Canadian bishops’ charitable arm D&P found listing partnership with African pro-abortion group
- Tue Mar 04, 2014 15:13 EST
Co-authored by Patrick Craine
MONTREAL, Quebec, March 4, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As the Canadian bishops’ charitable arm Development & Peace prepared to launch its famous “Share Lent” campaign on Wednesday to raise money for humanitarian projects in the developing world, it listed a grantee on its website that campaigns for “comprehensive abortion care” in Zambia. After LifeSiteNews pointed out the pro-abortion nature of the group to bishops and D&P officials the evidence for the partnership was removed from D&P’s website.
The Zambian partner, Women for Change, describes itself as a “gender-focused” non-governmental organization (NGO) seeking to “achieve sustainable human development and the eradication of all forms of poverty.” At the same time, however, the group states on its website that it campaigns for “women’s access to reproductive health,” lamenting “unsafe abortion” and other factors that “increase the risk of maternal deaths” such as “lack of appropriate laws and policies that promote women’s access to reproductive health and comprehensive abortion care, including contraception.”
WFC also partners with Ipas, one of the leading purveyors of abortion in the developing world, on a project promoting “sexual reproductive health rights.” Last year a Canadian WFC field-worker blogged about working with Ipas on a project to improve what she called “access to sexual reproductive health rights” for Zambian women.
In 2012, the then-president of the CCCB, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, said Canada’s bishops “would not have patience for one minute to be supporting any partner that would in any waybe pro-abortion.”
LifeSiteNews contacted Development and Peace by e-mail and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops by phone and e-mail on February 25 to ask about D&P’s partnership with Women for Change. By the morning of February 28 LifeSiteNews had received no response, but Development and Peace’s website no longer listed Women for Change. (Find a screenshot of Women for Change listed on D&P’s website last week here.)
Seeking an explanation, LifeSiteNews phoned Rene Laprise, the CCCB’s communications director, and Bishop John Boissonneau, chairman of the CCCB’s Standing Committee on Development and Peace, and both directed questions to Development & Peace.
D&P Communications Officer Kelly DiDomenico told LifeSiteNews by phone Friday morning that she had not received the February 25 e-mail and asked that it be sent again. In the afternoon, she wrote by e-mail: “I’ve forwarded the message to the appropriate instances.” LifeSiteNews had received no reply by press time on Tuesday and was unable to reach DiDomenico.
Development and Peace has not published a full list of its partners since the scandal broke in 2009 over its funding of dozens of groups promoting abortion, contraception, and other evils. Instead they profile select groups. When LifeSiteNews sought the full list in 2010 through an access to information request with the Canadian government, D&P went to federal court to block it.
It is unclear whether D&P is still partnering with Women for Change, or if they ended the partnership after LifeSiteNews made inquiries, or had already ended the partnership but inadvertently left the profile on its website. Women for Change continues to list D&P as a partner on its own website.
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Women for Change’s “reproductive health” advocacy is known well beyond Zambia. Dutch organization Women on Waves, a group operating a ship to perform abortions offshore near countries where the procedure is illegal, includes WFC on its list of “Zambia clinics and associations.”
Regarding its tenets of “reproductive health,” WFC has been criticized by one Christian group in Zambia for exacerbating the problem of AIDS and abortion by focusing exclusively on a non-abstinence approach to sex education.
“I believe abstinence is the only effective deterrent and solution for these antisocial vices [of abortion, baby dumping and AIDS],” wrote Rev. Alfred Sayila of the Fellowship Christian Church of Zambia. “Some of the powerful NGOs such as Women for Change … do not include abstinence in their sex education programs, but put more emphasis on gender equality and girl-child rights.”
LifeSiteNews attempted to reach Women for Change by phone and email, but calls were disconnected and emails bounced back. A Facebook message asking for an interview yielded no response.
The D&P scandal broke in 2009 when LifeSiteNews reported they were funding five Mexican groups working to pressure governments to decriminalize abortion. D&P criticized the report at the time as “dangerously irresponsible and slanderous.” Subsequent investigations have found over two dozen D&P partners in Latin America, Africa and Asia that advocate for abortion.
While many of the problematic groups have since been defunded as part of a reform effort launched by the CCCB in 2010, it remains unclear how many because D&P refuses to publicly release its full list of partners.
In 2010, D&P produced and disseminated a document accusing LifeSiteNews and Campaign Life Coalition of having “been associated with groups and individuals who have resorted to violence to publicize their cause and achieve their objective.”
In the same document, the group drew a distinction between being pro-abortion and supporting the decriminalization of abortion. “The principal advocacy issue which has spurred and fuelled the reactions of our attackers has been the issue of de-criminalization of abortion which remains a highly contentious issue in many societies,” it read.
Despite the bishops’ reform effort, the agency’s leadership has remained intact, and they have continued to face criticism over questionable funding relationships.
In March 2011, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast was forced to cancel a talk at his diocesan centre by Fr. Luis Arriaga, the head of former D&P partner Centre PRODH, which LifeSiteNews had highlighted in its first report on D&P in March 2009. The Jesuit priest refused to sign a statement assuring he believed in the right to life of the unborn, reportedly on the basis that such a stand would be a “violation of basic human rights.”
That controversy was compounded by the fact that D&P’s executive director, Michael Casey, had responded to the talk’s cancellation by sending out an e-mail to supporters defending Fr. Arriaga for his “inspiring work” and lauding Centre PRODH as “highly respected for its outstanding work in defending the lives of the most vulnerable in Mexican society.”
In addition to having profiled Women for Change, D&P continues to profile its partnership with the NGO Forum on Cambodia, which has called for greater access to “safe abortion,” and demanded recognition of women’s “reproductive rights.” Its website also features a blog post promoting the Haitian group APROSIFA, which produced literature on how to obtain abortions and ran a health clinic in a Port-au-Prince shantytown that offered free contraception.
D&P’s 2014 “Share Lent” campaign focuses on ending “world hunger” with the slogan “One Human Family, Food for All.”
D&P describes itself as the “official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada.” It is the official charitable arm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For a full listing of LifeSiteNews’ extensive coverage of the Development and Peace scandal since 2009, visit our feature page.
For a listing of other possible charities for Lenten almsgiving visit CharityinTruth.ca.
Cardinal Robert Sarah
Pontifical Council Cor Unum
Palazzo San Pio X
V-00120 Vatican City State
Fax: +39-06-69887301 or +39-06-69887311
Most Reverend John A. Boissonneau
Chairman of the CCCB Standing Committee on Development and Peace