CIDA | Canadian International Development Agency

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NGOs and Empire | Canadian Aid Agencies Take Empire Building Seriously


by Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Dru Oja Jay

Jul 1, 2012



Photo Credit: Creative Commons: googmami



On November 30, 2009, the Conservatives fired the opening salvo of a far-reaching assault against Canadian development non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The concerted campaign to shift the political centre of the NGO world began when the head office of KAIROS Canada received a phone call from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) notifying the church-based development NGO that its request for funding had been rejected. CIDA officials cryptically informed the organization that its $7.1 million in federal funding had been cut because its activities did not fit the agency’s development priorities. It rapidly became clear, however, that KAIROS had run afoul of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy priorities, most notably his Conservative government’s staunchly pro-Israel stance.

NGOs guilty of similar transgressions soon faced cuts as well. In December 2009, Alternatives – another NGO critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine – learned that its $2.1 million in CIDA funding would be cut. In April 2010, over a dozen groups concerned with women’s rights, including development NGOs such as MATCH International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), also suffered funding cuts. MATCH International ($400,000 in CIDA funding in 2009) and the IPPF ($6 million in 2009) had been critical of the Harper government’s anti-abortion stance internationally. For the targeted organizations, the loss of government funding meant between 40 per cent and 75 per cent of their annual budgets disappeared overnight. The cuts exacted a heavy toll: overseas programs were shut down, offices were closed, staff positions were eliminated, and properties were liquidated.