Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Macdonald-Laurier Institute


The Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI) is an Atlas Network partner based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.1Global Directory: Canada,Atlas Network. Archived January 23, 2021. Archive URL:

MLI describes itself as “Canada’s only truly national public policy think tank” and claims to be “rigorously independent and non-partisan.”2Who We Are,” MLI. Archived May 31, 2022. Archive URL:

SourceWatch describes the Atlas Network (formerly the Atlas Economic Research Foundation) as “The Johnny Appleseed of antiregulation groups […] on a mission to populate the world with new ‘free market’ voices.”“Atlas Economic Research Foundation,” SourceWatch profile.

MLI was founded in 2010 by Brian Lee Crowley, who is currently the institute’s managing director. Crowley is a Canadian economist and the founder of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a right-wing think tank that later merged with the Fraser Institute.3(Press Release). “Fraser Institute News Release: AIMS merges with the Fraser Institute to create Canada’s largest independent public policy think-tank,” Fraser Institute via GlobalNewsWire, November 20, 2019. Archived June 16, 2022. Archive URL:

Since its early days, MLI has promoted its policy positions by publishing “major” reports as well as “op-eds placed in local and national outlets, media appearances, speaking opportunities, and by directly engaging Aboriginal organizations and government officials. “

The Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project

In 2013, MLI founded its ongoing “Aboriginal Canada and Natural Resource Economy” project. This project describes itself as facilitating collaboration between “the two sides” of historical colonial and post-colonial antagonism and conflict, “First Nations and business,” in order to “work together to ensure our development of natural resources is safe, stable and reliable.4Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy,” Macdonald Laurier Institute. Archived July 5, 2022. Archive URL:

The project’s early goals included recruitment of “an individual who is knowledgeable about, and trusted by, Canada’s Indigenous population to lead the project.” That individual was Ken Coates, whom MLI described as “a respected thought leader and historian of Canada’s Aboriginals with connections into Indigenous communities across the country.” Coates is currently a senior fellow and director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s “Indigenous Affairs Program.”

Coates has actively promoted First Nations involvement in resource development.5First Nations must have prominent, equal role in development projects,” The Globe and Mail, January 31, 2018. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL:

Currently, Coates is the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.6Ken Coates,” MLI. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL:

Led by Coates, the Natural Resource Economy project drew from MLI’s “team of economists, legal scholars, and Coates’ connections to Aboriginal leaders to produce a series of policy papers … [that] explored the biggest obstacles to resource development.” Published in the spring of 2013, they included “New Beginnings: How Canada’s natural resource wealth could re-shape relations with Aboriginal people,” “The Way Out: New thinking about Aboriginal engagement and energy infrastructure to the West Coast,” and “Canada and the First Nations: Cooperation or conflict?

A 2018 report co-produced by MLI would go on to note that the organization’s leadership knew it might “face feelings of distrust from the Indigenous community. MLI knew that no matter how sound its research and recommendations were, its credibility would be questioned if the Institute did not build a team made up of leaders within the Aboriginal community.”7Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project” (PDF), Atlas Network and Macdonald-Laurier Institute, February 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In February 2018, the Atlas Network released a “Think Tank Impact Case Study” highlighting the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, titled “Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project.”8Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project” (PDF), Atlas Network and Macdonald-Laurier Institute, February 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The study outlined MLI’s efforts over the previous five years to engage Indigenous groups, termed “non-traditional allies,” to “create free-market change.” The Atlas-MLI study portrayed oil and gas development as a way for First Nations communities to detach from “state dependency and a lack of opportunity.”

“I am immensely proud that MLI has put unlocking prosperity for the Indigenous people of Canada at the forefront of its work,” said Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of MLI, in an Atlas Network article promoting the study. “For too long Aboriginal people have been forced by government policy to live outside the institutions that confer opportunity on everyone else. Our Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy Project aims instead to bring Aboriginal communities into the economic mainstream while giving them more power and authority over their own lives and ensuring that development takes place in a way that is respectful of the environment and Indigenous priorities.”

According to the case study, “The fundamental inequalities facing Canada’s Aboriginal population are deeply engrained.” However, “fostering economic activity through the development and cultivation of Canada’s natural resources offers a rare opportunity to incorporate these historically neglected and disadvantaged communities into the economic mainstream.”

The case study outlined how MLI “began its work on the Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project at the behest of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), a governing body made up of chiefs from Canada’s Aboriginal tribes and modeled after the United Nations General Assembly.”

“The AFN saw potential in the natural resource economy as a major driver of transformation in Indigenous opportunity, and the Assembly knew of MLI’s commitment to market-oriented approaches to solve the social and economic issues plaguing Canada,” the case study stated.

A “Shield Against Opponents”

The Atlas case study outlined how MLI had developed a 12-person advisory committee, overseen by Coates, composed of reform-minded Aboriginal economists, business leaders, lawyers, public policy analysts, and scholars.

“Since the beginning, this Committee lent credibility to MLI’s work throughout the Aboriginal community, and has provided a shield against opponents that is hard to undermine.” (Emphasis added.)

Coates and the committee defined “the narrative they wanted to pursue upfront,” a vision involving “self-sufficiency for the Aboriginal population based on resource development, and strong economic partnerships.” (Emphasis added.)

The committee declared that “government was never and cannot be the solution to the problems facing Aboriginal groups.” Rather, the case study concluded that it would be better to “encourage policies that allow Canada’s Indigenous population to benefit from mining and energy development by promoting their usage and development of natural resources such as gas, potash, uranium, and oil located on their lands.”

In “Cooperation or Conflict,” co-written by Coates and MLI managing director Brian Lee Crowley, it was stated that “the Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project (of which this paper is a part) seeks to attract the attention of policy makers, Aboriginal Canadians, community leaders, opinion leaders, and others to some of the policy challenges that must be overcome if Canadians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike, are to realise the full value of the potential of the natural resource economy.”

As the project progressed, “MLI published major papers on average every 3-4 months increasingly using Aboriginal authors for its publications,” the Atlas case study noted.

MLI’s promotion strategy to “overcome the barriers to engaging in resource development” involved traveling to remote Aboriginal communities. “MLI promoted its work through op-eds placed in local and national outlets, media appearances, speaking opportunities, and by directly engaging Aboriginal organizations and government officials.

“The organization also took a direct role in bringing people together to pursue public policy that works for all parties. MLI worked tirelessly to involve unlikely partners including chambers of commerce, government offices, and Indigenous associations.

“Leaders for this project travelled to remote Aboriginal communities to promote the solutions found in natural resources and to help the communities overcome the barriers to engaging in resource development. The Advisory Committee has been instrumental in establishing connections within these communities.”

The Atlas Network case study suggested the Natural Resource Economy Project helped the Macdonald-Laurier Institute fundraise “roughly Can $500,000 more than they would have without the project mostly through foundation support” during the project’s first five years of operation.

The Atlas-MLI case study also noted how MKI’s relationships could be used to political advantage:

“Due to the extremely divisive nature of this topic in Canada, many elected officials now depend on the relationship that MLI has built with the Aboriginal community. This connection provides credibility and support needed to battle opponents.”(Emphasis added.)

