Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
A Canadian charity for which German school kids are raising money is the furthest thing from transparent.
I recently received an e-mail from Germany regarding an organization called Wilderness International Canada. German school kids will hold an event this Wednesday connected to that group. The money they raise will apparently help protect tracts of ecologically sensitive land here in Canada.
“Does that organization actually exist?” asks my correspondent.
Good question. A May 2011 press release about its activities in British Columbia says the web address is www.wilderness-international.ca. But if I go there now I find only a blank screen – and the WayBack machine over at Archive.org has no trace of it.
“Personal information about the holder of this domain name is not available in the search results because the registration is privacy protected,” we’re told (click the image above to enlarge).
This makes sense if you’re an individual who doesn’t want to advertise your personal telephone number and home address to the entire world. But an organization that uses school kids in foreign lands to raise funds? Why should the ownership of its web address be a secret?
According to the press release mentioned above (and backed up here), the director of Wilderness International Canada is a man named Fred Roland. Evidently, he goes by another name, Hwiemtun.
This 2011 bio tells us about his”connection to the spirit world” and describes him as a sweat lodge keeper and a Buddhist. In the sweat lodge rites he leads, menstruating women are banned.
A 10-page interview associated with an October 2011 festival appears here. In it Roland declares that his ancestors (his father is of Hawaiian descent, his mother is a Coast Salish Indian) “were actually doing fine where we were and in how we were living before any settler came through” – neglecting to mention that slavery was a part of Salish culture.
Wilderness International – and his leadership position with the organization – receives not a single mention in that lengthy, wide-ranging discussion.
A search of Canadian government records indicates that Wilderness International Canada is, indeed, a registered charity. But the last year for which any info is available is 2011. (2012 details are on file for most of the other charities I queried at random, but not all).
According to the government’s main listing, Wilderness International’s mailing address is:
75 Heritage Crescent
Stony Plain, Alberta
Stony Plain is a town of 15,000. It’s located not in British Columbia, but in the nearby province of Alberta. According to Google maps, 75 Heritage Crescent isn’t an office building, but a private residence (see the photo at the top of this post).
When Wilderness International Canada filed yearly financial statements with the government in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 it declined to provide an e-mail address, a website, or the name of a contact person.
Only a phone and fax number were listed in the “basic information” section. Those belong to a law firm, Carters Professional Corporation, which specializes in “charity and not-for-profit law.”
Rather than being in British Columbia (where Wilderness International apparently operates) or Alberta (where someone associated with it apparently lives), the law firm is located 3,400 kilometers (2,000 miles) distant from Stony Plain, on the outskirts of Canada’s capital city.
According to documents filed with the government, in 2008 Wilderness International Canada had three officials of record:
Similarly, the only individual of record in the 2011 documents is MacDonald. Wilderness International told the government he became President that year yet made no mention of Fred Roland becoming a director – despite what the press release says.
A visit to WildernessInternational.org reveals a website entirely in German. With the assistance of Google Translate, we can see that student walkathons/runs are being organized in five German communities.
Significant sums of money may well be raised by these efforts over the next few weeks. What will happen to that money is not at all clear.
My correspondent asks: “Does that organization actually exist?” My reply:
It is by no means certain that Wilderness International Canada remains a functioning charity.
In the event that it is, it cannot be considered a transparent one.
Its real address is a mystery, almost nothing is known about the names and responsibilities of its current officials, and finding out more about it apparently requires contact with a law firm.