The CIRDI trainwreck: where good careers go to die


The Canadian International Resources and Development Institute is hiring.


Perhaps new hires don’t stick around, or contract employees refuse to renew. Perhaps those leading CIRDI don’t have a clue what they’ve gotten themselves into, but just keep steaming ahead. Or perhaps people who know their potential quickly realize that working with CIRDI will be a permanent, toxic blot on their professional reputations.


Brainchild of Stephen Harper, CIRDI is a think-tank serving the international public relations needs of the Canadian federal government’s holy trinity: Big Mining, Big Oil, and Big Gas.

For historical reasons, Canada is the de facto jurisdiction of convenience for the world’s Big Mining sector, and for contemporary reasons, our federal government is marshalling the financial, military, diplomatic, legislative, and academic assets available to it to support Canada-based transnational extractive companies’ projects overseas.

It’s been identified as an effort to harness the public trust in academia and non-governmental organizations to perform public relations for an industrial sector that’s increasingly labelled as predatory and accused of a litany of environmental and human rights abuses at home and abroad.

Why CIRDI’s off the tracks

Academic proponents of CIRDI are in a tight spot. With the federal government’s marching orders and expectations from the extractive sector on one side, and an increasingly unwelcoming/hostile attitude toward the institute within the academic community on the other side, the best CIRDI can do is “attend events” and “dialogue with stakeholders” and reorganize their structure and programming areas.

Why does this train seem to be spinning its steel wheels, sitting perpendicular to the tracks? A mandate from the prime minister’s office that doesn’t make sense? Institutional confusion as to what they’re supposed to be doing? International mistrust of another wave of gung-ho Canadian technocrats negotiating meetings between host-government officials and mining sector spokespersons?

Whatever the reason for this institutional mire, the new faces appear only briefly in CIRDI’s executive, director, management, and staff positions before moving on.

Your career will suffer

As you consider the next step in your career, you may encounter CIRDI’s postings of employment opportunities on,,, and UBC’s HR page. Young professionals laying the groundwork for a successful career will likely come to their own judgments about CIRDI employment opportunities:

  1. CIRDI’s direction is problematic and can’t contribute to good for those affected by Canadian mining abroad. I will not be part of this.
  2. Either those leading CIRDI are incapable of genuinely addressing the critiques that have been raised, or CIRDI deserves its reputation as a toxic and unwelcome interloper in the university community. My career would stagnate with this group.
  3. There’s enough public commentary about CIRDI that this has the potential to leave a nasty stain on my CV. Instead of risking my reputation with CIRDI; I’ll nurture my career elsewhere.
  4. The coalition universities are being urged to shutter CIRDI, and there’s good reason for this outcry. If the universities will close CIRDI, or if it’s constantly under so much public scrutiny and will fold any time, I can do much better.

Know what train you’re boarding

In an interview, anyone would have to ask the key questions:

  • Who had this job before me? Why did she or he leave?
  • What’s keeping leadership from genuinely responding to the critiques people are raising about CIRDI? Is this indicative of an organizational culture that refuses to accept criticism, or is unwilling to correct its path?
  • Many people are saying that CIRDI reflects poorly on the university. Can you articulate why? Will I be unwelcome at UBC or SFU if people know I work for CIRDI?
  • If project work leads to results critical of the extractive industry, will I be disallowed from publishing?
  • How can CIRDI be structured to work on the terms of vulnerable communities, and conduct research that they are actually calling for? What good-faith efforts have been made to seek meaningful input from affected communities?

Apply & interview… for research

Yes, why not use the interview as an opportunity to ask CIRDI decision-makers some important questions, such as:

  • If I take this job, will I have full access to CIRDI’s network drive? Is there a photocopier that I can use after-hours? Will my network traffic be monitored?
  • If I’m sent overseas on travel associated with CIRDI, will I be accountable for my spending and behavior there? What mechanisms do we use to avoid public accountability?
  • What about pesky freedom of information requests? How does CIRDI get around disclosing information if there’s legislation that forces us to share it?
  • I’ve got a family member who’s an executive at such-and-such a mining company. They have a ton of ideas they want to see written into Argentina’s mining code. Should they just partner with CIRDI to get this done?

