in a row are a sign of things to come?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google