A frank and direct exchange between national council members and CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith at the Development and Peace annual meeting in Montreal was “an extremely enriching dialogue” Register file photo

New D&P president comes on board in trying times

By 
  • December 8, 2012

Facing high-profile resignations and protests from within the organization, massive budget cuts and a complete reorganization, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

has elected a new president of its national council and held a Dec. 1 heart-to-heart with the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A frank and direct exchange between national council members and CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith at the Development and Peace annual meeting in Montreal was “an extremely enriching dialogue,” said outgoing national council president Ronald Breau.

“There was a really strong affirmation of D&P. He assured us of the support of the CCCB,” Breau said.

New president Pat Kennedy said the relationship between the bishops and the organization had become stronger through creation of the Development and Peace liaison committee working with the bishops and the CCCB’s own committee on Development and Peace.

Kennedy, a 60-year-old retired civil servant from Newfoundland and the former vice president of the national council, backs Smith’s call for a calmer, more collaborative relationship with the bishops.

“He (Smith) said it very well that we need to move from confrontation to consultation. And in consultation, we need to come from a position of charity and love,” Kennedy said. “That’s who we are as an organization.”

Just before the annual elections, Development and Peace received another high-profile resignation. In a four-page letter, University of Montreal theology professor Michel Beaudin quit the theology committee. He has been on the committee for five years and active in the agency for 40 years.

“There does not seem to be any place in Development and Peace at this point for a real theology committee,” wrote Beaudin.

Beaudin’s letter comes on the heels of another public resignation by Claire Doran, the director of in-Canada education programs.

In October the Quebec youth wing of the organization withdrew its participation in both the fall education campaign and the 2013 Lenten fundraising campaign, citing the national council’s decision to cave in to demands from the Canadian bishops to cancel a postcard campaign demanding Prime Minister Stephen Harper initiate a parliamentary review of Canada’s foreign aid policy.

“We’re almost in a perfect storm situation. But I think the waters can be calmed,” said Kennedy. “The strength of our faith will guide us through this perfect storm.”

Kennedy wants to return the focus of the organization on its work with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“I would like to ensure that we focus on the common issue of meeting the needs of people in the global south and not spend so much energy on internal issues,” he said.

Though most of the public protest against CCCB interference in the fall education campaign has come from Quebec, Kennedy rejects any suggestion a split is developing between its French and English halves. Kennedy, who was first involved in Development and Peace as a parishioner in Gaspé, Que., said he’s seen the same concerns expressed across English Canada, though Quebeckers tend to be more publicly outspoken.

“It’s not a French-English thing. It’s just geographically,” he said. “Development and Peace was always more out there in the public, in civil society in Quebec than I’ve witnessed in English Canada.”

Development and Peace’s 13,000 members have always been ready to advocate and fight for justice, said Kennedy.
“That energy right now is being directed internally within our organization. The people with those skills, right now they’re focussed on who we are as an organization.”

Kennedy calls criticism of executive director Michael Casey “unfair.”

“He is managing an organization that’s going through a huge transformation with reduced funds because of the CIDA cuts,” he said. “Michael has been unfairly targeted on a number of things, actually.”

It was the executive committee of national council and not management that decided to scale back the fall education campaign, he said.

Kennedy wants to see the organization come up with a 21st-century communication strategy that would restore the image of Development and Peace, engage the membership and counter negative media commentary.

“People want to be communicated within real time, not three months down the road,” he said.

Kennedy serves a one-year term as president with the possibility of being re-elected twice. Most national council presidents serve two of the possible three years. Breau steps aside after two years.

The executive committee of national council will consist of Kennedy, vice president Ariane Collin from the Francophone Youth wing, treasurer Wambui Kipusi and secretary Ray Temmerman. At large members of the executive are Robert Thomson, Dyck Mynen and Gilles Halley.

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