Jennifer Henry of the aid agency Kairos talks about the controversy surrounding International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda's decision to alter a funding document
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda admits she ordered a recommendation be altered to deny funding to a church-backed aid group
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda's apology for ordering a Canadian International Development Agency document altered to deny Kairos federal funding has raised the profile of the organization — a long-established faith-based foreign aid agency that saw its government funding cut with the stroke of a pen.
February 14, the embattled minister backtracked on previous statements in which she said Toronto-based Kairos had lost its funding because the group's work no longer fit with CIDA's objectives — suggesting she was acting on her department's recommendation.
Oda told the House on Tuesday that the decision not to provide funding to the organization was hers and a handwritten "not" added to a document was inserted at her direction.
Kairos describes itself as a "faith-based ecumenical organization" that pursues social and economic justice projects with local partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Its members include the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Quakers, the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada and several Roman Catholic bodies including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Timeline of events
Sept. 25 2009: Naresh Singh, assistant vice-president of the Canadian Partnership Branch of CIDA, signs a document recommending Kairos receive $7,098,758.
Sept. 28, 2009: Margaret Biggs, president of CIDA, signs the document recommending the funding.
Nov. 27, 2009: Oda signs the document. Kairos learns its funding has been cut. Documents show CIDA signed off on the funding, only for the decision to be reversed by a handwritten "not" added to the note.
Dec. 3, 2009: Oda sends a letter to Mary Corkery, Kairos' executive director, explaining the government's stated intentions to make Canada's international assistance "more effective" and deliver "results that make a real difference to the lives of those living in poverty."
"As you can understand, this greater focus on priorities and results means that some project proposals will not be supported, even if they were in the past," Oda writes, and adds the organization will soon receive a formal letter from CIDA on its proposal.
"Let me assure you that CIDA will continue to support the efforts of all qualified, experienced organizations in their outstanding, meaningful work that will improve the lives of those living in poverty, most efficiently and effectively."
Dec. 16, 2009: Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tells an Israeli audience the Kairos cuts were part of his government's efforts to crack down on anti-Semitic groups. He said the organization lost its CIDA funding because it took a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
Aid groups expressed shock at the assertion, prompting Kenney to state that, in fact, Oda ended Kairos's funding because it didn't meet CIDA priorities.
Dec. 23, 2009: In response, Kairos says Kenney's statement that Kairos took "a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign" against Israel is false. The organization notes that its 11 member churches and organizations, voting as Kairos board of directors, decided in 2007 "against advocating sanctions against Israel or a boycott of products from Israel."
Mar. 15, 2010: Oda's parliamentary secretary, Conservative MP Jim Abbott, tells the House of Commons that CIDA analyzed the Kairos funding request and "determined, with regret, that it did not meet the agency’s current priorities."
April 23, 2010: Oda tables a signed reply to a question submitted Mar. 8 by Liberal MP Glen Pearson, which states: "The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion. "Non-government organizations proposals to CIDA are assessed on a variety of criteria, which are described on CIDA's website www.acdi-cida.gc.ca."
Oct. 28, 2010: Oda tells the House: "Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear. We have an international aid effectiveness strategy and we are acting on it. We are getting results for people in the developing countries and all projects by CIDA are assessed against our effectiveness standard. After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards."
Dec. 9, 2010: CIDA executives and Oda appear at a Commons committee. The executives tell MPs on the committee they didn't put "not" in the document. Oda says she didn't do it either and doesn't know who did. But the minister stands by the decision to deny the organization's funding.
Dec. 10, 2010: Jim Abbott, Oda's parliamentary secretary,apologizes for unintentionally misleading Parliament by telling the House in March that Kairos didn't meet CIDA's priorities.
Dec. 10, 2010: Liberal MP John McKay raises a point of privilege to assert that Oda advertently mislead Parliament.
Feb. 10, 2011: House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, in his ruling on MacKay's point of privilege, says there was no breach of privilege, but rules the document signed by Oda and two of her most senior officials was deliberately "doctored." Milliken calls the document tampering "very troubling."
Feb. 14, 2011: Oda apologizes to the House for "confusion," and says it was her decision to go against staff recommendation. But there is still no answer as to who wrote "not" on the document.
Feb. 14, 2011: The House foreign affairs committee votes to refer the matter to the House as a point of privilege.
Feb. 15, 2011: Prime Minister Stephen Harper defends Oda in question period, saying she made the right decision to deny Kairos funding. He dismisses opposition calls for her resignation.
Feb. 16, 2011: The House foreign affairs committee meets behind closed doors and agrees to send a report asking House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken to investigate further whether Oda has breached parliamentary privilege, according to opposition MPs on the committee.
Feb. 17, 2011: The Liberals table a foreign affairs committee report in the House of Commons that opens the door to possible sanctions against Oda.
Feb. 18, 2011: The Conservatives respond to the Liberals' report, saying there is no sufficient evidence that Oda broke any rules.
Feb. 24, 2011: Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae announces the opposition plans to table a motion demanding the release of any documents revealing who inserted the "not" on the Kairos document.
March 9, 2011: House Speaker Peter Milliken rules that Oda may have misled Parliament, saying enough doubt exists to pursue further investigation.
March 16, 2011: The House of Commons procedure and house affairs committee begins hearing from witnesses in its investigation whether the Conservative government will be found to be in contempt of Parliament, in regards to the Oda affair and alleged insufficient information about prison spending.
March 18, 2011: Bev Oda appears on day three of the committee's hearings. She says she acted on her own accord when deciding Kairos was not to receive funding and not under direction of Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney.