Letter from Bishop François Thibodeau to the Honourable Don Boudria

Tuesday, December 10 1996

The Honourable Don Boudria
Minister for International Cooperation and
Minister Responsible for La Francophonie
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Boudria:

Since your government has been in power, we have noted a marked reduction in the sum allocated for overseas development assistance. According to your colleague the Minister of Finance, these amounts will decrease by 21 percent during the next three years. During the period of 1991-1998, the percentage of the GNP devoted to public development aid will have declined by 50 percent, as we underlined in our message entitled: “The Struggle Against Poverty: A Sign of Hope for Our World,” published last October 17.

We are surprised by this budgetary choice. The size of these reductions concerns us very much. We fear that these successive and substantial cuts will greatly reduce the capacity of the government and its partners to take up the challenge of promoting authentic human development with the people of developing countries.

We are well aware of the social and economic crisis across the country: chronic unemployment and growing poverty notably among women and children, as well as the inequitable distribution of income. These factors limit citizens from participating in economic recovery from which they, together with all levels of government, would benefit, if economic recovery were generating the revenues necessary to fight the deficit, and maintain and encourage new programs, including an increase in overseas development assistance.

Without denying the importance of these difficulties, we believe that the Canadian government must continue to support development strategies for communities and peoples who are aspiring to improve their living conditions.

To achieve this, we ask that, in the short-term, you establish a limit to cuts for overseas development assistance. We invite you at least to maintain the present budget level and to assure stable and continuous financing to Canadian non-governmental organizations of international cooperation which on many occasions have demonstrated their expertise and efficiency, often in very difficult and dangerous situations.

We are thinking in particular of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace as well as other organizations which educate and increase the awareness of Canadians. As well, with their partners in the South, they support NGO community-controlled development projects that encourage the autonomy of persons and the establishment of networks and responsible communities capable of creating and mastering the various dimensions of sustainable people-centred development, at the local, regional and eventually national, levels.

Knowing that you will soon be meeting with representatives of Development and Peace, we hope that the results of these discussions will allow the Canadian Catholic community to continue this critically important pastoral task at an efficient level


+ François Thibodeau, cjm
Bishop of Edmundston
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops