Ottawa — On Saturday, Barrick Gold announced former Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s appointment to its advisory board, raising many questions.
“John Baird served as both environment minister and foreign affairs minister in a government that gutted freshwater laws in Canada and promoted the interests of Canadian mining companies in the Global South through its policies on foreign aid. One has to ask: is this appointment a reward for these mining-friendly policies?” asks Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
In her recent report Blue Betrayal, Barlow details the Harper government’s record on water policy, which helped mining companies. As a senior member of the Harper cabinet, John Baird supported policies including dismantling environmental legislation, slashing funding for water protection and research, promoting water privatization and tying international aid to water-destroying resource extraction projects by Canadian corporations.
Under Baird’s watch, the government overhauled the Fisheries Act, delisted 99% of lakes and rivers under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and changed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to cancel 3000 environmental assessments.
“In a major industry report, Canada’s mining companies were found to be the worst offenders by far in terms of human rights and environmental abuses around the world. Rather than holding corporations accountable for these abuses, the Harper government bolstered its unconditional support for Canadian mining companies by linking international aid to Canadian mining projects,” says Meera Karunanathan, International Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
Barrick Gold is one of many Canadian mining companies criticized for their practices. In 2013, Chile’s environmental regulator fined Barrick $16 million — the maximum allowable.
Barlow concludes, “This appointment raises serious ethical questions that must be answered by this government. A revolving door between the highest level of government power and a corporation that might have benefited from its policy decisions cannot be good for our democratic process.”