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Development and Peace
In February 2012, Development and Peace found out that its government funding would decrease from $35 million to $14.5 million over the next five years. In addition, the organization would only be able to work with 7 countries instead of the 33 it previously had partnerships with.
Since its inception in 1967, Development and Peace has allocated more than $440 million worldwide and has funded 15 000 projects. It has also channeled donations from the Canadian public to victims of natural disasters, civil war and humanitarian crises.
In February 2012, the organization was told by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that its federal budget would be cut by two thirds, decreasing from $35 to $14.5 million over five years. Moreover, it would only be able to focus on 7 countries, selected by the federal government, compared to the 33 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East in which the organization had built partnerships.
According to Michael Casey, Executive Director of Development and Peace, these restrictions are part of a trend in the Canadian government to align its humanitarian aid policies with its foreign investment and business strategies.
In October 2012, the Canadian Catholic bishops decided to block Development and Peace’s annual education campaign entitled “Do it Justice.” The campaign was deemed too partisan and too political, and ostensibly may hamper the Church’s ties with the Conservatives and lead to divisions within the Catholic community. Specifically, the campaign called for parishioners to put up posters in churches or send postcards to Prime Minister Harper asking him to reconsider his international assistance policies. Archbishop Richard Smith, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked to meet with Development and Peace staff to tell them that some bishops had concerns with the organization’s traditional education campaign. Mr. Casey reportedly said: “They didn’t disagree with the theme… They just thought some of the actions might be perceived as partisan and political and they expressed their concerns to us.”
Following this decision, young francophones in Quebec, New Brunswick and Manitoba declared that they would boycott Development and Peace’s campaigns. Moreover, several members of the organization, disappointed by the bishops’ position, decided to resign. Claire Doran, Director of Education, announced her resignation in November 2012. François Gloutnay, Communications Officer, said: “We can’t change anything in the global South if we don’t change anything in the North.” According to him, “the North holds the key to why so many people in the South live in poverty.” Judging that the basic principles of social justice were no longer upheld by the organization, he also decided to resign.
The education campaign planned for September 2012 has been reported to October and was altered in order to leave out its most controversial components.
- 1967: Development and Peace is created by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- February 2012: Development and Peace is told that its government funding would decrease from $35 to $14.5 million over five years. In addition, the organization would only be able to work with 7 countries instead of the 33 it previously had partnerships with.
- October 2012: Canadian Catholic bishops decide to block Development and Peace’s annual education campaign, deeming it too partisan and too political.
- November 2012: Members of Development and Peace resign as a protest against the decision of the bishops to block the “Do it Justice” campaign
Role or Position
Development and Peace was created in 1967 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness of the problems that developing countries are facing and to provide support to the economic, political and social justice initiatives undertaken by its partners in the South.
Development and Peace’s budget is made up of individual donations, fundraising in parishes and government grants, particularly from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Implications and Consequences
- Democracy: The government’s active attempts to muzzle civil society when it is trying to develop international assistance projects are irreconcilable with the basic principles of democratic governance.
- Freedom of expression: The fact that the Catholic bishops decided to block Development and Peace’s campaign – evidently in order to maintain good ties between the Church and the Conservative government – demonstrates how the federal government is able to indirectly silence organizations that go against its strategic priorities and political agenda.
Date published : 12 November 2012
Photo from Development and Peace.