October 18, 2010

MICHAEL SWAN
n THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO – The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has obtained a court injunction to block an access to information request for the names and funding levels for its nearly 200 partner organizations in developing nations.

The request was made to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by LifeSiteNews, an online news organization that has published several articles over the past 18 months alleging links between Development and Peace-funded partners and pro-abortion lobbying in Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa and Nigeria.

Development and Peace has denied those allegations and an investigation into five of its Mexican partners by the Canadian bishops cleared the aid agency of wrongdoing while also warning it to be more prudent in selecting its partners.

LifeSite called that investigation "deeply flawed."

LifeSite editor John Henry Westen said the access to information request was initiated because Development and Peace "consistently refused to answer questions or engage in dialogue with LifeSiteNews."

Since Development and Peace is funded in part by CIDA, it was obliged to respond. However, under the act CIDA could not reveal who was requesting the information.

Development and Peace went to court to kill the request because it didn't know who was asking, said Jasmine Fortin, director of advancement.

FEAR OF KIDNAPPINGS

Many Development and Peace partners are human rights organizations under constant threat from government or other political and military actors, said Fortin. Development and Peace did not wish to reveal information that might lead to kidnappings, assassinations or terrorist attacks.

It's not the first time it has chosen to keep information about its partners secret for fear of how information may be used, she said.

Westen slammed Development and Peace for using donor money on the court action. "It is surprising that they have chosen to spend money donated by Catholics in an effort to combat transparency," he said.

LifeSite was simply seeking the names of Development and Peace partners and how much each partner was given for the current year and the five previous years, he said. "Since D&P is a charity we thought such information should be public."

Westen said the access to information request was made to determine if Development and Peace was hiding information.