Gates Foundation pulls funding from Canadian government development agency over concerns about conflict of interest

Ottawa - April 12, 2010

Statement by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

We note with regret that the government of Canada's failure to respond to concerns raised about the appointment of the Honourable Barbara McDougall to chair the IDRC while she concurrently sat on the Board of Directors of Imperial Tobacco has compromised Canada’s ability to support developing countries in reducing tobacco use.

In early March, it was revealed that after Ms. McDougall was appointed to chair the IDRC in December 2007, she continued to work as a director of Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd, a wholly–owned subsidiary of one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco.  This cross appointment is not only inconsistent with the government's “Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders,” it is also against the guidelines agreed to by Canada for implementing the global tobacco treaty, the “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

In the month since the matter was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, Health Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the government has failed to reply or respond to concerns of international and Canadian health agencies.

In light of the government’s failure to resolve the problem consistent with both the Canadian government Ethical Guidelines and the FCTC guidelines on tobacco interference with health issues, it is understandable that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to terminate funding for tobacco control projects run by the IDRC.

This weekend, the Gates Foundation issued the following statement to its African tobacco control partners: "The foundation was recently informed that the chair of the board of our partner, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has until recently also been a Director of Imperial Tobacco Canada, Ltd.  We are deeply disappointed by this revelation and feel this conflict is unacceptable as we work to support meaningful tobacco control programs in Africa.  Therefore, we are terminating our tobacco control grant to IDRC, effective immediately. "

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada urges the Canadian government to act quickly to put measures in place to ensure that Canada can fulfill its obligations under this important health treaty.


Letter from international and Canadian health advocates to Prime Minister Harper :  (March 15, 2010)

FCTC Guidelines on Article 5.3
Press release from Corporate Accountability International
Press release from the African Tobacco Control Alliance