Alberta farm groups voice opposition to honourary degree for David Suzuki

Four Alberta crop commissions that collaborate under the “Team Alberta” banner are speaking out against the University of Alberta’s decision to grant an honourary degree to David Suzuki.

The chairs of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, and Alberta Barley sent an open letter to U of A president Dr. David Turpin on Thursday.

While the letter does not mention the long-time environmental activist and “The Nature of Things” television show host by name, it refers to a controversial recipient who has spread “mis-truths and innuendo” about farming. The farm groups say by choosing to honour this individual, the university has abandoned its faculty and students, as well as the commitment made in the school’s motto “Whatsoever things are true.”

The university senate’s decision to give Suzuki the honourary degree has prompted a flood of public criticism, including from the university’s deans of business and engineering. Premier Rachel Notley has also said she doesn’t agree with the decision.

The university says the honourary degree, which Suzuki is scheduled to receive on June 7, “is not a signal of institutional agreement with any individual perspective on a controversial issue,” but that Suzuki is being given the recognition for “the breadth of his accomplishments and leadership as a public educator in science.”

Here’s the open letter sent by the provincial barley, canola, pulse and wheat commissions (also published on Alberta Canola’s website):

May 10, 2018

Dr. David Turpin
President and Vice-Chancellor University of Alberta Presidents Office 2-24 South Academic Building
11328 – 89 AVE NW
Edmonton, AB T6G 2J7

An Open Letter to Dr. David Turpin:

Team Alberta is a collaborative initiative led by four of the province’s crop commissions. Alberta Canola, Alberta Wheat, Alberta Barley, and Alberta Pulse Growers represent nearly 20 million acres of grains, oilseeds and pulses grown over 20,000 farms across Alberta. Our commissions are farmer elected, directed and funded organizations established to represent the interests of our farmer members. Together, we bring a unified voice to timely issues that have significant impact on the continued growth and competitiveness of Alberta’s crop sector.

Quaecumque vera
Whatsoever things are true. The motto of the University of Alberta reminds us of the values held by its students, faculty and researchers. Values, that in the 110 years since its humble beginnings on the top floor of an elementary school, have guided the University of Alberta to become one of the top five institutions of higher learning in Canada and one of the top 100 in the world. It is this value of truth from scientific rigour that attracted the members of Team Alberta to the University of Alberta for the knowledge and innovation that will drive agriculture forward in Alberta.

Collectively, in the last 30 years, the members of Team Alberta have contributed millions of dollars towards research projects, NSERC chairs, grants, equipment, scholarships and student activities. We are currently working with the Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences in the filling of four agriculture related faculty positions. All because of the continued commitment to truth from scientific rigour.

This is not something that can be said about the recent controversial recipient of an award by the Senate of the University; an honorary degree allegedly to honour educating the public in science. Team Alberta, from having had to defend its farmer members from the mis-truths and innuendo of this recipient, know these actions were not done in the spirit of educating or scientific debate, but to contribute to the cult of personality. Whatsoever, they were not true.

The recipient’s foundation is leading a lawsuit against the Pest Management Regulatory Agency that seeks to take away neonicotinoid seed treatments as a tool to deal with pests and will force producers to revert to practices that are damaging to the environment. His opposition to crops produced through the use of biotechnology would similarly have producers tilling the soil with increased erosion and greenhouse gas emissions.

By granting this award the Senate has abandoned the values of the University as embodied by its motto; it has abandoned the faculty and the students that are our future. Whatsoever, Team Alberta will not. Quaecumque vera.

Signed Team Alberta,
Mr. Renn Breitkreuz, Chair, Alberta Canola Producers Commission
Mr. Kevin Bender, Chair, Alberta Wheat Commission
Mr. D’Arcy Hilgartner, Chair, Alberta Pulse Growers
Mr. Jason Lenz, Chair, Alberta Barley

Cc: The Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta
The Honourable Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education
The Honourable Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
The Honourable Shannon Philips, Minister of Environment and Parks
Stanford Blade, Dean, Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science, University of Alberta

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Categories: News / Western Canada