CIDA Cuts KAIROS Funding: A Warning Call?

December 3, 2009     
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“I have no problem using CIDA money to undermine CIDA or promoting genuinely radical projects” (Jaggi Singh of CMAQ/Alternatives)

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has announced it is cutting some seven million dollars in funding to KAIROS. This organization states that it has “Ecumenical Justice” as it goal and that it works “for the earth and justice for its people” It has been clear for years, however, the KAIROS has been slipping towards political advocacy as its primary goal, rather than assisting the poor or downtrodden. While advocacy and assistance can be linked, KAIROS had developed advocacy campaigns that were highly partisan in their nature.

Is this a warning call to other organizations that receive CIDA funding? Are there other organizations which have been penetrated and then used for partisan goals?

In the past, CIDA has been responsible for funding various projects that had politics rather than development as their goals. Some of these CIDA funded projects went so far off the rails as to be related to genocide and transnational terrorism. Even when warned that Canadian international aid money was being sent to projects of highly dubious objectives, CIDA continued to fund the projects without conducting a serious review of the projects. Perhaps the most egregious CIDA effort was sending money to Rwanda after it was clear that the money was being used to buy weapons. Despite the publicized killing of a Canadian priest in Rwanda for pointing out this fraudulent use of taxpayer’s money, CIDA still did not review the status of the projects. The genocide that followed was carried out, in part, with CIDA funding.

In addition to partially funding the genocide, CIDA also helped to fund al Qaeda when it was in its recovery phase in the mid-1990s. As with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, CIDA continued to fund highly doubtful projects involving Ahmed Said Khadr and Human Concern International long after the warning signs were clear. It was only after a journalist travelled to Pakistan and exposed the projects as fraud did CIDA undertake a serious review. The question must arise as to what other projects are being funded now that would cause outrage among Canadian taxpayers.

One of the most interesting projects currently being funded (CDN $2.5 million/year) is a Montreal based organization called “Alternatives” which states that it is a welfare organization. This organization is also called “Reseau d’Action et Communication pour le Develop” or the “Action and Communication Network for International Development.”

CIDA is intended to fund international development projects, so the question arises as to why the money is going to a Canadian based agency. The first answer appears to be that “Alternatives” is assisting overseas organizations to educate themselves for self-improvement. On the surface, this would appear to be a reasonable plan of action.

So what is “Alternatives” doing with the $2.5 million a year that they receive from CIDA? One annual program is the summer education camp. The 2008 summer camp which ran from 22 to 24 August 2008 is an interesting example. The event was held at the three star Camp Papillion in Saint-Alphonse de Rodriguez and featured “500 militantes et militants motivĂ©s”(500 motivated militants). This shows signs of growth, as the 2006 program only features “250 militants motivĂ©s.” The militants invited to these camps attended from countries such as Lebanon, Niger, Columbia, Brazil, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “Palestine” and Venezuela.

Over the years, the participants at various summer camps or “Days of International Solidarity” have discussed topics such as resisting imperialism in Lebanon and assessing what Cuba should look like in 50 years. Perhaps the most interesting training session might have been the “La victoire du mouvement social du NĂ©pal” or the “Victory of the social movement in Nepal.” The “victory” being referred to is the 10 year long civil war started in 1996 by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) which resulted in a Maoist government being installed after the deaths of some 12,000 people. The Maoist Party had, as its goal, a “protracted armed struggle on the route to a new democratic revolution.” In other words, the party would use violence to install a Maoist style communist government. Those who attended the Alternatives camp were treated to a presentation which described a “Portrait of this victory and the next challenges of Nepal.” How many Canadian taxpayers would by happy to know they are funding a celebration of a Maoist revolution and civIl war?

Warning Signs

Infiltrators will often use an activist organization for their own goals, rather than the stated goals of the organization when it was founded. It is far easier to take over a “good” organization and pervert its mission, rather than building an organization from the ground up which will have limited support due to its highly partisan political goals. Mr Jaggi Singh, a noted Canadian activist, is quite clear on how he views this process. While discussing the use of CIDA money to fund the CMAQ program of “Alternatives” he stated “I have no problem using CIDA money to undermine CIDA or promoting genuinely radical projects.” Mr Singh is at least honest about his intentions!

The “Alternatives” organization is being used for a number of goals which most taxpayers in Canada would probably find objectionable and would certainly run contrary to Canadian values. How many people on the board of “Alternatives” are supporting pure partisan goals rather than developmental goals?

It is arguable that this has been the fate of KAIROS, much as it was formerly the misfortune of Human Concern International to be penetrated by evil individuals such as Ahmed Said Khadr of al Qaeda fame. As such, it is clear that the funding cut to KAIROS can be seen as a warning to other organizations which have gone down the slippery slope of “political advocy.” This runs contrary to mainstream Canadian values. While it is no doubt their right to advocate their views, the question arises as to whether or not the Canadian taxpyer has to fund them.

