Meet Cassie Doyle, CEO of CIRDI


In the June 2015 post Scapegoat wanted: CIRDI baits a CEO, we addressed the mining institute’s quest to replace its previous leadership, and warned competent candidates, “you won’t last long as CIRDI’s face, and you will leave, on your own terms or otherwise, with your tail between your legs.” In late September, the announcement was made that Cassie Doyle, ex-Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada, would lead the institute.

Let’s see how long this lasts.

Cassie Doyle, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada under Stephen Harper, was named to CIRDI’s lead role in the final weeks of the Harper Conservatives’ regime. According to records obtained by Greenpeace and reported in the National Observer, Doyle, as Deputy Minister of NRCan, proclaimed to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) that

we [the federal government and industry players] need to meet an active, organized anti-oil sands campaign with equal sophistication” (2009 NRCAN records)

and later, referring to their shared communication strategy, that

“NRCan and the Government of Canada has been working with CAPP on this for some time and it is now time to up our game… There is a commitment from government on this for the longer term as this is an issue for both government and industry” (2010 NRCAN records).

So it is particularly interesting that — according to records we’ve acquired from DFATD through freedom of information (FOI) legislation — CIRDI management reported to the federal government in their March 2014 Annual Report (p.13) that they had hired a consultant to help develop a “management strategy to address student activists” as their way of addressing thoughtful student critique. To a subsequent FOI request for details on this loathsome strategy, CIRDI is again delaying release of any records.

And although this management strategy was initiated before her time, the technique conveniently matches Doyle’s precedent of managing opposition by peddling strategic industry messages instead of thoughtful consideration and a revised course.

Alternative campus media source UBC Insiders recently featured interviews with Cassie Doyle (for) and Bjorn Stime (against) the controversial CIRDI extractive industries institute hosted on the SFU and UBC campuses. The full interview is available from the UBC Insiders podcast, and was broadcast on CiTR campus radio on 11 December at 7:00 pm. Listen to it here (time 12:20 to 29:10):

During the interview with Neal and Maayan, Cassie Doyle, chaperoned by her PR specialist Gilian Dusting, deployed prepared responses and didn’t stray far from the public relations strategies used by predecessors Bern Klein, Daniel Dumas, and Moura Quayle during their short stints leading the institute. Ms. Doyle may be new to her position as CEO, but she slipped some pretty bold untruths into her defense of CIRDI. For example,

  • that CIRDI works only in democratic countries (etc.) NOPE. CIRDI recently received an additional $15.3M from the federal government for an undisclosed project with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines, but due diligence investigations might consider the one-party government’s tight restrictions on opposition parties, the media, and civil society. A 2015 Freedom of Information request about this project returned almost completely blanked-out documents. Besides, the democratic status of a country doesn’t preclude the ability of powerful interests to sidestep the will of the people. This institute’s political and technical interventions abroad are the initiatives of CIRDI’s own technocrats and the solicitations of industry players.
  • that CIRDI only has partnerships with governmental agencies. NOPE. This Partners with CIRDI page certainly includes mining companies and industry associations. Review for yourself the explicit letters of support, including ones from the Lundin Foundation and Goldcorp.
  • that she has made legitimate attempts to meet with critics. HARDLY. Like her predecessors, she and her public relations specialist have refused to engage with CIRDI critics on their own terms. The UBC Insiders interview was contingent on the absence of noted critics. And her assertion that she’s made multiple invitations to meet with people behind the Stop the Institute campaign? Disingenuous at best (see here).
  • that she has been meeting with many stakeholders across Canada. This may technically be true, but ACTUALLY, she might mean that she’s attempted to meet with them. We’ve been informed by international development organizations whose leadership have declined to meet with Ms. Doyle in part because of her demonstrated, ongoing dismissal of critique at home.

To questions about CIRDI’s actual research outcomes and why it’s even hosted at a public university, Ms. Doyle admitted that the mining institute is more of a pedagogical (teaching, instructing) entity than a research-oriented entity, and acknowledged that the only reason it is embedded in UBC and SFU is because ex-PM Harper had designed it to be so.

CIRDI’s “pedagogical” activities, targeting influential persons in countries of interest to Canadian mining companies, are reminiscent of the techniques employed by the University of Chicago School of Economics to aggressively impose neoliberal policies and values on unwilling peoples since the 1970s.

CIRDI isn’t welcome at UBC and SFU, and soon enough, we’ll see it’s closure. Will Prime Minister Trudeau recall the funding and the half-baked mandate of this “pedagogical” remnant of Harper’s legacy? Will the universities finally expel it?  Or will Cassie Doyle, its Chief, just run it aground?