Oda admits to doctoring KAIROS memo

  • February 17, 2011
Bev OdaOTTAWA - The interfaith group KAIROS was denied $7 million in funding after an approval document signed by senior civil servants was doctored by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, the minister has admitted.

The Conservative Minister now stands accused of lying to a committee of MPs when she testified on Dec. 9 that she did not know who altered the memo that was drafted by executives at the Canadian International Development Agency.

The original CIDA memo indicated that its president and a vice-president approved a KAIROS request for a four-year funding grant. But after the memo had been signed by CIDA executives the word “not” was inserted by hand to change a key sentence to read “not approve,” creating the impression that CIDA had rejected the request.

On Feb. 14 Oda admitted in the House of Commons that she ordered that the “not” be inserted, contradicting statements she had made two months earlier.

“Given the way the document was formatted … this was the only way to reflect my decision,” she told the House.

KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery said she was not surprised to learn of Oda’s role in adding the “not” to the document.

“It’s a surprise that she owned up to having caused the ‘not’ to be put in,” Corkery told The Catholic Register.

The admission vindicates what KAIROS has been saying about the approval process since the sudden, unexpected move to cut off KAIROS’ funding, she said.

“There’s a lack of transparency and accountability, which are the big issues, big themes, we’ve been talking about” said Corkery.

Oda’s admission followed a scathing ruling by House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken.

“Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes,” said the Speaker.

“In particular, the senior CIDA officials concerned must be deeply disturbed by the doctored document they have been made to appear to have signed.”

Oda said it was within her right as minister to overrule the recommendation of civil servants and deny the KAIROS request. But by misleading a parliamentary committee in December over her role in the altered document she now risks being found in contempt of Parliament for lying to MPs.

“If it’s not a resignation offence, I’m not sure what is,” said Liberal MP John McKay.

KAIROS supporters have always maintained the funding cut, announced in 2009, was politically motivated. KAIROS had been critical of various mining and oil initiatives and, at one point, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggested KAIROS was cut off because the government objected to its alleged anti-Israeli position.

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