MLI has apparently had some success on this front. In November 2016, then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould “offered her support to MLI’s view.” MLI celebrated Wilson-Raybould as its “Policy-Maker of the Year” in December 2017.9Kate Heartfield. “Policy-Maker of the Year Jody Wilson-Raybould: Kate Heartfield for Inside Policy,MLI, December 19, 2017. Archived July 5, 2022. Archive URL:

In December 2016, the Atlas case study boasted, the Canadian Senate issued a report “which drew extensively from MLI’s testimony and several of its top recommendations.” This report was most likely an Interim Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications titled “Pipelines for Oil: Protecting Our Economy, Respecting our Environment,” The report mentioned Ken Coates in a section titled “Sharing the benefits of pipelines with indigenous peoples.10“”Pipelines for Oil: Protecting Our Economy, Respecting our Environment” (PDF), Canada Senate, December 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Ken Coates, Senior Fellow in Aboriginal and Northern Canadian Issues at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute noted that Canada’s Indigenous Peoples have often not received their fair share of benefits from resource development,” the report suggested. “Many witnesses spoke about the importance of engaging Indigenous peoples as partners in natural resource development. The Committee believes that engaging Indigenous peoples as partners who share in the benefits of pipeline projects – ideally, as some witnesses pointed out, through equity shares in projects – is critical to the success of a crude oil transport strategy.”

In 2017, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business gave Ken Coates its Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations.

Criticism of the Environmental Movement

MLI fellows and staff, including Coates, are critical of the environmental movement for opposing oil and gas development.

“The current state of Indigenous engagement in the oil and gas industry presents a formidable challenge to environmentalists and those opposed to the further development of the energy sector,” Coates wrote in a December 2020 issue of the MLI’s Inside Policy magazine.11Inside Policy December 2020 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“These environmental movements have repeatedly declared their commitment to Indigenous peoples, but the opaqueness of this stance has been exposed.

“Based on existing patterns, it seems clear that the environmentalists support Indigenous peoples only when the First Nations and Métis adopt strong environmentalist positions. Will they back down when Indigenous communities support the projects? If not, they must stop presenting themselves as stalwart defenders of Indigenous rights.”


“Canada’s oil and gas industry had been put on a different course through Indigenous engagement. The sector now shares, with mining, some of the most positive Indigenous relationships in the Canadian economy. The transformation over the past generation has been truly impressive. And the sector’s future is surely a bright one, relying substantially on continued Indigenous engagement, mutually beneficial arrangements, and a shared effort to overcome the sustained criticism of the industry,” Coates concluded.

Coates also co-authored a report for MLI in 2019, titled “Breaking the Pipeline Logjam,” with MLI program manager Joseph Quesnel. Quesnel has long written on resource development as a path for reconciliation. For more than 10 years he worked as a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy – another Atlas Network partner – “where he specialized in Indigenous policy, but also property rights and water market issues.”

“Joseph has appeared as an expert witness on Aboriginal legislation in both House and Senate committees,” his archived profile at MLI noted, and “worked on Indigenous issues alongside Dr. Tom Flanagan.” He was formerly listed as a program manager with the Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project.12JOSEPH QUESNEL,” MLI. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive URL:

Quesnel was a research associate with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS). AIMS has since merged with the Fraser Institute, where he is listed as a senior fellow.

Opposition to Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In the mid-2010s, MLI’s Natural Resource Economy Project began an opposition campaign to Canadian adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This effort was funded at least in part by the Atlas Network.13MLI Promotes Individualistic Legislative Approach For Canada’s Indigenous Communities,” Atlas Network, August 6, 2020. Archived May 20, 2022. Archive URL:

“The passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) concerned the team at MLI due the provision of ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ (FPIC),” a 2018 Atlas Network-MLI case study noted.”14MLI Case Study Shows How Engaging Non-Traditional Allies Can Create Free-Market Change,” Atlas Network, February 26, 2018. Archived May 19, 2022. Archive URL:

“This provision, while well-intended, would have allowed even the most fringe groups to veto improvement projects at the expense of whole communities. The consequences would have been detrimental to the market-based progress that Canada’s Aboriginal population are making. It is difficult to overstate the legal and economic disruptions that may have followed from such a step.”

The MLI position on free, prior and informed consent is also the view adopted by many Conservative politicians, who argued that UNDRIP would make it impossible to build new oil pipelines or resource extraction projects.15Senate approves bill to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” CBC News, June 16, 2021. Archived July 5, 2022. Archive URL:

But First Nations legal scholars have pushed back against that framing. “We have to do away with this fear regarding free, prior and informed consent, that it will mean a veto and no developments will go ahead. This is always the first question that news reporters and politicians raise when they hear about UNDRIP being implemented,” wrote Judith Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation in 2020.16Judith Sayers. “Canada’s UNDRIP Bill Holds Promise, but It’s All in the Doing,” The Tyee, December 4, 2020. Archived June 19, 2021. Archive URL:

MLI took credit for working actively to pressure the Canadian government to oppose UNDRIP:

“To educate the public on the risks associated with Canada joining UNDRIP, MLI published two research reports, cowritten by Ken Coates and Blaine Favel (a leading Indigenous resource lawyer) in May 2016. The team followed the release of these papers with a sophisticated communications and outreach strategy to persuade the government, businesses, and Aboriginal communities on the dangers involved with fully adopting UNDRIP, including FPIC.

“This communications and outreach strategy pressured the government to reverse its support of UNDRIP and educated businesses and Aboriginal communities about the full implications of adopting UNDRIP.” (Emphasis added).


“In addition, Canada’s Senate frequently consulted MLI during its hearings, eventually issuing a report in December 2016 which drew extensively from MLI’s testimony and several of its top recommendations. Ultimately, the Canadian government decided to reverse a plan to sign onto UNDRIP. The decision, which carried some political cost to government leaders who were criticized for breaking a promise to join the scheme, is a triumph of good ideas, market reform, and economic opportunity for Canada’s Aboriginal communities.”

The Atlas Network also highlighted how Dwight Newman, an MLI senior fellow, testified before the Senate Standing Committee in 2019 “to discuss the unintended consequences of the proposed legislation”:17MLI Promotes Individualistic Legislative Approach For Canada’s Indigenous Communities,” Atlas Network, August 6, 2020. Archived May 20, 2022. Archive URL:

“Bill C-262 would have implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in Canada which, as an international law, is not specific enough for Canada and its extensive Indigenous groups to guarantee their protection.

“Newmann [sic] explained that, although the bill was intended to provide harmony between Indigenous people and the government, it would have led to massive uncertainty in the Canadian legal system since it was an international act that didn’t consider local priorities or the local economy.

“The bill was ultimately defeated,” The Atlas Network wrote. The article includes a disclaimer that “Atlas Network supported this initiative with a Poverty & Freedom grant.”

