NewsStudents' Union

$40,000 gift to SU from law firm finalized after Suzuki controversy

In April, the firm agreed to donate to the SU after disagreeing with the university over David Suzuki's honorary degree

The tax law firm Moodys Gartner has agreed to donate $40,000 to the Students’ Union for the creation of three student awards and scholarships.

In April, Moodys Gartner terminated their donation to the University of Alberta after controversy arose from the university’s decision to award science communicator David Suzuki an honorary degree. The donation has since been redirected to the SU and will be used to support the Campus Food Bank and three awards and scholarships for students studying tax law over the next two years.

“It’s important to give back to the next generation of law students who are entering a profession that has been very good to us,” said Kim Moody, director of Moodys Gartner tax law LLP. “We felt it was our obligation as a successful firm and successful people to give back.”

An allocation of up to $7,000 per year will be spent to support U of A students attending the Bowman National Tax Moot — Canada’s first mock trial competition for taxation law. The SU will also create two new scholarships valued at $1,000 each, awarded based on need and merit to two students performing tax-related academic work.

The donation will also support the creation of a new $750 award to be initiated in 2019 for the student with the best performance in Law 504: Taxation. A $1,000 contribution to the Campus Food Bank will also be made in each of the 2018 and 2019 calendar years.

David Suzuki controversy

When the university awarded an honorary degree to Suzuki, the firm saw the act as a supportive gesture towards Suzuki’s stance against oil sands development. Suzuki has long criticized the province’s oil and gas industries for their role in climate pollution.

In a letter written to the university in April, the firm explained that Suzuki’s “inappropriate” use of his platform to attack the industry was inconsistent with their goal to support those that “encourage and embolden Alberta’s economic development.”

“What you have is the [U of A’s] president glorifying and supporting somebody who is openly trying to destroy a very key industry in our province,” Moody said. “We did not want to be associated with [the U of A’s] horrible leadership decision, so we withdrew our financial support.”

Moody said the team chose to collaborate with the SU as a way to continue supporting students at the U of A without being associated with U of A’s senior administration.

“We weren’t looking for attention,” Moody said. “We were just looking to make a statement to our clients and to our followers. Some people disagree with us and that’s fine, that’s the beauty of a democracy. People are entitled to their own opinion, but we stand by the decision we made.”

Despite the earlier controversy, SU president Reed Larsen said he’s happy the SU was able to help the firm continue their philanthropic initiatives. As the year proceeds, Larsen added that he will continue working to develop an alumni network to encourage donor support.

“[The Moodys Gartner donation] showcases that [the SU] can and has the ability to accept large donations,” Larsen said. “There are a large number of big donors who want to support students directly and not necessarily support the university.”

Calvin Chan

Calvin Chan is a cell biology student with a keen interest in science writing.

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