Harper prioritizes aid for countries with Canadian mining interests

The Globe and Mail reports that the Harper government is prioritizing commercial interests when determining aid to developing countries. "An internal analysis of bilateral aid programs, produced by the Canadian International Development Agency ... suggests Canada’s commercial interests have become a key consideration in determining how much aid a developing country will receive. The report, titled Reviewing CIDA’s Bilateral Engagement, was written shortly before CIDA was merged with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in June."

For example, "More than a dozen countries are identified as having mineral resources that are of interest to Canadian firms, including Mongolia, Peru, Bolivia and Ghana. The conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo is of 'strategic interest' to Canada, the document notes, because of significant investments in that country’s extractive sector by Canadian companies."

In Peru, there are numerous controversial gold, silver and copper mining projects driven by Canadian companies. These mines include Barrick Gold’s Pierina gold mine near Mareniyoc, Candente Copper Corp's proposed Cañariaco Norte copper mine in the Lambayeque region, the proposed Conga gold and copper mine in northern Peru, and the proposed open-pit Laguna Sur mine.

The article adds, "In 2011, the federal government announced it would launch a series of jointly funded pilot projects involving Canadian mining companies and non-governmental organizations – a move often cited as an example of CIDA’s work with the private sector. The agency also established a new institute aimed at providing regulatory advice to developing countries with significant mineral potential. The projects were criticized for providing what was seen by some as indirect subsidies for mining companies’ corporate social responsibility programs. Proponents argued CIDA’s work with the extractive sector can help harness those companies’ resources to help improve the lives of people in poverty."

Additionally, "Indonesia (is prioritized because it) is 'an important commercial and political partner' for Canada in Asia, and growing commercial interests in Egypt and Jordan mean those countries should both continue to receive foreign aid... Benin is favoured because it provides a stable political and investment climate, while Ghana is a 'promising economic partner'."

Shout Out Against Mining Injustice
At our 'Shout Out Against Mining Injustice' conference in June 2012, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, "The biggest and worst mining operations in the world are Canadian. And do Canadian mining companies ever have a friend in Stephen Harper, who refuses to put any leash whatsoever on their practices. Canadian mining companies are notorious for refusing to cooperate in investigations in Latin America that involve violence against local anti-mining activists, knowing they face no penalty back in Canada at all. Harper and his government defeated a private member’s bill that would have given the government limited authority to at least withhold funding from some companies charged with violations by local communities in the global South."

She also highlighted, "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. The Canadian International Development Agency has already approved $50 million in projects linked to the mining industry since the Harper government took power. 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."

Further reading
Sinking the Harper agenda through our mining injustice campaign
Fantino signals new foreign aid policy that benefits mining companies
Harper spins mining PR in Peru

Fast to announce FIPAs with Cameroon and Zambia at PDAC convention in Toronto
Engler outlines Harper's campaign for mining profits