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From the archives

Carbon Copy

In equal balance justly weighed

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone?

By Populist Demand

When urban and rural voters went separate ways

Ian Smillie

Ian Smillie is working on his memoir, Under Development. He lives in Ottawa.

Articles by
Ian Smillie

Just Hand It Over?

The shifting foundations of charitable giving June 2023
There are over 6,000 private foundations in Canada, with collective assets in 2018 of $56.3 billion. If you add public and community foundations, the total exceeds $100 billion. Required by law to pay out at least 5 percent of their funds for charitable purposes each year, foundations are a huge factor in Canadian philanthropy and a financial mainstay for many…

As We Know It

For charity’s an argument September 2022
In September 2021, Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers who created a tiny NGO called Free the Children and turned it into an international network of charities, companies, and foundations, announced that their $65-million centrepiece, WE Charity Canada, would fold. It had taken twenty-five years to build but only seventy-nine days to bring it down, during which time there were hundreds of radio and television reports…

The Philanthropist’s Dilemma

Elsewhere they meet with charity December 2020
Charitable foundations in this country come in all shapes and sizes: private, public, “donor advised”; small, large, and jumbo. From none in 1917 to more than 10,000 today, they hold assets of $70 billion. In 2015, foundations gave $5.6 billion to other registered charities: hospitals, universities, research facilities, community associations, groups working internationally, and arts organizations (including the magazine you’re…

Broken Promised Land

A place where homosexuality is legal but still unsafe and scorned May 2015
Like human rights more generally, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people subsist on rocky ground in much of Africa. In Namibia’s Rainbow Project: Gay Rights in an African Nation, anthropologist Robert Lorway examines the issue of gay rights in one African country, Namibia. Perhaps the first thing to say about LGBT rights in Africa is that the challenges Lorway describes in Namibia…

Malleable Cannon Fodder

Is it cultural manipulation or simple brainwashing that creates the child soldier? September 2013
The phenomenon of child soldiers is not new. Boys and very young men have been encouraged, welcomed, dragooned and press-ganged into armies and navies for a very long time, and mostly we have not thought much about it. Hollywood has brought us decades of Hornblower-type films in which boys serve as plucky midshipmen, while drummer boys serve as a frequent icon for artists seeking to portray bravery in 19th-century…

Resource Fever

In recent clashes over mining, both Canadians and Peruvians look rapacious November 2012
When a young, unemployed, leftish-leaning Canadian journalist—as Arno Kopecky describes himself—heads off to South America to investigate a shootout between the Peruvian military and native people protesting against foreign oil and mining operations, you know someone is going to get a serious drubbing. If a lot of the companies in question are Canadian, and if Canadian government fingerprints are all over the disaster—in the form of a free trade agreement and aid programs “helping” the government with its mining legislation—then you might well anticipate a protracted rant aimed at Canadian mining firms and…

A Brilliant Polemic

One of Canada’s NGO leaders lays out what’s wrong with the world of aid December 2011
On the dust jacket of this book, Stephen Lewis writes, “This is an extraordinarily riveting book. The anecdotes are heart-wrenching; the analysis is trenchant, principled, uncompromising. I never read a book in one sitting: I read Damned Nations in one sitting, and I regretted that it came to an end.” Hmm. It is no secret that Stephen Lewis is a past master at mobilizing hyperbole and sending it into…

“Responsibilizing” the Poor

An analysis, this time from the left, of why foreign aid programs don’t work June 2011
Governing the Poor: Exercises of Poverty Reduction, Practices of Global Aid is a radical critique of efforts to reduce poverty through foreign aid. Aid, the book says, not only does not reduce poverty; it reinforces it, and it lets the governments of countries where it exists off the hook in terms of alleviating…

The Dove Is Never Free

Relief agencies struggle with confused focus and political co-optation September 2008
Many books have been written in recent years about the humanitarian aid system and its failings, but there are not many good personal memoirs of front-line international emergency work. One of the most striking, for its title at least, is Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): A True Story from Hell on Earth