Eyes that See, Hearts that Feel

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” — Arundhati Roy

CIRDI’s leaders have only responded evasively to the growing concerns around its mandate, structure, and partner network. So through this film, we’re bringing to those running the mining institute the testimonies of Guatemalans whose lives have been turned upside-down by Canadian mining companies. The testimonies were made in 2014 and 2015,  and on 8 April 2016, we shared the film with CIRDI’s leadership (for example) so that eyes might see and hearts might feel, and we encouraged them to resign from their positions.

The testimonies of Oscar, Francisco Salomon, Enrique, Maria Sabina, Miguel Angel, Victor, Rafael, Diadora, Aniseto, and Teresa make up this film. They’re from communities and peaceful resistance movements in and around San Miguel Ixtahuacán (affected by Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine), San Rafael las Flores (affected by Tahoe’s Escobal Mine), and San José del Golfo (affected by Radius Gold/KCM’s Tambor Mine). In time, we’ll also share the testimonies of Margarita, Melvin, Felix, Luis Fernando, Osvaldo, and others about their experiences with Canadian mining companies, and their bold requests of Canadians.

They’ve expressed in this film — as they have countless times before — that they wish to be left to pursue their own visions of development, without foreign interests lobbying their governments for preferential treatment of the mega-mines. And they’ve described the dirty tricks used by the companies and their agents to dispossess them of their land and their future.

CIRDI is part of the constellation of diplomats, industry associations, think-tanks, lobbyists, academics, and banks deployed to arrange favorable perceptions and political conditions for transnational extractive players in Guatemala and elsewhere. Unaccountable to the people directly affected by the mining projects — and unaccountable to Canadians — they’re making strategic interventions that shift government policies to align with the profit-oriented interests of Canadian extractive corporations.

We’re hoping the testimonies and messages in this film will touch the conscience of CIRDI’s leadership, and that they’ll resign from their positions as a symbolic and practical step toward disarming the mining institute.

By 20 April 2016, only CIRDI’s public relations specialist has responded, asserting that the Institute has no activities in Guatemala and has not received funding from either Goldcorp or Tahoe. While CIRDI’s leadership is missing the point of the film’s courageous testimonies, please take courage to share it exensively with your peers at UBC and SFU, and with your network abroad!

The link to share: https://youtu.be/oI4mngEvCUE

Some context on CIRDI and Goldcorp

CIRDI has compromisingly close ties to Canadian companies operating in Guatemala that have been accused of environmental and human rights abuses.

Repeat offender Goldcorp, mentioned several times in the film and one of CIRDI’s key strategic partners, has offered the company’s mines in Guatemala as test sites for CIRDI’s initiatives, and its executives hope to “export” the company’s extractive-sector experience and privilege in Canada to developing countries. Though CIRDI’s leadership asserts they haven’t (yet) received sponsorship money or in-kind aid from Goldcorp, documents we’ve received through a FOI request confirm that Goldcorp had agreed in principle to contribute $5,000,000 to the Institute.

According to the International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala (CAMIGUA), Goldcorp’s open-pit Marlin Mine “has been the cause of increasing local, national and international clamor for environmental accountability and respect for human rights,” as is attested to in this film.

John Bell, another of the Institute’s supporters (p.62 of these letters of support), is director of both Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources. He closely links CIRDI with Tahoe, a Vancouver-based mining titan now under investigation for the premeditated shooting of protesting farmers, and responsible for criminalizing human rights defenders in Guatemala, as we’ve heard in this film.

CIRDI has also forged strategic partnerships with New Gold Inc. ($250K), Teck Resources, and Vale (through its “Vale Institute of Technology”) (pages 92, 116, 140 of the letters of support).  The problematic nature of partnership with these companies is outlined in this CIIEID Strategic Partners report (CIIEID is the acronym formerly used by CIRDI). Equally troublesome, CIRDI has been aggressively seeking multi-million dollar cash infusions from mining giants Rio Tinto and Barrick (CIIEID Steering Committee meeting minutes, p.346 of these records).

And from CIRDI’s Business Plan, they’re “confident that, given our current close relationships with industry as well as our track record of financial support from these same industry partners, support from industry will be available to complement other revenue streams to the CIIEID” (p.260 of these records).

