Evidence of meeting #11 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was aid.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rahul Singh  Executive Director, GlobalMedic
Alexis Gaiptman  Executive Director, Humanity and Inclusion Canada
Zaid Al-Rawni  Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Erica Pereira

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My first question goes to Mr. Al-Rawni.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about the Humanitarian Coalition and its effectiveness. You talked about the various organizations that are within this group. What brought this group together? Is it more effective and efficient? How do you screen the different organizations that can come under this umbrella, and how can other organizations join?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

It came about because we found ourselves competing for digital space and off-line space in an emergency. In an emergency, you go to Canadians and say, I'm here and I can help. We were all falling over each other trying to say the same thing, and people were like, I don't know whom to give to; there's too much going on.

So the organizations with the most effective programming and the most effective engagement.... These are the two tools. You have to have two pieces of the jigsaw: You have to be able to engage Canadians locally in Canada, and you have to have the capacity to deliver the aid where it's needed. Those really are the two metrics that are used.

We came together and said, look, instead of competing with each other for space and spending more money on fundraising and administering the money, etc., let's just join together as a coalition and come out as one. That's been probably the most effective organizational umbrella that I've ever been a part of. The operation of the Humanitarian Coalition is really effective and really powerful.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Before joining this coalition, what did you find were the costs incurred by Islamic Relief, and what has changed in that area in terms of effectiveness? Have you been able to save costs?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

Of course. The per-dollar for what we would have to raise normally, for us, actually, is quite efficient, but we are spending half of what we used to spend to raise money in emergencies. We don't need to spend any more. We're pulling together.

You don't pay to be part of the agency; you pay into the agency, so that when the time comes, the agency can launch and launch well and effectively. It's a very effective tool.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

What about the cost when it comes to the supplies and aid that you're distributing?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

We always source locally. Many of the agencies source locally, because the costs of sourcing locally don't compare. You're only shipping if you absolutely have to, so sourcing locally for us has been very effective. Sometimes it's 90% more cost-effective for us to source locally than it would be to gather supplies here and ship them.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

What would you say about stockpiling here in Canada?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

Especially for small items that you can't find anywhere, it can be useful, but for most items, sourcing locally does several things, including supporting the local economy, the local infrastructure.

In some of our programming, we try to do what we call cash programming, which means we're supporting.... I remember when I was in Haiti—I was there within 48 hours of the earthquake—one of our projects involved employing local people in a cash-based program to remove rubble from a particular site. Then we again paid cash to erect camps. This local cash injection goes a long way. It starts the ball rolling.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

That's excellent.

How much more time do I have, Mr. Chair?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sven Spengemann

You have a bit over a minute.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Okay.

Mr. Singh, I found your comments very interesting. I want to know a little more. You've done work in many countries. Haiti was just mentioned, and you've done work there as well. When you have a smaller organization and Canadians are confused about figuring out where to donate their money, how can they be assured that your organization has the ability to have the coordination on the ground, the prep and the logistics that would be needed? I know you've done a lot of good work. I'd like to hear more.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, GlobalMedic

Rahul Singh

The fact that we've worked in 76 countries and run 226 missions is proof enough. I'm not going to ask someone for money if I can't be within that triangle I talked about. If we're not deploying, we're not asking for money.

Respectfully, Mr. Al-Rawni's point is well accepted that you have to be part of this coalition or you want to be part of this coalition. However, it does create another layer of bureaucracy and a percentage point. If you read their website, 85% of the money will flow to—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Would you be open to working with other organizations, if needed?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sven Spengemann

Please give a very brief answer, Mr. Singh. We're past time.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, GlobalMedic

Rahul Singh

Sure.

Ms. Sahota, we work with hundreds of agencies all around the world.

As the last point, I'm talking about allocating 1% very early on, for 72 hours, for very specific items that you cannot buy on the ground. This is not an either/or. This is a plus to help.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Okay. Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sven Spengemann

We'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

Mr. Bergeron, you have two and a half minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to piggy back on Ms. Sahota's first line of questioning regarding the Canadian Humanitarian Coalition, which includes not only Islamic Relief Canada, but also Humanity and Inclusion Canada.

