Barrick Gold’s Rape Remedy Program Confirms CIDA is Lost

Not that we needed additional confirmation, but something is awry with CIDA’s implementation of its mission statement.

Last week I posted on CIDA’s Canada-first approach to international development. After coming across new information regarding misconduct by Barrick Gold – the world’s largest gold mining company, headquartered in Toronto – I thought I would share a quick thought on the matter.

According to this Mining Watch report, a Barrick Gold remedy program designed to compensate victims of rape committed by its employees is being used to blackmail its participants. Specifically, victims must agree not to “pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA or Barrick in or outside of [Papua New Guinea]. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.” The report ultimately condemns Barrick Gold’s remedy program, claiming that “women should [not] have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy [counseling and health services] Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape.”

While the report is disheartening for many reasons, I was immediately saddened by the fact that Barrick Gold is involved in one CIDA’s pilot partnerships with the extractive industry.

On 29 September 2011 CIDA announced a $26.7 million partnership with Canadian NGOs and mining companies. The three initial partnerships were: World Vision Canada and Barrick Gold in Peru, Plan Canada and IAMGOLD in Burkina Faso, and World University Service of Canada and Rio Tinto Alcan in Ghana. CIDA aimed to bolster “in-country capacity to allow communities, regions and countries to more visibly realize the benefits of Canadian mining investments.”

I think most readers are aware of the horror stories regarding mining companies in developing countries. According to this report, Africans and their economies have historically failed to reap equal benefits from Canadian mining initiatives. Many Canadian companies have been accused of exploitation and branded poor environmental and human rights performers. This negative image has also led to local protests against prospective mines in Africa and Latin America.

In November 2012, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino commented that CIDA’s partnership with mining companies and NGOs “is a prime example of how a government agency like ours can partner with the private sector to advance global development objectives.”

Is that really the case? It is still unclear how these pilot projects will serve to advance CIDA’s key objective: poverty reduction. In fact, their links to two of CIDA’s three priority themes are equally problematic. The Barrick Gold remedy program is an unsettling reminder of the Canada-first development program that has taken shape under Harper’s Conservative government. So much so that two days ago Plan Canada announced that it is considering withdrawing from its partnership with IAMGOLD due to the mining industry’s poor image and increasing pressure from donors. Unsurprisingly, these unhappy donors believe giant private companies should fund their own social programs.

Partnering with private industry has become a hot topic in international development recently. Unfortunately, the Barrick Gold remedy program reinforces the misgivings many of us had regarding CIDA’s new relationship with the extractive industry.

Minister Fantino believes that “Canada, as a compassionate neighbour, strives to assist the most needy around the world and seeks to bring to fruition real, tangible results.” Is a company like Barrick Gold really the best partner for such a lofty, idealistic goal?

CIDA’s International Development Week 2013 began yesterday and I urge all Canadians to learn more about international development and what their federally-funded development agency is doing to end extreme poverty.

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