CIDA hammers Development and Peace

Development and Peace Share Lent Theme

The hammer that had earlier landed on faith-based organizations such as KAIROS and the Mennonite Central Committee has now fallen on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P). Michael Casey, D&P’s executive director, has just written an emergency letter to the organization’s local volunteer leaders in Catholic dioceses throughout the country.  He informs them that D&P has just heard from CIDA on a funding proposal made back in July 2010. “We have finally received the government’s response,” Casey writes. “It is not exactly what we were hoping for.” That is a considerable understatement. Casey writes that CIDA, which had provided D&P with $44.6 million in the years 2006-11, has chopped that amount by two-thirds, to a total of $14.5 million over the next five years.

Out of Africa

CIDA also says that the money has to be designated for seven countries. Only one of them is in Africa, where D&P has always had a significant presence. This hues to the government’s intention to refocus its aid budget on trade, rather than aid to the poorest of the poor.

Casey reminds local volunteers that D&P has 186 projects in 30 of the world’s poorest countries and that somehow the organization will have to replace the lost government money. He says that March 25 is Solidarity Sunday, when in dioceses across the country Catholics are asked to make their annual contribution to the Share Lent collection, which supports D&P projects. “I encourage you,” he writes, “to ask people to increase their annual contribution to our sisters and brothers in the Global South.” The theme this year is Help a Just World Take Root.

In 2011, CIDA contributed $8.2 million to D&P programs but the agency raised another $12.6 million on its own.

Latest victim

D&P is just the latest church-based organization to get the back of the hand from the Conservative government. CIDA cut off the inter-church development group KAIROS in late 2009. KAIROS had a good international reputation for its work in human rights and ecological justice in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Minister Jason Kenney, for good measure, accused the organization of being anti-Semitic, an allegation that was hotly denied by both KAIROS and its church partners.

Then in February 2012 CIDA turned down a proposal by the well-respected Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) of $2.9 million for each of the next three years to provide food, water and income generation assistance for people in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Haiti, Bolivia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Kept in suspense

Prior to informing organizations such as MCC and D&P about its funding plans, CIDA had kept them in anxious suspense for months. While CIDA dithered, many organizations have had to suspend programs and to lay off field and office staff.

In a fact sheet provided to D&P’s volunteers, Casey writes, “This lack of CIDA funding has had a number of consequences, most specifically a reduction in our financial support to 32 partners (a 57% average reduction) and an inability to renew funding agreements with 48 other partners. In addition, Development and Peace has had to significantly reduce its in-Canada program and operating expenses (support for members, hiring staff, etc.).”

Government spokespersons, including the Prime Minister, are fond of saying that no agency “deserves” a government grant for international development, nor should they assume that they will receive one. That’s fair enough on one level. But politics and budgets are all about choices. You can choose to spend money on war or prisons, for example, or you can invest it in pursuit of development and human rights. And it’s not as if there is no money remaining in the development envelope – it’s just that the government is seeking new partners.

CIDA’s new partners

Last fall, while D&P and other agencies were anxiously awaiting their fate, CIDA Minister Bev Oda was signing contracts worth $26 million with Canadian mining companies and select NGOs to undertake a number of “corporate responsibility” projects. The companies involved include Canadian-based multinationals Barrick Gold, IAMGOLD, and Rio Tinto Alcan (a company which on January 12 locked out 800 workers at its smelter in Alma, Quebec). In Burkina Faso, for example, IAMGOLD’s project is said to offer skills training to young people to work in the mining industry. One wonders why mining companies need money from the Canadian government to provide job training. The CEO for Barrick Gold, which will receive CIDA money for a project in Peru, took home $9.9 million in pay in 2010.

A reporter for The Ottawa Citizen newspaper asked CIDA Minister Bev Oda how she separates Canada’s trade and foreign policy interests from development goals in these cases. Her response: “I really don’t separate them.” The NGO’s involved with mining companies in three of the pilot projects announced to date include Plan Canada, World Vision and World University Service of Canada.

Whither the bishops?

The case of Development and Peace also pulls in Canada’s Catholic bishops. It was they who created D&P as the preferred international development agency for Catholics, and bishops continue to occupy two seats on the board of directors. Some of the church’s more conservative members in the pew have never accepted D&P’s preference for justice over charity. They also accuse the organization of supporting international development partners who do not always adhere to the church’s line on family planning.

For their part, Canada’s Catholic bishops, who used to make prophetic statements about a variety of social and economic issues, have grown increasingly timid. They declined, for example, to support a document created and signed by move than 60 church leaders in October 2011 calling for the federal government to take real action on climate change.

Catholics, and partners in the development community, may well be asking what, if anything, the bishops will do now to defend the organization that they created. As of late evening on March 18, neither the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops nor Development and Peace had made mention on their websites of the CIDA cutbacks.