Newman has also been listed as a contributor18Dr. Dwight Newman,” The Federalist Society. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL: at the Federalist Society. This organization is a Koch-funded “group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order””19About Us,The Federalist Society. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL: Some have suggested that the Federalist Society has been the driving force behind a “right-wing takeover of the judiciary” in the United States.20Dark Money and the Courts,” American Constitution Society. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL:

The Federalist Society notes that listed contributors have “spoken or otherwise participated in Federalist Society events, publications, or multimedia presentations.” However there may not be a direct “endorsement or relationship between the person and the Federalist Society.”

When Newman testified in opposition to UNDRIP before the Canadian Senate in 2019, he suggested the section on free, prior and informed consent or FPIC could “have enormous implications for Canada”:21“SUBMISSION TO SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES RE BILL C-262” (PDF), May 26, 2019. Retrieved from Macdonald Laurier Institute.

“While Canada is certainly fortunate to have a judicial system of high quality, on the present text of Bill C-262 and the presence of many different interpretations possible for FPIC in UNDRIP, the Court’s interpretation of FPIC is nonetheless subject to uncertainties that have enormous implications for Canada” [sic].

Conservative Senator Neil Plett referenced MLI’s work in opposing UNDRIP in May 2019:22United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Bill: Second Reading–Debate Continued,” Senate of Canada, May 7, 2019. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL:

“Blaine Favel and Ken Coates, with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, wrote the following in their publication ‘Understanding UNDRIP,'” Plett said in a debate on the second reading of the legislation to adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He quoted Coates and Favel, saying:

“But there has been significant confusion and uncertainty about what it means to implement the Declaration. There is particular concern about the compatibility of certain elements of UNDRIP with Canada’s legal, political, and constitutional architecture. This poses a major challenge for the government as it seeks to meet such heightened expectations.

“To be frank with you, I find it somewhat difficult and quite concerning that people both inside and outside of this chamber are trying to goad senators into pushing this bill through before its implications have been fully examined and properly understood.”

APTN News reported on the death of Bill C-262, and noted Senator Plett had said that “no one seems to know” the implications of UNDRIP being legislated, “because there is no agreement on whether consent means a veto.”23Justin Brake. “‘Let us rise with more energy’: Saganash responds to Senate death of C-262 as Liberals promise, again, to legislate UNDRIP,” APTN News, June 24, 2019. Archived May 27, 2022. Archive URL:

“It’s a false dichotomy though, Independent Senator Murray Sinclair, [Former NDP Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash] and others have repeatedly told C-262’s critics,” APTN News reported.

“‘Free, prior and informed consent is a very simple concept,’ Sinclair told APTN in May. ‘And that is, before you affect my land, you need to talk to me, and you need to have my permission.

“‘That doesn’t mean that we’re vetoing it. It doesn’t mean that First Nations people, or Indigenous people outside of Indian reserves, are vetoing anything. Just because they say you can’t run a pipeline across my land doesn’t mean you can’t run it somewhere else.’

Macdonald-Laurier Institute opposing UNDRIP on Twitter.

Coates and Blaine Favel also co-authored a May 2016 MLI publication on “Understanding UNDRIP.”24Blaine Favel and Ken S. Coates. “Understanding UNDRIP: Choosing action on priorities over sweeping claims about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (PDF), MLI, May 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Implementing UNDRIP in full – that is, enshrining every provision in Canadian law and policy – would
not only be impractical, it could undermine recent progress towards greater economic opportunity
and self-sufficiency for Canada’s Indigenous peoples,” they concluded.

UNDRIP Made Law as Bill C-15

According to Ken Coates’s resume, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) prompted MLI’s “Aboriginal People and Natural Resources research and policy program.”25“Curriculum Vitae: Dr. Ken Coates” (PDF), University of Saskatchewan, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. AFN later published a “discussion guide” on both Bill C-262, which stalled before a final vote could be held in the Senate, and the replacement legislation federal Bill C-15. AFN supported Bill C-262,” the group claimed in the guide.

Bill C-15, which according to AFN “strengthened the wording and focus” of Bill C-262, became law in mid-2021.26Federal UNDRIP Bill becomes law,Osler, June 22, 2021. Archived April 19, 2022. Archive URL:

Stance on Climate Change

March 2022

“Many other countries that do not have sufficient domestic energy supplies or suitable conditions for renewable energy are concluding that the uncertain impacts of aggressive climate change policies are less threatening than the known consequences of a chaotic energy transition. Canada’s response should acknowledge this reality. We ignore an energy crisis in favour of the climate crisis at our peril,” Jeff Kucharski and Heather Exner-Pirot wrote in an MLI publication titled “Reimagining Canada’s Role in Global Energy Security.27Jeff Kucharski and Heather Exner-Pirot. “Reimagining Canada’s Role in Global Energy Security” (PDF), MLI, March 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

December 2021

“One can take seriously the undeniable threat posed by climate change while also asking whether some of the theatrics and hyperbole surrounding climate summits only serve to trivialize the process,” MLI senior fellow Jeff Kucharski wrote in a December 2021 issue of the MLI publication Inside Policy.28Inside Policy December 2021 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“It is fair to ask why emissions caps are needed at all when Canada already has a price on carbon which will be ratcheted up over time,”Kucharski wrote.

October 2021

“Targeting greenhouse gas emissions without weighing their economic impact invites destructive environmental policies that harm the economy,” a MLI report by Philip Cross on “Doubling GDP by 2050” suggested.29Philip Cross. “Doubling GDP by 2050: Why Canada need a firm target for economic growth” (PDF), Macdonald Laurier Institute, October 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“In the long-term, technological innovation is the only viable solution for lowering emissions while maintaining real income growth. However, our society apparently distrusts or discounts technology as the solution to climate change despite having the confidence to trust our lives to other technologies.”

The report cited an Obama administration official, Steve Koonin, on geoengineering:

“Obama’s science advisor Steven Koonin experienced first-hand how ‘any mention of geoengineering to governments or NGOs was met with tight-lipped silence, if not actual hostility.'”

It also cited Ross McKitrick:

“University of Guelph Professor Ross McKitrick (2016) outlined the difficulty of reducing emissions in a growing society.”

“Setting unrealistic climate goals risks making poor policy choices that lead to unwanted outcomes for both the economy and the environment,” Cross suggested.

“As 2030 approaches and Canada inevitably is falling well short of its climate goals, the temptation will mount to lower population or GDP growth as a short-cut to reach emission targets. Such a strategy facilitates reaching our climate goals but would compromise Canada’s well-being in other important ways.”

June 2021

“Politicians and others who warn of an impending climate ‘catastrophe,’ ‘cataclysm’ or ’emergency’ are being unnecessarily alarmist, thereby raising unrealistic expectations that justify extreme measures,” MLI senior fellow Jeff Kucharski wrote in an issue of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s magazine Inside Policy.30Inside Policy June 2021 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

March 2021

MLI senior fellow Chris Sankey, wrote in MLI’s Inside Policy magazine criticizing environmental activists:31Inside Policy March 2021 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Our communities worked with the brightest minds in academia and industry to develop a First Nations-centred solution that accommodates both climate change realities and appropriate resource development, which will bring much needed opportunities to our people.

“What have the boisterous, assertive, and agenda-driven activists accomplished? I will tell you what they accomplished.

