... and Barbara McDougall's bloody hand is on the flush handle!

Canadian PM can either stand by and do nothing OR he can throw us some life-jackets! So far, he's doing a great job of the former.

For the last 5 weeks, an ongoing drama has been unfolding around the world, with a focus on Africa...specifically, Senegal.

A 3-day meeting is scheduled to take place in the West African nation's capital, Dakar, starting on April 20, 2010. The two main participants:

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), an international aid organization which describes itself, at , as "...a Canadian Crown corporation that works in close collaboration with researchers from the developing world in their search for the means to build HEALTHIER (emphasis ours), more equitable, and more prosperous societies"; and

The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), a network of 40 anti-tobacco groups from 26 African nations.

Trips were being planned, flight tickets were purchased, hotel reservations were made; anti-tobacco activists from all over Africa and elsewhere were looking forward to fruitful, productive meetings, as well as a chance to 'see the sights' in and around Dakar.

Everything was fine, until a bombshell was revealed: On March 5, it was discovered that the Chairman of the Board of the IDRC is...wait for it, A TOBACCO EXECUTIVE!

That's right: No need to reread it, you read it right: The chairman of a Canadian international 'aid' organization -- which is, supposedly, concerned about the health and well-being of developing nations -- is a tobacco executive! IDRC Chair Barbara Jean McDougall is also on the Board of Directors of Imperial Tobacco.

A little background info about McDougall:

The discovery of McDougall's high-level position with Big Tobacco has, much to the delight of the tobacco industry, proven to be extremely divisive within the global tobacco control community. Obviously, many of those activists from all over Africa who had made travel arrangements were really looking forward to the 3-day Dakar meeting...and. even after learning of the glaring conflict of interest, still wanted to attend. Even the Board of Directors of ATCA wasn't completely convinced that cancelling the meeting was the right decision, until they came under a great deal of pressure from a quickly-formed, small but determined network of global anti-tobacco activists (including Airspace Action on Smoking and Health), who persuaded ATCA that, despite the very tough "between a rock and a hard place" position they found themselves in, morally/ethically, there really was no choice: ATCA's attendance at the IDRC meeting would effectively destroy the global anti-tobacco movement.

We are happy to report that there have been a couple of recent 'victories' in this battle:

After sending two e-mails (on Mar 26 & 31) to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which, over the last couple of years, has given tens of millions of dollars in grant money to the IDRC), advising them of the new-found conflict of interest, Airspace president Errol Povah received the following as-yet-unverified e-mail from a fellow member of the above-mentioned 'ad hoc' committee (who shall remain anonymous) today:

Congratulations for all your efforts Errol. You were a big part of this result.
Take care

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Media <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: Fri, Apr 9, 2010 at 5:53 PM
Subject: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Statement
To: Media <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

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. We remain committed to tobacco control work and look forward to continuing to partner with the anti-tobacco community to reduce tobacco use in Africa.

NOTE: As alluded to in the Gates response (which avoids mentioning her by name???), McDougall "has until recently (emphasis ours) also been a Director of Imperial Tobacco, Ltd." According to the IDRC, McDougall's tenure with Imperial Tobacco ended late last month, as if to suggest that it's possible to be a tobacco executive one day and wake up the next day as a non-tobacco executive, complete with a brand new, shiny and/or clear conscience. It doesn't work that way! With a few notable exceptions -- such as industry whistleblowers like Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, Victor Crawford, et al -- ONCE A TOBACCO EXECUTIVE, ALWAYS A TOBACCO EXECUTIVE! McDougall has blood on her hands...and simply leaving Imperial Tobacco won't wash it off!

As wonderful as the response from the Gates Foundation is, there remain many unanswered -- and extremely troubling -- questions, just a few of which appear here:

1) Why have so many key players in this scandal/crisis remained silent?

2) Will Barbara McDougall be removed from the IDRC...either voluntarily or forcefully? And if not, why not?

3) If nothing else, the McDougall scandal hilites the urgent need for policies/laws that require tobacco executives to be completely isolated. Let them choose between being tobacco executives OR being on the Boards of other companies/organizations, BUT NOT BOTH! Since this scandal broke, it's been discovered that McDougall is also an "Honorary Patron" of Genesis Research (, whose motto is "Advancing women's health." An e-mail sent to that organization almost 2 weeks ago -- again, questioning the serious conflict of interest -- remains unanswered.

4) To what extent, if any, will there be an investigation into the weed out any other tobacco industry 'plants'?

Both the Canadian and global anti-tobacco communities are still afloat, but we're in serious danger of being 'flushed'. The only way we will survive as a movement and beat the Barbara McDougall's of the world is to remain united, strong and vigilant.

To those who call us "extremists", check out Big Tobacco's definition of the word. In previously secret, internal tobacco industry documents, anti-tobacco "EXTREMISTS" are defined as "EFFECTIVE", while "REASONABLE" anti-tobacco activists are "INEFFECTIVE." For those reasons, Big Tobacco definitely prefers to deal with 'reasonable' anti-tobacco activists, while the rest of us are extremely proud to be EXTREMISTS, certainly by the tobacco industry's definition!

Stay tuned; the war continues!