Romeo Maione was all talk but it was glorious talk, talk that made things happen. Mr. Maione used every podium and platform he could find to make the Church real and alive in the world.

Published in Canada

Ten years of fighting off friendly fire attacks from the pro-life movement and politically motivated budget cuts from Ottawa has left outgoing Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey feeling inspired, consoled, hopeful and at peace.

Published in Canada

At first glance, the appointment of Julian Fantino to replace Bev Oda as Canada’s Minister of International Co-operation seems an odd choice.

Fantino inherits responsibility for overseeing a $5-billion aid budget co-ordinated through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Becoming the public face of Canadian charity is a big leap for someone best known as a hard-nosed cop who, if he has a soft side, keeps it well hidden.

Then again, Fantino may be exactly what CIDA needs.

Published in Editorial

For weeks Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace members have been getting their word in edgewise in the House of Commons.

Before Parliament broke for the summer MPs tabled about a dozen petitions asking the government to restore the Canadian bishops’ development agency’s CIDA funding to $49.2 million over the next five years. In February the Canadian International Development Agency cut that number to $14.5 million.

The petitions, most of them from Quebec, also ask the Conservatives to recommit to increasing Canada’s overseas development assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Canada currently spends 0.34 per cent of GDP on foreign aid, one of the lowest percentages among all donor countries. The 2012 federal budget announced plans to cut development assistance a further 7.5 per cent over the next three years.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Africans still want the kind of genuine partnership with Canadians the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has fostered over the last four decades, the provincial superior of the Jesuits in Eastern Africa said — even if CIDA has cancelled funding to every D&P partner in Africa outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"It matters," Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator told The Catholic Register. "It's not only about Canadians giving to Africa. There's an element of mutuality there. It's not just about the money. It is important to keep that contact."

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA
April 24, 2012

Step down, Bev Oda

International Development minister Bev Oda has defended large cuts in Canadian foreign aid by saying stricter accountability has created more efficiency in how taxpayer dollars are spent overseas. Sadly, the minister doesn’t seem to apply that same discipline to her own office.

Oda is the minister responsible for managing Canada’s $5 billion aid budget. It’s her job to sign off on which starving nations receive Canadian aid as well as how much money each receives. More than most Canadians, she is familiar with the misery of the world’s poor, or at least she should be. So it’s alarming to learn the Conservative minister approaches her important work with a let-them-eat-cake mentality.

Published in Editorial

A week without solid food isn’t going to fill the $5-million hole in the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s budget, but Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt felt she had to take on a Holy Week fast to protest CIDA cuts to the Catholic movement.

The 22-year-old Carleton University student lived on nothing but tea, water and juice until Easter Sunday even while working on her graduating thesis in the global politics program. By mid-week her protest had raised almost $1,400 for D&P.

“The fact that these cuts took place, or we heard tell of them, during Lent is really telling,” Kannikkatt told The Catholic Register. “Being that time of year, it provided an opportunity for the (D&P) membership across the country to get in touch with this issue in a more spiritual and connected way.”

On Good Friday, Kannikkatt was joined on her fast by almost 300 people who vowed to dedicate their fast to D&P. They will give money they would otherwise have spent on food to the Canadian bishops’ development agency while also writing letters to the government to protest a 65-per-cent cut in CIDA funding for 2011 to 2016.

The member actions have inspired the agency’s 60-plus employees, said D&P program co-ordinator Siobhan Rowan.

“It’s been quite incredible and very heartening,” Rowan said. “And it makes it all the harder to think of what we’re going to lose.”

Kannikkatt has written letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda asking for reasons behind the funding cut, but has yet to receive a reply.

“Fasting throughout the centuries has been used as a really powerful means of resistance,” said Kannikkatt.

Citing Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, Kannikkatt doesn’t believe fasting can be easily classified as either political or spiritual.

“Hundreds of members across the country are going to be joining me in this fast,” she said.

“Fasting together, in solidarity with each other, I think that is an incredible example of the Spirit moving through the people involved in this organization as well as making a powerful statement about the politics behind it.”

