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Canada doesn’t deserve African support for Security Council bid

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Justin Trudeau meets with African leaders

Justin Trudeau understands that his path to a UN Security Council seat runs through Africa. The continent shouldn’t give it to him.

As part of his bid for a two-year seat on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body Canada’s prime minister has called the leaders of Ghana, Sudan, Rwanda, Namibia, Liberia, Botswana, Mozambique and Uganda over the past month. In February he attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia and just prior to the pandemic Trudeau made his pitch for Canada’s bid to African diplomats in Ottawa. But actions speak louder than words and the PM’s government has supported controversial mining companies, dubious climate policies and a war that spilled into various countries on the continent. Justin Trudeau also distorted his father’s legacy in Africa.

In 2017 Global Affairs threw its diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it committed some of its worst abuses. Between 2006 and 2016 65 people were killed and hundreds injured by Barrick Gold paid security forces at its North Mara mine in Tanzania. With Barrick’s subsidiary, Acacia Mining, embroiled in a conflict with the government over hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and royalties, Canada’s High Commissioner set up a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and Tanzanian President John Magufuli. After accompanying Barrick’s head to the encounter in Dar es Salaam, Ian Myles told the press: “Canada is very proud that it expects all its companies to respect the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility. We know that Barrick is very much committed to those values.”

The government has given various forms of support to the mining industry, which has been embroiled in dozens of conflicts across the continent. During his trip to the African Union summit Ethiopia Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement largely designed to solidify the position of Canadian mining interests. A few days later foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne attended an event in Senegal where Teranga Gold and Barrick Gold received licenses for projects.

While they promote mining interests, the Trudeau government has failed to follow through on a promise to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Despite five UN bodies calling on Ottawa to hold mining companies accountable for their international operations, the Liberals recently created an Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise without the power to deny diplomatic or Export Development Canada support from companies found responsible for major rights abuses.

From the desertification of the Sahel region to rising sea levels in heavily populated coastal areas of West Africa, climate change is a death sentence for ever-growing numbers of Africans. In a profound injustice, most of those worst hit by climate disturbances have emitted relatively little greenhouse gases. Per capita GHG emissions in many African countries amount to a few per cent of Canada’s rate. Among the highest per capita emitters in the world, Canada is on pace to emit significantly more GHG than it agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement and previous climate accords. His government oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline. In March 2017 Trudeau told oil executives in Houston, “no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” Extracting “173 billion barrels” of carbon intensive Canadian tar sands would drive ever-greater numbers of Africa’s most vulnerable over the edge.

Before becoming prime minister, Trudeau backed the 2011 war on Libya. The African Union vigorously opposed the Canadian-led NATO bombing campaign, arguing it could destabilize neighboring countries. Indeed, violence in Libya soon spilled southward to Mali and across much of the Sahel region.

In his speech to African diplomats in Ottawa just before the pandemic the PM cited his father’s legacy on the continent. Unsurprisingly, he skipped Pierre Trudeau’s indifference to Portuguese violence — fed by Canadian NATO mutual assistance program weaponry — against the liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. More controversially, it took over a decade after Trudeau père was elected prime minister for his government to abrogate the Canada-South Africa trade agreement. In 1979 Ottawa ended preferential tariff rates to the apartheid regime but this was as much an economic decision — the trade balance favoured South Africa — as it was a reprimand for its racist policies. In October 1982 the Pierre Trudeau government delivered 4.91 percent of the votes that enabled Western powers to gain a slim 51.9 percent majority in support of South Africa’s application for a billion-dollar International Monetary Fund credit. Sixty-eight IMF members opposed the loan, as did 121 countries in a nonbinding vote at the UN General Assembly.

At a 1977 Commonwealth meeting, Pierre Trudeau dodged press questions on post-Soweto South Africa suggesting that Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda should be discussed along with southern Africa. But, six years earlier the Trudeau government passively supported Amin’s British-backed putsch against independence leader Milton Obote, who nationalized some Canadian companies. The government responded to inquiries from opposition MPs in parliament about developments in Uganda and whether Canada would grant diplomatic recognition to the new military regime. Within a week of Obote’s ouster, both External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and Prime Minister Trudeau passed up these opportunities to denounce Amin’s usurpation of power.