If it’s true that CIRDI hasn’t received cash contributions from Goldcorp, Barrick, or Rio Tinto, it’s not for lack of trying. Whether or not Institute leadership can successfully attract funding, the fact remains: CIRDI is mandated by the federal government to rely on industry’s deep pockets. And with little heed for the criminal or human rights records of its partners, its leadership has zealously sought millions in funding from the most predatory of mining transnationals.

Full blackout: what’s CIRDI desperate to hide?

CIRDI, CIIEID Issues Management Strategy: Confidential.

Fragments of text from an Issues Management Strategy, prepared for CIRDI by strategic communications consultant Patricia Leidl to help the mining institute overcome its unsightly public image, point to disfunction, a problematic structure,  and deeply-embedded conflicts of interest.

To put it mildly, UBC has been cagey about this CIRDI mining institute.

After all, it’s the result of a multimillion-dollar contract with the federal government, and has the potential to attract more cold hard cash from the mining and oil industries. But to any inquiry about it, UBC’s tightly controlled responses have been limited to scripted, public relations soundbites. And formal inquiries for substantive, off-script response are treated with contempt, or ignored outright.

In records released by the federal government to a Freedom of Information Request in mid-2015 (accessible here), we found that mining institute leadership dutifully reported in its CIIEID Annual Report, May 2013 – March 2014 of their progress:

A strategic communications consultant developed an issues management strategy. This strategy provides key information for the Institute’s overall communications strategy. A detailed question and answer briefing was developed for senior management to use for all Institute communication requests. A logbook was established to track media enquiries. The institute developed a management strategy to address student activists.

As responsible members of the university communities, we asked: Why would CIRDI need to spend public development aid money on a “strategic communications consultant” to help its staff spin its message and fend off public inquiry? Why would they develop this “management strategy to address student activists,” instead of simply responding directly, transparently, and in good faith to the questions and issues raised? And why do staff, faculty, and leadership of CIRDI, SFU, and UBC consistently refuse to formally respond to  legitimate concerns and meaningful questions about the institute?

So in November 2015 we formally requested these documents from UBC and CIRDI under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, legislation that gives the public body a limited timeframe to release the records. Section 6(1) of the Act explicitly states:

The head of a public body must make every reasonable effort to assist applicants and to respond without delay to each applicant openly, accurately and completely.

But the heads of UBC balked at the law, obstructed inquiry, and delayed release until March 2016: withholding the vast majority of the records requested, nearly everything on the remaining pages was blacked out.

UBC cited Section 13 (policy recommendations) and Section 22 (affecting the privacy of a third party) of the Act as why vast swaths of the documents were withheld. We are awaiting a formal review of the blackouts, and have triggered BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to initiate formal investigations.

This pattern of wilful interference with legitimate public inquiry only fuels concerns that proponents of the CIRDI mining institute have something to hide. And the absurd degree to which content was hidden makes a farce of UBC’s aspirational claims of accountability and transparency.

CIIEID & CIRDI's founding fathers from EPDM, SFU, UBC

CIRDI’s founding fathers from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Simon Fraser University, and the University of British Columbia: striking a multimillion dollar deal and dragging their public institutions into a minefield of controversy, conflicts of interest, and disdain for public inquiry.

At a time when UBC’s Board of Governors repeatedly exhibits disdain for the interests of faculty and students, perhaps it is no surprise that university top brass lack the courage to engage in good faith with those asking tough questions and identifying problematic structures, and instead erect hostile strategies to subdue and quarantine challenging lines of inquiry.

In the released Communication Strategy documents, even the Tables of Contents were completely blacked out, and over 99% of CIRDI’s “Key Messages Bible: In response to media or public queries regarding CIRDI’s intentions, activities, or decisions” had been blacked out.

The vast majority of the Issues Management Strategy was either blacked out or withheld entirely. What was left visible in the consultant’s report paints a grisly – if spotty – picture: a fatally flawed contract with the federal government, problematic organizational structure, and a relationship with the mining industry that “amounts to a minefield of conflict of interest.”

CIRDI’s Q&As for Responding to All Communication Requests, a line-by-line scripting of responses for CIRDI and university staff to any and all public inquiry about the institute, is for some reason labeled “CONFIDENTIAL – NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.” And other than copy-pasted “What is CIIEID” boilerplate, all contents have been blacked out or withheld.

And so far, both CIRDI and UBC are refusing to release documents related to CIRDI’s Management Strategy to Address Student Activists. Its entire Disruptive Engagement Response Protocol (p.16 of the above-linked document) is completely blacked out. Instead, irrelevant Executive Board meeting minutes and 50 pages logging student inquiries were released.

