A year before the election of President Donald Trump signaled a shift in U.S. foreign policy to a pro-life position, Canada underwent a shift of its own, in the opposite direction. Since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister, Canada has followed Sweden in declaring a “feminist” foreign policy. Disgruntled by current U.S. policy, abortion advocates have turned north to Canada – and the upcoming G-7 Summit – for leadership and a way forward.
Canada’s pervious prime minister, Stephen Harper, launched the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in 2010 at the 36th G8 summit. The global health community welcomed the initiative because it pledged $5 billion from G8 countries toward meeting the maternal and child health UN Millennium Development Goals. It also drew both praise and criticism for the fact that it did not include abortion.
Eight years later, as Canada once again prepares to host the G-7 summit, Canada has seen a sea change. When President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy early last year, Canada pledged $20 million to the European-led “She Decides” campaign launched in direct opposition to the U.S. policy, barring funding to abortion groups. Speaking at a recent conference at McGill University, Canadian international development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a further three-year commitment to “improve women’s access to comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, family planning, safe and legal abortions, and post-abortion care.”
Bibeau also spoke at an event hosted by abortion advocates, where panelists denounced the Harper administration’s policies, urged Canada to advance a pro-abortion agenda at the upcoming G7 meeting, and praised the Trudeau government for its leadership.
“Few other donor countries are taking such a bold approach and the international community is looking to Canada in this area,” said Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
In her keynote address, Bibeau promised that Canada would use its seats on the UN’s recent Commission on the Status of Women and upcoming Commission on Population and Development to “advance gender equality” in international development and humanitarian contexts.
A recent Lancet series on Canada’s role in global health included an editorial stating, “Trudeau’s ways elevate the global discourse on gender, rights, and health and deserve loud applause.” A further article discussed how the prior administration’s Muskoka Initiative was “positively welcomed in some UN circles at a time of lagging funding for global health.” However, the article notes that “[o]thers argued that the initiative overemphasized the need for health-care services for women and children to survive, and gave insufficient attention to the root causes of maternal mortality, including reproductive rights of women and girls.”
For his part, Prime Minister Trudeau appears disinclined to focus on maternal and child survival at the expense of promoting an aggressive pro-abortion international agenda. In his own Lancet comment, he boasts that “our CAN$650 million investment supports programs that improve access to safe and legal abortion,” and promises that “gender equality will be at the top of the agenda” when Canada hosts the G7 conference in June.
Canada has also been announced as the host of the 2019 pro-abortion Women Deliver conference.
“Canada is showing strong political leadership for women’s health and rights,” said Women Deliver President Katja Iversen, “and we at Women Deliver are thrilled to have our fifth global convening in Canada, a country that is steadfastly dedicated to promoting gender equality at every turn.”
Rebecca Oas writes for the Friday Fax.