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KAIROS fights back against government charge of anti-Semitism

KAIROS, an ecumenical organization of 11 religious groups including the United Church of Canada, the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, and the Quakers, is fighting back against charges of anti-Semitism from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The charges followed a cut in funding from CIDA for KAIROS programs announced on November 30. As KAIROS summarizes the situation on its website:

The Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda, has been telling KAIROS, Parliament and the Canadian people that funding to KAIROS was cut because its work did not fit current Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) priorities of economic growth, food security and children and youth.

On Wednesday, however, a completely different reason was given in a speech by Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration. Addressing the Global Forum to Counter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Minister Kenney described his government’s fights against anti-Semitism and, as an example, said the government had “defunded organizations … like KAIROS for taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against Israel.

Minister Kenney’s charge against KAIROS is false. KAIROS did not lead this campaign. In 2007, KAIROS took a public position opposing sanctions and a boycott of Israel. A recently released document, Kairos Palestine, 2009: A Moment of Truth, is not a document of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. Kairos is a Greek word meaning “God’s time” and is commonly used by Christian groups.

A Minister of the Crown says that his government decided, for what is a highly political reason, to cut funds for a proposal developed in consultation with and approved by CIDA. Canadians need the truth. Two points must be made: criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism; and CIDA was developed to fund international aid and not to serve political agendas. Minister Kenney’s statement, in a highly charged environment, raises very disturbing questions about the integrity of Canadian development aid decisions.

Jason Kenney's own website does not seem to include the speech in question. Nor does the website of Bev Oda include her speech about the funding cuts. A search of the CIDA website found no mention of KAIROS.

The Globe and Mail has a report on the issue as well as a December 11 opinion piece about the funding cut.

The Star also has a long story on its website about the defunding and the response of KAIROS.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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