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International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 17, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 17, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Bev Oda speaks, but not on Kairos Add to ...

Bev Oda stood up in the House and finally spoke, but only in answer to a question on Haiti.

On the matter that has transfixed Parliament Hill all week, the International Co-operation Minister stayed silent in her seat on Thursday, letting others in the government deal with concerted opposition allegations that she has misled the House of Commons.

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The Speaker of the House is weighing a joint request from the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to launch a process to determine whether Ms. Oda can be found in contempt of Parliament. The government will study the opposition parties' statements before making its own representations, at which point Speaker Peter Milliken will decide whether to send the issue to a parliamentary committee for study.

The government is hoping the issue will fade from the public eye in the meantime, as the House is not sitting next week. But the Liberals are trying to keep it alive, launching a petition calling for Ms. Oda's resignation.

"This is the government that prorogued Parliament, that shut Parliament down, that silences whistleblowers, that intimidates public servants, and now stands behind a minister who will not tell the truth," Liberal Liberal Michael Ignatieff said in the House.

Speaking in Toronto, Prime Minister Stephen Harper led the government defence of Ms. Oda, who took responsibility this week for ordering the word "not" to be put into a document from the Canadian International Development Agency, thereby reversing a recommendation that the minister offer $7-million in funding to church-backed aid group Kairos.

"We are not obliged to accept the recommendations of bureaucrats and I've been very clear to my ministers that they are responsible for the decisions they make and therefore that [if]they think the recommendation is wrong they have a responsibility to change it," Mr. Harper said.

During a committee appearance in December, Ms. Oda said she did not know who put in the word "not" on the Kairos funding proposal that had been approved by her officials. This week, she changed her story, saying that she had provided the direction for the insertion of the word.

Conservative House Leader John Baird fielded questions on the matter in the House of Commons, stating that Ms. Oda "has more integrity in the tip of her finger" than some of her opposition critics.

The Liberals did manage to get Ms. Oda to answer one question in the House, but it was on the issue of Canadian aid to Haiti. After Ms. Oda stood up, the Liberals immediately returned to the Kairos matter, hoping to get her to confirm their assertion that the Kairos decision was dictated by Mr. Harper's office. She went silent again.

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