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April 25, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 9

Aid funding redirected to international trade

The hammer that had earlier fallen on faith-based organizations such as Kairos and Mennonite Central Committee (“On shaky ground,” March 6, page 20) has now fallen on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P), which heard recently that the funding proposal made to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) back in July 2010 for funding projects over the next five years had been cut by two-thirds.

For D&P, which had been running 186 projects in 30 of the  world’s poorest  countries, the cut from $44.6 million to $14.5 million over five years is devastating.

This reflects the government’s intention to refocus its aid budget on trade, rather than aid to the poorest of the poor. And it’s not like there is no money left in the development envelope; it’s just that the government is seeking new partners.

Last fall, while D&P and other agencies were anxiously awaiting their fate, CIDA minister Bev Oda was signing contracts worth $26 million with Canadian mining companies to undertake a number of “corporate responsibility” projects. In Burkina Faso, IAmGold’s project is said to offer skills training  to young people working in the mining industry. One wonders why mining companies need money from the Canadian government to provide job training. The CEO of Barrick Gold, which will also receive CIDA money, took home $9.9 million in pay in 2010.

The policy of our federal government in the area of human rights and international aid is becoming clearer if we follow where the money will be spent. In the federal budget the Harper government proposed a 7.5 percent cut in foreign aid. Oxfam Canada called the move a sign that “the Harper government is turning its back on the world’s poor.” However, there are still billions available for building prisons and buying fighter jets.

If you are like me and feel that this is not the direction we want our country to go, mention it to your MP the next time you speak with him or her.

Louis Balcaen, La Broquerie, Man.

Disturbing implications to CIDA cuts for MCC

Re: “On shaky ground,” March 5, page 20.

The denial of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funding for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has disturbing implications. It might include a reduction of MCC programs due to a funding shortage.

MCC’s application did not meet government criteria, which might well be code for “don’t be critical of this government.”   

A further concern is the impact of the CIDA decision on MCC staff: it silences them. MCC staffers working in areas of peace, refugees, justice or aboriginal affairs will need to be careful about what, if anything, they say about government policies. Speaking out could result in MCC administrators reprimanding or dismissing staff, all because staff comments might jeopardize the possibility of future government funding.  

When this happens, the prophetic insight of MCC is diminished or lost completely if the soul has been compromised in the hope of pleasing the government and getting money. This is sad. Very sad.

Henry Neufeld, Delta B.C.

MCC ‘affirms the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ’

Re: “No religion superior to another,” March 19, page 36.

It is unfortunate that the “No religion superior to another” headline was used to describe the interfaith youth event held in Winnipeg and supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba.

MCC Manitoba peace coordinator Steve Plenert is accurately quoted as saying, “There was no sense that one of these religions or faiths is superior or better.” But the statement was intended to show the attitude of respect which prevailed among conference participants as they talked about faith. It was not a statement about the equality or inequality of religions.

Canada is a multicultural, multi-faith country. MCC participated in the conference to encourage respectful conversation about faith among Canadian youth from various religions. It was an opportunity for Mennonite youth to hear other youth describe their faith and to articulate their Christian faith to peers from five other religions. Overall, we believe it  was a good event and that MCC’s participation was consistent with its beliefs and values.

Plenert is also quoted as saying, “MCC certainly affirms the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ in the work that we do . . . .” This statement is in accord with the shared convictions of global Anabaptists, which MCC accepted in 2010, that states, “Jesus is the Son of God. Through his life and teachings, his cross and resurrection, he showed us how to be faithful disciples, redeemed the world and offers eternal life.”

Ernie Wiens, Winnipeg

Ernie Wiens is the MCC Manitoba board chair.

Compelling story of loss prompts tough question

Re: “Beauty from loss,” March 19, page 30.

I thank you for sharing with us this update concerning the Derksen family. The death of their daughter Candace in 1984, the many years of unanswered questions, and the eventual arrest, trial and conviction of the offender make for a very compelling story. Their testimony compels us to evaluate how we understand the topics of suffering, crime, revenge, grace, guilt, anger, healing, unanswered questions, the justice system and forgiveness.

In her writings Wilma Derksen shares with us about the times when she went to a federal prison to talk with offenders, especially those who are in for murder. She shared with us how much it was beneficial for both her as a victim and the offender. I realize that my question may be rather direct and may be painful, but I wonder if she or anyone else has visited the man who is responsible for the murder of Candace.

David Shantz, Montreal Que.

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