Letter to Minister of International Cooperation: Concern about the suspension of funding by the Federal Government to many Canadian non-governmental organizations

Wednesday, March 23 2005

The Honourable Aileen Carroll
Minister of International Cooperation
Canadian International Development Agency
200 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0G4

Fax: (819) 953-6088

Dear Ms. Carroll:

I write to express the concern of the Bishops of Canada with the 22 February 2005 announcement that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has indefinitely suspended funding to a great many Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive support from the CIDA NGO Project Facility Fund and the Environmental and Sustainable Development Program. It is not at all clear to us how such a measure will enhance our country’s efforts to eradicate poverty in countries of the Global South.

Your decision negatively impacts many smaller NGOs that are active in the Canadian Catholic community. Many of the NGOs and civil society organizations affected by these cuts are found in the West and Atlantic regions. Surely the government would not consciously impair the possibilities of engagement in international development education, fundraising and solidarity activities of those Canadians who reside outside the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto region?

The marvellous response to the Asian tsunami indicated that the Canadian public is demanding more and better responses from their government to the development and emergency relief challenges of the global community. The Bishops of Canada believe that our government should devote more, not fewer, financial resources to overseas development assistance. We rejoice in the recent public commitment of the leaders of each political party represented in the House of Commons to meet the target of 0.7% of Gross National Income for overseas development assistance – yet we were disappointed that the increase to CIDA announced in the recent federal budget will not allow Canada to reach even half of this goal. With the additional announcement of this cut to smaller Canadian NGOs, your government seems to be sending the disheartening message that the voluntary efforts and fundraising acumen of supporters of these organizations are underappreciated.

Madam Minister, we certainly would not oppose your efforts to increase the effectiveness of international development assistance. We understand you are carrying out an evaluation of the Branch involved. Such a laudable activity need not demand the immediate suspension of funding projects in the South, and could helpfully include the option of using existing provincial councils to disburse the $15 million currently invested in these areas. We hope that such an evaluation of CIDA activity will prioritize effectiveness in the field, ability to engage the Canadian public (including public education activities as well as raising funds), as well as ability to create efficiencies in your Ministry.

We appreciate this opportunity to express our concern to you, and ask that you keep us informed as to how the current worrisome situation will be resolved. As well, we send our prayerful best wishes for the success of your efforts to lead our country towards the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals and the enhanced engagement of Canadians in the development challenges our world confronts.

Yours most sincerely,
Most Reverend Blaise Morand
Bishop of Prince Albert
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

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