“Families have been torn apart. The country has forfeited billions of dollars in lost opportunities and tens of thousands of jobs. Our communities have been gripped with grief, anger, and resentment. Money has been taken out of the hands of our people, undermining the ability of communities to be independent. Immense divisions now divide our communities across the country.

“The consequences are real and serious. By ignoring Indigenous requests – and by listening to only those community members who share their preservationist worldview – the environmentalist agenda has stripped away our capacity to pay for necessary infrastructure such as housing, roads and commercial buildings. They stole opportunities for us to fund the advancement of our arts, culture, and language. Far too many communities remain welfare dependent, relying on the government to pay for our basic needs.

“This is both unnecessary and destructive to Indigenous communities.”

Sankey is a member of the Coast Tsimshian community of Lax Kw’Alaams near Prince Rupert, British Columbia and heads Blackfish Industries, a heavy civil construction company.

May 2020

“The only realistic path forward is to recognize the [sic] Canadian-produced oil and gas will remain a major part of Canada’s energy supply and that the energy sector is an integral part of the climate change planning process, not opponents of the search for an effective transition to a more sustainable economy,” MLI senior fellow Ken Coates wrote in MLI’s Inside Policy magazine.32Ken Coates. “Climate change priorities need to be adjusted: Ken Coates for Inside Policy,MLI, May 22, 2020. Archived May 31, 2022. Archive URL:


“The Liberal government is politically devoted to its climate change agenda, even though current plans will have little impact on the global carbon footnote [sic] and will get little notice outside of Canada. Even Greta Thunberg will not be overly impressed,” Coates added. “Seldom, if ever, in Canadian history has so much been risked economically for such a limited return.”

March 2020

In an opinion column for the Financial Post, MLI senior fellow Jeff Kucharski claimed there was a “humanitarian case” for exporting Canadian resources:33Jeff Kucharski. “Resource exports bring leverage as well as jobs and income,” Financial Post, March 17, 2020. Archive URL:

“There is also a humanitarian case to be made for exporting our resources. As economies develop, they need energy resources like oil, natural gas, uranium, and rare earth elements. These are strategic resources: they are relatively scarce, are located only in certain regions, and are vital for economies to grow and thrive.

“Canadian strategic energy resources can help: address energy poverty; reduce the global impact of climate change (by replacing supplies from authoritarian regimes with much lower ethical and environmental standards); lower GHG emissions by replacing coal with cleaner natural gas; and provide a stable source of the rare earth elements that are essential to producing cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

“For these reasons, in addition to the obvious and more often mentioned economic case for Canadian energy exports, our governments, both federal and provincial, need to focus more intensively on how to make our resource exports available to an area of the world whose recent growth has been so impressive and whose growth potential remains substantial.”


The following information is compiled from publicly available nonprofit disclosures in the U.S. and Canada.

View the attached spreadsheet for a breakdown of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s funding by year (.xlsx).

Aurea Foundation$1,605,000
Donner Canadian Foundation$1,329,441
Wilson Foundation$225,000
Crabtree Foundation$155,000
John Dobson Foundation$140,000
Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation$115,000
Max Bell Foundation$65,000
Weston Family Foundation$50,000
Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky Gluskin Charitable Foundation$18,800
Conam Charitable Foundation$10,000
Michael Young Family Foundation$10,000
Linda Frum & Howard Sokolowski Charitable Foundation$6,592
The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation$5,000
Pirie Foundation$4,000
Penny and Gordon Echenberg Family Foundation$3,050
Grand Total$3,741,883

Note that private corporations are not required to publicly disclose the amounts of their donations . Also, some U.S. foundations do not disclose the identities of funding recipients in other countries.

MLI stopped listing donors as of its 2021 annual report.

In addition to the funding information DeSmog compiled, above, MLI also listed its sponsors and donors in annual reports, but did not list the dollar values of donations:


Aecon Construction Ltd.1        
AstraZeneca Canada Inc.1     1 1
Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs11      1
Atlas Network11  1111 
Aurea Foundation11111111 
Bank of Montreal  1      
BCE Bell Canada Enterprises     1   
BCSG  11  111
Biotechnology Innovation Organization     1   
BMO Financial Group11       
Brendan Calder        1
British Columbia Chamber of Commerce    1    
Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies    1    
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)        1
Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business      111
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association        1
Canadian Fuels Association   11    
Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (now Canadian Fuels Association)11       
Canadian Real Estate Association     1   
Cement Association of Canada        1
Charles Koch Foundation      1  
Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada    1    
Conam Charitable Foundation        1
Coril Holdings     1111
Crabtree Foundation    111 1
CS (Chungsen) Leung        1
Dawson Strategic    1    
DFH Public Affairs     1   
Di Bartolomeo-Di Lorenzo-Graham Foundation       11
Donner Canadian Foundation111111111
Duanjie Chen       11
Economic Club of Canada    1    
Eleanor Nicholls       11
Eli Lilly Canada Inc.     1   
Embassy of Ukraine     1   
Evergreen Capital Management Inc.1        
First Nations LNG Alliance      1  
First Nations Major Projects Coalition Society        1
Frederick Litwin       1 
Geneva Network       1 
Genworth Financial1        
Google, Inc.1111     
Hoffmann-La Roche Limited        1
Imperial Oil   1   11
Innovative Medicines Canada       11
International Centre for Law & Economics      11 
IPEX Group of Companies        1
Isles Foundation Incorporated   1     
Janssen Inc.        1
Jarislowsky Foundation 1       
John Dobson Foundation    1 111
John Irving1        
Johnson & Johnson11 1     
Laidley Foundation  11     
Latvian Ministry of Defence        1
Ledcor Industries Inc.       1 
Linda Frum & Howard Sokolowski Charitable Foundation        1
Litwin, Frederick      1  
Lodestar Securities        1
Lodestar Security Services     1 1 
Lodestar Security Solutions Inc.   1     
Lotte and John Hecht Foundation111111111
Magna International Inc.     1   
Martinrea International1111111  
Max Bell Foundation    1 11 
Merck11 1  111
Michael Young Family Foundation     1   
Mining Association of Canada  11 111 
Ministry of Defence of Latvia      11 
Modern Miracle Network     1 11
Moorfield Investments       1 
Mortgage Professionals Canada      1  
Motion Picture Association – Canada     111 
Nations Chiefs Secretariat1        
Netflix       1 
Oakwest Corporation Ltd.   1 1   
Ocean Capital  1      
P23 Entertainment Inc.      1  
Penny and Gordon Echenberg Family Foundation       1 
Pfizer11      1
Philip Cross Economics       1 
PhRMA1     111
Pirie Foundation  11   11
RBC Foundation1111 1   
Richard Currie1        
Rob Wildeboer       1 
Robson-Pellerin Communications Inc.     1   
Rogers Communications Inc.     1   
Ross Douglas        1
Roy Eappen        1
Sandra and Leo Kolber Foundation 1       
Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority    1    
Scott Tannas        1
Secretariat 1       
Shaw Communications Inc.    1    
Sudhir Handa       11
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada       1 
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy        1
Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (via TECO)        1
Tata Consultancy Services Canada Inc.   1     
TD Bank Financial Group1111     
The Penny and Gordon Echenberg Family Foundation      1  
Torrance and Andrée Wylie Foundation  11     
Tridel Corporation        1
U.S. Chamber of Commerce    1    
Vaughn MacLellan       1 
Vector Media    1    
W. Garfield Weston Foundation 11 1  11
Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation11       
WCPD Foundation11       
Wesbild Holdings Ltd.   1 11  
Wildeboer Dellelce LLP 1       
William Turner        1
Wilson Foundation111111111
Rothmans Benson & Hedges (RBH) Inc. 11    11


3Sixty        1
ACTION for Trade       1 
Arc Resources  1      
Association of Canadian Distillers (Spirits Canada)      1  
AstraZeneca Canada Inc.        1
Atlas Partners LP       1 
Aurea Foundation       1 
Canada-Hong Kong Link        1
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)  1     1
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association       1 
Canadian Fuels Association  1      
Canadian Gas Association      1 1
Canadian Museum of History     11  
Canadian Museum of History Corporation       1 
Canadian Natural        1
Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (now Canadian Fuels Association)1        
Canadian Public Affairs Channel  1111   
Canadian War Museum  1111  1
Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association     11  
Cement Association of Canada       11
CGA Canada11 1     
Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada     1   
City of Brockville 1       
Cormorant Books        1
CPAC 1       
Crabtree Foundation    1    
Crozier, Stephen      1  
Dorchester Review 1       
Embassy of Japan       11
Embassy of Latvia in Canada      1  
Embassy of the United States        1
Enbridge Pipelines Inc.       1 
Epoch Times        1
First Nations LNG Alliance       1 
First Nations Major Projects Coalition Society       1 
Free Thinking Film Society1        
Global Innovation Policy Center        1
Great Waterway South Eastern Ontario 1       
Imperial Oil        1
Innovative Medicines Canada      1  
IPEX Group of Companies11     11
iPolitics 11111111
Janssen Inc.       11
Johnson & Johnson        1
Labatt Breweries1        
Latvian Ministry of Defence        1
Litwin, Frederick      1  
LNG Canada        1
Lockheed Martin Canada      1  
Martinrea International       1 
Maxine and Ira Gluskin Charitable Foundation       1 
Meridian Credit Union      1  
Ministry of Defence of Latvia      11 
Modern Miracle Network      1 1
National Bank       11
PhRMA      111
Prospect Foundation        1
Rogers Group of Companies       1 
Sappani & Associates      1  
Shaw Communications Inc.   11    
Social Sc. & Human Res. Council    1    
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council     1   
Spectra Energy Corporation  1111   
St. Lawrence War of 1812 1       
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada      11 
Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (via TECO)        1
TD Bank Financial Group       1 
Teck Resources Limited      1  
The Mancal Group  1      
The Ottawa Citizen 1       
The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation       1 
Trans Canada        1
Tridel Group of Companies       1 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce        1
University of Ottawa        1
University of Toronto Press        1
Westcourt Capital       1 
WesternZagros Resources      1  

MLI Donor Network Map

Key Documents

Key People

Board of Directors

Research Advisory Board

Advisory Council

Experts & Fellows



May 17, 2022

MLI featured Matt Ridley on a webinar panel “on the theme of innovation.” The panelists discuss climate change at 23:56. Ridley commented:34How innovation works: A discussion with Matt Ridley,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Macdonald-Laurier Institute,” May 17, 2022. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

“I think if we try to solve climate change with today’s existing technology, we will end up replacing a pretty efficient energy system based on fossil fuels with a somewhat inefficient one based on renewable energy, which uses huge quantities of landscape again.

“You know, it’s back to the medieval idea that you need the landscape. Because you know, wind and sun and so on are very, very dilute. Very non-concentrated forms of energy so you need large areas of land to make energy out of them. And they’re not making much inroads. I mean, we’re about 85% dependent on fossil fuels for our energy still, which is roughly where we were 20 years ago.”

March 28, 2022

MLI senior fellow Ken Coates moderated a webinar panel on “Mining, Indigenous communities, and our resource-dependent future.”35Webinar Panel Video: Mining, Indigenous communities, and our resource-dependent future – Event one,MLI, March 28, 2022. Archived May 13, 2022. Archive URL:

In the first webinar, Coates mentioned the Newmont Corporation’s new Global Center for Indigenous Community Relations, directed by Catherine Tegelberg:36Newmont Launches the Global Center for Indigenous Community Relations,” Newmont, February 4, 2021. Archived May 20, 2022.

“The Center will work across all of Newmont’s jurisdictions around the world and will be a resource for the Company, as well as the mining industry, to promote awareness, education and engagement between the industry and Indigenous Peoples. It will also provide expertise and, networking opportunities, and will share best practices within the mining industry,” Newmont wrote when the center was launched in February 2021.

MLI went on to hold a second webinar with the same title on May 6, 2022.37Webinar panel video: Mining, Indigenous communities, and our resource-dependent future – Event two,” MLI, May 6, 2022. Archived May 13, 2022. Archive URL:

April 25, 2022

MLI Senior Policy Analyst Heather Exner-Pirot wrote an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen advocating for use of nuclear power in Canada.38Heather Exner-Pirot. “Exner-Pirot: The nuclear renaissance is an opportunity for Canada. Will we seize it?Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 2022. Archive URL:

“The high cost and intermittency of wind and solar, and the energy crisis it provoked in the Fall, helped push nuclear back to the forefront after years in the wilderness,” Exner-Pirot wrote of Europe’s search for fossil fuel alternatives.

“The safety concerns of nuclear-hesitant environmentalists have never been grounded in reality,” she claimed. “Indeed, nuclear power is much like air travel: the fear of accidents is not tied to the sterling safety record of the industry overall.”

“Few nations stand to gain as much strategically, economically and environmentally from a nuclear renaissance as Canada,” she concluded. “The government’s messaging needs to start reflecting this.”

March 16, 2022

MLI released a paper claiming that electric vehicle subsidies were “costly, inefficient, and regressive.”39MLI paper finds electric vehicle subsidies costly, inefficient, and regressive,” MLI, March 16, 2022. Archived May 13, 2022. Archive URL:

January 2022

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute “workshopped a project to improve opportunities for native populations in Canada and elsewhere” at the Antigua Forum, an event the Atlas Network promoted as an “invitation-only event” to “[gather] project leads from freedom-minded organizations, many of them Atlas Network partners.”40Antigua Forum Showcases The Power Of Collaboration,” Atlas Network, March 4, 2022. Archived May 19, 2022. Archive URL:

December 10, 2021

In an op-ed forthe Financial Post, Joseph Quesnel wrote that “real Indigenous reconciliation will come from ensuring that Indigenous peoples have real economic opportunity instead of being trapped by lousy policy as the poorest people in their own communities. This means the province must enable mining developments with attractive tax and regulatory policies. First Nations can be real players and active partners in that sector.” Joseph Quesnel has been a program manager with MLI’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project, and a senior research associate with the Frontier Center for Public Policy.41Joseph Quesnel. “QUESNEL: A common-sense Indigenous reconciliation agenda,Financial Post, December 10, 2021. Archive URL:

December 8, 2021

MLI senior fellow JP Gladu42JP Gladu,” MLI. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:, a board member of both Noront Resources and Suncor, wrote an op-ed in The Globe and Mail accusing groups that oppose natural resource development of “using Indigenous peoples as political pawns.43Using Indigenous peoples as political pawns in resource development is simply wrong,” The Globe and Mail, December 8, 2021. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL: MLI shared the op-ed as well.44Using Indigenous peoples as political pawns in resource development is simply wrong: JP Gladu in the Globe and Mail,MLI, December 9, 2021. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:

“I do want to make sure the Canadian public appreciates the unintended consequences that constant and systematic protesting against resource development in Indigenous territories has on all of us,” Gladu wrote.

“It’s my opinion – based on the work I have done with my own nation, as the former president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the executive director of the Indigenous Resource Network and as a board member of both Indigenous owned and public companies – that resource development, from forestry to mining to oil and gas to fishing, is often the best, and for many nations, the only, transformative economic opportunity that can allow us to be self-determining again.”

Gladu has been an advisory member of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and an executive director of the Indigenous Resource Network. She was more recently listed as a “special advisor45Advisory Group,” Indigenous Resource Network. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL: to the network.

June 2021

In the cover article of the June 2021 issue of Inside Policy, the MLI in-house magazine, Ken Coates wrote an article positioned as an analysis of Canadian government relations with Indigenous peoples. Titled “Finding a new path forward driven by Indigenous people,” the article opened by describing the “discovery of the locations where hundreds of [Indigenous] children were buried around abandoned residential school grounds,” then pivoted to describing how “Indigenous communities should be empowered to engage (or not engage) in the natural resource economy.”46Inside Policy June 2021 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Ultimately, Ottawa must step back – way back – permitting the re-empowerment of Indigenous peoples and ensuring the systematic and rapid dismantling of state-driven control over Indigenous lives. This theme can carry to all elements of policy-making, whether that be education, resource development, health care, housing, and more,” Coates wrote.

“If these graves symbolize anything, it is the abject failure of decades of government policy. Find a new path forward driven by Indigenous people. Do it now. Instead of letting the memories of what happened to those Indigenous children haunt the country for years to come, let the discovery of the hundreds of bodies bodies be the launching point,” Coates concluded.

June 14, 2021

In an article for iPolitics, John Desjarlais Jr. and MLI senior fellow Heather Exner-Pirot cited a poll commissioned by the pro-resource-development Indigenous Resource Network that claimed a majority of Indigenous Canadians supported fossil fuel development.47Most Indigenous people support resource development: John Desjarlais Jr. and Heather Exner-Pirot in iPolitics,” MLI, June 14, 2021. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:

February 5, 2021

In an MLI-sponsored event, Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, joined MLI senior fellow Ken Coates to “discuss the critical role the oil and gas sector plays in Indigenous reconciliation and economic independence.”48Indigenous Prosperity at a Crossroads: An MLI Conversation with Karen Ogen-Toews” Facebook video by user “Macdonald-Laurier Institute,” February 5, 2021. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

November 2020

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, appeared on an episode of MLI’s Straight Talk with MLI senior fellow Ken Coates.

In the episode, Coates asked Ogen-Toews, “How do you deal with the situation now in British Columbia, where particularly people who aren’t from your First Nation and who aren’t even from your region are protesting against the decision of a First Nation community in the north to support the pipeline?”

Karen Ogen-Toews responded:

“I think in a lot of ways these groups have perpetuated the division and the fracturing of our Wet’suwet’en people. […] I don’t have a lot of good things to say about these groups because we are the people that have to live within our communities and work for our communities and these nongovernment organizations are out of the picture now. It was well-funded. They put on a good show but at the end of the day it’s our people that are left having to make a way forward for ourselves.”

Coates commented, “That’s a very evocative way of describing it. I think the country as a whole really needs to understand that that’s the kind of impact these external interventions have on the community.”

Regarding the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, Ogen-Toews commented:

“I think that a lot of people use the term UNDRIP very loosely. What does it mean to us? I guess there is a couple of things. A lot of people learned what UNDRIP means and what it means to us. But I think there were a lot of people who jumped on the bandwagon not knowing the full issues on why there was such controversy with UNDRIP. […]”

May 2020

Writing for MLI’s Inside Policy magazine, Ken Coates claimed there was an “assault on the Alberta oil sands.”49Ken Coates. “Climate change priorities need to be adjusted: Ken Coates for Inside Policy,MLI, May 22, 2020. Archived May 31, 2022. Archive URL:

“All told, the cost of the Liberal government’s climate agenda fell disproportionately on Western Canada, on the energy industry and on rural businesses,” Coates wrote.

“Singling out the Alberta energy sector while ignoring offshore oil production in Newfoundland, cement plants in Quebec, or the energy footprint of massive urban developments is disingenuous at best and mean-spirited at worst. Moreover, it leaves the impression that the country’s climate change aspirations can be met solely through an assault on the Alberta oil sands, which is not remotely true,” he added.

“The Liberal government is politically devoted to its climate change agenda, even though current plans will have little impact on the global carbon footnote and will get little notice outside of Canada. Even Greta Thunberg will not be overly impressed.”

Canada requires a climate change agenda, just not the one that it is currently following. There will be no immediate transition to a renewables-based economy, however much proponents of the so-called Green Economy might like it.”

December 3, 2019

Joseph Quesnel, identified as MLI’s “program manager of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy (ACNRE) project,” wrote an article in the Hill Times calling “Indigenous participation in energy sector an exercise in Indigenous self-determination, economic development.”50Joseph Quesnel. “Indigenous participation in energy sector an exercise in Indigenous self-determination, economic development: Joseph Quesnel in the Hill Times,” MLI, December 3, 2019. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:

Quesnel highlighted a statement by the pro-resource-development Indian Resource Council, criticizing a climate strike by Climate Justice Edmonton.

“[T]hey might not have expected a stern reminder from a group called the Indian Resource Council. After all, climate activists believe they are the ones who speak for First Nations’ interests,” Quesnel wrote.

“Some environmentalist groups act as ‘fair weather friends’ with Indigenous communities, if the communities oppose what they oppose. But Indigenous people are realists and pragmatists, realizing that in the remote regions they occupy, sometimes the resource sector is the only game in town. So, they work with that reality.”

Quesnel concluded: “Politicians and activists need to understand how hardline positions on resource development will affect their professed commitments to improving Indigenous well-being. When politicians say they want to keep our resources in the ground, and then say in the next breath they want to improve conditions of First Nation communities, someone needs to call them out on the contradiction. That is what many Indigenous people would do, if they were included in this election debate rather than being left on the periphery.”

Quesnel previously worked for more than 10 years with the Frontier Center for Public Policy, “where he specialized in Indigenous policy, but also property rights and water market issues.” He has also been a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.51Joseph Quesnel and Ken Coates. “Breaking the Pipeline Logjam” (PDF), MLI, June 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.