All aboard the trainwreck (actual CIRDI employment ads)

At time of writing this post, CIRDI has been advertising for several permanent and temporary positions. We’ll update this comical list (or make a dedicated page) as CIRDI creates new advertisements for vacated positions, including that of the recently-vacated Executive Director position.

Check out these lofty titles & descriptions, and notice the preference for candidates with long-standing affiliations and experience with the extractive sector, and no pretention to consider the terms of those most affected by Canadian mining companies:

Senior Program Lead, “Sustainable Development and Governance of the Extractive Sector”

is responsible for overseeing projects related to governance, policy and the development of frameworks necessary for the management of the sector” and requires “extensive experience in project management and implementation, [and] experience in the extractive sectors (mining, and/or oil & gas)

As advertised on UBC’s HR site, “The Institute wants to develop a niche in capacity building and in on-going support and reinforcement required to embed these frameworks within the governance systems of host governments.” This position is to oversee the imposition of a Canadian extractivist wordview on foreign governments.

Senior Program Lead, “Economic Diversification and Local Supply Chains”

is responsible for determining the types of policies and capacity-building activities that can be used to achieve substantive improvements in local content of developing countries” and of course also requires “extensive experience in project management and implementation, [and] experience in the extractive sectors (mining, and/or oil & gas)

Senior Program Lead, “Multi-stakeholder Integration of Resource Development and Planning”

is responsible for working with local and regional stakeholders through dialogue and engagement for better management of the resource extraction sector, addressing issues related to impacts on shared land and water, and on public health and well-being” but still requires the candidate to possess “extensive experience in project management and implementation, [and] experience in the extractive sectors (mining, and/or oil & gas)

Short-Term Consultants/Specialists

looking for people with “expertise in mineral licensing, geological data management, financial auditing and royalty collection and institutional capacity building” and the “ability to conduct capacity-building activities, familiarity with the regulatory systems of the extractives sector, and knowledge of the extractives industry in developing country contexts and… certification in project management, business, economics or similar

Of course, individuals/consultants that do take these positions will be identified here and here as contributing to the threat this institute poses to communities made vulnerable by the Canadian extractive model.

Another kind of CIRDI recruitment

Why not specifically apply for CIRDI positions–just for the opportunity to gather information through the interview process? Desperate for new hires, maybe they’re less guarded with applicants. After all, that tightly-held information isn’t going to liberate itself!

Facing so much opacity from outside, we realize: taking a throw-away job embedded in CIRDI, one could quickly copy, scan, and liberate:

  • reports submitted to DFATD (project implementation plans, performance measurement frameworks, annual financial and narrative reports; audited financial statements, budgetary forecasts, etc.)
  • emails to/from all supporters, partners, strategic partners
  • annual and project budgets
  • travel itineraries, spending records, junket receipts
  • notes, reports, minutes, emails related to all projects abroad
  • the database of extractive sector expertise that CIRDI has been compiling

Some handy tags: CIRDI Employment, Careers, Jobs, Opportunities, Senior Program Lead, Communications Director, Executive Director, Learning and Education, Institute Development and Management, CIRDI Mining Jobs, Mining Lobby Jobs, Short-Term Consultant, significant reputational consequences, manage reactive communications, thwart public inquiry, exercise discretion & confidentiality, portfolio mismanagement, reputational consequences, CIRDI recruitment, information leak

CIRDI employment downloads [JPGs]: Economist, GOXI, DEVEX, UBC-05, UBC-06

One thought on “The CIRDI trainwreck: where good careers go to die

  1. Pingback: Scapegoat wanted: CIRDI baits a CEO | Stop the Institute/CIRDI

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