Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aid Workers in Haiti Live in Fear ... of Stephen Harper!

As the prime minister went on another very expensive photo-op to Haiti, where he once again refused to answer questions; to announce government spending; a diligent Canadian realized that this was not 'new' money.

In fact it was just part of a five year commitment to Haiti made in 2006.

Stephen Harper and the Star made me chuckle this week. We read on the first page on Tuesday how Stephen Harper has "delivered a boost for Haiti." This implies that Harper is giving new funds and generously digging deeper to help Haiti.

Ah, but dig a little deeper and we discover on page A13 that Harper's "new" money for a "temporary headquarters for government" is, like so many politicians' election promises, an empty, costless gesture because "The $12 million will come from the $555 million Ottawa pledged in 2006 for Haiti over five years." Oh, so he's not boosting any new money, he's just transferring money already promised. How magical, providing aid at no extra cost.

But another story more troubling, about Canadian relief efforts; reveals the terror that our aid workers now live under.
A shadow hangs over Canada's exemplary earthquake relief mission in Haiti. Several of the charities working heroically to deliver food, clean water, health care and shelter to the victims of the disaster fear their federal funding will be cut.

As long as they stick to pure humanitarian assistance, they'll be fine. But the moment they take a public stand – criticizing the government's decision to shift its foreign aid focus from Africa to Latin America, or its inaction on climate change, or its militant pro-Israel stance or its refusal to include contraceptives in its new campaign to improve maternal health – they risk losing access to taxpayers' dollars.

Jason Kenney is already threatening action against several, including Oxfam. Oxfam? What have they done to earn his wrath?
Other aid organizations that speak out on public issues say they have received warnings that their funding is in jeopardy. Stories of unsettling conversations with federal officials are spreading through the aid community. The only safe policy seems to be silence.

But for charities such as World Vision, Oxfam, Care and Alternatives – all working on the front lines in Haiti – that is not an option. Their work flows from their convictions. They cannot turn a blind eye to human rights violations. They cannot allow the world's poorest people to fall by the wayside. They cannot pretend there is no link between degraded land and hungry people.

The only safe policy appears to be silence?



  1. Passed on to my local Oxfam group, Emily, as well as Care. Unbelievable! I keep thinking they can't shock me any more & then they shock me again.

  2. They really scare me. I seriously believe that Jason Kenney may have mental issues, and I'm saying that with all sincerity. He's being led around by Charles McVety and John Hagee and those two guys are kooks.