Organization's founder says documents posted on web without his knowledge
By Luc Rinaldi
The Catholic Register
TORONTO (CCN)--Free the Children, the international children’s rights group founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, has denied a web site allegation that their charity supports abortion.
“The policy of the organization has never changed or wavered,” said Marc Kielburger. “To be very clear, Free The Children is apolitical, and does not promote abortion, nor has it ever.”
Kielburger was forced to respond to allegations published by LifeSiteNews that accused the organization of taking a “direct stand in favour of abortion.”
The accusation was based on two fact sheets that briefly appeared 13 months ago on Free The Children’s web site. The documents criticized the Conservative government’s failure to include abortion funding in the maternal health care initiative it presented at the G20/G8 summits in 2010. The most contentious sentence read: “There is a consensus that family planning, including abortion, is crucial to reducing maternal deaths and improving the economic
status of women in the poorest parts of the world.”
But Kielburger said the fact sheets don’t represent the organization’s policy and should never have been posted on Free The Children’s web site. The documents were created by an intern as part of a research project in preparation for the leaders’ summits in Canada and were posted online without being reviewed by either Kielburger brother or a senior member of the organization, he said. When discovered three days after they were posted, they were de-linked from the site, but unintentionally remained accessible by web search, Kielburger said.
The documents were found by LifeSiteNews and used to create an “inaccurate perception” of the organization, Kielburger said.
“Free The Children has a very clear mission to free children from poverty and a lack of primary education,” he said. “We cannot let the debate regarding abortion halt funding commitments from the federal government towards providing non-abortion related maternal health care.”
Mary Eileen Donovan, a Free The Children board member, also said the documents were posted without the knowledge of either Kielburger brother.
“They never saw them, never helped write them, never authorized them,” Donovan said. “The documents are not consistent with what they believe.”
As part of their Adopt a Village program, Free The Children provides and funds basic health clinics. These medical facilities, however, do not offer abortions, Kielburger said.
Craig Kielburger founded Free The Children at age 12 while attending an Ontario Catholic school in 1995. According to the web site, the charity, which operates through a network of children helping children, has helped more than one million people gain access to clean water, health care and sanitation, as well as given more than 55,000 children access to education.
Though the organization is not Catholic, Free The Children is partnered with three Catholic school boards in the Toronto area alone, and the organization’s annual conference event, We Day, hosts thousands of Catholic students from across the country.
“We have always made very clear that Free The Children is an apolitical, secular organization because we wish for the organization to serve as a vehicle for all people to come together in the struggle against child poverty. However, both my brother, Craig, and I are proud members of the Catholic faith,” Kielburger said. “We choose to live our faith through our service work as volunteers with Free The Children.”