Scrawled on a white board, the words “Kairos is not going away” greet members as they file into the room.
“Maybe Miss Oda is going away,” jokes one man, already seated at the large table inside First Metropolitan United Church.
Coal is on today’s Kairos agenda.
Tria Donaldson of the Wilderness Committee arrives to make a presentation about four new coal mine applications from Fanny Bay to Campbell River. She distributes a map marking the proposals.
“I want to make sure we can focus on some of the awesome opportunities to take action on coal mining, here on Vancouver Island,” she says.
Kairos is a national, ecumenical non-profit organization, working to improve human rights, justice and peace around the world.
Once a month, people from various churches in Victoria come together for these information sessions, on themes related to social justice. The goal is for members’ to take the message back to their home congregations, which can spawn movie nights or other forms of activism and awareness raising.
So far, the funding-cut scandal abuzz in the national news has not affected the local group.
This month, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda admitted to tampering with a document to support a $7-million budget cut to Kairos’ national operations.
The details have been well publicized: In 2009, Oda had the word “not” inserted into a CIDA document, thereby reversing a recommendation to approve funding for Kairos.
On Nov. 30 of that year, Kairos learned its four-year program proposal had been rejected, with the explanation that it did not meet CIDA’s priorities.
“The brunt of this cut is being borne by Kairos’ overseas partners,” wrote Sara Stratton, the organization’s national sustainability team manager. “While we do have fewer funds for that work, we continue to provide limited overseas grants.”
Also affected on a smaller scale is Kairos’ limited budget for public engagement within Canada, including education on international development issues.
Local leader Janet Gray suspects this might affect the group’s ability to send a member to the national meetings. Otherwise, there’s been no effect, she said.
“We work on the basis of small donations to help with printing or sign making or various things, but church space for meetings is always donated,” she says. “As individuals, we donate a lot in terms of just our energy and our various interests.”
The group participates in rallies, hosts lectures, and launches letter-writing campaigns on issues of special interest, particularly, mining, water and indigenous rights.
“It’s a great way to work ecumenically with other churches,” said Gray. “It’s nice to know that in Kairos there are Anglicans and Catholics and Unitarians and Lutherans that are all given the same information from national (head office), and yet we all work on it slightly differently locally, depending on what needs we feel are the most pressing.”