In a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, Dr. Gretchen Roedde, a Canadian advocate and practitioner for international maternal health, describes why Canada is getting a bad reputation when it comes to international development.
“I haven’t worked for Canada for some time. We used to have a good reputation internationally. We don’t anymore,” she said bluntly in a telephone interview.
It’s something Julian Fantino should pay attention to. The minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency has been in the public spotlight in recent weeks sketching a significant shift in Canadian foreign aid toward promoting and strengthening ties with Canadian companies overseas. CIDA’s strategy, he has said, will include helping Canadian business become more competitive in the developing world.
Roedde notes that such a policy means countries get Canadian aid based on their natural resources. Countries without Canadian business interests, despite needs, are less likely to get the timely attention of Canadian aid, even if maternal death rates are high. “We are giving money to groups and countries where we have business interests, not where the maternal mortality rate is high.”
Still, she says, Canadian companies can play a role in helping to improve health and mitigate the negate health effects they have on developing countries. The spread of HIV, she says, is often a byproduct of mines in the developing world, something that extractive companies should focus on.
“Mining equals AIDs,” she says. “(You have) the dynamic of having a bunch of men away from their families and sex workers crowding around.”
Foreign mining companies see a resource (gold, coal, diamonds) then build mines and employ locals to work under them to extract the resource. This process usually causes a lot of disruption to a community, and in regions with poor infrastructure it opens the floodgates to civil war and gorilla groups who wish to capitalize on the distribution of a country’s natural resources. In a nutshell, you get the Congo crisis.
In my opinion, and a lot of other better educated people’s, foreign mining doesn’t just spread AIDS, it spreads civil war, rape, and social chaos. I appreciate Dr. Roedde’s effort to raise awareness about maternal health issues and her hands-on work in the developing world, but I find it appalling that this article actually advocates “distributing condoms” as a solution to this problem.
Issues of violence, environmental damage and human rights abuses abound in mineral rich Africa and according to a 2009 report produced by the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict, Canadian mining companies have been the most significant group involved in such violations.
Andrea adds: I just want to be cautious about dumping on the mining industry when in many parts of the world, they come to impoverished communities and create jobs and wealth, without contributing to AIDS. If a mining company comes and AIDS increases, does it not mean that an existing problem was brought into one place? Mine Your Own Business is a good movie to see, although it never touches on maternal health or AIDS.