The ecumenical justice group, Kairos, has questioned the “transparency and accountability” of the Canadian International Development’s granting process after it was recently revealed in the House of Commons that an unknown party had intervened to have its funding cut.
CIDA initially said in November 2009 that Kairos’ grant application of $7.1 million had been rejected because it “no longer fits CIDA priorities.”
But a parliamentary committee was told on Dec. 9 that CIDA had actually approved the Kairos application. Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda told the Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and International Development that it was her decision to discontinue Kairos’ funding.
Oda was questioned by the committee after documents obtained by journalists through Access to Information requests showed that the Kairos 2009-2013 proposal was strongly supported by CIDA in recognition of its “strategic alignment with CIDA objectives.” The recommendation page bore the signatures of the president and vice-president of CIDA and of the Minister of International Cooperation. But, a handwritten “not” was added to the sentence related to the recommendation for approval.
Minister Oda testified that when she signed the document, it had not contained the word “not.” She said that she did not add the word, “not,” nor did she know who did.
Still, Oda said that she stood by the decision to deny funding to Kairos, which lobbies for peace and human rights in Canada and around the world.
Some Members of Parliament from each of the three opposition parties have sought a motion for contempt of Parliament against Minister Oda, saying that she had misled the House when she suggested that the Kairos proposal had not been approved by CIDA officials.
The Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, has “put over” the matter to allow the Conservative government time to formulate a response.
The revelations have shown that Kairos’ application for funding was “strong” and that it “satisfied all required CIDA criteria,” said Kairos in a statement. The statement added that the events “reveal a significant lack of transparency on the part of the government such that while we know the Minister has taken responsibility for turning down our CIDA proposal, we still do not know who ultimately made that decision, or what additional criteria, if any, were used.”
Kairos said it has not received any word on its second proposal to CIDA, submitted last March.
It said that the loss of its funding has had a “dramatic impact” on its partners. “Valuable, life-saving work for human rights and ecological justice is compromised,” it said.
The Anglican Church of Canada, which is a member of Kairos, has been urging the restoration of the organization’s funding. “The cut of funding for Kairos denies hopes for millions of people throughout the world, inhibits the blessing for which many long, and damages our reputations among millions,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written. “For those whose human rights are violated Kairos is a source of hope. For those whose rights have been restored through peaceful negotiations, Kairos is a blessing. For Canadians, Kairos is a source of pride in seeing the churches working together in cooperative endeavours supported by the government…”