New Brunswick

Irving Oil turfs Gordon Dalzell, clean-air activist, from group

A well-known clean-air advocate in Saint John has been dismissed from the Irving Oil Ltd. community liaison committee for allegedly violating confidentiality requirements by talking to the media.

Committee co-chair says Gordon Dalzell broke confidentiality rules by talking to the media

A well-known clean-air advocate in Saint John has been dismissed from the Irving Oil Ltd. community liaison committee for allegedly violating confidentiality requirements by talking to the media 2:11

A well-known clean-air advocate in Saint John has been dismissed from the Irving Oil Ltd. community liaison committee for allegedly violating confidentiality requirements by talking to the media.

Gordon Dalzell, an award-winning environmental advocate, said his passion for fighting for clean air in Saint John just got a lot more difficult because of Irving Oil’s decision to remove him from the committee.

Dalzell says there was no confidentiality agreement or understanding when he joined the committee. He believes he was released because he was difficult.

"As a citizen of Canada, I have a right to free expression, freedom of speech,” Dalzell said.

“And if I wish to speak to people in the responsible manner, whether it's the media or anyone else, that's a fundamental Canadian right."

Irving Oil did not return a call from CBC News on Wednesday.

The company's website said the committee meets quarterly so citizens, government officials and Irving staff can discuss refinery projects and raise questions or concerns.

Claude MacKinnon, the committee’s co-chair, said he agrees with the decision to dump Dalzell from the community liaison committee.

He said the clean air activist understood when he joined the group that matters had to be kept confidential.

MacKinnon said an Irving Oil representative called each member of the committee and polled him or her on removing Dalzell from the group.

While not all could be reached, MacKinnon said the majority, if not all, of those members who were contacted agreed with the decision.

Dalzell was not among those contacted.

The committee’s decision means Dalzell can no longer take pollution issues directly to managers at Irving Oil.

"I'm very upset about it. And I'm not happy about it,” he said.

Although not mandated by provincial legislation, the committee is touted on the company website as part of its community outreach work.

The committee is comprised of refinery employees, provincial staff and community members. The members are approved by Irving Oil.

The organization has no record of publicly criticizing the company.

Sharon Murphy, an environmentalist in Saint John, called Dalzell’s dismissal from the community liaison committee a “travesty.”

"Gordon Dalzell is an excellent citizen, a model citizen,” she said.

Murphy said the decision clearly demonstrates the committee’s impotence...

"We've seen over the years the erosion of the usefulness of the committees as people aren't able to get on the committees and now as we see if anyone speaks to the community they are not able to stay on the committees. So really they're useless,” she said.

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