Yukon geoscience forum takes heat for invited speaker

The Yukon Chamber of Mines is defending its decision to invite a controversial speaker to its annual forum this weekend, saying Vivian Krause 'creates a good platform for conversation.'

Vivian Krause, who is critical of how environmental groups are funded, to speak in Whitehorse this weekend

Vivian Krause is a B.C.-based researcher whose work has focused on connections between U.S. charitable foundations and the environmental movement in Canada. According to CPAWS Yukon, she's a conspiracy theorist. (Vivian Krause/Facebook)

The Yukon Chamber of Mines is defending its decision to invite a controversial speaker to its annual forum this weekend, saying Vivian Krause "creates a good platform for conversation."

Krause, a Vancouver-based columnist and speaker, will deliver a keynote address at the annual Yukon Geoscience Forum and Trade Show in Whitehorse on Saturday, entitled "Rethinking Activism."

According to Mike Burke, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Krause's talk will "draw attention to competitiveness in Canada's resource industry."

"So that's why we asked her to come on up."

The Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), however, says Krause is little more than a conspiracy theorist intent on undermining environmental groups.

Krause's work is critical of how some Canadian environmental groups get funding from U.S. charities, and she claims their efforts have had no impact on reducing global oil use.

Her talk in Whitehorse is being sponsored by Ferus Natural Gas Fuels.

'She's been telling stories'

Chris Rider of CPAWS Yukon said he's disturbed that the chamber would give Krause a platform.

"She's been talking about environmental groups like ours, and she's been telling stories. And she does so in a way that makes it sound incredibly reasonable, but that basically maligns our entire sector and implies things that aren't true," Rider said. 

"We feel like it's time to say this is something that has to stop. We can't continue to hide from the misinformation that's being spread."

The annual Yukon Geoscience Forum and Trade Show is a big event for Yukon's mining industry. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Rider says his group typically works "very respectfully" with local mining companies, even when there's disagreement. Inviting Krause to speak in Yukon threatens those relationships, he said.

"It really just undermines the ability of Yukoners to work together. It creates division, and it's just a toxic thing to have coming to this territory," he said.

"It's not that we want to silence free speech, but we don't necessarily think it's helpful to have her come to the territory."

Reached for comment Friday, Krause said CPAWS has ignored her attempts to connect with the organization. She said CPAWS doesn't understand her key message, which is that environmental activism isn't operating as effectively as it could be.

Burke, however, downplays any controversy around Krause. He says inviting her to speak is just a way to stir conversation at the forum, and offer participants a range of perspectives and opinions.

"We're just trying to create dialogue. That's what a geoscience forum is for."

'We're just trying to create dialogue,' said Mike Burke, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. (Yukon Chamber of Mines)

Burke points to some of the forum's other planned speakers, including former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, and Jamile Cruz of I&D 101, a consulting firm specializing in inclusion and diversity. 

"We're just trying to give a broad cross-section," he said.

"You know, we certainly don't endorse hate speech or anything like that. And Vivian Krause is far from doing that. She's not trying to incite divisiveness or anything."

Last year, the forum also took some heat for one of its invited speakers — Rex Murphy. Some Yukoners petitioned to have him uninvited, and also staged a small demonstration outside the event while he spoke.

They were upset about a column Murphy had written about Christine Blasey Ford and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.