The Group Behind Steve Bannon’s Toronto Event Also Funds Canada’s Biggest Right-Wing Think Tanks

From Press Progress

The charitable foundation organizing a controversial debate featuring Steve Bannon is also one of the biggest funders of Canada’s network of right-wing think tanks.

The upcoming event, pitting the alt-right Donald Trump advisor and former head of the racist, far-right against former George W. Bush advisor David Frum, is being organized by the Munk Debates, a “charitable initiative” of a shadowy group called the Aurea Foundation.


The Aurea Foundation was established in 2006 by Peter Munk, the billionaire former CEO of Barrick Gold – “the world’s largest gold mining company” – who passed away earlier this year. Continue reading

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Who writes eulogies for Peter Munk’s victims?

an edited version of this piece appeared in the Now Magazine print edition.

After Emmanuel Magige was killed in a clash with Barrick’s security, his body was dumped in a coffin on the side of a dirt road. He was one of seven people killed on the same day at Barrick’s North Mara mine in Tanzania and the police had forcibly taken his and other victims’ bodies from the mortuary to prevent any public mourning of the massacre.

“It was inhuman. They did this like animals,” Magige’s 20-year-old wife, Mary told Jocelyn Edwards, a writer with the Toronto Star who happened to be nearby in Tanzania at that time.

For most killed at this Barrick mine (now owned by Barrick subsidiary Acacia), their killings go unreported and many are not even recorded. For instance, last August another villager was shot and killed by mine security at the same North Mara mine. This death, filed with the company’s grievance office on August 6, did not get any media mention within Canada’s media outlets. What’s more, as Mining Watch Canada explains in a letter to Barrick management, the lack of independence and transparency of the mine’s grievance mechanism means that the family who filed the complaint can not be assured equitable and rights-compatible treatment. Continue reading

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food ~ art ~ music ~ speakers from impacted communities and advocates

Barrick Gold is a criminal company of global proportions. Implicated in killings, rapes, toxic spills, fraudulent reporting, land theft, and the militarization of entire communities, this company is a case study in the need for corporate accountability regulations internationally. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Harvard Law Clinic, Mining Watch, NYU Law School, and many others have documented this abuse, but popular pressure in Canada is needed to push for justice for the communities impacted by Barrick’s operations.

Stand with communities to demand justice!

WHEN: April 26, 2016 11am
WHERE: 255 Front St. (outside Metro Convention Centre)

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Will Canadian mining impunity feature in the Munk Foreign Policy Election Debate?

With 75% of the world’s mining and exploration companies based in Canada, and with 40% of global mining capital raised on the Toronto stock exchange, it is easy to argue that Canada is the world leader in mining. Within Canada’s foreign policy objectives, mining interests influence international aid, dictate the activities of our foreign diplomats, and prescribe the conditions of our multi-lateral investment and “free trade” agreements.

While Canada is a leader in mineral exploitation, when it comes to mining abuse, Canada also reigns supreme. Targeted assassinations, the militarization of entire communities, and environmental devastation that goes unchecked and uncleaned are regular occurrences at Canadian mine sites around the world. Barrick Gold, the company founded by Peter Munk, of Munk Debates and Munk School namesake, does not escape this industry norm. Barrick Gold has even admitted to a mine security-led massacre and, at another of their mine sites, compensated 120 women and girls with just over $10,000 each for gang rape, in exchange for signing an agreement that they could never sue the company. Beyond being a perpetrator of regular human rights abuses, this company and Munk’s associated social enterprises, have been implicated on numerous occasions in thwarting efforts to correct the regulatory framework in Canada that allows for these on-going violations to continue. As such, it will be interesting to see how much Canadian mining impunity will feature in the Foreign Policy election debate hosted by none other than the Munk Debates in Toronto this month. Continue reading

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The Munk School’s Foreign Policy Agenda is showing

by: Sakura Saunders, published in Actions Speak Louder, the bi-annual publication of OPIRG-Toronto

