This year, World Population Day comes in the midst of a life and death debate about how Canadian society wants to react internationally to key issues, including poverty, women’s rights, access to abortion and contraception, and health care.
“Our planet’s population reached 7 billion last October,” observed Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Because of this, many try to blame ‘over-population’ for increasing global suffering, but it is more about political will.”
May noted that the Harper Conservatives’ slashing of $377.7 million from CIDA and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) indicates that their political will is seriously lacking when it comes to honouring Canada’s stated commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The Goals, endorsed by Canada and 188 other UN members in 2000, vowed to minimize extreme poverty, hunger, and disease, and promote gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. Even in 2010, Harper urged world leaders at a major UN summit on development aid to focus on results, not “lofty promises.” He argued that: “Together, we must keep our promises and work towards practical, durable solutions.”
The Harper Conservatives have also taken a dangerously wrong turn concerning access to legal abortions in the developing world. Every year, at least 330,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Of these, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 70,000 women die due to complications caused by unsafe abortions.
During the 2010 G-8 Summit, the Harper Conservatives promised up to $1 billion in nutrition and health-care initiatives to promote maternal and child health in the developing world. However, they also ended Canada’s traditional funding for legal abortions – ignoring global data showing that such restrictions only serve to increase the number of unsafe abortion procedures and complications.
“As the Harper Conservatives break in another CIDA minister, this is an excellent time for them to reverse their backward and cruel policy on legal abortion funding,” said May. “This would help improveCanada’s increasingly negative international reputation – as well as saving lives,” May said.
Harper will also have an opportunity to develop more humane policies during a Family Planning Summit to be held in London, UK, on July 11.
“I urge the Conservatives to use this summit to announce increased funding for sexual and reproductive health rights, including the rights of women and girls to have access to contraceptive information, services, and supplies, without coercion or discrimination,” said May.