Dec 032012
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New role for CIDA would facilitate Canadian businesses setting up shop abroad.

by David McFarlane

About a month ago, the Harper government dropped the first shoe of its new foreign policy — economic agreements with the 3rd world and China. The latter will be at our expense but it looks as though our agreements with developing countries will be at theirs.

Canadian mining companies are implicated in dozens of cases of human rights and environmental abuses: Dorato Resources in Peru, Barrick Gold in Tanzania and New Guinea; Centerra in Kyrgyzstan; Excellon in Mexico; Hudbay Minerals in Guatemala. There are others.

If the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement we signed with China is any measure, the agreements we are signing in Africa and South America will allow Canadian mining companies to run roughshod over other peoples’ rights and their environment.

Now the other shoe has dropped. CIDA (the Canadian International Development Agency) will be funding non-government organizations like World Vision to work with Canadian businesses who want to set up shop in other countries.

The idea is to use the connections that NGOs have in those countries to help Canadian corporations hit the ground running. The theory is that NGOs will also teach them to behave.

If that’s the theory, it’s not working. Some $50 million has gone into this effort since the Conservatives came to power. And now citizens of the nations in which our mining companies operate are looking to the courts for help. The Q’eqchi’, a Mayan people from Guatemala, have even filed suits in Ontario courts for shootings and rapes at HudBay’s former mining project in El Estor.

Forced displacement, rape, murder, environmental degradation trail the industry like the chains on Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol. NGOs might have the knowledge to make Canadian companies better corporate citizens, but not the clout. Instead, they are being used to polish the tarnish growing on our international reputation.


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