In January this year students at the Munk School of Global Affairs received a rather curious e-mail from a school administrator. The message informed students of an upcoming event that the school’s founding director and professor, Janice Stein, was strongly encouraging everyone to attend, but provided minimal details about the event itself. When students showed up on January 6 at this event, they found themselves at a press conference with then-foreign affairs minister John Baird. “Look at how many students voluntarily came to see you,” Stein told Baird in her opening address according to Munk school students. At the press conference, Baird announced $9 million in government funding for the ‘Digital Public Square Project’, an open and secure digital space to be made available to citizens of “oppressive and authoritarian regimes”. According to Stein, the project built on an earlier Munk School initiative—the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran—which established platforms and tools that reached over 4.5 million unique users inside Iran. “We will learn what citizens want most and share that knowledge,” said Stein at the press conference.

Fast forward a few months, and Iran is on the verge of a diplomatic deal with the United States that would reshape its relationship to most of the western world. Decades of economic sanctions would be lifted in exchange for limiting Iran’s nuclear capability and imposing strict international monitoring on their nuclear program. In response, the Munk School, and their “Digital Democracy” program had, until recently, been notably silent. The school finally broke its silence on May 26, when lecturer and senior research fellow, Mark Dubowitz, argued against the motion that “that Obama’s Iran Deal is Good for America”, and by a small margin, won. Dubowitz, dubbed by Ynet, Israel’s largest English language news website, as “The Man Who Fights Iran” is also the executive director of a United States based think-tank that specializes in sanctions against Iran. Regardless of your take on whether the Iran deal was good for America, these talks and the subsequent deal are no doubt the most significant foreign policy achievement in Iranian recent history. Also, these talks have been overwhelming supported by the citizens of Iran, who welcome the end of the crippling sanctions. Why, then, is the Munk School, which received a boost of $9 million to speak directly with the citizens of Iran, so silent? Continue reading

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Amanda Lang, Peter Munk, and Barrick Gold

an edited version of this piece appeared in Now Magazine.

Amanda Lang has been under fire lately for conflicts of interest regarding her reporting on the CBC. Specifically, Lang took money from two insurance companies while giving those companies favorable coverage. More recently, Lang was exposed by online news source CANADALAND for her aggressive lobbying against CBC’s Kathy Tomlinson’s reporting putting RBC in a bad light. When her attempts to bury the story were unsuccessful, she welcomed RBC CEO Gord Nixon on The National for a softball interview, where he dismissed Tomlinson’s reporting as trivial. Continue reading

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The Dirty “Pragmatism” of a True Capitalist: Peter Munk on Indigenous Rights, Equality, and what society needs

Peter Munk has become rather famous over the years as a man who speaks without the constraints of political correctness, or really any sort of correctness at all. From praising Pinochet to simultaneously acknowledging and dismissing acts of gang rape by his own employees, Munk’s words offer a rare glimpse at the mind of a man who has achieved high status in the Canadian business world.

In a recent interview with the Economist, Peter Munk again speaks his mind, not realizing that he was, in fact, making a total ass out of himself. I will provide some excerpts, alongside necessary context, here to illustrate my point:

ECONOMIST: Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days.

MUNK: Globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem. Why? Because human rights and NGOs and young students are idealistic, like we all were, and the underdog gets their support.

He goes on to talk about how these Indigenous people are “manipulated by very bad lawyers” and that “it doesn’t matter how much you deal with the majority of indigenous people, there is always a splinter group that will go for a lawyer who represents them and who makes legal claim after legal claim”.

Compare this to a Globe and Mail comprehensive feature on Pascua Lama, where journalist Stephanie Nolan admits that “in Chile today, you could spend a very long time trying to find anyone with a good word to say about Pascua-Lama.” In Alto del Carmen, Nolan explains:

“people were glad to have the new opportunities that might come with the mine—but not at the cost of their current way of life, or their water. ‘People here have a strong relationship with their land—the people don’t want to work in mining, they work their land,’ explains Jorge Villar, the town’s administrator. A former finance manager, he moved to the valley a few years ago, drawn by its hypnotic landscape and the peaceful life it offered. In Pascua-Lama, he saw potential jobs and revenue for the town. But most of his new neighbours, he soon realized, did not. ‘They’re not interested in the mining company offering them big salaries. Because if you change their way of life and their environment, what are they going to offer their children and their grandchildren?'”

