CIDA chops Mennonite Central Committee

Development consultant Ian Smillie, CIDA greases skids for commerce


The Conservative government’s shoe is dropping on some long established foreign aid groups while it privileges others. Mennonite Central Committee Canada reports on its website that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has turned down MCC’s proposal of $2.9 million for each of the next three years to provide food, water and income generation assistance for people in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Haiti, Bolivia, Mozambique and Ethiopia. MCC is a long-time partner of CIDA’s in overseas development projects. The organization is highly respected and is scrupulously non-partisan in its approach to governments and development.

Who’s next?

One is left to wonder who is next. Elizabeth Payne, who writes for the Ottawa Citizen reports that dozens of groups, told to expect word on funding by last September, were still waiting in December. Some of those organizations quietly began putting their programs on hold and releasing staff. While they were waiting, CIDA announced $26 million in other projects, including partnerships with several Canadian mining companies and other NGOs to promote “corporate social responsibility projects” in Burkina Faso, Peru and Tanzania.

Mining Justice

Perhaps MCC’s misdemeanour in CIDA’s eyes was its campaign called Mining Justice. “Canadian mining operations around the world are a mixed blessing,” the organization says on its website. “On the one hand, mines provide jobs, they invest in a host nation’s economy, and often contribute towards schools, clinics and other projects. But there is another side. Jobs are often short-lived and the financial benefits to the economy are meager. Mines often displace people from their homes, destroy land, and contaminate water supplies. Frequently, the people who occupy the land – often, Indigenous peoples – are not adequately consulted. Sometimes, Canadian mining operations contribute to human rights violations, violence and armed conflict . . . MCC does not have all the answers, but we have committed ourselves to a journey for mining justice.”

Don Peters, MCC Canada executive director, says on the organization’s website that MCC will now explore other options to fill the annual $2.9 million funding gap. But he says that some MCC programs “may be temporarily delayed or scaled back.” The organization says that last year it had personnel in 48 countries and income of about $76 million. It will continue to receive some CIDA money for projects in Haiti and elsewhere.

Frustrated and demoralized

The Ottawa Citizen reports that, “Aid agencies are frustrated and demoralized by delays and lack of transparency in their dealings with CIDA.” The story says that the agency’s critics accuse it of becoming more politicized, less effective and less transparent.

This criticism was echoed in an article in Embassy magazine last fall. Ian Smillie, an Ottawa-based author and international aid consultant, and Professor Stephen Brown at Ottawa University, wrote that Canada has shifted its aid priorities so that “middle-income countries like Colombia and Peru have replaced low-income African countries as CIDA priorities, a move aimed primarily at greasing the skids for Canadian commercial interests.”

They write that the relationship between most Canadian development NGOs and CIDA has been deteriorating. “CIDA has become much more directive in its funding of NGOs, throwing out the window those it doesn’t like and pushing others towards its own geographic and sectoral priorities. Increasingly, NGOs are being treated like contractors, rather than development actors in their own right.”

Trade is aid

CIDA minister Bev Oda has vigorously defended that approach and her agency’s new partnership with the Canadian mining industry. “It’s another way of improving the effectiveness of CIDA’s work,” she told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview. Asked how she separates Canada’s trade and foreign policy interests from its program of aid, she said, “I really don’t separate them.”

A friendly note

MCC has lost much of its CIDA funding and word is that a number of other agencies are in line for similar news. If you have any information on that, please provide it in the Comments section below. Should you wish to send Ms. Oda a friendly note, you can reach her at:



23 thoughts on “CIDA chops Mennonite Central Committee

  1. Thank you for encouraging me to put my comments on your blog. This post is certainly related to the previous one about CIDA and mining companies so I will put it here. I have a great deal of respect for you and agree with you on many areas concerning social justice and democracy.

    I cannot comprehend reasons for CIDA cancelling funding for MCC which I am familiar with, nor for KAIROS, which I am not, other than for the ideological disagreements of the Harper government. The lunatics have been in charge of the CIDA asylum for far too long and have now swung from one extreme to the other, from ignoring the potential of private industry in development work to ignoring excellent NGOs.