Why the secrets, why the guile? What’s UBC and CIRDI this desperate to hide?

Can its strategy documents be so damning?

Lundin, CIRDI, and the myths of boys and men

Lundin and CIRDI: grown-ups acting out boyhood fantasies of conquest and digging

Topping up the millions of dollars of government and university financial contributions to the CIRDI scheme, the Lundin Foundation is the extractive industries institute’s largest mining-sector contributor, having committed $1,000,000 cash and $120,000 of in-kind support (pp.72-74 of this document). And Stephen Nairne, the Foundation’s managing director, claims an influential role in the institute from his position on CIRDI’s Board of Directors.

As little more than a public relations arm of the Lundin Group of mining and oil companies, the Lundin Foundation oversees philanthropic acts (like providing training to locals who are already impacted by the mining operations, in providing low-skill secondary services to the mine, an effort branded as supporting “sustainable livelihoods”) that are little more than cunning strategies to deflect criticism.

Swedish PhD student Hanna Dahlstrom recently published the article Busting the myth of Northern exceptionalism – CIRDI and Lundin’s colonial corporate (ad)ventures, in The Talon, UBC’s alternative student press.

She examines the failures of both CIRDI and the Lundin Foundation at addressing the fundamental harms the organizations pose to mining-affected communities, by championing a doctrine of ‘development through extraction’ and prioritizing Canadian experts’ techno-managerial solutions ahead of questions of consent and impacted peoples’ own ways of knowing, being, and ordering their world.

In the Swedish press a great deal is published about the rampaging Lundin boys and their often-dubious, often-risky dealings throughout the world. Hanna Dahlstrom’s article brings us these details in a unique look at the companies and their links to – and parallels with – the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute in Vancouver.

Read the full text of the article on The Talon.

Credibility of UBC leadership again in question

Let’s review and recall the 2013 decision by the Board of Governors that allowed the CIRDI mining institute into this university.

A recent Ubyssey editorial accusing UBC of breaking the law by withholding information requested under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, was immediately followed by the university’s release of 861 pages of documents (plus attachments) that give context to Gupta’s resignation and the behind the scenes skullduggery of the university’s Board of Governors.

The UBC Faculty Association has formally questioned the Board’s practice of secrecy and resulting lack of accountability, and is calling for “an external review of the Board and its practices.” The most recent Board of Governors meeting was crashed by UBC faculty, staff, and students who, under the banner of Take Back #TUUMEST, are demanding an audit of the university’s governance structure, a retooling of the Board’s mechanisms of accountability and transparency, and a recall of its membership.

In response to the Ubyssey editorial, a student letter published yesterday describes how UBC leadership has a habit of disregarding the university’s responsibilities under BC legislation, and particularly highlights how UBC’s Office of the University Council has contributed to opacity around the CIRDI mining institute by repeatedly thwarting the Freedom of Information mechanism.

In June 2015 we demonstrated how top UBC executives hustled a poorly considered Harper initiative through the back-channels of the Board’s decision-making structures, ultimately leading to CIRDI’s dubious establishment at the university.

In the aftermath of Gupta’s departure and leaked documents, UBC leadership is caught with its pants down. And folks are really starting to notice. It’s time we bring some transparency and accountability to the university. Alongside the Faculty Association’s demands and the Take Back #TUUMEST movement, urge UBC and BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education to sponsor formal, external reviews of the decision-making process that ultimately allowed the CIRDI mining think-tank into our university.

Reny Kahlon, Managing Director of UBC’s Board of Governors, rkahlon@mail.ubc.ca, reny.kahlon@ubc.ca
Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education, 250.356.0179, AVED.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Sandra Carroll, Deputy Minister,  250.356.5170, AVED.Deputy.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Claire Avison, Assistant Deputy Minister,  250.217.9059, Claire.Avison@gov.bc.ca
Ministry of Advanced Education’s “Government Communications & Public Engagement Office,” 250.952.6400

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?

¡Mesoamerica Resiste! Workshop at SFU, 27 October 2015

The Beehive Collective will facilitate a ¡Mesoamerica Resiste! workshop at SFU Harbour Centre on 27 October 2015. (Image courtesy of Beehive Collective)

Interested in learning about communities and societies in resistance to extractive projects in Mesoamerica? Want to know more about the struggles, the hope, the resounding opposition to mining?