Munk further explains why the churches seem to turn against his mines as well. “Unfortunately, churches in these tiny communities often also don’t like the fact that suddenly their people, who were totally dependent on them, now have high-paying jobs. They can send their kids to be educated in big cities,” Munk explains. But Munk of course is twisting the truth here. Most of the jobs go to people from outside of the Huasco Valley, where the primary industry is agriculture. And of course the churches are supporting a popular moment against his mining project.

Munk’s articulation of his distorted worldview did not stop there. He railed against the Indigenous people that were bringing his company to court to protect “constant and steady unperturbed enjoyment of their rights”, clearly angered that they were standing in the way of a few thousand jobs.

Munk then admits that he “was pretty left wing when I was in college because I believed that every human being had the same rights. You live in this idealistic, beautiful, morally inspired world of correctness. You don’t realise until you get a bit older that pragmatism has to prevail. Unless you can create jobs, unless you can create wealth, unless you can create tax revenues this society will not last much longer.”

Pragmatism must prevail? The Pascua Lama project impacts the sole water source in an arid valley for tens of thousands of people. Meanwhile, gold mining is an unnecessary practice as we get over 3 times are practical use of the substance from recycled sources*. Apparently, Peter Munk thinks that it is pragmatic to destroy the earth in pursuit of things that we don’t need. It seems like if we continue to use vast fresh water resources and pollute the land, our environment’s ability to sustain us won’t last. Something’s got to give, and I’m happy to give up gold.

*according to the World Gold Council, 11% of gold is used for anything other than jewellery or investment. Meanwhile, we get 35-37% from recycled sources.

** The Title “The Dirty Pragmatism of a True Capitalist” was taken from the comment section of the Economist article, suggesting that Munk’s views represent the views of a wider community.

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Peter Munk, Barrick Gold, and the U of T: 2 events!

At Barrick’s annual general meeting this year, Barrick Gold is set to add David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto, to their board of directors. Naylor was president of UofT during the signing of the controversial and secretive “Munk Contract” which established the Munk School of Global Affairs. Find out how the Munk School has been used to meet Peter Munk’s foreign policy objectives so far. Learn the inside story about how this contract was approved. And engage in a broad discussion (participation encouraged) about what this means for students at the University and the public at large.

WHEN: Thursday, April 24 6:30pm 
WHERE: 252 Bloor St., OISE, room 5150
WHAT: Discussion and storytelling: Munk, Barrick, and the UofT

*this is an accessible venue

This event will feature Sardar Saadi, recent U of T graduate and organizer of Iran in Review, who will speak about the Munk School’s problematic conference on Iran.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 29 6:30pm
WHERE: Harvest Noon 16 Bancroft Ave (upstairs)
WHAT: DINNER TALK Story-telling and art making: Munk OUT of UofT • Naylor OUT of Barrick Gold!


Cost: FREE to attend; reserve an optional $5 locally sourced vegan dinner by signing up here (we’re having savoury baked apple stuffed with lentils, veggies and flavour, along with green salad, freshly baked bread and hummus).
RSVP for dinner here:
DEADLINE to reserve dinner is Tuesday April 29th at 9am.Facilitator Bio: Sakura Saunders has researched Barrick and worked directly with Barrick-impacted communities around the world for over 7 years. With a background in journalism, she is the co-founder and editor of, a portal to news articles, backgrounders, and testimonies about Barrick Gold. She is active in the Munk OUT of UofT campaign that started with Peter Munk’s controversial and secretive contract with the university that was exposed in 2010.For More Information About Munk OUT of UofT please visit: event is part of Mining Injustice Solidarity Network’s (MISN) April Spring Into Action. For more upcoming events, check out:

*this is unfortunately not a wheelchair accessible venue

APRIL 30: Confront Barrick Gold!!!