    There is no question that mining in general and gold mines in particular have done a great deal of damage to peoples, communities and environments throughout history. But it is not fair to lump them all into the same category. Some are learning and trying to change, to be corporately socially responsible, to pay attention to the triple bottom line. There are, of course, certain NGOs who are not interesting in having that happen or believing it when it does happen because NGOs are businesses like any other and produce what sells to their client group.

    I do not know the details of the agreement between CIDA and the Canadian mining companies so cannot comment on the projects which are being funded. But I can talk about Corporate Social Responsibility projects as I was involved in a minor way in one and am a friend of Wayne Dunn who has promoted CSR and worked on many CSR projects in many countries. Through Wayne Dunn and Associates ( I worked with a Canadian gold mining company in Turkey to help develop an agriculture development strategy for the counties around the mine so that they would have an economic base when the mine closes in 20 years.

    Wayne has been in the development game for 20 years or more. He is currently restarting his consulting business after taking several years off to start an underwater logging company to log Lake Volta in Ghana since sold to Triton Logging. His website does not yet have much background material on it. Wayne is married to a Ghanaian and has funded a number of small development projects in the Wa area of NW Ghana mainly out of his own pocket. He is in Ghana at the moment as Special Envoy to the President of the University of Winnipeg where he has signed a cooperation agreement between the Ghanaian University of Development Studies and U W.

    Wayne had this to say about the current situation:
    “I agree that the communication has been atrocious. And I’m not sure all of the motives were necessarily pure either, by any of the parties. But, I think the real issue is about the development impact of CIDA’s spending. Canada has a global responsibility to support development around the world. The execution of that responsibility should be about the impact that spending has. Painting with broad brushes and setting this up as a private sector vs NGO issue misses too many of the nuances of the issue and the on the ground development realities. The mining sector has done terrible things to people and communities, in Canada and globally. But, so have churches, NGOs, governments and others. CIDA cannot, and should not exclude entire sectors from its partnership programs (and it has for far too long).

    I was one of the first to facilitate a large, developmental partnership project with a Canadian mining company. CIDA put in $2 million, Placer Dome put in several million and the direct impact was felt by thousands of families in hundreds of communities across Southern Africa. The indirect impact changed the social face of the South African mining industry and led directly to the industry’s very progressive (and economically self-interested) HIV/AIDS programming. Much more could have been accomplished if CIDA hadn’t led Placer and the Industry on for a year regarding a $25 million partnership project where CIDA’s contribution was less than $5 million. After a year CIDA said, we don’t want to support private companies. That decision didn’t cost the companies, but did cost people and communities in South Africa.”

    The Placer Dome CARE project referred to above was written up as a Stanford University case study which can be read here:
    The last four paragraphs of the case study are quoted below:

    The results of the Care Project have been a welcome surprise for the South African government. “When [the mine] laid off 2,500 workers in 1999, we expected it would be similar to other retrenchments, where the workers and their families received little support other than some on-mine training for the worker,” said Kgosietsile Mogaki, social plan director for the South African Ministry of Minerals and Energy. “However, we have witnessed the Care Project making life-changing impacts, helping workers and their families to develop alternative incomes. Today [the government sees] the Care Project as an example that we encourage other mines to follow. The Care Project has changed the social face of the South African mining industry.”

    For Placer Dome, the Care Project produced a strong relationship with unions and the South African government, plus a global reputation as a leader in corporate social responsibility. For me, the project demonstrated how the private sector can work proactively with development partners such as CIDA to accomplish what neither of them could do individually.

    Development agencies and private firms have common interests. Development organizations have a mandate to alleviate poverty and inequality in the developing world. International business, especially in industries such as mining, is under increasing pressure to demonstrate that it can create social value along with shareholder value. In much of the world, social value is synonymous with easing poverty and increasing equality.

