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Former foreign affairs minister John Baird joins Barrick Gold international advisory board

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Photo: DFATD | MAECD/flickr

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird is now a member of the international advisory board for the Toronto-based mining giant Barrick Gold.

CBC reports, "In its annual report, the company listed Baird and former U.S. lawmaker Newt Gingrich as members of its international advisory board. Barrick Gold says the group is made up of 10 external advisers who meet about once a year to provide advice to the board of directors and management on geopolitical and strategic matters." The Globe and Mail adds, "No compensation details for Mr. Baird and Mr. Gingrich were disclosed in the filings. However, [former prime minister Brian] Mulroney, who stepped down as a Barrick director last year, received more than $1-million (Canadian) for his work as an adviser and board member, the filings said."

What type of "expertise" will Mr. Baird be bringing to Barrick Gold?

In 2012, his department prepared a new Canadian foreign policy plan that made "free trade" deals and expanding markets in Latin America and Asia the top priority. That paper downgraded the importance of promoting human rights and instead asserted, "To succeed we will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align." In February 2013, Baird visited five countries in Latin America -- Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Panama and the Dominican Republic -- to promote "free trade," Canadian mining and investments in the extraction of natural resources.

Over the past nine years, Baird also held various cabinet positions in a government that has steadfastly backed the mining industry.

In October 2010, the Harper government defeated Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, which would have denied companies financial and political support if found in violation of international human rights standards. Barrick Gold had lobbied to prevent its passage. In September 2012, Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright was formally investigated by the parliamentary ethics officer because he had been lobbied by Barrick Gold three times while working in the Prime Minister's Office.

The Council of Canadians opposes Barrick Gold's flagship $8.5-billion Pascua Lama open pit mine which is to be situated on the border of Chile and Argentina. The Financial Post has reported, "The mine will use up to 38 tonnes of explosives a day to blast mountaintops into rocks, then up to 27 tonnes of cyanide and 33 million litres of water per day to extract the gold." We are dismayed that Mr. Baird's new role will be to help make this destructive mine a reality. For numerous campaign blogs about the environmental harms posed by this mine, please click here.

Photo: DFATD | MAECD/flickr

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