It was recently revealed that Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, has close ties to Peter and Anthony Munk of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company. Peter Munk, the chairman and founder of Barrick Gold, admitted that Wright was Anthony's son's (and Peter's grandson's) godfather, while Wright used to work alongside Anthony Munk at Onex Corp.
Wright also served as a director on the board of the Aurea Foundation, a charitable foundation established by Peter Munk and his wife in 2006 to support the study and development of public policy. He resigned from the board shortly before joining Harper’s office in November 2010.
In the federal ethics watchdog questioning of Wright, they question whether Wright was breaking conflict of interest rules by allowing himself to be lobbied by Barrick Gold. However, when looking at the record, a couple meetings is the least of
what the Harper Government has done to benefit Barrick over the years. Here's a short list:
• Marketa Evans, founding director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the U of T, was named the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) director for the Canadian government under Harper. It is her job to mediate disputes between mining companies and communities or people accusing those companies of human rights and environmental abuses..
• The Federal government contributed $25 million towards the establishment of the Munk School of Global Affairs, also at the University of Toronto. (The Provincial government also contributed $25 million towards the school.)
• Harper ignored the consensus report on human rights and environmental standards for Canadian Mining Companies operating abroad, produced during the government-sponsored "National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)". Instead, the Harper government released their report "Building the Canadian Advantage", which rejected calls for human rights standards and instead promised more money to mining companies to promote their CSR programs. While many mining companies – including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) – participated in the Roundtables negotiation process, Barrick Gold notably did not.
• Under Harper's "Building the Canadian Advantage" strategy, World Vision receives millions in CIDA funds to build schools next to Barrick's contested project in Peru.
• CIDA sponsors forum at the Washington DC headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) entitled "Corporate Social Responsibility in a time of crisis", with a Barrick executive representing Canada.
It must be remembered that at the same time that Barrick and the Munks have been honored in Canadian society, allegations of human rights abuses and corruption have plagued their mines, and reports documenting these abuses have been published by independent organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Harvard Law School, the Norwegian Pension Fund, Greenpeace, and Mining Watch.