Development and Peace is facing significant program reductions and staff cuts after the Catholic lay movement was hit by a 65 per cent cut in government funding.
"It's going to be a very difficult period for the organization," said Michael Casey executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).
"It's not just staff here or the institution here in Canada. You look at the impact it's going to have on the partners."
Eighteen months after submitting a proposal to CIDA for $49.2 million over five years – a proposal that sought a $5-million funding increase – Ottawa responded with money for select projects in seven countries. Total federal government funding for the next five years will be $14.5 million.
CCODP currently supports 186 projects in 30 countries.
The new CIDA agreement withdraws government funding for every CCODP project in Africa outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The funding cut led Canada's bishops to say they are "extremely disappointed" with the government's decision.
"With our full support, for 45 years, (Development and Peace) has faithfully and successfully made important contributions to all the areas where it has been present," the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a press release.
Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the conference, Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, the vice-president, and conference officials will discuss the cuts with government officials "in order to develop a better mutual understanding of the many effects of such a decision," the release said.
Smith called on Catholics across Canada to increase their donations to CCODP during its current Share Lent campaign.
Last year CCODP received $8.2 million in government funds, more than matched by $12.6 million in contributions from Catholics across Canada. This year the government's contribution will be $2.9 million.
Layoffs are coming in September, but it's too early to say how many will lose their jobs, Casey told The Catholic Register. Cuts will be hardest on CCODP partners around the world, Casey said. CCODP has already had to cut funding to 32 partners by an average of 57 per cent while it awaited CIDA's decision. Another 48 partners have been on hold waiting to renew funding agreements with CCODP.
"CIDA focused its contribution to Development and Peace in the countries where programming will most likely produce tangible results," a CIDA spokesperson said in an email.
"For example, CIDA is supporting Development and Peace's work to increase food security and incomes in Colombia through the training of 40,000 farmers and in Cambodia through the training of 240,000 farmers in co-operatives."
CIDA funding to CCODP is now limited to Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines. Four of the countries correspond to CIDA's list of 20 countries of focus. Cambodia, Congo and the Philippines do not appear on CIDA's list of priorities.
"CIDA does not discuss publicly the specifics of individual proposals," said CIDA's media relations department.
The funding cut has prompted the union representing CCODP employees to circulate a 12-page document criticizing Casey and his team for failing to fight the government.
"It was decided not to mobilize its forces, not to make waves, not to risk offending the government and . . . we were cut," reads the internal memo of the Union of Employees of Development and Peace. The union accuses management, the bishops and CIDA of pushing CCODP into becoming a mere charity responding to the disaster of the moment, rather than a social justice movement trying to change the world in favour of the poor.
Casey rejects the accusation.
"We don't look at this as an either-or between charity and social justice," he said. "There has been absolutely no deviation from our mission or commitment to our mission."