Canadians have mixed views on overseas development

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace – July/August 2018

Canadians hold fascinating, and sometimes contradictory, attitudes on overseas development work, an infographic article in Faith Today magazine points out.

More than seven in 10 Canadians take pride in overseas development work supported by Canadians, and 75 per cent say helping even one family or village is worthwhile.

At the same time, more than six in 10 Canadians think Canada should deal with domestic problems before increasing spending abroad, and 69 per cent prefer to donate to charities working within the country rather than on international issues.

Most Canadians incorrectly assume that the country’s foreign aid spending is close to or above the United Nations target of .7 per cent of gross national income. The actual figure, as of 2015 was .28 per cent for Canada, and .17 per cent for the US. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg and Norway all exceeded the UN target.

As with many issues around attitudes to charity and giving, people of faith are much more receptive to supporting international development efforts than the population at large. One in three practising religious Canadians are heavily involved in overseas development work, compared to only one in 20 non-practising Canadians.

The information comes from an Angus Reid Institute survey of 1,802 Canadians in the fall of 2017.

Churches, farmers and food

A Baltimore pastor has created a network of farm-to-church groups that bring economic power and fresh food to neighborhoods that previously suffered from what he called “food apartheid.”

Rev. Heber Brown III started selling eggs after services at the Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and created a garden in the raised-bed garden in the church’s backyard. He wanted to provide alternatives to more costly, less healthy foods sold at corner stores in “food deserts,” areas that don’t have grocery stores, a Religion News Service story suggests.

The Black Church Food Security Network now includes 10 congregations. The network seeks out food produced by black farmers in rural Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Churches sell the produce, with profits going back into the network.

Darkness in India

Millions of people in rural India still lack electricity, despite a boast by the nation’s prime minister that every village in the country has access to power, Time magazine reports. Those without power rely on kerosene lamps, with all their attendant health and safety risks, to supply light.

Only six of India’s 29 states have all homes on the grid. In some poorer states, even the minority of households that have power lines face blackouts lasting hours on a daily basis. 

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