Come join the conversation, as the Beehive Collective facilitates a workshop in Vancouver based on their inspiring poster illustrating “stories of resistance, resilience, and solidarity from Mexico to Colombia.”

Living surrounded by the headquarters of the world’s mining industries, and with the CIRDI mining institute sinking its claws into SFU and UBC, maybe we all could use a reminder of how our neighbors in Mesoamerica are persistently & creatively fighting back, courageously prioritizing their existence, their futures, their connection with Mother Nature above the profit-driven proposals of Vancouver-based mining companies.

At 4:30pm on Tuesday, 27 October, the Beehive Collective will facilitate the ¡Mesoamerica Resiste! workshop in Room 7000 at SFU’s Harbour Centre. An event appropriate for all ages, Tuesday’s event is free and (donations to support the work of the Beehive Collective are encouraged).

As Canadian mining and mineral exploration companies rush to stake their claims on mineral wealth, drill and survey to determine future profits, and extract night and day with monstrous machines, Canadian diplomats (and through CIRDI, our universities’ academics) work with equal urgency to force changes on Latin American countries’ mining codes, tax laws, and even Indigenous consultation laws, to guarantee companies’ profits and transfer liabilities to the people.

Let’s reconnect with the life-affirming movements in Mesoamerica that defend the land and the Mother that sustain us all.

4:30-6:30 pm, Tuesday 27 October 2015
Room 7000 (Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room)
SFU Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings Street, downtown Vancouver
¡Mesoamerica Resiste! callout & event page

Win for the Kwantlen community: Kinder Morgan’s MOU scrapped

KPU’s president Alan Davis at the KPU and KM public forum in July 2015, courtesy Lenée Son (via rabble.ca).

Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), along with the Kwantlen First Nation, won a victory earlier this month when KPU president, Alan Davis, finally backed down from KPU’s initial position to stand by an MOU with Kinder Morgan, the pipeline giant that aims to ram through the TransMountain Pipeline expansion despite massive opposition on its route.

The student association at KPU had immediately spoken out in opposition to the MOU with Kinder Morgan, stating that accepting the promise of funds if the pipeline goes through amounts to “tacit endorsement” of the pipeline.

The Kwantlen Nation, the Kwantlen Public Research Interest Group, KPU faculty, students, and alumni, and the anti-pipeline organization PIPE UP all had expressed their deep concerns.

On October 2nd, the KPU president finally backed out of the MOU – a victory for all of us, and an encouraging example showing how university leadership can reconsider the facts and reverse poor decisions involving ethically dubious relationships with industry.

Congratulations, KPU!

UBC, SFU and EPM, it’s time to step it up and take another look at the ethical compromises associated with hosting CIRDI at our universities.

UBC, SFU, & DFATD: Is there an official mandate to CIRDI secrecy?

CIRDI and UBC are not committed to transparency.

CIRDI & UBC commitment to blocking transparency: all reference to the $15.3 million project with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines were redacted from these documents released under Access to Information legislation.

In student-led efforts to understand the mandate and workings of the CIRDI mining institute, we’ve operated with the highest standards of due diligence: first asking questions of CIRDI’s decision-makers and executives of record of the responsible universities, following up on our emailed requests for information, and insisting on emailed responses to ensure accountability to what is said.

When CIRDI and university leadership have refused to respond to emailed questions, we were forced to make Freedom of Information (FOI) requests under provincial and federal Access to Information & Privacy (ATIP) legislation.

In this post, we share the responses to some of those requests, and part of the odyssey students have experienced in our efforts to hold this mining institute publicly accountable.

FOI requests are dehumanizing and embarrassing

They rely on the coercive force of the law to strong-arm a public body to comply with standard requests for information. That the universities reject informal requests made by the public, to whom they are accountable, is degrading. And it is with shame that public institutions must be coerced to share information with their peers.

ATIP legislation is designed as a mechanism by which the people should be able to hold our public institutions accountable. But CIRDI leadership, and UBC and SFU legal counsel, have consistently delayed, skirted, and obstructed release of any information related to the extractive industries think-tank. Perhaps we should have been prepared for the opacity to come by the almost completely redacted CIIEID Memorandum to the Minister released under this 2012 FOI request (CIDA FOI # A-2011-00572). Through most of the memo, only page numbers remain.

Released records to this and other FOI requests are also available for download from our Access to Information page.

