cultivating a healthy vibrant society

Last weekend, the orchards of Okanagan Centre coloured the hillsides. A local told me that seeing all the varied shades of pink and white blossoms on the fruit trees all at once was unusual.

Last weekend, the orchards of Okanagan Centre coloured the hillsides. A local told me that seeing all the varied shades of pink and white blossoms on the fruit trees all at once was unusual.

Normally the peach, cherry and apple trees came into bloom at different times, marking the progress of the spring season. This year, however, erratic weather had knocked everything off schedule. What does this mean for the orchardists there and this year’s Okanagan tree-fruit crop?

Orchards require not only weather’s compliance but also careful tending to yield optimum results. Caring stewardship was also on the minds of Development and Peace representatives from across British Columbia and the Yukon who gathered a week ago at Camp Winfield on Lake Okanagan.

Our conversation focused on the sudden federal government cutbacks, which had dealt a major blow to the 44-year-old organization’s efforts. The total impact on long-term development programs in a score of countries in the Global South has yet to be fully comprehended. Sharply pruning back the organization created by Canada’s Catholic bishops as the church’s response to glaring global inequity seems essential for its survival both in Canada and abroad .

In a Catholic Register article last month examining this issue Wilson Pritchart, a Political Science professor at the University of Toronto, noted that, “what the government in fact is doing is cutting funding to organizations that are critical of it … in favour of using NGOs as conduits for service delivery.” Professor Pritchart argued that “good development outcomes are essentially grounded in politics,” which seek “to create sustainable capacity, sustainable political leadership in developing countries.”

A competitive bid system has been put in place under the current Harper government through the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA). This arguably devalues long-term relationships and pits NGOs in expensive, non-productive proposal-writing competitions against one another.

The projects CIDA wants NGOs to bid on seem to be largely in support of Canadian business and mining ventures overseas. Have poverty reduction and human rights been pushed aside as priorities in favour solely of commercial interests?

Professor Stephanie Baker Collins from the McMaster University School Of Social Work has presented a broader view of what she sees as happening. Last week Ms. Baker Collins wrote in the Hamilton Spectator that “While the public bemoans raucous question periods in Parliament and hyper-partisan debate, a federal government plan for much more lasting damage to public debate is unfolding in Canada.”

The first part of the plan Professor Baker Collins cites necessitates limiting or abolishing information sources such as the long-form census or the National Council of Welfare “that might inform the debate and document poverty and inequality” and “enable us to understand ourselves as a society.”

The second piece of the plan sees “silencing the voices of those who speak against poverty, inequality and human rights violations.” The cutbacks to Kairos, the Mennonite Central Committee or Development and Peace fit in here. These cuts “and increased surveillance by Canada Revenue Agency on the advocacy work of registered charities announced in the recent budget add to the atmosphere of fear and reprisal.” The third piece of the plan seeks to foster “a political climate that is disdainful of public debate and of those who seek to stimulate it.”

Demanding government transparency, developing alternative information sources and increasing the capacity of civil society and its organizations to actively engage in the debate on vital issues like global development and poverty counter this plan. These provide the basic, essential elements in cultivating a healthy, vibrant society.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read