Michael Casey, in his letter, limited his strategic advice to urging D&P volunteers to ask Catholics to increase their contribution to the Share Lent collection in order to replace the shortfall from CIDA.

Taking action

But word of CIDA’s action is spreading quickly and Catholic activists have created a Facebook site to communicate on further actions. One is a day-long fast in parishes throughout the country on Friday, April 6 combined with letter writing to the Prime Minister asking that the decision be overturned, and an invitation to bishops to attend the fasting events.

Others are saying (on Facebook) that fasting is not enough and that something more political must be done: “name, shame and remove this gang from power.”

 

Published by

Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament

14 thoughts on “CIDA hammers Development and Peace”

  1. This new CIDA policy boggles the mind. CIDA, controlled by a business worshipping government, has now completely lost its way. Let us hope and pray that in the future with a new government in place these unCanadian and devastating tendencies will be reversed.

  2. One thing you can count on with Prime Minister Harper is his willingness to make war on gospel values wherever he finds them being put into practice.

    Thus, Kairos, the Mennonite Central Committee, and now Development and Peace have been attacked by the Harper government for taking seriously Jesus’ teachings about bringing good news to the poor. These organizations work for development in poor regions of the world that benefits all the people, not just corporate and military elites. By attacking those who do not define development in terms of exploitation by transnational corporations, the Conservatives have demonstrated Canada now has a government that truly loves the darkness more than the light.

    The attack on Development & Peace is just the latest example of our federal government aligning itself with corporate interests who seek unfettered access to rape and pillage around the globe. Canadian mining companies, for example, have a disgraceful record of human rights abuses and other sins stemming from their idolatry of profit. For them, governments that terrorize their own people are ideal business partners – and they have demonstrated that fact repeatedly in places like East Timor, Sudan, China and so on. The sad truth is that when all you care about is making a fast buck, repression and violence are good for business, and corporations operating in the Third World have take full advantage of that fact for decades.

    In his Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995) Pope John Paul II listed a number of activities that he said “poison human society” and are “a supreme dishonor to the Creator.” Those activities include “disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere tools for profit.” Anyone familiar with the corporate practices of transnational corporations in this century (and the last, and the one before that) will immediately recognize that “disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere tools for profit” are simply SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the corporate sector and its political allies.

    Thus, when Prime Minister Harper decides to ‘partner’ with Canadian mining companies and other corporate buccaneers as a development strategy in the Third World, he is simply reaffirming the corporate ethic of cannibalizing the poor to increase profits. The reason why Harper has dumped Christian churches as partners in ‘development’ is because those churches take their faith(s) seriously, and that’s just not good for corporations who put profit before people. The trouble with authentic Christians is that they don’t worship wealth, and that leads to conflict with corporate greed.

    Jesus said you can’t serve God and wealth. Prime Minister Harper says you can! Traditionally, Canada’s federal government has partnered with groups like Kairos, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Development and Peace because it has realized that there is more to authentic development than pushing aside the needy to make a fast buck. By partnering with the corporate sector, Harper has proclaimed his belief in the God of profit worshipped at the altar of greed.

    Canada is a country at the cross-roads. Along with its new international development strategy, which is simply a war on the poor overseas, the Harper government’s foreign policy has already abandoned Canada’s traditional role of peace-maker in favor of taking on the role of war-maker. So children living in poverty will have to wait because we have fighter jets to buy.

    Meanwhile, poverty across the country is on the increase and the Harper government is moving to deal with that problem by building new prisons. Cuts to health care and pensions are also apparently being considered because the money saved by cutting such frills as health care and seniors’ pensions could be used for more corporate tax cuts.

    Perhaps of most concern is the fact that, like the tyrants he wishes to do business with in the Third World, Harper loyalists have been found to have attempted to subvert the last federal election with so-called ‘vote suppression’ tactics. Along with everything else, our government is now opposed to fair and democratic elections. By their fruits you shall know them!

    Sinclair Lewis once said that when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. I’ve never thought of Sinclair Lewis as a prophet, but it may be time to change my view …

    1. RE working together as a coalition to ensure that government decisions are democratic, and do not undermine the rights to advocacy and dissent, including advocacy of Christian values that may be at odds with certain government priorities, this work has already begun:
      http://www.voices-voix.ca

      We are over 200 Canadian organizations.
      Join us!
      Yes, let’s work together.

      Darren Shore
      Communications Coordinator
      Voices-Voix Coalition

      1. Thanks for the comment Darren and welcome to Pulpit and Politics. I encourage readers to follow voices-voix.ca and to participate in your campaigns.