    CIDA and other development agencies have extensive experience designing and implementing development projects, but their funding is limited and, with the increase in private investment in recent years, their relative influence in developing economies is shrinking. Multinational businesses like Placer Dome have well-developed logistics and project execution skills; often they have infrastructure and managers in isolated areas (where mines are located) as well. As the Care Project demonstrates, there are significant synergies that can be achieved when these two sectors collaborate effectively.

    Yours sincerely
    Al Hingston


    1. Thanks Allen for the effort in writing such a comprehensive note. I won’t reply in detail at the momemt due to a lack of time. Perhaps others have some thoughts. (dennis)


  2. $2.9M is about 4% of $76M, as noted above. Presumably the sympathy or annoyance that the news of the cut will generate, will cause individuals to replace that money. A problem with taking government money, organizations can get dependent on it.

    No doubt you know more than I do about what is happening in Ottawa, but in addition to the mining piece, there’s other possible reasons why MCC’s funding might get cut. There’s MCC’s lamentable lack of interest in exploring both sides to the Israeli – Palestinian situation. Plus some civil servants believe that government money should only go to secular humanists. Exactly how secular their humanism is when they want to make it the state religion is questionable, but they may have taken the chance that MCC gave them to decrease funding. Was Ms Oda involved in this decision?

    And then there’s always the perennial civil service – elected government dance, as in “you want us to decrease spending, well then we’ll hit someone religious since we know that all you Conservatives are ugly people predisposed to religion”. Or,


    1. The Harper government is very interested in supporting religious organizations of the correct (fundamentalist Protestant) stripe, I think. There certainly are two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Unfortunately anyone who seems interested in the Palestinian side is painted as pro-terrorist, just like those who stood up for native North Americans during the 19th century.


    2. Lois Epp:
      “And then there’s always the perennial civil service – elected government dance, as in “you want us to decrease spending, well then we’ll hit someone religious since we know that all you Conservatives are ugly people predisposed to religion””

      I think you might be projecting. Civil servants currently take their jobs seriously and are overwhelmingly objective and non-partisan.

      The irony of your comment is that it is the Reform-Conservatives who are sprinkling radicals, who share their ideology, into the civil service. And they could prove to be overwhelmingly prejudiced and vindictive in a partisan way that the current civil servants are not.–conservative-politics-lead-people-racist.html


      1. The cut to MCC has the earmark of power struggle to me. The civil service is reminding the Conservatives that the civil service can cause public relations upsets, which the left is now providing. But this is not high school and adults can see the various potentials right away. When one doesn’t know, it doesn’t pay to jump to the most obvious conclusion right away.

        Presumably MCC realized that taking government money puts the organization in the path of such games. Why exactly MCC released the mining paper now and thereby handed the civil service an ideal situation for games is, well, odd. Are they oblivious or what?

        Those salted Conservatives can vie with others who were salted from other political parties. BTW, gossip is an unreliable predictor of who is salted and who is an innocent person who does not, but is rumored to, have political backing. People’s reputations are at stake.


      2. Lois Epp:
        “Those salted Conservatives can vie with others who were salted from other political parties. BTW, gossip is an unreliable predictor of who is salted and who is an innocent person who does not, but is rumored to, have political backing. People’s reputations are at stake.”

        Civil service hiring was, prior to Reform, based on the merit principle. But the new partisan Reform party civil service appointees stick out like sore thumbs. This is not a rumour – this is a secret all over the block.


    3. Ms Lois Epp appears to equate the immorality of the Jewish state’s occupation and its pogrom of Gaza with the morality of opposing the obvious. Bev Oda would love her.

      In any event, MCC should embark on cutting all grants from government – especially one that forged CIDA docs re KAIROS, and which deems that organization [and Rights and Democracy before the take over by elements loyal to Israel] as ‘anti-semitic’.

      I would welcome Ms Epp’s public defence of the “other side” of the Israeli human rights abuses of the Palestinians.



