Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 21

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Acting Speaker

International Cooperation

Maternal and Infant Health Initiative at G8 Conference

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Dallaire has the answer. He obviously does not agree with the answer but, when we look at the public opinion in the country, it is clear that the government has made a decision and there is significant support for it. I do not think Canada or any of the G8 members can go into a country and tell them that a particular policy they have is illegal. We are trying to provide, through this G8 initiative, a situation whereby we can improve the health of mothers and their children.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, before I ask my question, I have a supplementary question on what the leader just said.

I have to respect what the leader says because I believe she believes in what she is saying. However, I will put a scenario to the leader.

Each summer, I work in villages in Africa, where every 30 seconds a person dies of malaria. If an expectant woman contracts malaria while pregnant, she must have an abortion, because she can die due to the damage a mosquito does to her blood supply. Will we say we will not provide an abortion to this woman because we do not believe in abortion?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government, in entering into this initiative as the host of the G8, strives to champion initiatives to promote maternal and children’s health, including better nutrition, treatment and prevention of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/ AIDS; proper medication; family planning; immunization; clean water; and sanitation.

The senator cites a specific case. We could carry this debate on until the end of the earth. The fact is that we have clearly stated our contribution to this G8 initiative does not include funding abortions.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, each year, approximately 529,000 women die from complications during childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths occur in developing countries. As an example, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth compared to a 1 in 4,000 risk in developed countries.

In September 2001, 147 heads of state collectively endorsed Millennium Development Goal 4 and Goal 5 to reduce the child mortality rate by two thirds and maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015.

The leader set out some of the programs earlier, but what specific programs will Canada offer at the G8 summit in order to keep its commitment to reducing the threat to the health of mothers and children? What programs will honour the commitment as outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I already said Minister Oda is attending a meeting in Halifax and putting together the various programs and the details, so we will have to await those decisions.

Senator Jaffer talked about the number of children who die each year. I agree with Sharon Marshall of World Vision; 8.8 million children die each year from causes that could easily be prevented with pennies. Surely, that is where we should put our focus. I hope that is what the various G8 ministers are deciding right now. I hope they are finding a way to channel all of this effort and to ensure that the collective expertise and the collective dollars of the G8 are being put to the best possible use to improve the health of mothers and save the lives of children.