October 29, 2012
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace's fall education campaign is back on, but without postcards urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to launch a national consultation on foreign aid policy.

A limited range of fall campaign materials was posted to Development and Peace's website (www.devp.org) Oct. 15.

The organization had planned to launch the campaign in September but ran into objections from a number of bishops, putting the traditional fall campaign on hold.

Campaign literature has been tweaked to allay bishops' concerns that the campaign was too political, said national council president Ronald Breau. The basic program remains a critique of recent changes in Canadian foreign aid policy.

NECESSARY CHANGE

This year's discussion of aid policy veers off-course from a five-year plan of ecological education campaigns. But the change of direction is necessary, said Breau.

"National council members were adamant that it was important to do this campaign and set the ecological campaign aside for one year," Breau said in an interview. "I would expect that we would return to the ecological campaign in the future."

The relaunch features a four-page question-and-answer primer on Canada's foreign aid policy, a campaign poster, a checklist for meetings with members of Parliament, a membership brochure and an appeal for year-round monthly giving.

The most substantial document in the campaign, a discussion paper on development aid policy, was still awaiting approval from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' standing committee on its development agency and Development and Peace's own liaison committee for talks with the bishops' conference.

"I feel we've responded to the concerns that were expressed to us. We've taken the necessary steps and I don't expect any delays at all," Breau said.

It will be the first time in more than a decade that members won't be asking parishioners to sign postcards or petitions. Postcards printed in August that asked Harper to establish a parliamentary committee to examine the direction of Canadian aid policy will not be sent out.

Instead of "action cards," Development and Peace leadership is encouraging parish and diocesan council members to meet with their MPs to discuss aid policy.

NATIONAL DIALOGUE

An open, national discussion about how Canada spends its shrinking aid budget is overdue, said Nippa Banerjee, a University of Ottawa aid and development professor.

Canada was the first country to deliver foreign aid through non-governmental organizations, unions, Church-based organizations and private sector groups. CIDA's partnership branch was an innovation in the 1970s that made aid more flexible and more tightly focused on the goals of poor people, said Banerjee.

Other donor countries eventually imitated the Canadian model.

In recent years the partnership branch has been hobbled by underfunding, a bid-for-tender system that discourages long-term thinking and a decidedly more political direction, Banerjee said.