Caveat lector: The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly personal, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.

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7 Responses to “CIDA Cuts KAIROS Funding: A Warning Call?”

  1. carotte on December 6th, 2009 5:21 pm

    I’m just going to repost here a blog post by Ms. Gordon, that states exactly what I think about this article, this post definitely lacks research and is clearly based on false assumptions.


    Mr. John Ivison’s recent article in the National Post regarding funding cuts to Toronto-based human rights organization Kairos, and rumors about pending cuts to Montreal-based international development organization Alternatives paints a troubling portrait of the state of democracy in Canada.

    Like many public organizations, Canadian international development and human rights NGOs are evaluated and audited by donors to ensure that they meet mutually-agreed upon goals. Granted, sometimes the mechanisms put into place are not enough to prevent abuses. Over recent years however, given the sensitive nature of the work being undertaken by Canadian development NGOs, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has been cast under intense scrutiny by the Treasury Board and other oversight bodies. This means that at the end of the day, many dedicated development professionals both at CIDA and at international development NGOs spend a lot of time filling out regulation results-based management tables and compiling financial reports to document how all tax payer money is spent. This is a straight forward process, put into place to ensure that Canadian international development NGOs or Ministries do development work and do not engage in activities that could be construed as contrary to Canada’s or any other country’s security interests. When one wants to critique Canadian international development NGOs, a good place to start gathering information would be through examining the results of this public process.

    This carefully considered system is rendered useless however, when it is totally ignored by commentators such as John Ivison in favor of offhand comments from unknown sources. In his article, he mentions an event held by Alternatives in August 2008 in which “500 motivated militants” were supposed to have attended. His only cited source of information for his article, Tom Quiggin gives us a clue as to where the idea comes from: Mr. Tom Quiggin wrote an article about Alternatives’ event in “Global Brief” magazine. In his article, he accuses the Canadian International Development Agency of funding projects “related to genocide and transnational terrorism” as well as helping fund al Qaeda. In his rather astonishing work, he mentions an event held by ‘Alternatives Reseau d’Action et Communication pour le Develop’ (sic.) in August 2008, directly quoting Alternatives’ own report that the event featured “500 motivated militants”. The problem with Mr. Quiggin’s analysis is that his French is not strong enough for him to realize that ‘militant’ in French does not mean the same thing as ‘militant’ in English. In French, the word ‘militant’ is used to refer to anyone who fights for a cause. Ghandi is a ‘militant’, so is Aung San Suu Kyi. The French equivalent for the English word ‘militant’ is in fact, ‘activiste’. However Mr. Quiggin blithely states that Alternatives reports hosting yearly “militant camps” and the damage is done. Following this, the quality of the rest of his article does not improve.

    None the less, Mr. Quiggin seems to be the primary source of information for John Ivson’s article, which continues with a confusing pop analysis of Hamas and Hezbollah which even Mr. Quiggin with his 20 years experience with various Canadian intelligence apparatus’ would be hard pressed to agree with. Then unfortunately Mr. Quiggin is cited as saying that the government is “kicking back” after “organizations that may have been legitimate when they started up have overstepped their mandate with highly partisan attacks”. Subtext: organizations critical of the Federal government have overstepped their mandate and their funding is being cut. Except that this is not the way that democracy is supposed to work. Canada is supposed to be a country where free speech is protected. International development professionals should be able to state their discomfort with federal government policy without the threat of finding themselves out of work – as long as they accomplish the previously-stated goals that they committed to doing within their professional mandate. Interestingly, Alternatives’ ‘JournĂ©e d’études’ in August 2008 with its ‘militant’ following was a successful event, held as per development education goals previously negotiated and agreed upon with the federal government.

    Like with most forms of politics, international development is tricky. The profession is supposed to be protected from being manipulated for goals other than those that Canadian voters ascribe to, through the federal government, by the evaluations processes put into place by the government for this purpose. If organizations lose funding for their projects, there should be a paper trail a mile long describing exactly how they failed to meet their professional obligations with the federal government. It is the job of reporters such as Mr. Ivison to follow that trail, and refrain from surreptitiously citing surreal articles such as that of Mr. Quigg. In addition, if recent budget cuts to organizations such as Kairos and perhaps Alternatives are politically motivated, I would hope that journalists such as Mr. Ivison would be on the case, because that’s how effective media in a functional democracy is supposed to work.

    - Vanessa Gordon, former Internships Project Officer, Alternatives.