I'd like to come back to the crisis that occurred after the explosion at the Port of Beirut. The Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, announced on August 8 that the Canadian government would match each individual donation made between August 4 and 24.

My question is very simple. Since the coalition was a beneficiary, how many donations were raised in total through this campaign, including both individual and government donations?

How were these funds used on the ground?

4:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

Thank you.

I'll start with the last question, on how the funds are used. They're still being used. The funds are still supporting people in need right now.

Was it useful and did it work? Absolutely. In the past, when people were “match giving” and the Government of Canada said it was going to match people's donations, people weren't really sure what that meant. They'd call us and ask whether, if they gave us a dollar, that meant we were going to get a dollar from the government ourselves, as Islamic Relief and as a stand-alone agency. We said no, not really. It's probably going to go into some UN pot.

This was part of the government responding to agencies and saying that it needed to give the funds to Canadian agencies that could deliver. That's why the Humanitarian Coalition kind of entered into this partnership with the government. It meant that Canadian dollars were being given to Canadian agencies to deliver on the ground.

In terms of numbers—to give you a sense of how successful it was as a campaign—when we launched the campaign as the Humanitarian Coalition, we set a target of $2 million for the entirety of the campaign. Canadians understood what it was and understood where it was going. Within a day, there was $2 million and we were done. We went back to them and we said that the $2 million that we have is already finished on day two, and we still have several days of the campaign left. Either we shut the campaign down, or additional funds are committed. Additional funds were committed. A total of $11 million was raised from the agencies, and the government would match $8 million of those $11 million. That's in that time frame.

It was a very effective way to engage Canadians. It has always been an issue with our sector that we haven't done as well as we would like in talking to Canadians, convincing them of the effectiveness, and telling them there's a trusted partner for Canadian dollars. This was a great way, from our perspective. We didn't even have to say Islamic Relief, World Vision, CARE Canada or Action Against Hunger. We just went as the Humanitarian Coalition.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sven Spengemann

Thank you, Mr. Al-Rawni. We'll have to leave it there.

The final question series in this round goes to Mr. Harris for two and a half minutes, please.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

I have a question that was presented to the committee by the president of the Canadian Red Cross. It had to do with the suggestion that Canada should actually be helping countries develop their own capacity and resilience to deal with humanitarian crises and to operate on their own. That's a unique perspective in this humanitarian crisis called the pandemic. As we see, there's a race for vaccines on now. Many countries will not receive them until the latter period of time and will experience some of the second wave that we have.

Is there an opportunity during this situation for Canada to build that into part of what it does in the long run? Would anyone like to tackle that? Mr. Al-Rawni, you spoke about some of the big-picture items and our 0.7%. Would you like to take that question on?

4:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief Canada

Zaid Al-Rawni

I think that's essential. I think the CEO of the Red Cross was absolutely spot on. Increasing local capacity is absolutely key. Where we've done it—and we have done it at Islamic Relief Canada in areas like north Bangladesh, which is prone to flooding—we have to spend $1 compared to spending $10. It's 90% cheaper to prepare for an emergency and give the local population the capacity to look after themselves. You almost kind of work yourself out of a job. It's very important.

More importantly, it's very effective and a very good use of donor money, from our perspective, and government money, from a government perspective. It's really essential.

The only challenge with it can be that CRA's direction and control policies sometimes inhibit our capacity to increase capacity directly. We still have to jump through hoops to make it compliant with CRA regulations.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, GlobalMedic

Rahul Singh

I would love to give you an extra comment on that, Mr. Harris.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

All right, go ahead if there's time.

December 8th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, GlobalMedic

Rahul Singh

It's great to build firehouses. It's great to build local capacity. We're all for that, but if people don't have water in the hose to put it out, that's a real concern. By allocating a certain percentage early on in a crisis and making sure people get the right aid, you can do both.