Sen. Frum calls out taxpayer dollars supporting BDS

Senator Linda Frum speaks at the funeral of Barry and Honey Sherman in Mississauga, Ont., on Dec. 22. (RON CSILLAG/THE CJN PHOTO)

A Conservative senator has raised an old but ongoing concern: that Canadian tax dollars are being used to hurt Israel.

In Senate proceedings on April 11, Sen. Linda Frum noted that Global Affairs Canada is providing $4.8 million for a project called Women of Courage: Women, Peace and Security. The project is run by Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, which promotes human rights around the world. A collection of 10 Christian denominations and religious groups, Kairos is administered by the United Church of Canada.

The announcement of the funding was made in May 2018.

Frum alleged that “close to $1 million” of the $4.8 million will fund a grant to the Palestinian organization Wi’am, which, she charged, “actively promotes” the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) campaign, in contradiction of long-standing Canadian policy.

She asked Sen. Peter Harder, the government representative in the Senate, why his government is “supporting an organization that promotes BDS and attacks our ally, Israel?”

Harder said he will “seek a more detailed response from the department.” He said Canada “has viewed its support for Israel as very key in its foreign policy.”

Frum replied that Global Affairs will say it has instructed Kairos not to use Canadian funds for the purposes of BDS. She said she hoped Harder will ask the department “how it is that they think they can track money, and when they give a grant, know which dollars are being used to support BDS and which dollars aren’t.”

Frum told The CJN that she was “very disturbed to discover that our government is making a grant of $1 million to an organization that is steeped in the BDS movement. It is completely inconsistent with the stated policy of Global Affairs and with the pledges of the prime minister.”

In 2016, Canada rejected BDS in a parliamentary motion and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeated his personal opposition to it numerous times, including just last month.


Siobhan Rowan, Kairos’ organizational development manager, told The CJN that the Women of Courage project will actually receive just over $4.4 million over five years, to support women-centred programs in Colombia, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the West Bank.

The idea is to help heal female victims of war, “while empowering them to be peace builders,” noted a Kairos press release last May.

Of the $4.4 million, approximately $540,000 will go to Wi’am, $405,000 of which would be from Global Affairs, Rowan pointed out. Kairos is required to provide 25 per cent in matching funds, she explained.

Kairos denied that any of the funds directed to Wi’am will subsidize BDS-related activities.

Wi’am “is a long standing, respected global partner of Kairos, with a partnership that predates the Global Affairs contribution,” said Rowan. “None of the Women of Courage project grant, whether (from) Kairos or Global Affairs funds, is used to promote or engage in BDS.”

Asked how that is ensured, Rowan said the contribution agreement between Kairos and Wi’am “restricts use of the funds to the specific project activities agreed therein.” She said there is a monitoring and evaluation mechanism based on a performance measurement framework (PMF) that was developed with Global Affairs Canada, “in which all partners are required to make detailed reports on each activity and beneficiaries.”

In addition, there are specific financial reporting requirements where partners report on every expense, with receipts, on a quarterly basis, “to ensure all expenses are eligible according to the PMF.” Rowan said the project is subject to several levels of audit “that again ensure expenses are eligible, based on the contribution agreement and PMF.”

The discrepancy in the amount of funding to Wi’am cited by Frum and Kairos – nearly $500,000 – “is missing the point,” Frum said.

“I’m not sure what point they’re trying to make by saying ‘(it’s) only half-a-million dollars, versus $1 million.’ What difference does it make? Even if there’s some error in the calculation, saying, ‘there’s only half-a-million for BDS’ doesn’t satisfy me.”

Frum also wasn’t impressed with the safeguards Kairos cited.

“When you contribute money to the overall budget of a BDS organization and then claim that the money Canada gave is not being used for those purposes – we’re using other money for those purposes – I find that a nonsensical answer,” she said.

Frum said she had not contacted Kairos. Instead, she relied on research by the watchdog NGO Monitor, which in February issued a 14-page report titled, Canadian Funding to BDS-Promoting Organizations.

It cited numerous examples of Wi’am’s support for BDS, including signing the “Call for Worldwide Women’s Endorsement of BDS” in 2016 and posting a letter in “solidarity with the Palestinians on Nakba Day” that called for joining the BDS movement in 2018.

Founded in 1994, Bethlehem-based Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center, is a grassroots organization that helps resolve disputes within the Palestinian community. It runs programs designed to address “the psychological and physiological consequences of long-term conflict.”

Frum said she believes it’s important “that the government align its actions with its words. Words are very cheap when you discover that there are actions taking place that are contradictory to the promises that have been made to the Jewish community.”

In 2009, the then-Conservative federal government cut $7 million in funding to Kairos, accusing the organization of “taking a leadership role” in the boycott of Israel.

The CJN’s messages to Global Affairs were not returned by deadline.