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OTTAWA — Canada’s foreign-aid agency is moving ahead on plans to work alongside the extractive industry, and International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino will take the message directly to mining executives at a conference in Toronto this weekend.
In a sign that the Canadian International Development Agency views the industry as a key element of its push to deliver foreign aid in tandem with private sector activities abroad, Mr. Fantino will address a group on Saturday morning that is expected to include foreign ministers, non-governmental organizations and representatives of some of the biggest mining companies in Canada.
Speaking with The Globe and Mail on Friday, Mr. Fantino called the extractive industry “another area of strategic opportunity for us to key in on.” And he suggested Canada’s expertise in mining can help countries with mineral resources develop them in a more socially and economically responsible manner.
CIDA’s approach to mining has been controversial since Mr. Fantino’s predecessor, Bev Oda, announced in 2011 that the agency would finance three NGOs to run aid projects alongside Canadian mining companies in Burkina Faso, Peru and Ghana. The current projects focus on areas such as skills training and encouraging small-business development.
The companies are expected to contribute to the paid projects. Opponents of the arrangement say Canadian mining companies generally make poor partners because some have been accused of environmental and human rights abuses. And they suggest that focusing on regions where Canadian companies do business detracts from CIDA’s core mandate of poverty alleviation.
Mr. Fantino said CIDA’s top priority is to address poverty.
“Yes, there is a business component to this, obviously we can’t ignore that,” Mr. Fantino said. “But I want to highlight that there’s an altruistic reason, certainly for Canada to be doing what we’re doing, and that the purpose, [the] intent, is to help the industry succeed in an ethical way.”
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