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Owls, oil, Ottawa and more

In this week’s newsletter, we tell you about what our reporters across bureaus have been up to, and talk a bit about our beautiful feature on the return of a Nisg̱a’a ancestor after nearly a century

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A line of people outside a beige building holding up signs that say "Suncor profits while Canada burns" and "Make polluters pay"
It’s been a busy few days at The Narwhal, where reporters have been digging into government goings-on, bringing you compelling stories from across the country.

We’ll start in Ontario, where the Doug Ford government finally brought forward a bill to give back the Greenbelt land it tampered with last fall. Reporter Emma McIntosh explains just how far the reversal bill goes — or falls short — in making sure future governments won’t be able to touch the crescent of land encasing the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area again. The bill also shields the government from potential lawsuits over the scandal but, as Emma explains, it likely won’t stop the RCMP from investigating all that.

Another big story that made headlines recently, was Alberta’s Supreme Court win over the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act — long dubbed as the No More Pipelines Act by Conservatives. For a provincial government that bristles at the hint of any authority over its resource extraction projects, Prairies reporter Drew Anderson writes, this sounds like a win, but it’s much more complicated than that.

The feds aren’t quite done with courts.
An illustration of a spotted owl sitting on the barrel of a gun.
To the west, the disappearance of Canada’s last wild spotted owl has ruffled some feathers — and the feds are, once again, being taken to court. Why them and not the B.C. government, which has sanctioned logging and shooting in the spotted owl’s habitat? Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault delayed asking cabinet — for eight months — to implement an emergency order to help save the raptor from extinction in Canada (which it ultimately rejected last week). B.C. investigative reporter Sarah Cox explains the court challenge puts Canada in the hot seat to defend why it didn’t do enough for the endangered bird.

Speaking of hot seats: that’s where oilsands producer Suncor’s CEO Richard Kruger found himself on Oct. 16, summoned by a Parliamentary committee to answer questions about climate change and Canada’s oil and gas industry, with a summer filled with cataclysmic fires still top-of-mind to many. 

Kruger has played a major role in the fossil fuel industry working for ExxonMobil for more than three decades, becoming vice president of the company, and then CEO of its Canadian affiliate Imperial Oil from 2013 to 2019. You would think that such a giant of industry, with a lot of knowledge and influence would get a lot of attention from journalists in Canada. Yet, climate investigations reporter Carl Meyer was one of only two reporters to show up in person to ask Kruger questions after the appearance in Parliament.

If Carl had not been in the room, you might not have found out about some conflicting and awkward statements made by the oil industry veteran, who largely avoided answering questions about who was most responsible for the climate crisis and what he knows about federal climate rules that Big Oil keeps denouncing.
A youth from Wilps Ni'isjoohl lays cedar boughs beside a Nisga'a pole that was rematriated nearly a century after it was stolen
And if any of these stories make you feel, uhh, a bit frazzled, check out our first collaboration with IndigiNews. The result is a gorgeous feature on the rematriation of the Wilps Ni’isjoohl memorial pole to the Nisg̱a’a Nation, almost a century after the ancestor was stolen and shipped to the National Museum of Scotland. For the Nisg̱a’a, it’s the first part of a long journey toward healing and reconciliation. Be sure to read the story here.

Take care and read something beautiful today,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor

From left to right: Narwhal editor in chief Emma Gilchrist, photojournalist Amber Bracken, Narwhal executive editor Carol Linnitt standing in front of the B.C. Supreme Court.

On our fight for press freedom

“Utterly dismaying” — that’s what Canadian Association of Journalists president Brent Jolly called the RCMP’s legal response to The Narwhal’s lawsuit.

Back in February, The Narwhal launched a lawsuit against the RCMP for wrongfully arresting photojournalist Amber Bracken on Wet’suwet’en territory — and to take a stand for press freedom in Canada. In its recent response to the lawsuit, the RCMP suggests Bracken was not engaged in legitimate journalism when she was covering the Wet’suwet’en conflict for The Narwhal in November 2021.

“The RCMP’s response in this filing is perhaps the most farcical demonstration yet of the RCMP’s efforts to restrict press access and stifle journalistic work. It’s a masterclass in ignoring and denying the constitutional and legal protections afforded to journalists in Canada to do their jobs without interference,” Jolly said.

Reporters Without Borders rejected the argument entirely: “We cannot accept the police arbitrarily deciding who is and isn’t a journalist. Amber Bracken was wrongfully arrested and detained for three days for reporting on a matter of public interest, and the RCMP should come clean about that,” North America executive director Clayton Weimers said.

While we prepare our case for trial next October, we’re incredibly heartened to see the response from our readers — and your undying support to uphold freedom of the press in Canada. 

As a small, non-profit news organization, The Narwhal certainly did not want to have to bring this lawsuit against one of the most powerful organizations in our country. But the RCMP’s response is a reminder of what is at stake in this legal battle — for journalists and for all Canadians who value a free press. If you want to join the fight for press freedom, you can make a donation to our legal defence fund here.


This week in The Narwhal

A greenhouse in the Ontario region of Windsor Essex
Lake Erie is full of algae again. Southwestern Ontario’s exploding greenhouse sector won’t help
By Matt McIntosh
Experts say nutrient-rich water from greenhouse farms could be harming Lake Erie, but Ontario’s Environment Ministry has issued very few fines for potential algae-causing infractions since 2019.

Sigidimnak' Nox̱s Ts’aawit (Amy Parent) speaks to The Narwhal's Matt Simmons and a reporter from the BBC next to the Wilps Ni'isjoohl memorial pole
A mistake is a gift: decolonizing journalism includes missteps and teachings
By Matt Simmons
How can journalists improve relationships in the Indigenous communities we report on? Step intentionally into uncomfortable spaces when we make mistakes, and do the work to make things right.


What we’re reading

For Cabin Radio, Chloe Williams unpacks why a lot more water is flowing through the La Martre River in the Northwest Territories — and how scientists are trying to figure out why, and where, all the water is coming from.

In Hakai Magazine, Moira Donovan writes about the legal fishery that’s sparking arrests and violence on the East Coast.

Author John Vaillant didn’t mince his words when testifying alongside Suncor’s CEO in the halls of Parliament. In an op-ed for The Tyee, he writes about what’s at stake — and who’s to blame.
What some weeks feel like for Narwhal reporters chasing stories — all to keep you updated about what governments are up to. Tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter so they don’t miss out on critical coverage!
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‘From mountaintop to seafloor’: First Nation declares new 40,000-hectare protected area on B.C. coast

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