Mike Flynn pans CIDA cuts to CCODP

Mike Flynn, former CCODP Director

Mike Flynn is a frustrated man. He is a former English sector director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). He has more than 25 years of experience with voluntary organizations in the field of international development, social justice and public education. He lives in Montreal. He has responded to my recent blog posting about a decision by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to cut CCODP off at the knees.  The organization waited anxiously for months, only to learn recently that its funding from CIDA will be chopped by two-thirds in the coming five years. CIDA had provided $44.6 million in the years 2006-11 for CCODP projects with partners in 30 of the world’s poorest countries. CIDA has decided to shave that amount to a much-reduced $14.5 million over the next five years, a catastrophic loss of $30 million. Continue reading Mike Flynn pans CIDA cuts to CCODP

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.

Continue reading CIDA hammers Development and Peace

Netanyahu, Harper threaten Iran

Douglas Roche and Ernie Regehr

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Ottawa recently promoting a pre-emptive military attack upon Iran. He visited with his friend and close ally Stephen Harper prior to going to Washington in an attempt to pressure President Obama into supporting his doomsday scenario. Contenders for the Republican nomination were only too happy to beat the same war drum. In Canada, Mr. Harper earlier had obligingly gone out of his way to tell journalists that Iran was the largest single threat to the world’s future and security. Mr. Harper said he had “watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me.” Our bold warrior would do well to heed the words and actions of Douglas Roche, Murray Thomson and Ernie Regehr. I’ll get back to their plan in a minute. They are wiser by far than our intemperate leaders. Continue reading Netanyahu, Harper threaten Iran

Quakers save cloud forest in Monteverde

When I was a CBC Radio host in the late 1980s, I bought title to one acre of cloud forest in Costa Rica for 25 dollars and then did an interview about it with someone from one of the environmental organizations supporting the project. Now, 25 years later, I may just have seen my acre of forest in a visit that I made with my wife Martha to Monteverde.  On one of our hikes, our guide to the trees and trails in the reserve was Ricardo (Ricky) Guindon. He is the son Wilford and Lucky Guindon, one of the Quaker families that settled there in the 1950s, and who have played an important role in protecting the forest. It’s quite a story. Continue reading Quakers save cloud forest in Monteverde

Father Andrew Britz, rest in peace


Father Andrew Britz and Dennis Gruending, November 2011

I received word on February 14 that my old friend father Andrew Britz had died of a heart attack in Saskatoon at age 71. I had known Andrew since the 1960s when I attended a boarding school run by the Benedictine monks at St. Peter’s Abbey near Humboldt, Saskatchewan. In the early 1980s Andrew became editor of the Prairie Messenger, a newspaper published by the monks since 1904.

I return to Saskatchewan every summer to visit friends and relatives and in 2008 I spent several hours with Andrew, by then ill with Parkinson’s disease. He asked if I would work with him to compile an anthology of his best writing during a long tenure as editor, which ended in 2004. Our collaboration  resulted in a book called Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk, which has been released by Kingsley Publishing of Calgary. It was a project that gave Andrew great pleasure in what were to be the twilight years of his life.  Continue reading Father Andrew Britz, rest in peace

Peruvians in Hampstead crash from Comas

Shanty town near Lima, Peru
Shanty town near Lima, circa 1979

Nine of the ten farm workers killed in a tragic automobile accident near Hampstead, Ontario on February 6 came from Comas, a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima. They, and three others who survived crash, were in Canada as migrant farm workers because there is little chance in Comas of providing the necessities of life for their families. The 38-year-old Canadian driver of the truck that collided with the 15-passenger van carrying the Peruvians was also killed. Continue reading Peruvians in Hampstead crash from Comas

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