Nature Canada, an Ottawa-based charity that’s been around since 1939, recently added its name to an alliance of environmental groups lambasting the federal and provincial governments on forestry issues, claiming they were complicit with the forest industry in “spinning” the truth.

Nature Canada (and its alliance partners) charged the federal department of Natural Resources Canada, in particular, with using “highly selective statistics;” “distorting or excluding information;” making “questionable and misleading claims;” offering “limited or selected information;” and “(relying) heavily on omission and redirection.” That’s quite a charge sheet.

Perhaps Nature Canada (and the others, for that matter) should have a closer look at their own claims. Nature Canada, for example, recently asked Canadians to fill out a survey and to petition the federal government on caribou related issues. In its plug, Nature Canada claimed that the forest industry was “tearing the (Canadian) Boreal Forest to shreds.” It labelled this as “decimation,” and bemoaned the “ferocious pace” of industrial logging.

OK, we know rhetoric when we see it, and accept that Nature Canada wants to draw attention and support for its cause (including financial). But as a charity focussed on nature and forest issues, one would think that it would know some basic facts, like the size of the boreal forest, and the extent of logging within it. Indeed, it does refer to 400,000 hectares being logged, which is reasonably close to a Canada Forest Service estimate. So, Nature Canada does know how much was logged in recent years. But apparently (more on this in a minute) it doesn’t know the size of the Canadian Boreal Forest.

Because for some inexplicable reason, it fails to tell the Canadian public that the 400,000-hectare logging represents a mere 0.16 per cent of the boreal forest. Yes, the Canadian Boreal is being “decimated” and “torn to shreds” by a “ferocious” industry that’s logging a mere 0.16 per cent of it! Or two per cent over the last 15 years.

It gets worse. Because in a backgrounder on its website, Nature Canada actually spells out the size of the Canadian Boreal. So, Nature Canada clearly knows how much logging is occurring in the boreal, and the size of the boreal. It just doesn’t tell the Canadian public the relationship between the two! That a mere 0.16 per cent of the boreal forest is being logged in any given year. It’s much, much easier to demonise the forest industry as some sort of rapacious Evil Empire.

If this is not “spinning” the truth, I don’t know what is. Nature Canada is using “highly selective statistics,” yes. Distorting or excluding information,” yes. Making “questionable and misleading claims,” yes. Offering “limited or selected information,” yes. Relying heavily on “omission and redirection,” yes.

There’s a word for calling somebody out for false and misleading claims when you are making them yourself: hypocrisy. I think most people would find it a little rich of Nature Canada to accuse others of “spinning” the truth, when it’s doing the very same thing itself.

P.S. I have nothing personal against Nature Canada. It does some good stuff. I just can’t stand BS.


John Mullinder is the author of Little Green Lies and Other BS: From “Ancient” Forests to “Zero” Waste, and Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News. A former TV reporter in his native New Zealand and foreign correspondent for Maclean’s magazine and the Financial Post, Mullinder ran Canada’s Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) for 30 years, achieving a number of North American firsts in waste reduction and recycling.

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