By Sharon Tindyebwa
The Canadian International Development Agency has frozen funding to an anti-gay evangelical group that does work in Uganda.
After The Canadian Press broke the story that CIDA was funding Crossroads Christian Communications, a group that deems homosexuality as a “perversion”, Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino tweeted “I have asked officials to review this organization before further payments are made.”
Crossroads is an Ontario-based media organization that also provides short-term relief efforts and longer-term development projects in countries around the world.
CIDA has been providing $544,813 for the organization to help build wells, bathrooms, and promote hygiene in Uganda through 2014, according to Canadian Press.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have denounced the persecution of gays and lesbians in Uganda and the country’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill, which would broaden the criminalization of homosexuals and those who support LGBT rights in the country.
“We fund projects not organizations, based on merit,” CIDA said in a statement to Humber News, adding that “projects are delivered without religious content.”
For some advocates, however, the funding for an anti-gay organization in Uganda by the Canadian government regardless of the work the group is doing is problematic.
“It is incredibly disturbing to us that the government would be funding an organization that has a statement of ethics like this to begin with, regardless of anything to do with Africa or Uganda in particular,” Michael Payton, national director for the Centre for Inquiry Canada told Humber News.
“But if you add into this the timing of this and the urgency of the crisis in Uganda, it is very hard for us to imagine how this was approved to begin with,” he said.
Payton pointed out it appears CIDA is increasingly providing funds to more religious groups than secular ones, as reported by the CBC. He said he sees this as a disturbing trend “that is making it more difficult for secular non-religious charities to do the same work often in a better way than a religious charity would be doing.”
Ted Jackson, a professor in the school of public policy and administration at University of Toronto and a member of the McLeod group, said there have always been religious groups funded by CIDA, but what is different now is that there are more Conservative evangelical and related groups receiving funding.
“CIDA funds a lot of organizations so I think [the Conservatives] wanted their own supporters to get in and get some of this money,” Jackson told Humber News. “Not to say that those groups don’t do some important and useful work, but the fact is when you let groups in the door like this who have some extreme social views, you are going to have problems.”
Jackson characterized CIDA’s funding of Crossroads Christian Communications as a mistake, given John Baird’s vocal comments against Uganda’s homosexuality bill.
While CIDA is in “trouble” over this funding issue, Jackson says it is an issue that can be overcome and result in Canada being a leader in promoting gay rights.
“The Conservative government could get on top of this by actually getting out in front as a world leader on LGBT rights in Africa and the Middle East, places where it is very difficult for people to have the freedom to live the way they choose to live,” he said.