Strathcona directors uneasy about Tides connection

Directors approved a $2,500 grant-in-aid for Reel Youth, which helps youth produce short films

A youth program on Cortes Island will get its grant money after all, despite objections from one regional district director that the money has to first go to a controversial organization.

Directors approved a $2,500 grant-in-aid for Reel Youth, which helps youth produce short films, even though the money will have to be granted to the Tides Canada organization – something directors originally disagreed with.

At its board meeting meeting Jan. 8, directors agreed to write the cheque out to Reel Youth, instead of Tides Canada, after Area D Director Brenda Leigh objected to sending money to Tides. However, Cortes Director Noba Anderson told the board at a meeting last Thursday that Reel Youth, a project of Tides Canada, cannot accept a grant in its name, and the money had to come via Tides.

Anderson, not wanting Reel Youth to miss out on funding, appealed to her directors in a letter to reconsider.

“Director Leigh has raised concerns about Tides Canada over the years, concerned that they are under investigation, contribute to political campaigns, receive U.S. funds, etc.,” Anderson said. “I would very much like to put these allegations to bed – or at least into context so that we can all move on and not have this conversation whenever their name comes up at the board.”

Anderson then offered a letter to directors from Tides Canada in which Margaret Dickson, director of Tides Canada, defended allegations that Tides Canada has helped contribute to Vision Vancouver and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s election campaign.

“Canada Revenue Agency has clear guidelines on allowable advocacy (or political activities) conducted by Canadian charities which Tides Canada respects and works well within,” Dickson wrote. “Political activity carried out by Tides Canada is well below allowable levels.”

Vivian Krause, a blogger from North Vancouver, questions that. She has revealed on her blog that $8.7 million was granted from the Endswell Foundation to Tides Canada, which then distributed that money to investment companies and public-relations firms that have made political contributions to Vision Vancouver. Krause has also exposed several foreign donations, particularly from the U.S., to Tides Canada which turns the money over to lobby groups against forestry and oil sands and other environmental development which critics say is political, not charitable. Tides Canada has also been in the spotlight because of a recent audit by Revenue Canada.

Tides Canada defended that too.

“Like numerous Canadian charities, we are in the process of a routine audit by the Canada Revenue Agency,” Dickson wrote. “We are confident of a positive outcome.”

But that didn’t satisfy Leigh who stood her ground.

“All the background information still points to Tides (having an) annual revenue of $24 million and I find it very strange that a local government would provide $2,500 of taxpayers’ money to an organization that has $24 million,” Leigh said.

Still, despite Leigh’s objections, the board voted in favour of sthe $2,500 grant-in-aid to Tides Canada to go towards Reel Youth. Directors Leigh and Gerald Whalley were opposed.

Mark Vonesch, a director with Reel Youth, said the program, which is one of 40 under Tides Canada, will have a positive impact on youth on Cortes Island.

“Reel Youth’s budget makes up a very small fraction of the overall Tides budget with funding coming from municipalities, service agencies, government organizations, and foundations who believe it’s important for marginalized young people to have a voice through film making,” Vonesch said. “This small grant will help us run an inter-generational film program and film festival screening on Cortes Island, a remote community with very limited arts programming, especially for young people.”