Minister suggests ‘zero tolerance to anti-Semitism’ behind funding cuts to Kairos

Published December 19, 2009

When Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical social justice organization, got the bad news on Nov. 30 that its application for $7.1 million in funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was rejected, the reason given was that Kairos no longer fits CIDA priorities. But while Kairos was still seeking a further explanation and a reversal of the decision from Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda, a very different explanation was offered in a speech that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney gave this week in Israel. Speaking at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Kenney said the government had “articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.” Detailing the concrete consequences of this, he listed a number of organizations whose funding had been cut because of statements or policies the government deemed unacceptable. He also named Kairos. “We have defunded organizations, most recently like Kairos, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott,” he said, according to the text of his speech reprinted on a Conservative MP Rick Dykstra’s website.Mary Corkery, executive director of Kairos, said the accusation is upsetting and outrageous. “He’s obviously linking us to anti-Semitism, and he’s also saying our funding was also cut because we supported a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, which isn’t true,” she said, noting that Kairos took a public position opposing sanctions and boycotts of Israel in 2007. “We do criticize actions of the Israeli government and we do support an independent, viable Palestinian state, so we have criticized the settlements, the barrier wall, the occupation of the West Bank, yes, but that can not be associated with anti-Semitism.” Corkery said that Kairos had also heard from a number of Jewish people who objected to Kenney’s association of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. “They may not agree with us, but they don’t want that. That doesn’t honour anybody,” said Corkery.Kairos issued a statement in response today that said two points had to be made: “criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism; and CIDA was developed to fund international aid and not to serve political agendas. “Minister Kenney’s statement, in a highly charged environment, raises very disturbing questions about the integrity of Canadian development aid decisions,” the statement from Kairos charged. “If aid decisions are based on political rumour rather than on due diligence, development criteria and CIDA’s own evaluation process then this is a matter of grave concern for the entire international development sector — and for the Canadian people who pay for this aid.” Kairos, which is a partnership of 11 churches and church-related organizations including the Anglican Church of Canada, added that people it supported who are working for human rights internationally are the true victims of the funding cut. “This decision cuts funding for a new legal clinic in the Congo to help women who have been raped in the brutal conflict there. The 5,000 members of the Women’s Popular Organization in Colombia will lose funding for life-saving protection against rampant human rights abuses in their country.”The funding cut attracted considerable media attention, and an editorial in the Toronto Star noted that Kairos has also been critical of the Conservative governments policies on climate change.Corkery said that the most shocking part of the decision was that the government “would use the label of anti-Semitism to try to silence Kairos, I suppose, and secondly that, the minister is giving a reason for cutting Kairos that is very different than what [Minister] Bev Oda gave to the Canadian public and parliament and Kairos.”No one from Minister Oda’s office was available for comment on Friday afternoon.


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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