The new CIIEID institute, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and housed at UBC, SFU and EPDM, raises many concerns. Mining and resource extraction is unavoidably a highly impactful industry: water and land are damaged to extract and process mineral resources, and people living on the land, and depending on its water and soil for their survival, are displaced. Extractive companies are disproportionately based in Canada (some 75% of the global industry), from which base they operate globally, because this situation is beneficial to them: Canadian corporate and tax laws and the Canadian Government superintend the transfer of profits to these corporations, while simultaneously transferring the attendant social and environmental costs to the communities affected by extraction.
The Canadian government already extends a substantial amount of corporate welfare to the extractive industries, using public funds to aid the foreign activities of already wealthy private corporations. CIDA’s activities in particular have a history of maintaining uneven development and colonial exploitation: Canadian-based companies benefit and host communities and nations suffer depletion and social and environmental degradation.
CIIEID will be more of the same, if not an outright expansion of these already unjust practices. Universities are being used for their cultural and especially intellectual capital: if corporate advocacy comes from a university-based institute it has the appearance of rigorous and disinterested scholarship, rather than the biased assistance of the private accumulation of wealth that it actually is.
CIDA has suggested that the new Institute “will help developing countries reap the benefit of their natural resources, and also benefit Canadian companies in fair, transparent, and foreseeable regulation in the extractive sector.” These interests are squarely at odds, and the statement obfuscates who really benefits from such advocacy. The Institute has also been described as “a partnership between the Federal government, the private sector, and Canadian civil-society organizations.” Once again, this is not a level playing field, and such partnerships almost always promote and protect private profits at the public expense.
Furthermore, an extractive industries institute whose advisory council and strategic partners include numerous industry representatives has little hope of reflecting anything other than industry interests.
Finally, we believe that the institute will negatively impact academic freedom: the current government of Canada has shown a consistent pattern of vetting and often muzzling the reports of researchers working under its umbrella organizations. How can the values of academic freedom be maintained when private corporations, who profit from the Institute’s activities, and the government agencies which advocate on their behalf, oversee those same activities? We can only conclude that this is nothing more than another nail in the “public” university’s coffin.
Where once concerns were raised about a “military-industrial complex” finding a base of operations in public universities, we now see the development of what might be called a “resource-industrial complex” taking up residence in these same institutions.
Mining Justice Alliance (MJA), organizing in support of the social justice concerns of communities directly affected by the extractive industry, joins UBC and SFU students in calling for an Institute free of corporate involvement; directly responsive and accountable to communities impacted by extractive projects; including a majority of representatives of affected communities and civil society in its leadership and decision-making positions; and respectful of indigenous communities right to free, prior, and informed consent. Failing this, we call upon the universities in question to reject the CIIEID.