D&P’s French youth wing pulls out of fall campaign

  • October 24, 2012
(UPDATED 25/10/12)

The French-speaking youth wing of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has withdrawn its support of the organization’s fall education campaign and next spring’s Share Lent drives in protest over a decision to first delay and then change this fall’s education campaign.

Development and Peace’s traditional fall campaign was to have included postcards addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper requesting a national consultation on the direction of foreign aid policy. CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith and CCCB general secretary Msgr. Pat Powers informed Development and Peace’s leaders in September that several bishops were uncomfortable with the directly political tone of the campaign, leading Development and Peace to delay the launch for a month and withdraw the postcards.

“This decision by our leadership undermines the credibility of our movement and renders it impossible to recruit new members or to maintain engagement among our youth groups,” wrote nine francophone youth representatives who met in Montreal just before the fall education campaign launched Oct. 15.

In a “declaration” issued Oct. 16, the representatives claim the way in which the bishops maneuvered Development and Peace into compromising its plans caused them to question the prophetic role of the organization within the Church.

“We have cried and shared our suffering and anger,” they wrote.

The young members said they understood the gravity of withdrawing their support at this time but claimed something had to be done to force reform on the leadership. Instead of participating in the fall campaign the youth wing will launch an internal campaign to return Development and Peace to its democratic roots and original mission.

Attracting new members, especially among youth, is one focus of this fall’s campaign.

“We knew there would be some members who would be very frustrated with this. That’s not a surprise,” said Development and Peace national council president Ronald Breau.

The national council is looking forward to speaking with youth representatives about their concerns, Breau said. Ariane Collin, who represents francophone youth on the national council, will be able to present her concerns at a full national council meeting scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Internal dissension is a normal part of life in Development and Peace, said Breau.

“I don’t think we’re seeing the disintegration of the movement,” he said. Some of the most vocal criticism of CCCB interference in the organization’s affairs has come from Quebec and francophone New Brunswick, but Breau said he doesn’t believe the Catholic movement set up by Canada’s bishops in 1967 is splitting along linguistic lines.

“I don’t see a French-English split. I see that the French members have a real passion, they have a real strong foundation and they really, really believe — and they’re more expressive,” Breau said.

“That’s good for the movement.”

The bishops are not worried about a gulf between English and French opinion on the development agency, said CCCB spokesman Rene Laprise.

"Half of the members of the CCCB standing committee (on Development and Peace) are francophones, as are half the members of the CCODP liaison committee, and our experience with both committees has shown no divisions along linguistic lines," Laprise wrote in an email.

The CCCB has backed the "Do It Justice" fall campaign by announcing the launch and posting a link to the Development and Peace site on it's own web site.  A four-page background paper on international development policy got the thumbs up with only minor changes from the CCCB’s committee on Development and Peace and from Development and Peace’s liaison committee for relations with the bishops. 
The campaign materials also include a video introduction viewable on YouTube. Other campaign materials are available at www.devp.org .

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