Some FOI requests by UBC & SFU students

To set the stage, these 2013 and 2014 requests for information on donations by Goldcorp for the ESSB and the Liu (UBC FOI # 13-162), and contribution agreements for promised donations to UBC in excess of $1 million (UBC FOI # 14-193) returned incomplete and heavily redacted records.

In May 2014, one student made a FOI request to UBC for copies of letters of support (and equivalent) from each of CIRDI’s strategic partners, supporters, contributors, and collaborators. After unnecessary delay, and even a complaint to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner (the OIPC), UBC has only released a truncated set of the letters (UBC FOI # 14-078).

A July 2014 request for CIRDI records that mention any initiatives related to Peru that will be performed by, funded by, or performed in collaboration with CIRDI was initially delayed inordinately because of a high number of responsive records. Finally, only a single page of records was released (UBC FOI # 14-127): an incomplete list of CIRDI projects, none of which mention Peru. A formal complaint has been filed with the OIPC.

Another student formally requested a copy of any contract outlining the relationship between CIRDI and SFU, “including financial obligations, research contributions, personnel contributions, advising, decision making, publishing, advertising, and all other conditions, obligations, and expectations of the involvement between SFU and CIRDI/CIIEID as well as the conditions for the initiation and termination of the relationship.”

The student’s request was met with a barrage of excuses endorsed by Blaize Reich, Dean of the Beedie School of Business, for why SFU had no obligation under the law to release a single document. The response concludes: “access is denied in full to all of the records responsive to your request.”

According to the contribution agreement, DFATD requires CIRDI to submit regular financial, performance management, and work plan reports, among others. Obviously, we need to see them all. Response to a student’s May 2015 FOI request for the Compliance Audit Report for CIRDI’s first year of operation was delayed. Finally, when 15 pages of financial statements were released (UBC FOI # 15-123), they were not the report requested. UBC’s cunning obstruction in this regard is being contested with the Commissioner.

In the section on Contingent Liability of the financial statements released, $760,000 in “potential adjustments” are identified. Is this hinting at three-quarters of a million dollars unaccounted for after only one year of operation? What’s being hidden, and what will be revealed in the full Compliance Audit Report?

Parallel requests in June 2015 of DFATD for documents and reports received from CIRDI have met the same stonewall. DFATD officers have recently advised that the Compliance Audit Report will soon be released, but will be completely redacted at the request of CIRDI!

Another request was made of the federal government for documents comprising CIDA’s 2012 Consultation Note for development of the CIIEID request for proposals, the list of individuals and organizations that had submitted feedback, the comprehensive set of submissions received by CIDA, and CIDA documents summarizing the feedback from the consultation note. Though a small subset of this information is already in the public sphere (in this 2013 review of CIIEID consultation process), the comprehensive set will shed light on whether the federal government made substantive changes to the CIIEID mandate in line with public feedback. Release of this information has also been delayed.

A similar request was made of UBC for documents received by the CIIEID Steering Committee for proposal development, to get an idea of the responses made by the UBC community to the federal government’s call for proposals. The names of those comprising the Steering Committee was also requested. To date, only a one-page list of committee membership has been released (UBC FOI # 15-139). A fee of $1,260, and other clever tactics to game the system, are being used to block access.

A student’s July 2015 formal request of UBC for all records related to the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR) 8th “Spring” Institute for New Global Health Researchers (SI-8) in Mongolia returned several pages of records, few of which provide meaningful insight into the  structure, activities, leadership, participants, literature, or outcomes of CIRDI’s contributions to the forum. Instead, receipts, flight itineraries, and an already-public annual report were released (UBC FOI # 15-145). This misdirection is being contested.

Another student made a July 2015 FOI request for the Memorandum of Understanding between CIRDI and the Coordinating Ministry of Strategic Sectors of the Republic of Ecuador (MISCE), plus any and all other documentation that further elaborates on the collaboration. UBC returned the 4-page MOU (UBC FOI # 15-150), but levied a fee of $450 before any more information will be released.

Another request, for copies of contracts between CIRDI and each of its graduate research assistants, to give context to the brief introductions on CIRDI’s website, was made of UBC. A 13-page document was released, containing the Terms of Reference for five grad students’ mandates (UBC FOI # 15-149).

An August 2015 request was made for copies of agreements and correspondence between CIRDI and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines, relevant to the recently-announce additional $15.3 million funding from DFATD. The degree to which the 14 pages released (UBC FOI # 15-162) was redacted is especially revealing: only CIRDI’s logo is left unredacted on each page of the $15.3 million project’s 7-page summary! That’s an image of it at the top of this post.