The Atlas Network funded MLI’s work to “tirelessly to educate policymakers on upcoming legislation.” Plans included “generating four research papers, two policy panels, and offering research-backed recommendations to specific bills that affect the Indigenous community” such as Bill C-262 regarding Canadian adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.52MLI Promotes Individualistic Legislative Approach For Canada’s Indigenous Communities,” Atlas Network, August 6, 2020. Archived May 13, 2022. Archive URL:

The Atlas Networked noted that MLI senior fellow Dwight Newman testified before the Senate Standing Committee in 2019 on “unintended consequences” of the legislation:

“Newmann [sic] explained that, although the bill was intended to provide harmony between Indigenous people and the government, it would have led to massive uncertainty in the Canadian legal system since it was an international act that didn’t consider local priorities or the local economy. The bill was ultimately defeated.”

June 17, 2019

MLI released a report titled “Breaking the Pipeline Logjam.” The document’s co-authors were Joseph Quesnel, MLI’s “program manager of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy (ACNRE) project”53Joseph Quesnel. “Indigenous participation in energy sector an exercise in Indigenous self-determination, economic development: Joseph Quesnel in the Hill Times,” MLI, December 3, 2019. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:, and Ken Coates.

“In this study, Quesnel and Coates identify the costs of a lack of pipeline capacity, in terms of Canadian jobs, our international competitiveness, and even our federation,” stated an MLI promotional release.54How to break the pipeline logjam: MLI study by Joseph Quesnel and Ken Coates,” MLI, June 17, 2019. Archived May 30, 2022. Archive URL:

The study was part of the MLI’s “Mandate for Canada” series “examining key election issues.”

“Canadians are beginning to understand what is at stake with the current pipeline logjam. They need to see how this issue affects more than just workers and economies in the West. Delayed and stalled pipelines affect us all. With this paper we aim to provide some guidance to all federal parties grappling with these issues,” Quesnel and Coates wrote in the study.55Joseph Quesnel and Ken Coates. “Breaking the Pipeline Logjam” (PDF), MLI, June 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Focusing blame and the national climate change response on resource producers increases the costs on the companies that want to build additional pipelines. The debate has somehow left the impression that Alberta oil is ‘dirtier’ than other sources and less worthy of foreign export. Prejudice and misunderstanding surrounding Alberta’s oil sands has distorted the policy discussion and misdirected legislators to take a negative view of additional pipelines,” Coates and Quesnel wrote.

Listed under “Challenges to getting pipelines built,” the study claimed that “foreign-funded environmentalist campaigns” were key in the opposition to pipeline development in Canada, highlighting work on the topic by Canadian blogger Vivian Krause.

“Those who intensely oppose the energy sector and additional pipeline capacity are a very small minority, albeit a very loud one. Many of these elements are funded by foreign foundations, largely from the United States. Many are motivated solely by authentic concern for the planet and the environment. However, some of this foundation support is suspect.

“Independent researcher Vivian Krause has highlighted how some groups have adopted a clear strategy of land-locking the ‘tar sands’ to ensure that Alberta crude cannot reach the international market (Krause 2018). They use inflammatory and erroneous slogans such as ‘Tars sands oil is blood oil’ to motivate donors and activists to their cause. Government must inform the public about the realities of our energy sector and shine a large spotlight on these foreign-funded environmentalist campaigns.”

The report went on to highlight First Nations groups that have worked closely with MLI’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project, headed by Coates himself:

“A growing number of pro-development Indigenous organizations, including the Indian Resource Council (IRC), First Nations Major Project Coalition, the First Nations LNG Alliance, and many individual communities, have become alarmed at the tone of the discussion. Unfortunately, the media is drawn to conflict and controversy.

“This has resulted in a disproportionate focus on pipeline opponents. First Nation blockades make for more interesting headlines than formal collaborations. The media have started to give some attention to the Indigenous side that is supportive of pipelines and the energy sector. But pipeline opponents still often get far more public attention than pipeline supporters.”

According to the report, “Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the IRC, has described the activity of environmental activists in Indigenous communities as a form of ‘environmental colonialism,’ in the sense that these environmentalist non-governmental organizations are trying to control First Nations communities and impose an anti-development agenda on them.”

Coates and Quesnel claimed Indigenous communities generally were in favor of pipelines:

“Indigenous communities are not the problem when it comes to delayed pipelines. First Nations, by and large, are supportive of the projects, as mentioned above. Indigenous opposition is largely, though not exclusively, focused on the BC coast.”

The report went on to outline MLI’s work in opposing certain elements of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples because of their potential impacts on pipelines:

“Much of the controversy in the Indigenous world surrounds the legality and constitutionality of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), particularly the articles dealing with a “free, prior, and informed consent” for resource development (the so-called FPIC section). The federal government deserves a large portion of the blame for the continuing confusion. When the Trudeau government declared its strong support for UNDRIP, many First Nation leaders and activists began to interpret this to mean that FPIC granted First Nations
a virtual legal veto over projects they did not support. However, legal and constitutional experts – including MLI’s own Dwight Newman – have stated clearly that the duty to consult does not equal a veto or a requirement for full consent or unanimity (Newman 2017).


“The federal government (and the provinces and territories) need to clarify the policies related to duty to consult so that project proponents know exactly what meaningful consultation means. If the proponents (the companies involved) have clear guidelines they can follow, there is less chance for legal action later on, which would greatly enhance the chance for timely pipeline approval.”

The report also criticized Bill-C69, legislation in the House of Commons designed to put a greater focus on the impacts of pipeline projects on Indigenous populations, as well as revising the list of activities that would trigger an impact assessment:

“Bill C-69 has been almost universally opposed by pipeline interests as being unnecessarily obstructionist and adding potential delays,” Coates and Quesnel wrote, going on to say:

“Indigenous groups – especially those involved in the oil and gas sector – are becoming increasingly vocal about the bill’s problematic aspects (Quesnel 2019). For example, the removal of a ‘standing test’ enables outside interests, potentially far removed geographically from the project, to participate and unnecessarily prolong assessment hearings. The bill mentions UNDRIP in the preamble without defining any limits to it or adopting any qualifying language. Also, the addition of gender, health, and climate change to the assessment criteria would make the approval process much more onerous. Many of the areas included in the bill are nebulous and difficult to measure. As well, it could be argued that carbon policies do not belong in an individual project assessment process but belong with wider regulatory and fiscal issues.”

They concluded in the report that the federal government “needs to recognize that most Canadians support the oil and gas industry and understand that the delays have created a national crisis.”

Other recommendations included:

“The federal government must delay Bill C-69 for at least three years to allow for improvements to
the legislation and to permit the industry to rebound from current difficulties. The government
must also scrap Bill C-48,” proposed legislation regarding regulation of marine oil transportation on the north coast of British Columbia.

“Canadian supporters of the energy sector must make sure that Canadians understand the forces that are influencing national debates and conversations. The federal government needs to take an active role in exposing the foreign-funded groups that are undermining our economic interests. At one extreme, supporters might determine if there are legal means of preventing foreign-funded foundations and environmental organizations from undermining Canada’s pipeline projects, while ensuring that all actions are consistent with Charter protections on freedom of expression. […] On a national scale, the federal government could consider creating a parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate these matters as quickly as possible.”

