Mining institute fast-tracked past the checks & balances at UBC

Let’s make a deal: the contribution agreement between UBC and CIDA for formation of CIIEID (now CIRDI) was fast-tracked around the UBC Board of Governors’ normal decision-making process.

Let’s make a deal: the contribution agreement between UBC and CIDA for formation of CIIEID (now CIRDI) was fast-tracked around the UBC Board of Governors’ public decision-making process.

NOTE: Much of the content of this post is adapted from a communication sent in March 2015 to John Hepburn, UBC’s VP Research & International, who, with then-President Stephen Toope, in 2013 rushed UBC’s Board of Governors (BOG) to vote on approving CIIEID/CIRDI  between (instead of at) public meetings. John Hepburn has not responded to multiple emails about the issues raised.

How Toope & Hepburn hustled CIRDI past the checks & balances

The circumstances under which UBC administration hustled the university to approve hosting the federal government’s CIIEID/CIRDI mining institute call into question the degree of transparency and accountability around the governance process and the decision itself, and whether appropriate consideration was given to the mining institute’s mandate, structure, objectives, and ethics.

BOG meeting minutes indicate that the proposal to host this institute at UBC was voted on electronically on 22 May 2013, unencumbered with open debate or public scrutiny. Reviewing publicly-accessible information and UBC’s BOG agenda packages and meeting minutes, we trace the following timeline of the well-lubricated approval process:

Julian Fantino, then-Minister for International Cooperation, announced on 23 November 2012 that UBC and SFU had been selected to host the Harper-mandated CIIEID. According to a SFU media release on 23 November 2012, CIIEID proponents and highest executives of both SFU and UBC were already aware of the announcement.

The UBC BOG meeting agenda for 04 December 2012 makes no mention of the Canadian International Institute for the Extractive Industries and Development, but the meeting minutes for 04 December 2012 remark that “UBC has formed a coalition with Simon Fraser University, with the collaboration of Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal (EPDM), to establish the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID).”

The BOG meeting agenda for 03 April 2013 makes no mention of the CIIEID; neither do the meeting minutes for 04 April 2013.

According to this report dated 17 May 2013, UBC officials had already signed the Contribution Agreement with CIDA on 15 May 2013, formally establishing the institute at UBC before the BOG had a chance to ask questions, debate, and vote. (We recognize that on CIRDI’s website, this date is identified as 24 May 2013, similar to the date penned on the Contribution Agreement itself.)

The report dated 17 May 2013 signed by Dr. Stephen Toope and circulated electronically by Dr. John Hepburn, requested that “the UBC Board of Governors approve the execution of a contribution agreement with CIDA to establish the CIIEID at UBC in partnership with Simon Fraser University.” The first reason for Toope & Hepburn’s urgency to push this through is cited as “significant reputational losses to UBC…politically, given CIDA’s Minister has announced that the institute will be hosted by the UBC-SFU coalition.” Another reason cited is that UBC would somehow be responsible to repay Properties Trust for costs already committed: “If the Governance Agreement is not signed, the Institute will cease to exist and UBC would be responsible for all funds expended to that date, including space lease commitments (Properties Trust).

UBC’s BOG voted electronically on 22 May 2013–only five days after receiving the brief summary report–to approve execution of the contribution agreement. Available documents do not indicate whether the BOG members had access to the full text of the Contribution Agreement, whether there was space for meaningful discussion of the proposal, or if they were aware the vote was an ex post facto formality.

The BOG meeting agenda for 04 June 2013 and corresponding minutes (item 6.4) indicates that the resolution had been “circulated electronically and approved by the Board of Governors on May 22, 2013.”

It appears that UBC’s Senate did not debate, discuss, or vote on approval of the CIIEID.

Timing is everything: UBC Board of Governors' vote on the CIIEID Contribution Agreement appears to have been an ex post facto formality since Hepburn had already signed UBC into contract with the federal government.

Timing is everything: UBC Board of Governors’ vote on the CIIEID Contribution Agreement appears to have been an ex post facto formality since Hepburn had already signed UBC into contract with the federal government.

Fast track: similarities between CIRDI and the Munk School

Many Canadians will recognize similarities in this covert fast-track to recent controversy at the University of Toronto. Here’s a concise refresher written by folks with the Peter Munk OUT of UofT campaign, that chronicles the UofT president’s dubious fast-tracking of the (Barrick Gold CEO) Peter Munk contract for the School of Global Affairs. This May 2015 article, Neoconning the public, by Anthony J. Hall, further details the nefarious Barrick/Munk connections to the UofT and Canadian foreign policy on behalf of the mining industry.