  2. Un journaliste du National Post a-t-il fait une job de bras? | Citoyen Michel on December 6th, 2009 7:51 pm

    [...] Le journaliste du National Post accorde beaucoup de crĂ©dibilitĂ© Ă  Tom Quiggin de Global Brief qui a rĂ©digĂ© un texte assez habile discrĂ©ditant Alternatives sous le prĂ©texte d’infiltration de celle-ci par des Ă©lĂ©ments subversifs (CIDA Cuts KAIROS Funding: A Warning Call?). [...]

  3. Tom Quiggin on December 7th, 2009 7:12 am

    The term militant is used in French and English in largely the same context and with the same definitions. The common definitions are:

    English: disposed to warfare or hard-line policies, or combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause, warring; engaged in warfare.
    French: Personne qui lutte, qui agit pour un parti, une cause. (Anglais militant). Synonymes: activiste, adepte, partisan, révolutionnaire.

    A search through the current French language press will find the word militant used in a number of differing contexts. Osama bin Laden is described as a militant. Yaser Arafat, who is both a terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner is described as “…militant palestinien…” Those who are not in agreement with the leadership of a political party are often called militants as well. For instance, Mr Ignattieff was noted in a French language blog as having to deal with internal problems. The quote used the term “militant” in the following context: “…et convaincre les militants qu’il n’est pas l’homme de Toronto. ” Those who both support and oppose the issue of climate change are also called militants in French and English.

    Ghandi is indeed described as a militant in both French and English, although I note that when his name is used in French, there are normally qualifiers used to distinguish his position on non-violence. He is frequently identified as :
    “Ghandi, militant de la bienveillance”
    “Mahatma Gandhi, militant non-violent indien”
    “Ghandi, militant nationaliste hindou et adepte de la non-violence”

    In the Alternatives summer camp of 2006, we are told that a “portrait of victory” in Nepal was going to be described. The reference here was to the Maoist rebels who overthrew the government of Nepal in 2006, after a 10 year long civil war that killed 12,000 people. Can one describe their actions as “militant” in English or French? I believe so.

    Tom Quiggin

  4. Carnet de notes de Dominic Morissette » Alternatives menacĂ© par le gouvernement Harper on December 7th, 2009 9:49 am

    [...] Toujours sur le site d’Alternatives, Michel Lambert cite un ancien agent des renseignements canadien, Tom Quigging, qui Ă©crit dans le The Global Brief, World Affairs in the 21st Century – “CIDA Cuts KAIROS Funding: A Warning Call?” [...]

  5. carotte on December 7th, 2009 7:15 pm

    Again, I think you should really check your facts before making statements

    I’m pretty sure (but I could be wrong) that Jaggi Singh has never been a member of the staff or the board of Alternatives, in that context, it would be wrong to quote him as a person representing the organisation. As for the CMAQ, it is a project of alternative media, giving a space for citizens of every ideology to express their opinion and publish citizen news, subscribing to the indymedia global movement. The project would only be “radical” at the moment it was created by offering way before web 2.0 a space for citizen journalism, a not so common type of project at the time.

    Have you been to the Alternatives days? Well I have, more than once and I can assure you that this organisation is promoting dialogue with inviting speakers of civil society organisations promoting PEACE and DEMOCRACY, and not terrorist groups.

  6. Pete on January 5th, 2010 10:10 am

    This post is largely consistent with the author’s other writings, which lack research and analysis. For Quiggan, 2010 convergence includes “… anarchists, aboriginal “warrior” groups, poverty activists, housing activists, anti-capitalists, anti-globalization activists, student activists, and others who are just interested in anti-social behavior.” He says that “most of these individuals have a Middle Eastern view of politics. A number of these individuals and groups have a strong anti-Israeli or strong anti-Semitic outlook.” What?

    It is truly frightening that Quiggan is considered some kind of “expert” on the topic.

  7. Jan Slakov on March 5th, 2010 2:47 pm

    Interesting. As someone who is bilingual, I would say that “militant” in English has a much stronger meaning than “militant” in French.

    I appreciate reading Tom Quiggin’s concerns, for they help me understand why ANYONE could defend what I consider to be an indefensible decision to cut funding to KAIROS.

    But it is clear he is seeking to make a point and ignoring the overall intent and effect of the cut to KAIROS.

    In all the following discussion, it’s amazing how many times his last name was misspelled :)

    In closing, a brief summary of why I think the cut to KAIROS is terribly wrong-headed. Here we have a prime minister vowing to help women and children, but cutting funding to an organization that was setting out to help victims of rape in the Congo. As the chair of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace wrote:

    “The current work of KAIROS honours government’s priorities which are clear in the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
    requiring Canadian aid to be consistent with international human rights standards. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Colombia, and Sudan, for example, KAIROS partners with organizations such as the Sudan Council of Churches and supports grassroots human rights workers who widen democratic space by protecting the lives of the threatened.”

    all the best, Jan

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