Ontario gvmt agency that cut funding to pregnancy center is headed by Planned Parenthood leader
TORONTO, April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The Ontario Trillium Foundation has denied that CEO Andrea Cohen Barrack is in a conflict of interest after alert bloggers noted that while she is a member of International Planned Parenthood Federation’s governing council, her foundation recently cut funding to a pro-life pregnancy center and approved a grant for Planned Parenthood Toronto.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation is a government agency overseen by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and according to its website, is Canada’s largest granting foundation, doling out more than $110 million annually to approximately 1,300 non-profit and charitable groups across Ontario.
Since Cohen Barrack’s appointment as CEO in May 2012, the foundation approved a four-year grant of $849,000 to Planned Parenthood Toronto in 2014, for improving access for LGBTQ youth services.
But the fall of that year, Trillium also cut the second installment of a two-year grant to Sarnia’s Lambton Crisis Pregnancy Centre (LCPC). The pregnancy centre had earmarked the $42,000 to operate a similar centre in Petrolia.
According to Kim Leblanc, executive director of LCPC, Trillium essentially cut funding because the centre refuses to refer for abortions, or supply contraceptives.
However, as Leblanc told LifeSiteNews at the time: “We aren’t a medical facility. We don’t refer people to pediatricians and we don’t refer them to abortion clinics. We aren’t qualified.”
In an email received from Leblanc just before deadline, she said “I was not aware that the CEO of Trillium was associated with Planned Parenthood when our grant was rescinded,” and that the crisis pregnancy centre is “going forward with the satellite office [in Petrolia] as the funding comes in.”
Earlier in the year, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) publicly endorsed NARAL Pro-Choice America’s aggressive campaign targeting crisis pregnancy centres. NARAL boasted in April 2014 that it had succeeded in convincing Google to refuse CPC ads, a claim pro-life blogger Jill Stanek exposed on May 6, 2014 as a lie.
Meanwhile, a May 1, 2014 posting on the IPPF website stated that “these ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ are nothing more than rogue agencies, hiding under the pretence of caring for women to disseminate inaccurate, unproven and biased information to serve their ideological ends.”
Cohen Barrack serves as chair of IPPF’s Western Hemisphere region, and sits on a sub-committee for Policy and Performance, Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health, alongside IPPF governing council past president Jacqueline Sharp, and Western Hemisphere region general council members Diana Barco, Santiago Cosio, and Deandra Walker.
However, Ontario Trillium Foundation’s communications officer, Ann Ariyadase, told LifeSiteNews in an email that “there is no conflict of interest for Andrea Cohen Barrack, CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), to be on the board of International Planned Parenthood Federation as she has no role as CEO in making OTF granting decisions.”
“We have 16 Grant Review Teams across the province, all made up of local volunteers, who make recommendations to the Board of Directors,” Ariyadase wrote. “This is a strict process in place for grant disbursements. The CEO has no role or influence in reviewing, assessing or recommending grant applications whatever they are.”
But Campaign Life Coalition spokesman Matthew Wojciechowski says that while Cohen Barrack may not formally be in a conflict of interest, “the decision to remove or to end funding to the crisis pregnancy centre raises many questions, especially given her evidently passionate commitment to IPPF’s mission to promote the so-called choice of killing pre-born children in every corner of the world.”
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“IPPF claims to be for choice, yet they stand in the way of women who want to choose life for their babies and are seeking support from people who care,” Wojciechowski noted. “If they were truly ‘pro-choice’ they would encourage funds to crisis pregnancy centres.”
Wojciechowski also pointed out that Ontario’s conflict of interest rules stipulate that “a public servant must avoid giving the appearance of preferential treatment.”
Heather Popliger, lawyer for Ontario’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner, confirmed that the Trillium Foundation, as a government agency, is bound by provincial conflict of interest guidelines, but that according to the statute, the commissioners’ office can neither confirm nor deny if a conflict of interest question has been investigated.
Nor can they do anything about the “optics” of a situation, she said.
Popliger told LifeSiteNews in an email the following day that “our understanding is that the President & CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation plays no role regarding grant decisions. There is a process for evaluating which entities receive grants, and the Board of Directors of the Ontario Trillium Foundation makes all decisions regarding grants. The President & CEO has no involvement.”
When questioned about Cohen Barrack’s involvement with IPPF creating the appearance of preferential treatment, Popliger only reiterated that, “the President & CEO has no involvement in the grant process at the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Accordingly, she is not in a position to, nor is she in fact, providing one entity with preferential treatment.”
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport did not respond to enquiries from LifeSiteNews by deadline.