African countries should not fall for Justin Trudeau’s friendly rhetoric. Until Canada begins to act like a friend, rather than a neocolonial power, it doesn’t deserve Africa’s votes for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

 

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Trudeau government seeks West African gold

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Despite the prime minister’s show of visiting a place where thousands of people were sold as commodities, the point of his trip was not to acknowledge the great wrong done to Africa during the slave trade but rather for Canadian companies to get their hands on Senegal’s resources.

During Justin Trudeau’s expedition to Senegal last month foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne “attended the issuance of operating licenses for Teranga and Barrick Gold alongside the minister of mines and geology, the minister of economy, planning & cooperation as well as the minister of environment of Senegal.”

Barrick Gold is Canada’s most controversial mining firm. Pick a continent and you will find a Barrick-run mine that has ravaged the environment and spurred social tension.

But, in Senegal Teranga Gold is the dominant player, operating the first industrial scale gold mine in the country. Taking its name from the Wolof word for “hospitality”, Teranga markets itself well. A search online generated a series of short videos and corporate social responsibility reports detailing the Toronto company’s purported good deeds and local support. But reality is more complicated. In 2010 a hundred soldiers were deployed to Teranga’s mine site to drive off long-standing artisanal miners whose digging helped the company determine where to prospect. One small-scale miner told Allo Dakar that “we prefer to die here rather than give the land to the company.” Despite the security presence, many continued to dig with the police periodically tear-gassing and arresting the artisanal miners.

According to Amnesty International’s “Mining and Human Rights in Senegal: Closing the Gaps in Protection”, a half-dozen families were displaced to make way for a Teranga waste disposal pond. They were given new homes a few kilometres away but felt their situation had significantly deteriorated. Amnesty documented another small community unhappy with Teranga and worried they would also be displaced as the mine expanded.

The mayor of a larger town, Sabadola, claimed the company misled the community. “At first we thought that we’d benefit from many things: electricity, housing and infrastructure,” said Mamadou Cissokho. “But we received none of that.” Instead, Cissokho decried the pulmonary infections caused by dust from the mine and the company’s encroachment on their land. “Even our fields, they took them. We do not know where to go. Certainly, they do this to suffocate us and to clear us off.”

In 2014 the director of Teranga’s Senegalese subsidiary, Macoumba Diop, was fired. His supporters told the press that Diop was let go because he protected Senegalese workers, largely confined to subordinate positions, from mistreatment by the foreign managers who were described as “colonialist”. In 2017 an employee died from an injury while working in the process plant of Teranga’s Sabodala mine.

Senegalese tax authorities accused Teranga of diverting funds to an offshore bank. In 2011 they claimed the Toronto-based company skipped out on $24 million in payments and then again failed to pay $2 million more in 2015.

Claiming the royalties mandated by Senegal were above the agreed upon rate, Teranga employed the services of former Québec Premier Jean Charest to navigate the issue with this active member of la Francophonie. “With his credibility and contacts, he was the right person to get the attention of the government and a fair deal for both sides,” Teranga CEO Richard Young told La Presse in 2013.

The controversy surrounding Teranga has failed to deter Canadian officials from backing the company. In early 2014 Canadian Ambassador Philippe Beaulne visited its mine with Senegalese president Macky Sall and Beaulne spoke during the public release of Teranga’s 2013 corporate social responsibility policy. In 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Teranga’s CEO and some other Canadian mining officials in Dakar. During the part of the meeting open to reporters the prime minister suggested, reported Canada.com, that Canadian companies’ “ethical practices gave them an edge over the competition.” Harper also told the press that Senegal “really has the opportunity to become the hub for Canadian investment in this entire region of Africa.” To prepare for an expansion in Canadian mining, Ottawa signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) with Senegal in 2014.

Canada has funded various mining projects in Senegal. Millions of dollars in Canadian aid has gone to a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources). In 2014 the federal government announced the launch of branch offices of a professional society, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in Senegal and Burkina Faso. A press release stated: “The opening of a second office [in West Africa] allows Canada to further share best practices with the region and will make the knowledge and experience of Canadian miners, geologists and managers more available to their African counterparts.” Supported by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum created the Institut Minier Ouest Africain. A series of other aid projects such as the 2016 “West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas” supported mining initiatives in Senegal.

As with other countries in Africa, Ottawa is helping Canadian companies exploit Senegal’s minerals.

The PM’s trip to House of Slaves was a sideshow, what they want is the gold.

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