  3. The business narrative of the Harper Government cannot integrate the Gospel narrative. Development, human rights and issues of the environment are at odds with it. Rather that withdraw to a self-interested perspective, D&P must join all other faith based groups targeted by the Harper government to bring to the public an awareness of their contribution to the Common Good and how it is being undermined by the business interests.

    The bishops must begin to make choices. Will they support a broad social justice spirituality, rooted in the Gospel or will they remain on the horns of a dilemma, caught in support for a privatized, personal piety, oblivious to the suffering of humanity.
    Will they risk a critique of government policy and accept to suffer along side the marginalized–

    1. Hi Philip:
      It would be nice to think the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) would raise its voice in protest against the federal government’s outrageous attacks on the poor. But don’t hold your breath – the CCCB appears to be ‘asleep at the wheel’ these days or, perhaps, it is afraid of the consequences of behaving like Jesus did when he encountered injustice and wrong-doing.

      By cutting funding to CCCB’s own organization, Development & Peace, and other Christian organizations like Kairos and the Mennonite Central Committee, the federal government has launched an all out attack on what Catholics (myself included) call the Church’s ‘preferential option for the poor.’ But, it seems, the CCCB is not as concerned about such things as justice or poverty as it used to be, and snores on while the needy are pushed crushed by those who use people as mere tools for increasing profits.

      This morning, hoping things might have changed since I last checked, I again visited the website of the CCCB. Now, I am no expert on seeking out information from websites, but I’ve worked on computers for more than 20 years and can easily find information on websites that is not being hidden or deliberately downplayed.

      I searched the CCCB website for some reaction to Canada’s decision to buy fighter jets and increase military spending at a time when poverty is on the increase. I found nothing! I searched the CCCB website for some comment on the wisdom of the federal government building new prisons at a time when crime is going down and, as mentioned, poverty is going up. I found nothing! I searched the CCCB website for some hint of concern about Canada’s new role of war-maker on the international stage. Yet again, I found nothing.

      I don’t pretend to be an expert on religion or the Bible, but I like to think if Jesus was around today, he would have something to say about the federal government beating its ploughshares into swords and perverting the course of justice due the poor to finance its war-making. He’d would surely think helping the more than 20% of Canadian children who live in poverty is more important than buying fighter jets.

      But, apparently, the bishops and I differ on whether Jesus’ teachings on poverty, war and injustice are actually to be taken seriously and proclaimed in the modern world. By not opposing the new militarism in Canada, the CCCB seems to be saying it’s not that interested in being known as a bunch peace-makers or, perhaps, it is afraid of the consequences of proclaiming the gospel to our federal government. It is to weep. I did, however, find information on the CCCB site about St. Andre of Montreal and the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. It was a poignant moment – from the website, one would think all the heroes of the faith are now in the past. It would be really nice if we had some heroes of the faith around today. We sure need them. Meanwhile, I continue to pray that the bishops will again find a voice to “proclaim good news to the poor” and stand up for justice for all. It’s a tradition that’s worth reviving.

  4. This is the end product of a series of Conservative government policy and process innovations intended to refocus Canada’s international development efforts away from peoples’ needs to the benefit of commercial interests, to progressively redirect Canadian assistance away from needy nations to those more likely to turn a profit for Canada, and to abandon Canada’s traditional role in promoting democracy and citizen participation in the South in favour of one that champions the creation of capital friendly mechanisms of compliance and control.

    The recently announced Canadian NGO / mining sector partnerships is yet another example of this shift. To add insult to injury it effectively serves to hijack publicly contributed counterpart funds into government service, while binding the participating agencies to foreign policy objectives that are not compatible with the best interests of the poor that the original donors set out to support.

    Premised on the oxymoron that competition is the new path to international cooperation, the Harper government’s recent overhaul of CIDA’s application process is unabashedly ideological, ripe for political manipulation, and incompatible with the objective of building an informed and capable civil society that is able to defend the interests of the poor in the South. Far from the days when CIDA’s NGO division was there to encourage citizen involvement in international development, to foster and strengthen links between people and civil society organizations internationally, or to help Canadian NGOs increase their capacity and impact in the South, Harper’s strategy is designed to corral voluntary sector energy into the service of government by subverting it to trade and commercial interests that serve the rich.

    This dismantling of the traditional fairness, professionalism and predictability of Canada’s international assistance program has been accomplished with little public knowledge, fanfare, or debate. Having fought the good fight against tied aid some twenty years ago, the development community and the Canadian public lowered its guard and allowed private corporate interests, their apologists, and ideologues to reassert control over the miniscule budget set aside to assist the poor and to effectively redirect it to their own ends. What is more, the new process pits agency against agency in competition for declining CIDA dollars, a strategy that threatens to dismantle irreplaceable networks and partnerships built up over decades as agencies are forced to prioritize and retool in an effort to win coveted CIDA contracts.

