Two Liberal Members of Parliament have criticized the Canadian International Development Agency’s decision to abruptly cut the funding for the Canadian ecumenical justice organization, KAIROS, saying it reflected the “vindictive, partisan nature” of the Conservative government.
“KAIROS does tremendous work to help the world’s poor,” said Scarborough-Guildwood MP John McKay. He noted that KAIROS has taken positions on poverty, climate change and the environment, which are different from the Conservative government. “If the Conservatives don’t like you, they cut you off, regardless of the quality or importance of your work.”
London-North Centre MP Glen Pearson said “the pattern of politicizing public service” sends a chilling message to other NGOs that “they dare not criticize the government or face extinction.”
Meanwhile, KAIROS is sending a delegation to Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 8, to plead its case on Parliament Hill. Representatives of KAIROS have also sought a meeting with Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda, who is responsible for CIDA. They have not received a response to the request as of press time.
On Nov. 30 KAIROS had received a phone call from a CIDA official saying its recent grant application was being denied because the organization “no longer fits CIDA priorities.” That same day, KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery sent an email to Oda requesting an explanation as to why CIDA was ending its 35-year partnership with KAIROS.
A letter was received last week from Oda, but it made no reference to the rejection of the $7.1 million grant being requested by KAIROS for 2009 to 2013.
“Up to now we still have no official word about this in writing,” said Cheryl Curtis, president of the KAIROS board of directors and executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada.
KAIROS staff and board members are reviewing Oda’s letter and considering a response.
Curtis, who is part of the delegation traveling to Ottawa, said KAIROS is organizing the luncheon meeting with MPs “to build support for KAIROS and to engage MPs in dialogue” about the organization’s work, particularly around human rights.
Bishop Philip Poole, suffragan bishop of the diocese of Toronto and PWRDF board member, will also represent the Anglican church in the dialogue. The Anglican Church of Canada is one of seven member churches of KAIROS.
Anglicans across the country have been sending letters in support of KAIROS to the offices of Oda and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
On Dec. 4, the House of Bishops and the Council of General Synod (CoGS), the Anglican Church’s governing body between General Synods, passed resolutions deploring CIDA’s decision.
The House of Bishops and CoGS asked the federal government to reconsider the decision “in consideration of the vital work carried out by KAIROS in many troubled parts of the world on behalf of Canadian church members.” Earlier, KAIROS said the decision will have “a devastating impact” on its 20 partner organizations overseas, which rely on grants to fund projects that address issues such as human rights, poverty, climate change, refugees and migration. The cut also signifies a “big blow” to its work of development education in Canada, said Corkery. The motions were passed in both houses via email votes.
Meanwhile, KAIROS is urging all congregations and parishes to have a table at church services where members can sign a petition letter requesting CIDA to reconsider its decision.
“We believe this action is in keeping with the spirit of Advent, a time in which we wait in hope for the peace and justice expressed through the Christ child’s birth,” said KAIROS education co-ordinator Julie Graham, in an email sent to various churches. “Please continue to tell people about the situation KAIROS is facing. Distribute the urgent action; call your Member of Parliament; and please consider asking your Member of Parliament for a meeting. KAIROS can help you with a meeting request and some pointers for the conversation.”
More information can be found on the KAIROS website, http://KAIROScanada.org/index.php?id=645