Court quashes access to information on D&P

By 
  • September 29, 2010
D & P and LifesiteTORONTO - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace obtained a Federal Court injunction Sept. 12 to block an access to information request for the names and funding levels regarding its nearly 200 partner organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

The request was made to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by LifeSiteNews, an online news organization that has published a series of articles over the past 18 months alleging links between Development and Peace-funded partners and pro-abortion lobbying in Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa and Nigeria. Development and Peace has denied those allegations and an investigation into five of its Mexican partners by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops cleared the Catholic aid agency of wrongdoing while also warning it to be more prudent in selecting its partners. LifeSite called that investigation “deeply flawed.”


LifeSite editor John Henry Westen said the access to information request was initiated because Development and Peace “consistently refused to answer questions or engage in dialogue with LifeSiteNews.”

Since Development and Peace is funded in part by CIDA, it was obliged to respond. However, under the act CIDA could not reveal who was requesting the information. Development and Peace went to court to kill the request because it didn’t know who was asking, according to director of advancement Jasmine Fortin.

Many Development and Peace partners are human rights organizations under constant threat either from government or other political and military actors, said Fortin. Development and Peace did not wish to reveal information that might lead to kidnappings, assassinations or terrorist attacks, she said.

It’s not the first time it has chosen to keep information about its partners secret for fear of how information may be used, she said.

“If there is any danger, we have to take it into consideration as good managers.”

Westen slammed Development and Peace for using donor money on a court action to keep information secret.

“It is surprising that they have chosen to spend money donated by Catholics in an effort to combat transparency,” he said.

He said LifeSite was simply seeking the names of  Development and Peace partners and how much each partner was given for the current year and the five previous years. “Since D&P is a charity we thought such information should be public,” Westen said.

Development and Peace executive director Michael Casey has suspended communication with LifeSite until after the next Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ plenary, where the LifeSite versus Development and Peace issue will be dealt with in more detail.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” said Fortin.

Westen said the access to information request was made to determine if Development and Peace was concealing information.

“Since after numerous requests D&P has consistently refused to answer questions or engage in dialogue with LifeSiteNews we felt there was no other option to attain information other than through official channels,” he said.

The 16-page Development and Peace annual report for 2008-2009 highlights projects and partners in every region where the organization distributes aid, and outlines financial commitments country by country (it’s available at www.devp.org).

Development and Peace funds specific long-term development projects run by local non-governmental organizations in 34 countries. The 2008-2009 commitments came to just under $15 million. In addition, as a member of the Caritas Internationalis network, Development and Peace distributed $22.3 million in emergency aid in response to natural disasters.

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