Three letters. Three simple letters that have turned into a giant headache for the International Co-Operation Minster Bev Oda.
When Oda’s minstry chose to deny funding to Kairos, a faith-based organization providing aid to the developing world that has received Canadian funding for over 36 years, the opposition questioned why the funding had been rejected. The Conservative government bragged that they had cut funding to Kairos because they were funding an anti-Israel boycott – a claim Kairos met with incredulous denial, stating that criticisms of the Israeli government does not equal anti-Israeli sentiment. Oda, however, claimed that the decision not to fund Kairos was made on the merits of their case alone by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), thereby shunting the responsibility onto her bureaucrats.
The truth is that her bureaucrats had actually made the recommendation to approve over $7 million in funding over four years to Kairos. The funding recommendation document made its way through all approval channels at CIDA and arrived on Minister Oda’s desk, awaiting only her signature for final approval. Between that point and Oda’s signature, however, the document was altered to state she should “not” approve the funding recommendation.
When questioned in committee last year about the document, Oda testified she did not know who had added the “not” to the final recommendation. But under repeated questioning this week, Oda finally admitted that the document had been altered “at her direction”, making her guilty of both forgery and lying to Parliament and the Canadian people.
The issue here is not Oda’s decision not to approve the recommendation to fund Kairos. While denying funding to a well established aid group is certainly worthy of scrutiny, it is well within any Minister’s purview to go against her ministry’s recommendations. The issue is rather Oda’s deception of Parliament and the Canadian people, by first claiming that CIDA recommended denying funding to Kairos, and then by claiming she had no idea how the document was altered. In other words, a minister who makes decisions the opposition does not like is fine by me. A minister who lies about it, however, is not.
This week the Opposition has been demanding the resignation of Oda and today will be taking steps to have her declared in Contempt of Parliament. While the move may be largely symbolic, it cannot be helpful for the Conservative Harper government to have yet another female minister under fire in what is expected to be an election year.
Government of Canada Document.