We say in these documents that the Canadian government will support, with Canadian taxpayer money, programs to help local governments to manage the mining sector of their own local mining companies. But what we don’t say is that their own local mining companies are subsidiaries from Canadian companies controlled here. And we don’t say that the problem should be raised here, because the problem is here, it’s here that we don’t control and supervise this sector. And so what is said is that we’ll export the way we don’t control and supervise this industrial sector to Southern countries.
We do as if we’re supporting the local and the Southern populations, although we’re in reality providing a framework to the mining industry to allow it to continue to have access to natural resources as they wish it to be, with low tax, no constraints, and the possibility to externalize as much as possible the costs of the exploitation.
— Alain Deneault, March 2014 (video)
Last fall, Canada established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is meant to help developing countries establish policies to better govern their mining sectors. The institute “will be your biggest and best ambassador,” Mr. Fantino told mining representatives on Wednesday, adding that it would draw on Canadian success in the mining industry and share lessons from Canada with other countries.
— Kim Mackrael’s June 2013 article in The Globe and Mail
Although timely, and a good idea in theory, the contribution agreement negotiated with DFATD however, contains a number of potentially fatal flaws in terms of organizational structure and conflict of interest. […]
In terms of external affairs, the greatest threat to CIIEID’s credibility is what amounts to a minefield of conflict of interest. Indeed, critics have already charged that conflict of interest is [sic] imbedded in the very nature of the agreement [with] DFATD. […]
Furthermore, few [involved with CIIEID] possess much in the way of corporate/project experience or an understanding of business processes, accountability and transparency. This — combined with an unworkable model of consensus-based decision-making — has essentially resulted in only the most halting of progress.
— Patricia Leidl, from a February 2014 Issues Management Strategy
In a time of generalized austerity, when ideological attacks on labour unions and public health care endlessly repeat the message that there isn’t enough money to pay for a decent standard of living for all Canadians, the public money to subsidize some of Canada’s wealthiest corporations is readily available.
And the generosity shows no signs of slowing: $25 million in federal funding for the new Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID) is only the latest example of the Harper government paying to improve the image of mining companies.
Just as the resource curse works to keep countries in the developing world trapped in poverty, so does the wealth and power of the Canadian extractive industry corrode our democracy.
— David Ravensbergen, from this Desmog article, April 2014
[We] would conclude by requesting that a formal multi-stakeholder consultation process, with more directed questions and with a clear mechanism for recommendations to be considered in the final design of the Institute, be included in the start-up phase of this endeavor. We are encouraged to read that the host university will be expected to establish a separate and independent governing body for the Institute that includes representation from various stakeholder groups. It is imperative that civil society groups, including representatives of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and abroad be an integral part of such a governance structure.
— CCIC Commentary on CIDA’s consultation note for the CIIEID, May 2012
While mining-affected communities, their representative organizations, and governments could certainly benefit from independent academic expertise, the CIIEID will not provide independent advice. Nor will it have much credibility given the Canadian government’s vested interest, its stated goal of promoting and protecting the interests of Canadian extractive companies operating overseas, and its poor track record.
The contribution agreement clearly illustrates why the Institute cannot meet its stated objectives when considered together with examples from CIDA’s past involvement in extractive industry governance in other countries.
The CIIEID will not meet its stated objectives for the following reasons:
- CIIEID is not independent of the Government of Canada
- CIIEID is not independent of Canadian extractive companies
- CIIEID will promote extractive industry growth, not poverty reduction
- Canadian government involvement in natural resource governance overseas has a track record of privileging investment and profitability over reducing poverty and protecting communities, workers, and the environment
— from a March 2014 Brief by MiningWatch Canada
The financing [for the Institute] comes from Canada’s overseas development funds with a mandate to collaborate with governments of other countries regarding their policies and institutions responsible for natural resource management, supposedly to improve and strengthen natural resource governance in other countries. It is unfortunate that these universities, like others in the world, would put themselves at the service of corporations and lose the ethical and moral compass that science should have so as not to hide or cover up environmental and health harms.
— Mexican organizations and communities, in this February 2014 open letter to heads of state
The Canadian government already extends a substantial amount of corporate welfare to the extractive industries, using public funds to aid the foreign activities of already wealthy private corporations. CIDA’s activities in particular have a history of maintaining uneven development and colonial exploitation: Canadian-based companies benefit and host communities and nations suffer depletion and social and environmental degradation.
CIIEID will be more of the same, if not an outright expansion of these already unjust practices. Universities are being used for their cultural and especially intellectual capital: if corporate advocacy comes from a university-based institute it has the appearance of rigorous and disinterested scholarship, rather than the biased assistance of the private accumulation of wealth that it actually is.
— excerpt from a statement by the Mining Justice Alliance, January 2014
The main critique I have [with CIDA’s integration into DFAIT] is that it’s really not humanitarian assistance anymore. It is directly linked with Canada’s economic interests.
— Nipa Banerjee, quoted in this Ubyssey article February 2014
This Institute needs to be understood as part of a larger Canadian foreign policy phenomenon of supporting the resource extraction, particularly with international development funds.
— Yves Engler, November 2013 (read about that context here)
The work that this institute is going to do will follow industry and government money. Based on previous experience that we’ve observed of CIDA investment in policy and institutional change in foreign countries, it’s really been devastating.
— Jennifer Moore, quoted in this Ubyssey article, February 2014
The lack of civil society input can also be observed CIDA’s public consultation processes. For instance, CIDA held public consultations on the establishment of the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development and the determination of its exact mandate, in which more than 160 organizations were invited to participate (Gailloux 2013). An independent review of the process concluded that the adopted vision, “that is to say, the vision presented by the government and approved by the industry — just dominates and buries the other perspectives and proposals.” It noted that the NGOs consulted qualified the process as being a “too fast and superficial” and that the mandate originally proposed had not been altered or enhanced significantly by this public consultation process, one that some participants described as a smokescreen (Gailloux 2013). This episode illustrates the marked difference in the government’s treatment of input from the business community and from NGOs.
— Gabriel Goyette, “Charity Begins at Home” chapter of 2014 Rethinking Canadian Aid
Many will ask how a Canadian institute funded by a government that is systematically reducing its own environmental oversight in the extractive sector, one that on the commercial side is actively promoting Canadian mining firms abroad, can be taken seriously as an honest and objective broker. Moreover, after DFATD’s support comes to an end, the mining industry will be the Institute’s only realistic source of future funding, further increasing the potential conflict of interest.
— The McLeod Group’s December 2012 briefing note The Extractive Sector and Development