WHERE: 255 Front St,
WHEN: 11am, Wed. April 30
FB EVENT: here

Barrick destroys communities around the world in their pathological quest for a metal that we no longer need to mine. Join us as we stand in solidarity with communities directly impacted by this gold mining giant!

This annual general meeting is taking place while:

• Barrick is facing a court case in the British High Court seeking damages for the death and injury of local villagers in Tanzania.
• Communities in Papua New Guinea are making urgent calls for resettlement away from the mine site and community members are compensation for killings and sexual assault.
• Communities in the Dominican Republic are also seeking urgent relocation away from the contaminated mine site, and to be compensated for their economic losses from dead cattle and contaminated produce.
• Indigenous Diaguita communities in Chile are fighting to stop the Pascua Lama project, which does not have their consent and has been poisoning their scarce water resources.
• Communities on Marinduque Island in the Philippines are seeking damages from a mine tailings disaster, considered the worst mining disaster in the Philippines.
• Barrick is being sued for fraud by their own shareholders because they lied about meeting environmental regulations in Chile and the cost and time estimates for their Pascua Lama project.

***Musical Performances by Amai Kuda, Test Their Logik, and more! ***

Please come out and support the communities negatively affected by Barrick. Through grassroots solidarity, we can ensure that their perspectives and needs are heard loud and clear in Toronto!

Continue reading

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Silence is Gold Film Screening

1379824_735045403193131_201022402_nJoin us for the Toronto premiere of SILENCE IS GOLD, a film that explores the state of free-speech in a corporate dominated world. This screening is co-presented with the MiningInjustice Solidarity and Point of View Magazine. Sakura Saunders and guest speakers will be in attendance.

WHEN: Tuesday April 1, 2014
WHERE: The Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. Toronto
FB Event:

Julien Fréchette / Canada / 2012 / 77 ‘ / French / S.T. English

What are the limits to freedom of speech? Can we put a price on our spoken and written words? Following the 2008 release of the book Noir Canada, author Alain Deneault, his co-writers and his publisher, Éditions Écosociété, grappled with these questions – at great personal expense – after being sued for defamation in Quebec and Ontario courts by two large Canadian mining companies. Deneault and his publisher fought back, becoming entangled in a seemingly never-ending spiral of judicial proceedings. Silence Is Gold is a thriller of a documentary that tells their story, set against the backdrop of the Canadian justice system. We follow the complex procedural twists and turns, eagerly anticipating a resolution that is repeatedly delayed.

Filmmaker Julien Fréchette’s camera and questions lead us through this little- understood legal territory without judging or wading into the merits of the cases. His gaze is both subtle and attentive as he tactfully immerses himself in the story, initiating a dialogue with Alain Deneault, who becomes the protagonist of the film. Silence Is Gold raises crucial questions about Canada’s role and responsibilities in the global mining sector, the limits of free speech and equitable access to the Canadian justice system.

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Ex-UofT President David Naylor gets named to Barrick Board of Directors

If there was ever any doubt that the Munk School’s creation was marked by corruption and secrecy, this revelation should confirm our long-standing suspicions. This week, Barrick announced that it would be adding ex-University of Toronto President, David Naylor, to the companies list of “independent” directors. This appointment comes just four years after Naylor signed the controversial “Munk Contract” in secret, by-passing even the school’s governing council.

The contract named the school “in perpetuity” after Munk, laid out conditions under which Munk could oversee the school’s programs, and mandated that all announcements and publicity concerning the School and the donations be made in consultation with Munk. The contract also gave the sole ability to cancel the contract to the Munk Foundation. Despite the fact that this contract carried with it a host of ethical and governance concerns, it was approved by only a handful decision-makers at UofT, including David Naylor, in a highly irregular process.

