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Politics Canada’s foreign aid doesn’t exist to keep NGOs afloat, Fantino says

Julian Fantino during a visit to a school in Mentao Refugee Camp in Burkina Faso run by CARE with CIDA support.

ACDI-CIDA/Germain Yaméogo

Canada's foreign aid agency is not in the business of helping non-governmental organizations stay afloat, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino says.

Mr. Fantino made the comments by teleconference in Haiti, where he is meeting with government officials and touring Canadian development projects. He said recent decisions to end funding for some Canadian development organizations were the result of "adjustments" – not cuts – and were made to help the agency obtain better results.

"I think some people believe that [the Canadian International Development Agency] only exists to keep NGOs afloat and to keep them working and that we will fund them for life," he said. "It's not going to be the case."

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The minister's comments come less than a week after he delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada outlining CIDA's plans to align itself more closely with the private sector and work more openly at promoting Canadian interests abroad. CIDA already funds several non-governmental organizations to work on development projects with Canadian mining companies – a move that has raised concerns for some development agencies.

He also announced $25-million in funding for a new extractive industry institute, to be hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The institute is expected to provide policy advice to developing countries with mining industries.

Some aid experts say mining companies make for poor partners because of environmental and human rights allegations against them in some developing countries. And they worry that CIDA's growing focus on the private sector could take away from other development programming such as the maternal and child health initiative.

Mr. Fantino said CIDA's work with the private sector would not take away from its focus on humanitarian aid and other development programs.

"If partnerships can be done in an ethical way in order to ensure better, more significant outcomes in terms of what we're doing, generally I think it would be less than honourable for us not to consider those partnerships," he said.

He said CIDA's work with mining companies would help them compete on the international stage while ensuring they are contributing to sustainable development in poor countries.

"We're not partnering with mining industries, we're not getting into the extractive business," he said. "This is trying to help the needy countries in the main to enable them to help themselves to develop sustainable economies ... so we don't have to continually bail them out with their food issues, their education, their health issues and all of those. "

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