This opinion piece by Katie Perfitt was initially published in the Ottawa Citizen. Read the original piece here.
I was 10 years old the first time that I set foot in the Canadian Museum of History. I remember the awe of seeing the world’s largest indoor exhibit of totem poles the first time, and the slight terror of seeing a larger-than-life polar bear on the museum’s state-of-the-art IMAX screen. With every visit to the museum, I left with a deeper appreciation for this beautiful planet.
But today, the Museum of History has a dark secret: Big Oil is using it to sell environmental destruction and rejection of climate change.
This summer, the museum is unveiling the brand new Canadian History Hall, an exhibit sponsored by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada’s most dangerous Big Oil lobbyists. This sponsorship is anything but a gift.
Museum sponsorship is part of CAPPs grand strategy to ripen the social and political conditions for fossil fuel expansion. That’s what Big Oil pays CAPP top dollar for.
CAPP gets brand promotion in the museum and exclusive passes to events with business and political leaders. CAPP has used its sponsorship of exhibits at the nearby Canada Science and Technology museum to influence and even rewrite museum content to have a pro-oil spin.
And at the same time as CAPP was lobbying to gut Canada’s environmental laws, it’s CEO was being quoted in history museum press releases promoting fossil fuel expansion.
CAPP is a powerful player in the political sphere. In the past year alone, it has lobbied federal ministers and other decision makers nearly 900 times. And in the lead up to the federal government’s decision on the Kinder Morgan pipeline CAPP’s efforts peaked, with a particular focus on policy advisers in the Prime Minister’s Office.
CAPP also makes political donations to secure the interests of big oil. CAPP was found to be a major contributor to the B.C. Liberal Party ahead of the provincial decision on the very same pipeline.
These efforts have helped win pipeline approvals like Kinder Morgan and undermine meaningful climate action, including emissions regulations on the tar sands, and a federal price on carbon. CAPP recently made headlines for advocating that federal carbon tax revenues actually be “recycled” back into big oil.
And, that’s just what’s happened recently. When Stephen Harper was prime minister, CAPP’s lobbying helped to repeal and replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, gut the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act, and dilute the Navigable Waters Act.
CAPP even advocated for the Conservative government to rework First Nations’ land claims, a blatant attempt to undercut Indigenous peoples’ rights in the interests of big oil.
CAPP spends millions on TV, print, online ads and school resources to mislead the public on the seriousness of climate change and promote the public image of massive oil companies.
CAPP’s agenda threatens the integrity of our museums. Their work protects big oil, an industry that is threatening the very landscapes and cultures I first learned about – and fell in love with – at the Museum of History.
If the Museum of History ends its relationship with CAPP, it will join these leaders and send a powerful signal that CAPP stands on the wrong side of history, but the Museum of History does not.
Our trusted museums shouldn’t be a platform for companies trying to destroy policies that protect people and the planet. It’s time for the museum of history to cut CAPP.
Katie Perfitt is the Canadian Divestment Organizer with the global climate change campaign 350.org.