To the Expositor:
We write in response to concerns raised about the Escarpment Biosphere Foundation and the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy and whether people associated with either group should be able to participate in or comment on the Official Plan for Manitoulin.
We have some knowledge of both EBF and EBC. EBF (the Foundation) and EBC (the Conservancy) are two separate organizations. As the Canada Revenue Agency believes some other groups (not EBF or EBC) from which the Foundation (EBF) received funds were operating in a way that assisted donors to those other groups to avoid taxes, EBF had its charitable status withdrawn.
What was EBF’s work? Over 90 percent of EBF’s activities were to buy medical supplies with the donated funds and send them by commercial shipping to clinics in the developing world. EBF sent more than 80 container loads of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies worth over 400 million dollars starting in 2004 and continuing to 2010. These medicines and supplies were used to treat more than 90 million people in 43 countries. One achievement of EBF was to provide the medication used to treat every child in Madagascar for worms. Medicine also went to Afghanistan where it was used by NATO doctors to treat local residents. For the rest of its funds, about one percent of funds went to support land conservation in Ontario as part of a healthy people, healthy ecosystems balanced view. About seven percent of costs were used for storage, packing and shipping the medical supplies. All work by EBF members was voluntary and unpaid. To give a sense of scale, it is worth noting that EBF’s total efforts providing pharmaceuticals to people in the third world amount to less than half of one percent of pharmaceutical use in Canada over the same time period. EBF was large in its efforts, but small in terms of medical use here and very small compared to the challenges it faced in the developing world. EBF’s primary focus and use of its funds was to provide medical relief to people who needed help and had few alternatives. There has been no suggestion that the medicines were sent in smaller amounts than claimed, or that they were ineffective or anything of that kind. The medicines and benefits were real and they came from Canadians.
EBC is a separate and smaller organization. In the past ten years, EBC (the Conservancy) received about 20 percent of its support from EBF. The rest came from individuals, other foundations and land donors. The work of the Conservancy is to hold and steward land for conservation. It presently has 110 properties totaling over 8,000 acres, of which about 1/3 is on Manitoulin. This land is habitat for 58 listed rare and endangered species and is available for hiking, wildlife habitat and observation, some of it for limited hunting by the prior owners and for educational purposes. All of the land was either purchased in a willing buyer/willing seller arrangement from the owners or voluntarily donated by the previous owners. None was expropriated. The Conservancy does not and cannot expropriate. The Conservancy has worked closely and amicably with local people to ensure that local residents benefit from having the land in conservation. The land and the benefits of conservation are also real.
Beyond that EBC acknowledges there are reasonable differences of opinion between people as to how much land should be conserved and which land should be conserved and what plans should be made for future conservation and development. In that regard, the Conservancy and its members, and each of us are members, are happy to work with local government and local people to advance conservation of local natural treasures and the beneficial development of the community for business, tourism and other legitimate purposes that serve us all with jobs and incomes. I hope this note helps bring to a close any misrepresentations about EBF and EBC. Both are groups of ordinary Canadians working privately as volunteers to support causes important to them. In this case healthier people in all parts of the world and healthier environments here at home.
There is no reason why these people, or any other people who care about and have interests in Manitoulin, should be excluded from contributing to the development of plans for Manitoulin.
Roy Jeffery, Little Current
Ted Cowan, Bay of Islands
Linda Willson, Ice Lake