A Canadian brand of corruption

A recent meta-FOI request – for the records released from ten past requests about CIRDI – returned records from only five of them (one complete, the others incomplete or heavily redacted).

The other 50% had been abandoned because of fees the students were unable to pay.

If a student finds that the fees (that run in the hundreds of dollars) are out of their financial means, a request can be made to the very body that levied the fees to have them waived. The public body will then judge – behind closed doors and on the basis of no publicly available standards – the merits of the student’s plea and submitted proofs of her or his inability to pay. If the student is unhappy with the decision, a complaint can be filed with the OIPC. Unobtrusive “investigation” of the complaints have taken many months, and none have led to further release of information.

Benevolent-sounding legislation, but designed to protect the powerful from public inquiry: this is corruption at its most Canadian. With our universities doing everything in their power to refuse accountability, we are forced to liberate the information in other ways. If you find yourself in a position with access to any current or old information about CIRDI (previously called CIIEID), we ask that you send it to us at info@stoptheinstitute.ca, or to otherwise make it public.

Those responsible for this mining institute are refusing to make good-faith releases of information to members of the university community where it is headquartered, and behave with impudence toward their concerned peers.

We would be foolish to then allow this intransigent and unaccountable CIRDI to venture abroad, out of sight of the Canadian jurisdiction. Nothing to date has demonstrated that CIRDI is structured or prepared to work in matters as delicate and high-risk as the resource extraction governance of other countries.

Academics, Canadians, Members of Parliament, the evidences are many: it’s time to close Harper’s CIRDI.

Predators among us: mapping Vancouver mining HQs

TSX + TSXV-traded mining company headquarters in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley

TSX + TSXV-traded mining company headquarters in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley

You know, it’s no surprise that Harper’s secretive extractive industries institute was founded on the UBC and SFU campuses: close to hundreds of transnational miners in Vancouver’s downtown core, it’s ideally positioned to draw from their expertise and to serve their needs.

Headquartered in downtown Vancouver, Goldcorp Inc. (3400-666 Burrard Street) has been accused of scores of abuses where it operates outside the Canadian jurisdiction. A major supporter of CIRDI and a repeat donor to UBC and SFU, Goldcorp intends to use CIRDI as a platform to export Canadian legislation favorable to their interests.

Tahoe Resources Inc. (1500-1055 West Georgia Street), under investigation for its responsibility in directing armed aggression against locals protesting in San Rafael las Flores, Guatemala, also claims Vancouver as its corporate headquarters. Through John Bell, a CIRDI ‘strategic partner,’ and director at both Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources, CIRDI has further links to the two abusive companies.

Take a look at our new map of the mining headquarters in BC, with further resources for your own analyses and mapping, and links to other maps that spotlight conflicts generated by the mines.

In Vancouver, we’re surrounded by companies with sordid records abroad.

In his book Imperial Canada Inc., author Alain Deneault explains why 3/4 of the world’s mining companies are headquartered in Canada. Lax regulatory oversight, tax laws ridiculously favorable to mining companies, regressive libel laws, international trade agreements that restrict governments from enacting progressive environmental and social protections, and no mechanism to hold companies legally accountable for crimes committed abroad — have attracted companies to register their headquarters in Canada, if only to identify as Canadian companies as they explore and mine abroad.

We looked into the companies headquartered in the Vancouver area, to build some maps that will help us understand the link between CIRDI and its transnational mining partners.

Explore the interactive map below; click on the markers to show each company’s office address and its Q2 2015 market value.

To build this map, we accessed data from the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) on mining-sector companies traded on the TSX and its Venture Exchange (TSXV). We filtered for companies with headquarters in BC, and then searched the companies’ web pages, SEDAR.com company profiles, and Bloomberg Business company profiles for the corporate address of each company.

So far, we’ve tabulated and mapped the corporate addresses of 773 of the TSX and TSXV-traded mining companies headquartered in BC, but there are many more. The quoted market value of these companies varies between less than $100K to over $16B. According to the data we accessed at the end of Q2 2015, the combined market value of these 773 BC-registered mining companies is $86B. We’ll continue updating our records and this map, to build a comprehensive picture of mining company headquarters across Canada.

For your own analyses, download the TSX data, this spreadsheet, and the PDF poster listing and mapping these companies’ offices in BC.

