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By now every Canadian should be aware of the scandal around the altered document.
I am always amazed at how the Prime Minister who often talks about how his government is transparent, so routinely does everything he can to do the opposite. Although the story that has tied Bev Oda in knots is just surfacing this week, the incident actually goes back to 2009.
It is all about the group KAIROS, a faith-based ecumenical organization. Their website says that the group works to affect social change through advocacy, education and research programs in Ecological Justice, Economic Justice, Energy and Extraction, Human Rights, Just and Sustainable Livelihoods, and Indigenous Peoples. They work with around 21 partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East; about eighty local grassroots groups across Canada; as well as with several other organizations, churches and individuals.
In 2009 the Harper government made the decision to decision to cut KAIROS off from federal aid funding. Bev Oda was the minister responsible at the time.
At the time, Ms. Oda insisted that the decision to cut KARIOS lose was a routine government decision but, around the same time, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney boasted to an Israeli audience that the organization was cut off because the government didn’t like its views on Israel.
Those who supported KAIROS through this time suggested that the Conservatives decided to cut off aid to groups whose political views differ from theirs – but the Harper crown said civil servants at the Canadian International Development Agency (CEDA) made the decision that the organization no longer matched their priorities.
But, after a year’s delay, new documents surfaced in December 2010 showing that CIDA’s senior officials signed a memorandum recommending new funding for KAIROS before someone – neither Bev Oda nor the government will say who or when – inserted the word “not,” overruling the recommendation.
Jim Abbott, Oda’s Parliamentary Secretary told the house of Commons that CIDA analyzed KAIROS funding request and found it didn’t meet their priorities.
Margaret Biggs, President of CEDA and the CEDA Vice President for Canadian Partnership, Narash Singh both say that when they signed the document it was to approve the funding request which would clearly say something quite different about who made the decision. This was a political decision, cut and dried.
It is an interesting and popular strategy used by Harper and crew. First they make an unpopular or controversial political decision. Then they say they were only following the advice of their senior government advisors about what they should do. The bureaucrats have no choice but to zip their lips in the face of the lie. The government hides behind this deflection until the issue dies a natural death. Usually a crude but effective strategy. The problem is, as Stephen Harper is beginning to realize, that is the problem with truth. It tends to scratch its way to the surface given time.
Bev Oda will not say if she altered the document before she signed or if she signed the document approving the grant then had her decision reversed by the PMO and someone else inserted the “not” after the fact.
Either way this is pretty dodgy stuff.
I don’t think describing these guys as liars and cheats is too strong. The question really is, are you offended that your government acts like liars and cheats, or is that ok with you.
The person I feel sorry for is Bev Oda. By some reports, a hard working principled politician, she now either has to continue to tow the party line, or decide tell the truth, resign and sit as independent.