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Ottawa ceases funding of overseas human-rights group Add to ...

The federal government has abruptly terminated funding to Canada's major faith-based overseas human-rights organization, Kairos, effectively cutting its total budget in half for the next four years unless it finds replacement money.

A brief statement from International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Kairos's work doesn't meet current priorities of the Canadian International Development Agency, thus ending a 35-year relationship. Kairos - an ancient Greek word meaning "the right moment" - was expecting $7-million.

The organization said the government's decision will have a devastating impact on its 21 overseas partners and the thousands of marginalized people they support in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Kairos has criticized overseas Canadian mining practices and drawn attention to ecological hazards in the Alberta oil sands. It has campaigned against bottled water in Canada and elsewhere and defended a Palestinian activist imprisoned by the Israelis for peaceful protests against a Canadian company building Israeli settlements on West Bank land.

In March, Kairos submitted a 2009-2013 program proposal on human rights and ecological sustainability costing $9.2-million. Executive director Mary Corkery said in an interview that CIDA indicated in July that there was no problem with the proposal, that funding would be approved and needed only the minister's signature.

At the end of September, when Kairos's existing contract with CIDA expired and no new one had been signed, Ms. Corkery asked what was happening. She said she was told the minister was busy, and was offered funding for a two-month extension ending Nov. 30.

On the final day of the extension period, Ms. Corkery said that CIDA vice-president Victoria Sutherland called to tell her that all funding would be terminated because Kairos didn't fall within CIDA's priorities.

Ms. Oda's statement said those priorities are food security, children and youth, and sustainable economic growth focused in 20 countries.

Kairos says in its account that it developed its proposal with the support of CIDA staff and within two priority sectors of CIDA: promoting good governance and advancing ecological sustainability.

"Our proposal was deemed by CIDA staff to be within CIDA criteria and priorities throughout the approval process," a statement from the organization says.

Not all the countries or regions where Kairos works match the places where CIDA wants to emphasize bilateral aid. "But it's never been a perfect fit," Ms. Corkery said.

Kairos represents, among other organizations the United, Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches, the Mennonites and the Quakers.

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