Oil-sponsor role questioned at museum exhibit
Imperial Oil, a sponsor of the Museum of Science and Technology exhibition "Energy: Power to Choose," was actively involved in the message presented to the public, according to emails obtained by CBC News.
The Ottawa museum unveiled the exhibition last year despite criticism from environmental groups like the Sierra Club who said it was in part funded by the Imperial Oil foundation, which contributed $600,000 over six years.
The museum had defended the decision, saying it received funding from a number of energy industry sources, and said the final decision about what would be presented was with the museum itself.
"We have the character to stand up for the independence of our editorial content and rest assured that it is and will be fiercely defended," wrote museum vice-president Yves St. Onge, in an October letter to the Sierra Club.
In an October 3 interview on CBC Ottawa's All in a Day, host Alan Neal asked exhibit curator Anna Adamek who put in a reference that said oil sands account for one-tenth of one percent of global emissions.
Adamek told Neal "this fact comes from research reports that are available at the museum, that were commissioned by the museum."
Changes requested from earlier drafts
But earlier emails from Imperial Oil Foundation president Susan Swan obtained by Radio-Canada through an Access to Information request show she had recommended that information be included back in May.
Swan, who also served as chair of the advisory committee to the project, also asked that information be included that the oil sands are expected to add $1.7 trillion to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years.
Not all of Swan's requests made it into the final exhibit: in one point, she asked that an illustration for Polar Oil and Gas Reserves be changed from red to blue, arguing red "has a negative connotation" bringing to mind "blood oil." The change was not made.
Sierra Club Canada executive director John Bennett said his group initially complained about Imperial's involvement because he thought it put the exhibit into question.
Industry funding 'inappropriate', says Sierra Club
"We're concerned that a public museum, a federal government museum, is actually taking funds from the oil industry to repeat what the oil industry wants repeated about the oil industry. And we thought that was inappropriate," he said.
After seeing Swan's letters, he said what was most worrisome was the tone of a letter, in which Swan makes what he says is a subtle but clear threat to withhold funding.
In a letter dated May 20, Swan writes "I find the language not balanced overall. I have tried to point out the most significant issues I have seen, but the overall tone is of concern to me.
"As you know the funding of this project is not where we want it to be, so focusing on the quality and tone of this exhibit is key to ensuring others sponsors are found." she wrote.
Imperial says it acted as adviser
In a response to Radio-Canada, the museum said it had the final say on all content produced in the exhibit.
Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser concurred, saying the museum made all the final decisions on content and displays.
"Are we satisfied that the panels information presents sound factual data? Yes we are," said Rolheiser.
He said Imperial Oil was invited by the museum to participate on the 25-member advisory committee to the project, and to share information based on its expertise in the area.
"Imperial oil was invited to act in an advisory capacity, and that's what we indeed did," said Rolheiser.
VIDEO: CBC Ottawa, Jan. 23rd, 2012 WATCH HERE
DOWNLOAD THE CONTROVERSIAL DOCUMENTS HERE:
Canada Science and Technology Museum takes $50K from big oil to promote the Tar Sands to children!
Media Release, September 30th, 2011