1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 99

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

International Development

Programs and Initiatives

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As you know, the Trump administration’s new global gag rule prohibits aid to non- governmental organizations around the world that perform or discuss abortion or family planning options.

This freeze stands to affect as much as $600 million in funding to NGOs that support reproductive health efforts in other countries. Now that the biggest global funder of NGOs will no longer be present, there is a significant amount that needs to be made up. Many governments, including the Netherlands and other European governments, are stepping up to help the people who need it most. Preventable child and maternal deaths, fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and protecting communities from infectious diseases that could affect reproductive health, all are essential services that are used around the world.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services, or plainly just resources.

On February 27, Minister Bibeau stated that Canada “will definitely increase the proportion of our international assistance budget to sexual and reproductive health rights and the full range of services.” With that said, the government has not proposed any actual action that it would take or actual funds that it would commit to accomplish the goals that Minister Bibeau has set out. Could you tell us what steps the government will take?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for the question and for the sentiment of her question, in particular to encourage governments around the world to pick up the gap that is being created by the decisions of the United States.

Minister Bibeau was in Europe last week to meet with her counterparts and in the process of that meeting, she restated Canada’s commitment and undertook to make an announcement very soon with respect to precisely how the Government of Canada will augment its contribution in this area to be part of the coalition of countries to fill this important need.

Senator Jaffer: Leader, can you convey to the minister that we are watching her carefully, and we respect and appreciate all the steps she has taken, not just in this work but all the work she does in international development? She has made Canada’s presence known in the places where help is really needed.

I have another question for you. Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister, indicated today that Canada has expressed interest in joining the global fund to finance family planning. Is this true?

Senator Harder: I believe the minister, in the course of her European meetings, met with a number of her counterparts and made some indicative announcements with respect to Canada’s commitment in this area. I would need to confirm the particular reference that the question poses, but it is in conformity with the minister’s stated intention of utilizing this break week in the other house to meet with her counterparts internationally and ensure that Canada steps up where others are retreating.