March 1, 2019

Joseph Quesnel, identified as the program manager for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project, wrote an opinion piece for the Financial Post opposing Bill C-69, in particular regarding additional impact assessments for pipeline projects.56Joseph Quesnel. “Indigenous-Canadians are upset with the Liberal government’s Bill C-69, too,” Financial Post, March 1, 2019. Archive URL:

“Many industry observers have been spotlighting the growing evidence that foreign-funded environmental foundations are seeking to undermine our economic interests and keep oil and gas in the ground. First Nations and Métis communities are rightfully concerned that this more open standing test in Bill C-69 would allow foreign-funded environmentalists to hold up and prolong assessment hearings,” Quesnel claimed in the op-ed.

“Also, mentioning the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the bill’s main preamble may please Indigenous academics and environmental activists, but it adds uncertainty to the process because UNDRIP includes controversial provisions that imply Indigenous communities have a veto over resource projects. This is important because preambles in legislation are used in courts and in interpreting statutes,” Quesnel wrote.

December 2018

MLI’s Inside Policy magazine57Inside Policy December 2018 issue. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. republished an op-ed opposing Bill C-69 by Stephen Buffalo, who represented the pro-resource development Indian Resource Council. The piece had originally run in the Financial Post.

“Bill C-69 is being rushed through by a government that does not seem to understand its obligations to consult comprehensively with Indigenous peoples,” said Buffalo.

“Far from being uniformly opposed to resource development, many Indigenous nations understand that careful engagement and effective partnerships will provide us with a once-in-a-century opportunity to share in Canada’s prosperity,” he added.

“Our nations reject the permanent poverty that generations of government policies have imposed on us. And while many Indigenous peoples share some of the values and perspective of some members of the environmental movement, we resent the assumption that non-Indigenous environmentalists speak for us. We can speak for ourselves – and we insist on the right to do so.

“The Indian Resource Council, the organization I represent, calls on the government of Canada to pull Bill C-69 from its legislative calendar and to revisit its consultations with Indigenous peoples and organizations.”


According to MLI’s 2017 annual report, MLI senior fellow Ken Coates was “asked to advise the First Nations LNG Alliance in discussions with the BC government on LNG development” and “has also been advising the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.”

MLI noted that Coates’ work was also used in a textbook titled Indigenous Peoples and Resource Development in Canada. “With this textbook, MLI’s thought leadership on Indigenous issues will spread to students in classrooms across the country,” MLI noted.

The annual report described MLI as effective at promoting pro-resource development policies:

“We also remain influential with government. The federal government’s planned sweeping changes to major project assessments have heeded the advice of Coates and MLI author Bram Noble and included requirements for early and effective engagement with Indigenous communities,” MLI noted, adding:

“Other aspects of the changes are more problematic, and MLI will be prominent in commenting on the legislation, encouraging fair, efficient and effective environmental assessments.”

MLI also discussed its ties to federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould:

“Finally, MLI has deepened its ties to the federal Justice Minister, Jody Wilson Raybould, by naming her our Inside Policy Policy-Maker of the Year for her leadership on Indigenous issues. Coates was interviewed on APTN to discuss the issue and Wilson Raybould’s overall record. This relationship is important. Coates has on multiple occasions been invited to consult Wilson Raybould on Indigenous reconciliation and she has been very encouraging about MLI’s work.”

June 23, 2015

MLI partnered with to bring Alex Epstein to Ottawa to discuss his book, The
Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
.58“CELEBRATING 5 YEARS OF MAKING CANADA BETTER” (PDF), Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

According to MLI’s 2015 annual report, “The goal of the event was to help Canadians better appreciate the complexities of fossil fuel use and the climate change debate.”


MLI’s 2015 annual report noted that it had partnered with the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) and the office of the Saskatchewan Treaty Commissioner to hold “a series of round tables across northern British Columbia and Saskatchewan from Prince Albert to Kitimat.” The events were intended to “create momentum for moving toward real agreements with respect to the resource economy.”59“CELEBRATING 5 YEARS OF MAKING CANADA BETTER” (PDF), Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The roundtable series was part of MLI’s Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy (ACNRE) project.

“Attendance at the roundtables included the Haisla Chief, a Nisga’a leader, the Prince Rupert Port Authority CEO and a national representative from Seven Generations Energy, as well as members of the Treaty 8 First Nations, and the Northern Gateway Community Advisory Board,” MLI noted.

June 2014

Fraser Institute senior fellow Ross McKitrick co-authored an MLI paper on biofuels, titled “Money to Burn,” with fellow University of Guelph economics professor Douglas Auld.60Douglas Auld and Ross McKitrick. “Money to Burn” (PDF), Macdonald-Laurier Institute, June 2014. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“[A]ny reduction in GHG achieved by blending ethanol and gasoline continues to yield negative net social benefits,” Auld and McKitrick wrote.

They concluded: “The most obvious recommendation to emerge from this analysis is the need to phase out the major components of current transportation biofuel policy on the grounds that the costs far exceed the social benefits and there are no realistic prospects for this situation to change.”

October 2014

Robert P. Murphy, an economist associated with Koch- and Exxon-funded U.S. think tanks including the Pacific Research Institute and the Institute for Energy Research (IER), wrote a MLI study critical of the carbon tax in Canada.61Robert P. Murphy. “The Carbon Tax Win-Win: Too Good To Be True?” (PDF), October 2014. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“All in all, conservative supporters of the market economy must think very hard before endorsing a carbon tax – even if promised with other tax cuts. Even in theory, it is unlikely that such a policy would be “good for the economy,” and in practice it would be very inefficient,” Murphy concluded.

MLI noted in its annual report that Murphy’s “point was emphasized by MLI Senior Fellow Philip Cross in National Post columns, on the Business News Network, and in a debate on CBC’s The 180.”62“Canada’s Crossroads for Ideas” (PDF), Macdonald-Laurier Instiute, 2014. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

MLI Projects

Contact & Address

According to its website:71Contact us,MLI. Archived June 1, 2022. Archive URL:

Macdonald-Laurier Institute
323 Chapel Street, Suite #300
Ottawa, ON
K1N 7Z2

Social Media

Other Resources


Related Profiles

APCO Worldwide Background APCO has been described as “one of the world's most powerful PR firms.” [1], [2] According to its agency profile at O'Dwyers, “APCO Worldwide is a...
Hugh W. Ellsaesser Credentials Ph.D., Meteorology. [1] Background Hugh W. Ellsaesser, born in 1920, is a meteorologist by training and retired “guest scientist” at the Lawren...
Alfred (Al) Pekarek Credentials Ph.D., University of Wyoming (1974). [1]B.A. University of Minnesota-Twin (1965). [1] Background Alfred (Al) Pekarek is a former ass...
Benny Josef Peiser Credentials Ph.D. , University of Frankfurt (1993). Peiser studied political science, English, and sports science. [1], [2] Background Benny Peiser is a sports ...