That Stephen Toope, the UBC president who pushed through CIRDI’s approval at UBC, then resigned from his position in the middle of his second term, and now heads the mining industry-linked Munk School at UofT, is not lost on anyone.

Under Toope’s influence, UBC’s administration steered the university down a wrong path: kowtowing to Big Oil, Big Mining, and the neoliberal trends of the federal government. The actions of this university administration over the last two years to fast-track and defend this mining institute at all costs brazenly contradict the university’s vision of fostering global citizenship, advancing a civil and sustainable society, and serving the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world.

This error can be reversed.

Requesting results of UBC’s ‘consultation’ around the CIIEID/CIRDI

According to Toope & Hepburn’s document circulated to the BOG, “CIDA provided the opportunity for consultation prior to the RFP release and these documents were consulted in the development of the UBC-SFU proposal.” A hollow claim in light of this 2013 UQAM-published report that demonstrates how the extensive cautions and critical feedback given by academics and civil society organizations to CIDA’s 2012 consultation note for the CIIEID were not reflected in the mining institute implemented at UBC and SFU, and that those who made submissions felt the rapid ‘consultation’ was a sham.

Further, we request that UBC substantiate this executive duo’s claim that “Relevant UBC faculty members and departments were consulted, including Law, Sauder and Earth and Ocean Sciences. SFU also had broad-ranging consultations/discussions. Finally, several leading consultants/experts in extractive industries and international development were included as part of the Steering Committee.

Like CIDA’s smokescreen, it’s doubtful that meaningful consultation was conducted at the universities either, or that critical feedback was implemented.

So if any such documentation exists, we’re requesting UBC and SFU to immediately make a public release of all documents related to this consultation process; all feedback provided by academics, departments, civil society organizations, consultants, and experts; and all documents generated by the CIIEID-related ‘Steering Committee.’

Also, to any readers of this post that had provided feedback in 2012-2013 to CIDA, UBC, or SFU consultations about the CIIEID, please send us a copy of your submission (so we can compare your input to what’s been implemented). You can send it to info@stoptheinstitute.ca or to any of the students that you know are working on this.

Railroading extractive interests at home & abroad

Almost everywhere Canadian mining and oil & gas companies operate, they or their subsidiaries railroad projects past host peoples’ visions of development and traditional relationships with the place.

railroad (ˈrālˌrōd). v. 1. To manipulate and hasten a procedure, as of formal approval of a law or resolution. 2. To press someone into doing something by rushing or coercing them. 3. To push (a law or bill) hastily through a legislature so that there is not time enough for objections to be considered. (source)

Out of sight of their Canadian peers and confident in their impunity, Canadian extractive companies criminalize local opposition to the extractive projects; manipulate host country politics, legislation, and judges; and ‘social management’ consultants urge the companies to wrangle host countries’ police & military units into their own service to control opposition. These Canadian companies ignore international standards (such as ILO Convention 169 and the UNDRIP) that require them to be given the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples before pursuing a project. The modus operandi is to ensure hasty and insufficient review of project proposals and impact assessments, to guarantee approval by host governments’ regulating bodies.

In the same way, proponents of this mining institute have hustled CIRDI around the checks & balances, and into our universities, whether we want it or not. Is this audacity typical of the extractive industries, or endemic to privileged technocrats who demand that the playing field is tilted in their favor?

With appropriate consideration, enough time for discussion, and genuine debate about the institute’s premise, initiatives as ill-conceived and poorly-disguised as CIRDI would be rejected. But Toope and Hepburn appear to have side-stepped critical public debate, giving UBC’s BOG only five days to consider the electronically-distributed document, misrepresenting the institute’s premise, its ethical and financial conflicts of interest, and the liabilities it would impart to the universities.

CIRDI’s proponents have made no good-faith effort to engage with the critiques made by their peers, at their home universities, in Canada. To this day, they advance their will for this mining institute through use of short-cuts and opacity. It would be foolish and irresponsible of us to expect any better of CIRDI in its operations outside Canada.

Until it’s closed outright, we cannot let this mining institute out of our sight, or allow it to operate abroad.