Tides Canada is changing its name to MakeWay, in response to what it says is a “smear campaign” that has made it an enemy of Alberta.
The Vancouver-based non-profit group, which took its name from the American Tides Foundation 20 years ago, funds hundreds of charities across Canada in the area of environmental and social justice.
But in recent years, its association with the Tides Foundation's and its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign – the goal of which, when launched in 2008, was to landlock Alberta oil – placed it in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s crosshairs.
After his election in April 2019, Kenney launched a $30 million “war room” set up to counter the campaigns of environmental groups against pipelines and Alberta’s oil industry.
Kenney specifically named the Tides Foundation as one of his war room’s targets.
"I have a message to those foreign-funded special interests who have been leading a campaign of economic sabotage against this great province,” Kenney said. “To the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, to the Tides Foundation, to Leadnow, to the David Suzuki Foundation, and to all of the others, your days of pushing around Albertans with impunity just ended."
Part of Tides Canada’s rebranding as MakeWay is intended to distance itself from the American Tides Foundation.
“Smear campaigns about Tides Canada have repeatedly misconstrued the purpose of Tides Canada's international philanthropic funding and have also conflated it with the U.S.-based Tides Foundation,” the organizations states in a press release.
"Certainly we've been confused and conflated with Tides in the U.S.," Joanna Kerr, who was named Tides Canada CEO last year, told Business in Vancouver.
"So critics have cobbled together things that are actually associated with the U.S.-based foundation, and not us. And even some of our friends literally think we are the Canadian affiliate of Tides U.S. Foundation."
Although MakeWay and the Tides Foundation have severed legal and governance ties, MakeWay continues to receive grants from the Tides Foundation through donor advised funds held at the Tides Foundation.
"Tides U.S. had a donor advised fund within Tides Canada. And that's what's confusing about both our entities. Over years we completely diverged.
"Certainly some of the things we've been named for, or accused of, particularly around some of the anti-Alberta narrative, to be clear only 1% of our grant making has gone towards any pipeline related activity since 2005."
Last year, Tides Canada donated $12.7 million to hundreds of non-profits across Canada.
(Editor's note: This story, which originally stated MakeWay no longer receives donations from Tides Foundation, has been corrected.)