Canada’s Ministry of the Environment has announced that it will no longer renew the $574,000 in annual funding to the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN), an umbrella organization that represents 640 disparate environmental groups from across the country.
RCEN acts as the common voice for all of Canada’s environmental groups in Ottawa, synthesizing opinions and relating them to the decision-makers in government. “The Network forms an invaluable and irreplaceable grid of communication among environmentally concerned Canadians and the Government of Canada,” argues Larry McDermott, Aboriginal Representative and Director of the RCEN, in a press release from RCEN.
“A huge part of our understanding of environmental issues, and traditional indigenous, community, and scientific knowledge and experience has reached Canadians’ kitchen tables largely due to the existence of the Canadian Environmental Network.”
The decision to deny funding effectively severs the 34-year long relationship between the federal government and RCEN.
Melissa Lantsman, a spokeswoman for Environment Minister Peter Kent, told CBC of the move that that “the department is moving towards a more direct use of web-based consultation.” The Ministry appears to see RCEN as an unnecessary middle player. Their efforts to expand their own online consultation and comment options seems to be a move towards making the group redundant.
“The intent is to expand on these to not only provide comments on discussion papers,” Lantsman writes, “but to invite stakeholders to submit ideas or policy solutions on the government’s environmental priorities.”
The move also appears to have caught all senior staff at RCEN completely unaware. Currently, the network’s website still features links on how to join the organization, job openings, and upcoming events. It’s business as usual without the funding necessary to make business as usual possible. It still acknowledges the financial support of the Ministry of the Environment.
“If we had known this ahead of time, we would have planned for a transitional period,” said network chairman Olivier Kolmel in the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve been operating since May on good budgets and contracts we had coming through and trying to keep up until we had an [approval] for the core funding. … Certainly, we’re not planning on shutting down.”
But without a change of heart from the Environment Minister or Prime Minister Stephen Harper, or a massive public outcry, the doors are likely to close on the RCEN for good.
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