OTTAWA, ONTARIO, June 21, 2010 — The recent revelation that the chair of the board of Canada’s International Development Research Agency (IDRC) was a tobacco executive until April 2010 sends an unfortunate message to the world that tobacco control is no longer a priority, states an editorial http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/doi/10.1503/cmaj.100850 in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
“There is simply no place for the tobacco industry on the development and poverty agenda,” writes Dr. Paul Hebert, Editor-in-Chief, CMAJ, along with coauthors K. Srinath Reddy, Public Health Foundation of India and Professor Prabhat Jha, Centre for Global Health Research, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto. “The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control prohibits direct funding or involvement from the tobacco industry in research, or any other development activities; its guiding principles call for protection of government policy-making from tobacco industry influence.”
IDRC helps developing countries find long-term solutions for socio-economic and environmental issues through knowledge and science. Imperial Tobacco targets the same developing countries that IDRC aims to serve.
The Gates Foundation recently revoked a grant to the IDRC after learning that Barbara McDougall, chair of IDRC since 2007, was a member of Imperial Tobacco’s board from 2004 to April, 2010. She has chaired IDRC since 2007.
The authors call for Ms. McDougall’s resignation on the eve of an IDRC meeting June 22, 2010, where the matter will be discussed.
“Ms. McDougall’s ongoing role on IDRC’s board has undermined the institution’s reputation and her effectiveness as Chair,” write the authors. “Ms. McDougall, who has had a distinguished record of public service, would best serve IDRC by stepping aside.”
This action will enhance IDRC’s leadership role in international development and confirm that Canada is genuinely committed to improving health in developing countries.