At a Governing Council orientation session on September 10, 2009, the Chair informed governors that the first Council meeting scheduled for October 22, 2009 would be cancelled due to insufficient items on the agenda. This cancellation was invalid according to the Council’s By-Law 2 because it had been decided upon by an online ballot that at that point, had not been ratified by the Executive Committee. It was also highly irregular given that the first cycle of meetings of the Governing Council had not been cancelled in over ten years. This meeting cancelation also allowed for the extension of Summer Executive Authority which was delegated on June 23, 2009 and allowed for the concentration of decision-making powers with the President, Chair and Vice-chair of the Governing Council, in consultation with the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Boards and Committees until December 10, 2009.

It was during this extended period of supposed inactivity at the Governing Council that the donation and memorandum between the Munk Foundation and the University – signed on behalf of the Governing Council – was approved without any form of consultation with governors or with the students, faculty and staff. The Secretary and Chair of the Governing Council also did not make any effort to inform Governing Council about the decision, memorandum and donation at the December 10, 2009 meeting of the Governing Council- as is the practice (to report on any and all approvals made under Summer Executive Authority). In fact, it was not until several months later – on April 12, 2010 – that the members of Governing Council were first made aware of the proposed Munk donation.

In a confidential memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council, Henry Mulhall, asked the governors to consider a proposed change to the name of the School of Global Affairs to the Munk School of Global Affairs. Governing Council members were given just 24 hours to register their comments. Even at this late stage, the details of the donation and memorandum were withheld from the governors and the University community.

Now, it appears that Naylor’s favours have returned to his personal coffers. Despite having no background in mining, the UofT ex-president has a seat on Barrick’s board of directors. This is not the first controversy to surround the Munk school appointees. Michael Ignatieff, former head of the Liberal party, was rumoured to have Munk School ties when he was speaking publicly against a Liberal Party-sponsored bill that would have introduced minimal standards for Canadian mining companies operating abroad. The Bill – C-300 – lost the vote by a mere 6 votes, with Barrick Gold singled out

Munk OUT of UofT drops a banner during a class that Naylor guest lectured in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto. (April 2011)

Munk OUT of UofT drops a banner during a class that Naylor guest lectured in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto. (April 2011)

as the number one opponent lobbying against the bill. Less than two years later, on September 7, 2012, Ignatieff joined the Munk School as a half-time professor.

Another controversy involving a Munk-appointee involves Marketa Evans, a former director of the Munk Centre for International Studies. Ms. Evans was appointed as the first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Councillor for the Canadian government, whose job it was to mediate disputes between mining companies in impacted communities.

Marketa’s position was criticized by many as being “designed to fail”. Corporations could enter or leave the process at any time voluntarily, and most did. Of six cases opened during Evans’ tenure, who resigned in October of this year, three were closed after the companies walked away — the most recent in September of this year. One case was sent back to a company’s internal process and two remain open. Critics say they expect no resolutions to result.

The Munk School’s next director Janice Stein, is no less controversial. Stein openly supported the dismantling of Canada’s International Development Agency to merge with the Department of Foreign Affairs, being quoted in several articles and writing an editorial in the Globe and Mail supporting the move. Meanwhile, the merger was part of a shift in CIDA to start supporting CSR projects for mining companies abroad, including Barrick Gold.

A bit closer to home, Stein visited a Munk OUT of UofT organizing meeting once, insisting to get a chance to speak. She poorly defended the Munk contract and then took questions from the people present. One Munk OUT of UofT coalition member, Angela Regnier, who was then Executive Director of the UofT student union, asked a question about the SLAPP suit that Barrick Gold had against three academics in Montreal. Janice said that she didn’t know about the case, but would follow up with Angela, taking her card. Within days, Angela received both an e-mail and phone calls from Barrick’s lawyers, with vague threats about the spread of “misinformation” by the Munk OUT of U of T campaign.

Thankfully, Angela’s primary issue in life is academic freedom, and so she proceeded to continue her support for the campaign and spoke openly about her encounter with Barrick’s lawyers. So, Naylor’s appointment is not the first, and likely won’t be the last corrupt relationship between the University and Barrick Gold, forwarding the interests of mining within the structure of a School of Global Affairs.

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