    The competitive character, exaggerated confidentiality , and overall lack of transparency of these measures does double duty by silencing agency criticism of government policies out of fear of retribution at the hands of an increasingly arbitrary and unabashedly vindictive government in a context
    where the rules of the game are anything but clear. As it now stands development NGO’s track records, partnership networks, and development expertise are all relegated to a second-tier in an increasingly politicized CIDA decision-making process presided over by Minister Oda. With the Conservative government’s refusal to fund traditional clients like Kairos, and in light of CIDA’s decision to cut back Development and Peace, even the most progressive and critical elements within the NGO community now find themselves engaging in self-censorship as funding agreements come up for renewal. Readers who contributed as little as a dollar to an international development agency this past year have every reason to be concerned.

  5. With the price of gold keeping the TSE from crashing due to high commodity prices , one can readily see why Mr Harper would like to help Gold Companies exploit the third world with charitable dollars. We will now teach third world people how to work in gold mines for low wages. This is completely in line with Harper’s promise to re brand Canada in such a manner that we will not recognize our former country. We should not be smug here at home either as we see his Government consistently on the side of huge profitable resource corporations. Whether it be oil and gas, food, water, lumber it does not matter. Mr Harper will always come down on the side of wealth and privilege.

  6. International solidarity relationships built up over years of work in many countries of the Global South are threatened by these cuts. The decision of CIDA to end this support seems, from all available information, political in nature. There has never been any indication that the work of Development and Peace is less than laudable. It seems to me then, that the response to such cuts to a wide range of NGOs, must also be political. See the Facebook page Dennis’ excellent blog refers to here: http://www.facebook.com/pepe.gunn#!/events/321820714548704/

  7. What is even more amazing is the public statement: “CIDA decided to focus its contribution to Development and Peace on the countries and sectors where programming will most likely produce tangible results,” wrote CIDA Minister Bev Oda’s spokesperson Justin Broekema in an email.” I guess, not enough positive results for Canadian Minining companies in the context of social justice and the communities in the Global South impacted!!!!!!

  8. Let me reply to Dallas Mcquarrie’s March 20th comment on my contribution.

    I am not holding my breath with regard to the bishops upholding the Gospel but I do invite them regularly. Some do have consciences as I have discovered. My long experience as an “out” gay Catholic in service to the Gospel, as a lay missioner, has taught me that dismissal, if not actual hostility is one of the responses that Jesus had to endure. His response to all of this, even as He was dying, was one of reconciliation. He lived a non-violent, unconditional love as a response to injustice. His movement to the Reign of God offers personal conversion, the Way through suffering and more importantly by means of a faith sustained by a trust in the Resurrection. A righteous anger (and believe me, I am still living that anger out) is a sign of health but if it doesn’t ultimately move to forgiveness, one ends up angry and bitter. We’re on a journey, personal, social and ecclesial.Who knows where the bishops will be in five years time?

  9. Those of you that are wondering why progressive and faith based organizations like Development and Peace are having their funding revoked, or reduced, need only read Bev Oda’s March 4, 2012 address to the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada meeting in Toronto. Lauding Canada’s mining sector, Ms Oda flatly declared that “the Canadian mining industry is MY new best friend” (the emphasis is hers not ours) and even described the Canadian mining sector as “one of the main building blocks of civilization”. In fact, Oda was so enamoured with Canadian mining companies and their presence in the South that she described the Association’s publication as “an international aid and development magazine”. Makes one wonder what other magazines she reads.

    This is hardly encouraging news for the world’s poor. At the same time, the thousands of Canadians that were so scandalized by these same company’s Southern track record of corporate irresponsibility that they demanded stricter controls over their activities, might also wonder about this new found infatuation. Citizens might ask why we have an International Cooperation Minister intent on converting the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) into a branch office of the Export Development Corporation (EDC), whose legitimate role is to help Canadian businesses expand into the international market.

    It is time that we made it clear that we as taxpayers want our aid dollars to help the world’s poor not to mitigate the ecological damages or labour and human rights abuses ascribed to Canadian mining interests in the South. Mining is not and never has been a philanthropic activity and should not be funded as such. Let’s return CIDA’s voluntary sector dollars to legitimate development organizations with real links to the poor and to those working in the interests of the poor, not those who seek to profit from their exploitation.

    1. Dear Dennis and Mike,

      Many thanks for your pieces on the reduction in funding to CCODP and other faith-based organizations. Profoundly disturbing things are happening, and you have both done a great service in pointing them out.

      Lawrence

  10. The world system is dysfunctional from the United Nations to the local Town Hall wrote Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave (1975). It is not just Harper. The reason is in Pope John XX111’s encyclical The Insufficiency of Modern States to Ensure the Universal Common Good, especially Part 4. Our systems are analog. The reality is digital.

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