  3. Thanks, Dennis,

    This is, of course, disturbing news, and undoubtedly more is on the way. This Government is fundamentally changing the relationship once enjoyed with the voluntary sector, including the international development organization part of it.



    1. I would definitely watch for them to redirect the money to some purpose the MCC would probably oppose. It’s how the current government works.

      They moved CIDA money from Kairos to the mining companies which Kairos probably criticized. They started and funded the Canada School of Energy and Environment which under Bruce Carson pushed for energy options which destroy the environment; and their Minister of the Environment is instructed to support such destructive actions.

      Then there is the Palestine/Israel issue which is clearly important to Harper, who is completely one-sided on it.

      Orwell had it right. For them War is Peace, Destruction is Conservation, Hatred is Love.


  4. It is sad but not surprizing to see the direct attack on funding by the Harper government to the Mennonite Central Committee. This should be tied into the recent attacks on groups who are totally self reliant (i.e. raise their own funds). In the case of these groups (who raise their own funds) they are being threatened in another way – on their right to retain their status as charitable organizations (read tax receipts to their donors). Groups that are seen to be advocates for anything such as improved legislation or stopping policies that work against humanitarian interests, for example, attempts to bring to the public’s attention to anything our government is doing wrong – such as chopping the funding to the Mennonite Central Committee — or thwarting legislation that supports the export of generic drugs to developing countries (read the Canadian Access to Medecines Regime here) – they loose their status. Is there a bigger picture here?


    1. How do we know where the decision was made? By the civil service which is common? By the Minister, as in the Kairos case? IS there any way to find that out?


  5. Although just an average senior and previously a one parent family, I am very concerned not only about what is happening throughout the world, but more especially here in Canada. Our children’s and Grandchildren’s futures are at stake, as is Canada as a sovereign nation.

    Please, here I wish to appeal to all persons far more educated than many of us in the lower classes, to help in our fight to restore DEMOCRACY and stop Harper’s agenda that might end up in our losing control of all our resources and future possible jobs, through his having negotiated deals, not only behind the backs of Canadians, but without open debate within Parliament.PLEASE, WE NEED YOU ALL.


    1. Elizabeth, I too am concerned about this country and my children and their children. The corporate oil Reform shills refuse to engage with us in our Parliament and in our media. So we have no other choice but to engage them on the net and in the streets.

      See you there – I’ll be the one wearing the black cap 🙂


  6. Trust the Harper gang to take the human out of human rights.
    We must, like the RCMP used to, maintain the right.


  7. This is just one more attack on charities/institutions that Canadians have been proud to support in the past and present. I believe that Harper or one of his cronies has said that ‘Canada will be unrecognizable’ when he is through with it. This is why concerned Canadians and the opposition political parties must put aside their partisan differences to get rid of the Harper Conservatives at the very next election. This has been the published view of Murray Dobbin, a progressive blogger from B.C. and while I may have had doubts about how correct were Mr. Dobbin’s views, I am fearful that he is correct. Accusing good, concerned environmentalists of being radicals because they raise awareness of the effects of the ‘tar oil’ pipelines with their potential destruction of nature by oil spills, should be a wake up call to Canadians. As is the Climate Change denial and the actual working against the international community at the recent Durban conference. So the cut to MCC which my wife and I have supported for many years is like the Canary in the mine. Canadians wake up and take action!


    1. Thank you, Murray. As an MCC worker overseas, it is hard to take the cuts which come our way into our Europe and Middle East Department, partly because of this decision by our government. I hope our constituency can pick up the short-fall.


  8. Are MCC still a missionary organization? How committed are they to bringing people to the Lord, as THE underlying agenda?


    1. Dennis replies:

      MCC is not a “missionary” organization per se. That work is done by others in the Mennonite churches. Here is how MCC Canada describes itself: Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches, shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice. MCC envisions communities worldwide in right relationship with God, one another and creation. MCC’s priorities in carrying out its purpose are disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice. [Sounds pretty impressive to me]


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