Canada’s Development Aid Dollars at Odds with Communities

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Two queries submitted to the Canadian government with support from MiningWatch in recent months have turned up further evidence that Canadian aid spending is at odds with communities’ interests.

On April 12, 2012, the Interprovincial Association for the Defence of Environmental Rights, a coordinating committee that brings together communities from three provinces in northern Peru affected by Barrick Gold’s Lagunas Norte project wrote to then-Minister of International Development Bev Oda. They expressed their dismay at CIDA funding of a pilot project at the site between Barrick Gold and World Vision.

The communities’ concerns arise from a history of unfulfilled agreements, “where not only have sustainable development processes not been fostered in the areas of health, education, livestock husbandry and agriculture, but neither have processes of social inclusion and human development been stimulated. Communities have been divided, and parallel organizations to those that already existed have been formed, through which existing organizations have been denied representation in projects that [Barrick’s local subsidiary] planned.”

“Multiple times we have provided technical studies that demonstrate that their activities are contaminating our water sources. But they do not want to recognize these studies, for which reason we believe that they will most likely continue their contaminating practices,” the committee added. “We feel cheated by these and other so-called social responsibility activities because this has not helped to reduce poverty nor to address exclusionary processes,” and they therefore asked CIDA to abstain from supporting this type of project and rather “monitor the activities of this company in our country, and coordinate with the state such that the rights of those affected by its activities would be respected.”

More than five months later, now-Minister of International Development Julian Fantino replied to the letter, entirely ignoring these issues and stating: “more, not less, of these projects are needed if developing countries are to successfully transition to highly productive economies that enable free enterprise and empower free people to participate in global value chains and shape a more prosperous world.”

In June 2012, MiningWatch also contributed input into an Order Paper Question that was put forward by opposition Member of Parliament Hélène Laverdière in the interest of finding out which Canadian government agency has been funding technical support on problematic amendments to Honduras’ mining code since the spring of 2012. The results were received in September and revealed that CIDA is sponsoring Canadian assistance through the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) in Toronto.

IPAC is a non-governmental organization with prior experience in Honduras. In 2010, it recruited a Canadian lawyer from a firm that works closely with the mining sector to participate in the Honduras Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission was established following the military-backed coup that ousted former President Mel Zelaya. Canadian participation in this commission was criticized for its connection with the Canadian mining industry, and civil society organisations set up a parallel commission out of lack of faith that the official one would consider the severity of human rights violations in the wake of the coup.

The proposed mining code reforms, on which Canada is now advising, have also been highly controversial, as indicated in our last newsletter. Most recently, the National Coalition of Environmental Networks released a public declaration in October stating that the public input process has been restricted and that key civil society proposals such as a ban on open-pit mining, community consultation prior to granting of mining concessions, and a significant increase in taxes and royalties, have not been accepted. They anticipate that the bill could be passed as early as December of 2012, and are anxious that it will immediately lift the suspension on some 400 mining concessions already granted across the country.

After seeing the recent report tabled in early November by the Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Development Parliamentary Committee on the role of the “private sector” in meeting Canada’s international development goals, our concerns about the tying of Canadian aid to mining company interests are heightened. It is apparent that CIDA’s role in fostering controversial public-private partnerships and participating in such anti-democratic policy and institutional development in other countries will continue to be ramped up, regardless of what the most affected groups might be saying.