Goldcorp’s donation of half a million dollars to UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, which UVic says will foster “social and sustainable innovation,” should do more than raise your hackles. It should send your irony-spidey senses off the radar.
Vancouver-based Goldcorp has 14 000 employees worldwide and 20 mine projects (former, operational or in development): five in Canada, three in the U.S., five in Mexico, two in Argentina, one in Chile, one in the Dominican Republic, two in Guatemala and one in Honduras. And it is the Central American mines — where billions are being spent to scour earth for gold, silver and nickel — that have embroiled Goldcorp in a trial by the People’s Health Tribunal, violence, calls for permit suspensions and United Nations interventions.
In particular, Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa municipalities of Guatemala has been a glaring example of why Canadians are getting a bad reputation in Latin America.
The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for a complete suspension of the mine’s operations with no renewal. Indigenous Mayan communities in Sipacapa had filed complaints with the Office of Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), which reports to the World Bank Group, saying that the mine was developed without adequate consultation and claiming that it violated their rights as indigenous peoples.
Chuck Jeannes, Goldcorp president and chief executive officer, was recently quoted in the Times Colonist saying, “Goldcorp is committed to making a positive difference in the communities where we are located.” With reports of five workers being shot with rubber ammunition by Goldcorp security forces one month ago in Guatemala, I wonder what type of a difference Jeannes feels Goldcorp is making in that community?
Saul Klein, dean and Lansdowne professor of International Business at the Gustavson School of Business, told the Martlet in an email, “The Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI) ensures that sustainability and the progress of social responsibility permeate everything that we do at Gustavson. Goldcorp’s funding will help CSSI support even more scholarship and action. The donation will strengthen and expand Gustavson’s capacity for research into issues integral to sustainable and socially responsible business practices.”
In contrast, Tamara Herman, a B.C.-based community organizer who has been working on mining-related issues for several years, explained in an email, “Goldcorp may seem like an ideal corporate donor in Canada, but the company has been accused of serious human and environmental rights violations in Latin America. Communities living beside Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine in Guatemala have reported human health problems and water pollution while actively opposing the loss of their homes, the destruction of their traditional territories and infringements on their land rights. In Chile last year, the Supreme Court rendered the environmental assessment for Goldcorp’s El Morro mine null because of its failure to consult local indigenous and peasant communities whose lands would be lost.”
There are some extremely important unanswered questions that need to
be addressed before UVic decides to aid and abet the reputation of such a controversial corporation.
“As a former UVic student, I would ask some critical questions about why this particular corporation is donating $500 000 to the business school. I would also ask what message UVic’s acceptance of the donation sends to the global community,” wrote Herman.
Nedjo Rogers, a member of the Mining Justice Action Committee who recently returned from working with communities in Ecuador impacted by Canadian mining projects, echoed Herman’s concerns about UVic’s reputation. “This sort of corporate relationship casts doubt on UVic’s status as a centre of independent and critical thought,” he wrote.
Seb Bonet, research co-ordinator of the Vancouver Island Public Research Group (VIPIRG) asked, “If the UVic faculty of business is so interested in sustainability, why is it helping to launder Goldcorp’s reputation? UVic wants us to look at its shiny new clothes, but when you go to the back of the store, it’s the same old story: its corporate product is soaked in the blood and suffering of [indigenous communities].”
The UVic community isn’t the first to have students resisting the funding from Goldcorp. What kind of compromise is being made for funding at our universities?
“When we found out that [Simon Fraser University] sold the naming rights for SFU Vancouver to Goldcorp for $10 million, we were concerned that SFU was helping Goldcorp ‘charitywash’ their image,” said Myka Abramson, who was heavily involved with the SFU Against Goldcorp and Gentrification working group in Burnaby and Vancouver.
UVic can do better than bolstering the reputation of a textbook example of an unethical, exploitative and controversial corporation. The $500 000 would be nice, but perhaps fostering social and sustainable innovation is something tainted money can’t buy. It’s not worth the compromise.