‘Advocacy’ cited in KAIROS’ cuts

  • February 23, 2011
Bev OdaOTTAWA - An internal background document distributed to members of the Conservative caucus about the KAIROS funding controversy reveals another clue why a $7-million funding request from the ecumenical social justice organization was denied.

The document’s first talking point states: “Our government supports funding to deliver aid and tangible results for the people of developing countries, not subsidizing advocacy.”

In other words, funding is not available for what might be considered community organizing and activism, such as supporting advocacy groups in the developing world whose mandate is to empower disadvantaged people, push for better living conditions or lobby for indigenous rights or environmental protection.

The document was sent out Feb. 19 after Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda, accused of doctoring a KAIROS funding application and then misleading Parliament, had faced a week of calls for her resignation in the House of Commons.

In denying KAIROS’ application, the government had initially said its proposal did not fit with new government priorities. That claim was somewhat contradicted by the revelation that CIDA officials had initially recommended approval of the request. Also, a speech in Jerusalem by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggested KAIROS was dropped because of its affiliation with partners perceived to be anti-Israel.

The background document stressed that, regardless of CIDA’s recommendation, the funding decision was ultimately Oda’s to make.

“We stand by Minister Oda and her decision not to provide millions of dollars in advocacy funding to KAIROS,” the backgrounder said.

Members of Parliament returned to their ridings for a February break the day before the backgrounder was sent out.

The memo also tries to explain how the document, signed by Oda and a member of her department, that seemed to approve the KAIROS funding, had the word “not” inserted in handwriting.

“The Minister had reviewed the memo, made her decision not to approve the funding application, and asked her staff to follow through on it,” the backgrounder said. “The Minister was travelling out of Ottawa on the day that her staff completed the paper work to implement her decision, so they, with the Minister’s authority, applied her automated signature, which is used when required because a Minister is unable to personally sign a document, and indicated her decision on the memo by clearly indicating that she did NOT approve the funding application.” 
The memo was returned to the CIDA officials who had recommended the funding approval. “By definition, those who received the returned memo could not have been misled, and were not misled, by the manner in which the Minister’s decision was communicated in the document,” the backgrounder said.

Margaret Biggs, president of CIDA, confirmed this when she testified before a House committee Dec. 9. She testified that the agency did recommend KAIROS be funded.

“But it was her (Oda’s) decision, after due consideration, to not accept the department’s advice,” Biggs testified. “This is quite normal, and I certainly was aware of her decision. The inclusion of the word ‘not’ is just a simple reflection of what her decision was, and she has been clear. So that’s quite normal.”

But the Opposition parties are unlikely to back down. When the MPs return to Ottawa Feb. 28, Oda may face being found in contempt of Parliament.

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