CIDA chops Mennonite Central Committee

Development consultant Ian Smillie, CIDA greases skids for commerce


The Conservative government’s shoe is dropping on some long established foreign aid groups while it privileges others. Mennonite Central Committee Canada reports on its website that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has turned down MCC’s proposal 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. MCC is a long-time partner of CIDA’s in overseas development projects. The organization is highly respected and is scrupulously non-partisan in its approach to governments and development. Continue reading CIDA chops Mennonite Central Committee

John Baird talks through his hat on Israel

Canada’s foreign affairs minister was talking through his hat recently in Israel. John Baird was on a state visit and repeated at every opportunity that, “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada.” Then he would recount his story about how, as a young Parliamentary assistant working in the office of the Conservative foreign affairs minister in the 1990s, he could not stay quiet during the daily briefings about Israel. “I took a pad of paper and drew a white hat on one side and a black hat on the other. Under the white hat, I wrote ‘Israel’ and under the black, ‘Hezbollah.’” This recreated story, like much of what Minister Baird says, smacks of theatre but lacks the ring of authenticity.  But obviously he believes it will play well back at home, where he hopes that the Harper government will be able to rewrite the traditional playbook on Canada’s role as an honest broker in Middle East diplomacy. Continue reading John Baird talks through his hat on Israel

CIDA, Barrick Gold, new partners in development?


Bev Oda, CIDA minister

When she shut down the 35-year relationship between the ecumenical group KAIROS and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 2009, it seemed that Conservative minister Bev Oda had lost her tongue. It was left to a faceless bureaucrat to call KAIROS and tell them their human rights projects in some of the world’s most troubled countries no longer fit CIDA’s criteria. When Oda was questioned about this in the House of Commons, she had nothing to say and sat there mutely while other (male) cabinet ministers tried to parry the blows. But Oda has plenty to say these days, including a recent lengthy interview with the Ottawa Citizen, in which she speaks with great enthusiasm about CIDA’s new support for pilot projects abroad with Canadian mining companies and select NGOs.  Continue reading CIDA, Barrick Gold, new partners in development?

Pulpit and Politics on CBC Radio


Michael Enright, The Sunday Edition

I was interviewed about my book Pulpit and Politics by two CBC Radio hosts in early January 2012. Michael Enright, host of CBC Radio’s The Sunday  Edition talked with former MP Bill Blaikie and me on New Year’s Day. Then on January 7, Wojtek Gwiazda, host of the Radio Canada International’s Masala Canada, interviewed me on a program that is heard in many countries. Click here for an audio file of The Sunday Edition interview, and here for the Radio Canada International heard on Masala Canada.

CPT and Palestinian “freedom riders”

 Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have been present since the 1980s in some of the world’s most troubled locations, including Iraq, Colombia, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as on a dozen first Nations in Canada and the United States. Members of CPT teams either stand between opposing sides in conflict or accompany the weak in their encounters with the strong. CPT’s stated goal is to “get in the way,” but it is always done in a non-violent and peacemaking manner.

Recently, CPT personnel accompanied six Palestinian “freedom riders” as they boarded Israeli only buses and were later arrested by Israeli soldiers and police. Their story was covered widely by international press and exposed the segregated transportation system of the occupation.

CPT member Jo Ann Fricke was there and wrote about it in the following excerpt, which is used here by permission of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Continue reading CPT and Palestinian “freedom riders”

Christians fear regime change in Syria


Mosques, churches in Damascus

The Scottish writer William Dalrymple says that Syria has been a kind of oasis for Christians in the  Middle East.  But Syrian Christians are now faced with a painful choice. They can offer support to a brutal dictatorship that, generally, has protected them but has killed 5,000 of its citizens since calls for change and demonstrations began in the spring of 2011. Or Christians can participate in the opposition, which, if it topples the regime, may bring to power a Sunni-led government that could be ultra-conservative and anti-Christian. Continue reading Christians fear regime change in Syria

Some thoughts on God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens

Writer Christopher Hitchens has died at age died at age 62. One of his most popular and controversial books is God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. In a guest column for this blog, Eric Schiller, a Quaker and a retired University of Ottawa professor, writes about the book and analyzes Hitchens’ attack on organized religion.

Continue reading Some thoughts on God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens

Canadian churches, climate change and Durban

 I have at times been critical of Canadian faith communities for failing to make the environment a moral priority. But a good number of religious leaders in Canada and elsewhere, weighed in for the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. I will get to Canadians in a moment but will start with the fireworks that arose from an advertisement in the Globe and Mail newspaper on November 30. Continue reading Canadian churches, climate change and Durban