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NEWS: Fantino signals new foreign aid policy that benefits mining companies

The Globe and Mail reports, “The federal government is signalling a profound shift in its approach to foreign aid… (On Friday), International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino outlined his vision for the agency’s future in an address to the Economic Club of Canada… The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funds humanitarian aid and long-term development projects intended to help people living in poverty. Mr. Fantino’s remarks focused on the role private companies – particularly in the mining sector – can play in helping CIDA achieve its development objectives… (Fantino) emphasized CIDA’s role in preparing those countries for foreign investment, suggesting the agency’s work can help make countries and people ‘trade and investment ready’ and even dissuade governments from nationalizing extractive industries.”

The news article also notes, “Last fall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would develop a mining institute capable of offering advice to developing countries on managing their natural resources. Mr. Fantino announced on Friday that the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University will host the centre, which will be called the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development.”

“Stephen Brown, who teaches international development at the University of Ottawa, questioned Canada’s eagerness to work with the extractive industry when mining rarely offers much benefit to the communities in which it occurs. ‘If our real goal is poverty reduction, that’s not the strategy we would choose,’ he said. MiningWatch Canada says the projects CIDA has pursued so far amount to subsidization of Canadian mining companies – a suggestion both CIDA and mining industry representatives dispute. ‘This is not about development, it’s about helping our mining companies deal with the conflicts they’re facing on the ground,’ said Catherine Coumans, a research co-ordinator for the organization.”

The Council of Canadians & Blue Planet Project
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated at our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference in Vancouver this past June, “The Harper government is cutting its ties with traditional aid and development groups such as KAIROS and openly adopting Canadian mining companies and cooperative charities (who might better be described as enablers) as their new partners in delivering aid to countries in need. This shift is coordinated with the departments of International Trade and Natural Resources to ensure that all aid is now tied to a plan that directly fuels economic growth and international trade at home and benefits Canadian mining companies abroad. Further, the Harper government has made it clear that it will tie aid to those countries who make our mining corporations welcome with friendly investment policies. CIDA has already approved $50 million in projects linked to the mining industry since the Harper government took power. But the trend is clear and growing: Canadian aid money is leaving Africa and other places desperate for help and moving to mining-rich countries in Latin America where Canada has mining interests. This means that Canadian tax dollars, aid agencies and even some embassies may be implicated in the violent suppression of local anti-mining communities in the global South.”

Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan adds, “Canada has pledged a further subsidy to the industry, this time through foreign aid money to partnerships between billion-dollar mining companies and non-government organizations. This initiative has been strongly criticized by groups like the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations who have asked CIDA to instead ensure that Canadian companies and states respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, given serious conflicts with companies such as Barrick Gold.”