Kannikkatt’s final paper is about how a corporate social responsibility program run by a Canadian mining company in Guatemala is affecting development prospects for the local community. After graduation she is travelling with a D&P delegation to the Rio+20 United Nations conference in June.

The idea that the current government is more interested in charity than justice, more interested in corporate image repair than democratic change has the employees of D&P calling for action to confront the Conservatives on their development policy, said Rowan.

There’s no way of knowing precisely how many people working with HIV-positive slum dwellers in Africa or helping poor farmers in Haiti are about to lose their jobs because D&P funding has dried up, said Rowan. In many cases laying off the workers in partner organizations will dismantle years of patient, slow work and throw skilled people on the street in countries with no social safety net, she said.

In Ottawa, Kannikkatt isn’t complaining about hunger pangs.  She’s thinking about the future of the movement.

“It means we’re going to have to start seeing how we can work differently with our allied organizations in the ecumenical world and in the secular world — see how we can combine our efforts a little bit more,” she said.

“Also we have to see how we can speak out with a more collective voice against this trend in the government away from good, solid, trusted development work that organizations like Development and Peace do to something much more problematic.”

Published in Canada

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) recently issued a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed” with the news that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had its latest government funding come in much lower than expected.

I for one couldn’t be happier.

Well, actually, I would be happier if D&P lost all of its government funding, but dropping from a request of $49 million over five years to just $14 million over five years is a step in the right direction.

Published in Guest Columns

Bishops and lay people have come out swinging in defence of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in the face of a massive funding cut from the federal government.

Development and Peace suffered a 65-per-cent cut in CIDA funding in March. Between 2011 and 2016 the government will supply $14.5 million to fund specific Development and Peace programs in seven countries. Over the previous five years CIDA had given $44.6 million. Development and Peace supports 186 local organizations in 33 countries.

The bishops of Saskatchewan have sent out a letter to all Catholics in the province warning that “these funding cuts will have a drastic effect.”

Published in Canada

Canada’s bishops are asking the government to explain a 68 per cent cut in CIDA funding to Development and Peace, but development experts and opposition politicians are offering explanations the bishops are unlikely to hear from the government.

University of Toronto development expert Wilson Pritchart says domestic politics is lurking behind CIDA funding decisions.

“What the government in fact is doing is cutting funding to organizations that are critical of it, that are critical of the aid agenda,” Pritchart told The Catholic Register. “And to some extent cutting funding to NGOs that are at all political in favour of using NGOs as conduits for service delivery.”

Published in Canada
March 27, 2012

Take a stand on D&P

In a perfect world, agencies dedicated to lifting people out of poverty would be well financed with both private and public funds. But the world of 2012 is far from perfect so it should be no shock that Development and Peace is reeling from a 68 per cent cut in government funding.

Governments everywhere are scrambling to reduce huge budget deficits and ballooning debts exacerbated by global economic turmoil. In Canada, amid expensive national infrastructure and bailout programs, the Conservative government changed its approach to foreign aid in 2010. Where foreign aid used to be based on a percentage of GDP, it is now capped at $5 billion annually.

Published in Editorial

Development and Peace is facing significant program reductions and staff cuts after the 45-year-old Catholic lay movement was hit by a 65 per cent cut in government funding.

“It’s going to be a very difficult period for the organization,” said D&P executive director Michael Casey. “It’s not just staff here or the institution here in Canada. You look at the impact it’s going to have on the partners.”

Published in Canada
December 13, 2011

CIDA funding in limbo

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is not alone in its anxious wait for a funding decision from the Canadian International Development Agency.

There are more than 200 non-profit development agencies waiting for the government to say yes or no to new or continued funding, wondering whether they will have to lay off staff and cut off funding to co-operatives, clinics and seed banks in some of the poorest regions of the world.

In November, CIDA told Development and Peace its proposal for $10 million per year in program funding over the next five years had passed through the CIDA approval process and only needed a final yes or no from the Treasury Board. CIDA expected the Treasury Board to deal with the matter by Dec. 1.

Published in Canada