Last week DJ! reported on public funds from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) being given to a religious anti-abortion group
, specifically the Lambton Crisis Pregnancy Centre.
I also wrote to OTF and tweaked them on Twitter. And got this quick response.
@fernhilldammit Thanks for this. As a public funder, we don't condone discriminatory practices. Getting info. We'll get back to you tmw.
— Ontario Trillium Fdn (@ONTrillium) October 30, 2014
A further response on Twitter directed me to OTF's website
where one can download a PDF called Policy Suite
, dated October 30, 2014 (!). I was directed to the anti-discrimination section.
On page 37, we find this.
Funding of grantees
OTF will not fund organizations that discriminate, or that seek to limit the legal rights and activities of people.Which is a quite succinct description of crisis pregnancy centres
My email to OTF was passed along to Thomas Chanzy, Vice-President, Pubic Affairs. I had linked to the relevant DJ! blogposts and informed them that I intended to blog on their response, so they should consider themselves on the record.
Here's part of what he said in his first email:
Thank you for your email and thank you for raising this issue with us. I appreciate your interest in ensuring that our funds are a good use of public money, and we are taking your comments very seriously.
As indicated on twitter, we, as a public funder, do not condone discriminatory practices and we have an anti-discriminatory policy in place to ensure that our grants do not fund such practices. In addition, our program guidelines clearly states that we will not fund advocacy activities.
We acknowledge that the lines can be blurry between advocacy and non-advocacy activities in the nonprofit sector. That’s why we are committed to always improving our granting practices. We have recently revised our anti-discriminatory policy as part of our ongoing review process. In particular, our revised policy now explicitly prohibits the funding of activities that seek to limit the legal rights and activities of Ontarians.
I note that you have specific questions about our grant to the Lambton Crisis Pregnancy Centre. Let me consult our program staff on this particular grant and we will provide you with an answer by the end of this week.
And he did. It's full of careful (and very good) bureaucratese, but it's about as straightforward as this sort of communication can be. I was impressed. I'll post the whole thing if people are interested. For now, here are the relevant points.
I had three questions.
Question 1. What due diligence did OTF conduct to assure itself that the Lambton CPC was a legitimate community asset and not a religious organization with a clear agenda of dissuading women from accessing a legal medical service?
The answer: OTF uses local decision making and volunteers do the work. Then matters go up the chain and staff assesses "the organisational eligibility of the applicants, and the feasibility of the projects for which funding is sought."
Here's the good part.
Our process relies on assessments by individuals, and all act in good faith. It is not fail proof.Then, more on process and overseeing committees, blahblahblah.
Question 2. What measures are being taken/will be taken to ensure that no money is ever given to such groups again?
We acknowledge that no system is fail proof. That’s why we are committed to always improving our granting practices.
As already noted, our revised policy now explicitly prohibits the funding of activities that seek to limit the legal rights and activities of Ontarians.
Not quite "mistakes were made" but pretty darned close, eh?
Question 3. Under what circumstances might a grant be rescinded? I note that the grant to Lambton CPC -- a sizeable one of $83,800 -- is to be delivered over 2 years.
And now the WOOHOO! part:
We have reassessed the grant made to this organisation and have rescinded the remainder of the grant. We have informed the organization that no more funding will flow. We have a clear policy on rescinding grants; several grants are rescinded annually, for compliance, financial and risk management purposes.
No more funding will flow.
Now DJ! would never ever take credit for something that wasn't totally merited, and despite Mr. Chanzy's assurance that "several grants are rescinded annually," we say again:WOOHOO!
We must commend OTF and Mr. Chanzy for their quick and responsible response. I'm not a gambling gal, but I am reassured that Ontario's ill-gotten gains are being returned to communities as well as possible.
When I told Sweetie the news, he wondered about the legality of picking (on) a trillium. I looked and found this
…despite what most Ontarians think – it is not always illegal to pluck or otherwise annoy the trillium.