KAIROS still seeks truth behind funding cut

  • March 22, 2011

KAIROSOTTAWA - The apparent disconnect between the Conservative government and CIDA public servants over funding of the ecumenical social justice group KAIROS may expose a much deeper underlying issue about overseas development.

“It would be helpful if the real reasons were put on the table,” said KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery March 18 after she testified before the House of Commons procedure and house affairs committee.

Corkery’s testimony followed a two-hour grilling of CIDA Minister Bev Oda on whether she had deliberately misled the House of Commons. Oda changed the recommendation to grant funding to KAIROS after CIDA officials had given their approval.

One of the key signals of an ideological shift is the government’s criticism of KAIROS for funding advocacy. Corkery said the Latin roots of the word “advocacy” mean the bringing forward of “the voices of the poor and the marginalized and those who are suffering human rights abuses from our point of view.”

“Of course we do that,” she said.  “Why advocacy is used in a negative way, a pejorative way, has to be explored.”

But critics of funding advocacy groups see it as funding  left-wing ideologies.

REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt said the decision not to fund KAIROS and a number of other NGOs definitely signals an ideological shift from the overseas development trends that have dominated CIDA since it was created in 1968.  

NGOs in Latin America and the Middle East use money for political agitation, she said, and funding them was a way for the government to directly involve itself in the political processes of other countries.

REAL Women, an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, said Oda was right to cut funding to KAIROS and other groups.  

“Government policy is not going to provide funds for advocacy groups but to do something to directly help the individual, to teach technology, to get positive results by directly impacting people, not through advocating.”

Corkery said KAIROS has received conflicting explanations of why their proposal for renewed funding was not accepted, ranging from efficiency and effectiveness, spending too much money for work in Canada or too much on administration, all of which she disputed, citing favourable evaluations and audits to the contrary. It has also been criticized as “anti-Semitic,” a charge that stunned the organization when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made a speech in Jerusalem to that effect.

Despite the uncertainty and difficulty KAIROS has experienced since its $7 million request for funding was not accepted, the organization has become stronger, said Corkery.

“The amazing thing is the number of people who have come seemingly out of nowhere to support KAIROS,” Corkery said.

The loss of government funding, however, has been “unfortunate and tragic” for KAIROS’ overseas partners, she said.


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