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African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams

Report from Kenya #276 – April 24, 2014

Canadian Oppression

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Breaking News: Catholic Relief Services in the Central African Republic is contracting with AGLI to train fifteen Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) facilitators in three towns in the southeastern part of the country which have been terrorized by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Beginning on May 11 the three-person team from Burundi and Rwanda, led by Florence Ntakarutimana, will spend six weeks there conducting one basic HROC workshop in each town, a two week training of HROC facilitators, and then six apprentice workshops. We wish them the best of success in this exciting endeavor.

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Disclaimer: No funds from any Canadian non-profit organization have been used in the writing and dissemination of this Report from Kenya #276 – Canadian Oppression.

Recently AGLI had to renew an updated Memorandum of Understanding with a Canadian non-profit organization in order to receive funds they had collected in Canada for AGLI’s programs. As part of the revision, they inserted the following:

XXXX’s funds are not to be used for political purposes – which the Canada Revenue Agency defines as:

1. Encouraging the public to contact an elected representative or public official and urge them to retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country;

2. Explicitly communicating to the public that the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country should be retained (if the retention of the law, policy or decision is being reconsidered by a government), opposed, or changed; or

3. Explicitly indicating in internal or external materials that the intention of any activity is to incite, or organize to put pressure on, an elected representative or public official to retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country.

Under these criteria, I cannot tell you that Canadian mining companies are some of the worst in the world for environmental damage, pollution, aggressive actions against local inhabitants, poor pay and working conditions, and siphoning off of profits to tax havens. Although it has been reported in the news, I cannot tell you that in 2005 Canadian peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were accused of “sex for food” including giving jars of mayonnaise and jam in exchange for sex and at least one Canadian official had to leave the Congo after getting a woman pregnant. In addition, I would not have been able to condemn the 1994 Hutu Power Government in Rwanda, led by Theoneste Bagasora, for planning and implementing the genocide.

This oppressive edict has even greater implications for AGLI’s programs. We could not use Canadian funds from NGOs for our Turning the Tide/Nonviolence for Social Change program in Kenya. Its purpose is to train people how to confront their government and government officials and police, and how to demand change. For example, in one campaign we organized, the people from Mt Elgon marched to the county capital in Bungoma to demand that the governor repair their road up the mountain. In another the demand was to get the administrators and local police to uphold the law that it is illegal for a person to wed a fourteen year old. The point of our community transformative dialogues is frequently to have common citizens interact with government officials to improve security or other issues in the community. This is all forbidden with Canadian funds.

Even our Alternatives to Violence program (AVP) and Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) often lead to criticism of government actions and policies. In forgiving the perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide, some of the victims site “bad government policy” as a reason for forgiveness. When we help HROC workshop victims decide to visit those in prison who killed their relatives, does it fall under these restrictions?

I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t a great howl of protest in Canada over these regulations, but then, if an NGO was protesting, it would be in contravention of these policies and could have its organizational registration revoked. This is in line with my definition of “oppression.” With these kinds of restrictions, how will Quakers and others work to bring the peaceable community here on earth?

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