Through the self-regulated TSX and TSXV, our Canadian Pension Plan, investment plans, and savings accounts are invested in hundreds of mining companies, many of which ensure their profits by consistently transferring costs from their balance books to their employees, to the local people, and into the air, land, and water.

Executives at these companies are defiantly ignoring people and their local governments who say “No, we don’t want your mining projects in our community, or watershed, or country. We have our own ways of living, our own visions of development. Please leave us alone.

In 2012, Tahoe Resources’ Guatemalan subsidiary requested a court injunction to block a referendum in the town of Mataquescuintla. The court rejected the request, and the community voted a resounding 98.3% against metal mining in their territory. It was recognized as binding by the state, and votes in other municipalities in the area are recording similar opposition. Neither Tahoe Resources nor Gunpoint Exploration (201-1512 Yew Street) recognize this as no local consent for their projects, and continue to publish their plans to expand.

In many cases, where the people say NO, those leading the resistance are intimidated, raped, and murdered by the companies’ private security and their agents. For exactly these crimes, Canada-based mining companies are now facing high profile civil suits in Canadian courts.

In Vancouver, we live surrounded by many of the worst offenders. The downtown business district hosts hundreds of these companies and the shadow of their misbehavior extends far beyond the city.

In light of the current cases against Tahoe Resources and Nevsun Resources (760-669 Howe Street), we have to ask: how closely do Vancouver-based executives direct the actions of their subsidiaries in hidden valleys beyond our sight? And what’s our responsibility to hold them accountable? Do these companies’ executives interpret our silence as approval of their unethical behavior? And do SFU and UBC partnerships with these companies through CIRDI give tacit approval for their crimes?

Out of sight, out of mind: maybe we forget to hold our universities and these companies accountable. And maybe they need a reminder that their deplorable behavior won’t be tolerated. The Mining Justice Alliance has organized Toxic Tours of Vancouver’s downtown core, pointing out the headquarters of the biggest abusers. So they’re reminded they’re on the radar, perhaps they could use a visit.

Predators Among Us Poster: Map & List of BC Mining Company HQs (PDF – 6.8MB)


VLAFF Film Screenings: ‘Daughter of the Lake’ and ‘Ashes’


The Stop the Institute campaign is co-presenting (with the Mining Justice Alliance) the Guarango film Daughter of the Lake // Hija de la Laguna [87 minutes] and the Carla Molina short film Ashes // Cenizas // Cha [14 minutes] at the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF).

5:00 pm, Sunday September 6th

The Cinematheque, 1130 Howe Street (Between Davie & Helmcken)

Synopsis of Daughter of the Lake

Nélida, a young Indigenous Andean woman, has the ability to speak with spirits of the water, and thus she feels a deep responsibility to defend the pristine lakes that surround her home. She is studying to be a lawyer in Lima so that she can help her community. However before she can finish, a gold deposit valued in the millions is found under her village; the extraction will surely threaten the surrounding waters of her community and she must summon up all her powers to stop the mining. Paired with other stories in the gold mining trade, from the Dutch jewellery designer Bibi van der Velden to stories from communities in Bolivia, this stunning documentary makes a powerful statement on the human cost of gold and what people are doing to raise awareness about its impacts. (adapted from notes by Heather Haynes, Hot Docs)

Synopsis of Ashes

In 2007, a Guatemalan subsidiary of HudBay Minerals (a Canadian company) ordered the eviction of the Lote Ocho community. Houses and crops were burned by the mine’s private security, the National Civil Police, and the Army of Guatemala. Despite the abuses experienced, seven years later Margarita and a group of families return in order to reclaim their lives and the land of their ancestors.


Background: eleven women from Lote Ocho – and two others from nearby El Estor – are now suing Hudbay Minerals in the Ontario Supreme Court, to hold the parent company accountable for the violence and abhorrent behaviour of the subsidiary.

Purchase tickets for the back-to-back screenings at the door, or online at wannawatch.it/vlaff.

And check out VLAFF’s site for this film and for the full listing of the many others that will be screened 3-13 September 2015.


The campaign to close CIRDI is advanced by a collective of concerned UBC and SFU students, in collaboration with mining justice activists and members of various Vancouver diaspora communities with intimate connections to the women and men directly affected by Canadian companies’ mining schemes abroad.

We – and the Mining Justice Alliance – are VLAFF’s ‘community partners’ for this screening, and will be sharing information on our work and the Stop the Institute campaign at The Cinematheque before and after the screenings. Come by and say hi!