1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 131

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

International Development

Feminist Development Policy

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is to the leader.

Leader, I was very pleased to see that the Minister of International Development, Minister Bibeau, has brought in a so-called feminist development policy. From what I can see, it means reaching out to women. Can you, who are privy to these things, explain exactly what a feminist development policy is all about?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and for highlighting the very significant statement that was made by the Minister of International Development recently as part of the foreign policy repositioning of this government from Minister Freeland to the Minister of Defence, to also the Minister of International Assistance.

It is the position of the government that it is putting forward a feminist international assistance policy to promote greater gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. For Canada, we view this as the best way to reduce poverty and create a world that is more inclusive, more peaceful and more prosperous. The decision to adopt this feminist policy is based on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, the results of an extensive consultation process with Canadians and with the international community, the evidence that has been developed within the development industry, as well as to reflect Canadian values and expertise. We also know that women and girls are the poorest and also the most vulnerable to poverty, violence and even climate change. But when we give them the means to develop their full potential, they become powerful agents of change, development and peace, and everyone benefits from their actions — their communities, men, boys and other vulnerable groups.

The final point I’d make is that the budget has allocated that projects dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls be increased from 2 per cent to 15 per cent over five years, with a commitment of $650 million over three years. The government is doubling its investment in sexual and reproductive health rights. We are significantly improving, as a government, maternal and newborn health.

Senator Jaffer: Leader, when I read what the minister was trying to do, I couldn’t help but feel real pride, because it’s the women who do the development work and now we are empowering them. That’s a very good thing.

Where I’m having difficulty and would appreciate clarification is we now have a feminist development or international aid policy. Is our foreign policy the same?

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for her question. This is a bit of a follow-up from the question that she posed last week.

It’s certainly the view of the Government of Canada that the three policy thrusts are mutually reinforcing and, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs made clear in her presentation, the priorities of the government are integrated. I could cite further directions in international development assistance which were alluded to but not fleshed out entirely in Minister Freeland’s speech. So, yes, they are integrated and part of a whole of the government’s approach to international development, foreign policy, foreign aid and, indeed, defence.

Senator Jaffer: Leader, I said — and I genuinely meant it — that I’m so happy with what Minister Bibeau has done. I know you and I are reading the foreign policy statement differently, but after what you said, I looked at the statement carefully and only saw the word “woman” a few times. What really disappointed me on the foreign policy part was that we are in the forefront. We, in 2000, were the country that fought for women, peace and security in Resolution 1325. It seems that that women empowerment has completely disappeared. Am I correct on that?


Senator Harder: Thank you, Senator Jaffer, for your question. I wouldn’t want to say you’re incorrect because that would be impolite, but it’s certainly the view of the Government of Canada that one department, Global Affairs Canada, encompasses all of the instruments of the Government of Canada from a policy point of view, and they are coherent and integrated. That very much feminist policy that is particularly articulated on the development side within the umbrella provided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the very heart of the government’s international agenda.