Development and Peace fall campaign is put on hold
By Michael Swan
TORONTO (CCN) — The traditional fall education campaign of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is on hold until mid-October while staff and volunteers scramble to come up with less political material that will gain the backing of all of Canada’s bishops.
Neither the CCCB nor Development and Peace could tell The
Catholic Register how many bishops have objected to campaign materials,
which have been printed but not yet distributed. Through a spokesperson,
Smith declined to be interviewed for this story on the grounds that “the
bishops have not had a chance to discuss the issue.”
Bishops on the CCCB’s Standing Committee on Development
and Peace were not consulted on the move to halt the campaign and have
not seen the materials.
“I haven’t had it explained to me, so I can’t really
comment,” said chair Bishop John Boissonneau of Toronto. “I
was aware that the president of the conference sent out a letter, but
there’s been no followup with me directly.”
“I kind of feel out in the cold on this,” said
committee member Bishop Richard Grecco of Charlottetown.
The last time the bishops’ committee met was May
31 for a consultation with the Development and Peace liaison committee
for relations with the bishops. Meanwhile, work on the fall education
campaign had been delayed until June while the organization dealt with
major restructuring to accommodate a drastic cut in Canadian International
Development Agency funding.
The fall campaign was to have veered off-course from Development
and Peace’s five-year plan of environmentally themed education campaigns.
This campaign, which included postcards addressed to Prime Minister Stephen
Harper, was conceived as a national consultation on the direction of
Canada’s foreign aid policy.
“The trend in how Canada’s foreign aid programs are administered
has changed quite dramatically,” Development and Peace executive
director Michael Casey told The Catholic Register. “The role for
civil society organizations like us is becoming less apparent. More of
the money is going to multilateral institutions, private sector development.
. . . We wanted to see if a constructive critique of this policy from
our perspective could get a hearing.”
The campaign did not mention the $35 million cut over five years in CIDA
funding to Development and Peace, said Casey, and is not an attempt to
revisit the funding decision, he said.
“Concerns were expressed regarding the nature and methodology of
the campaign with respect that it could create some divisiveness within
the church community and that perhaps there should be some more consultations
within D&P and also with the broader church,” said Ronald Breau,
Development and Peace national council president.
Parish Development and Peace leader Greg Kennedy is left wondering what
his group will do while it waits for the campaign to launch.
“Traditionally Development and Peace at the parish level operates
basically two times a year — one in the fall with the education
campaign and then the Share Lent or ShareLife in this diocese,” said
the Jesuit who is studying for the priesthood and helping out at Our
Lady of Lourdes in downtown Toronto. “Without those bookends, really
there’s not much to do until Lent.”
The appearance that the bishops are divided or opposed
to Development and Peace has become a challenge for parish groups, said
Kennedy. And the idea that the bishops’ conference did not inform
its own standing committee will be even more confusing.
“The bishops set up these avenues through which both they and Development
and Peace would work and all of a sudden that gets over-ridden. That’s
disturbing,” he said. “What’s the point of having them
if they’re not going to be used.”
But lobbying the government on policy does not amount to education, said
“We can have that dialogue (on Canadian development policy). I just don’t think it should be a campaign. That’s not what D&P should be about.”