Your Excellency, Colleagues and Friends.
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s I worked regularly in areas of conflict or high insecurity. In these places journalists often work together in small groups. Arriving by car at a Taliban checkpoint or some dodgy place, the others would say to me “ You go out and talk to them. You’re Canadian…”
At the time we all had the image of Canada as the peacekeeper, the champion of Human Rights, leading Global Citizenship, and sponsor of the Ottawa treaty signed here in 1996.
In the last decade, we have seen more and more reports of Canadian mining companies being involved in a wide range of conflicts with communities in developing countries. In a 2009 report, the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict, states that Canada has more extraction companies embroiled in community conflicts and alleged unethical behaviour than any other country in the world.
On one hand we have a multi-billion dollar extraction industry stating that they bring jobs, development and valuable Corporate Social Responsibility projects to developing countries.
On the other, we have NGO’s, watch-dog organizations, and journalists reporting on the inequity of the relationship between Canadian companies and the people who live on or near the land they are mining. What is the truth here?
The recent granting of $25 million by CIDA for the creation of the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development – CIIEID – is a good indication that there is a critical issue at stake.
20 years ago, I was drawn to photography and journalism first and foremost by curiosity. I wanted to know what drives people to take up arms and fight? How can there be such inequalities between rich and poor? How does international aid work and development, and does it work? Who are these people of distant places and cultures with whom we share this shrinking planet? I believe these same questions will come up in this project.
I am grateful for this opportunity to follow my curiosity again and to explore the issue of mining and how it reflects on all Canadians. As a freelancer, I will share what I find with as many people as possible through a variety of outlets in this exciting business called journalism.
2013 Michener-Deacon Fellowship recipient
Michener Awards ceremony
June 18, 2013