Human Concern International Claims Religious Discrimination
Author: Faisal Kutty (At the time, Kutty described himself as “a Toronto-based lawyer and international affairs columnist for iViews.com [and] a member of HCI’s board of directors.”)
Source: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1999, pages 52 and 137
Original title: Canadian Charity Claims Religious Discrimination
Human Concern International (HCI), a federally registered Muslim-run charity, charges it is being discriminated against by Canadian government officials. The Ottawa-based international relief and development organization has filed an application for judicial review of a decision by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to refuse funding the organization’s activities.
CIDA has not provided any explanation as to why funding has been cut or why it has smeared HCI’s name by requesting that other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) not work with HCI. Its officials are especially concerned about the organization’s reputation and the future for other Muslim groups. Indeed, the issue is far larger than HCI. Such selective “blacklisting” will continue so long as arbitrary decisions go unchallenged.
The troubles appear to have started back in WRMEA, December 1995, when HCI’s Canadian citizen regional director in Pakistan, Ahmed Said Khadr, was arrested by police who were investigating the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad. The relief group retained a promiment Ottawa lawyer, Marc Duguay, a former employee of the Justice Department, to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan to conduct a thorough independent inquiry of the incident.
A chronology of subsequent events helps clarify what followed:
No reasons provided to date
Since 1980 Human Concern International has worked tirelessly with the innocent victims of war and natural disasters in Afghanistan, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Guyana, Bosnia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Palestine, Kosovo, etc. More than 20,000 Canadians donate approximately $1.8 million yearly to its projects.
In fact, the group had received high marks for its past work even from CIDA. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, internal CIDA documents stated that “onsite inspections of HCI’s projects in the Middle East had shown that they were well managed.”
By taking the matter before the courts, HCI is asking that government officials make public their reasons for concluding that HCI is not entitled to funding. HCI’s lawyer points out that it is a rule of fundamental justice that decision-making bodies act impartially and fairly on available evidence and not on bias and speculation.
In fact, four members of parliament have taken up the issue. Dan McTeague says it raises concerns about whether the group is being discriminated against for religious reasons. “It is one thing to be blacklisted. It is another thing to be blacklisted without any explanation whatsoever,” says the Liberal MP. “This isn’t the way we do things in Canada.”
HCI says it can continue operating without CIDA funding, but the decision to challenge CIDA’s position was made for the long-term interest of the group and the community.
Readers wishing to contribute to HCI’s Legal Defense Fund can contact Human Concern International, P.O. Box 3984, Station C, Ottawa, Canada, K1Y 4P2, Tel. (613) 742-5948, Fax. (613) 742-7733, Toll Free: 1-800-587-6424, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web site: www.come.to/hci