World / Science & Health

Canada will step up on global women's health as other nations step back, Justin Trudeau says

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Canada will increase its global spending on women’s and girls’ health as other countries “are stepping back,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, citing threats to abortion access and violence against women.

Trudeau said the politicization of women’s rights was having “devastating consequences” around the world as he made the commitment, which comes as the United States scales back its support for female sexual and reproductive health worldwide.

Canada will increase its spending to 1.4 billion Canadian dollars ($1 billion) by 2023 from C$1.1 billion currently, he announced at the world’s largest conference on gender equality, We Deliver, positioning his country as a leading donor internationally.

“Globally and here at home, we’re seeing a push back against women’s rights, whether it’s attacks on a woman’s fundamental right to choose or violence against indigenous women and girls,” Trudeau told a media briefing at the conference in Vancouver.

“Canada is stepping up, while other countries are stepping back,” he said. “We understand that investing in maternal, newborn and child health and reproductive health rights and services are essential.

“This should not be a political issue,” he said. “These divisions are playing out globally with devastating consequences.”

Health advocates say a so-called global gag rule that bans U.S.-funded groups around the world from discussing abortion has led to unwanted pregnancies and deadly and unsafe abortions since it came into effect two years ago.

It has also forced clinics and outreach programs that provide an array of health care services to close, they say.

Half the money — C$700 million — will go to sexual and reproductive health under Canada’s commitment.

A spokesman for Canada’s international development minister said that would be among the largest donor sums internationally but said it was difficult to compare with that of countries such as the United States and Britain.

He said it was Canada’s largest spending commitment on women’s and girls’ health.

Almost $9 billion in U.S. foreign aid is at stake under the global gag rule imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump that requires nongovernmental organizations working abroad to choose between accepting the abortion-related ban or losing funding.

Trudeau again said his government would review recommendations made on Monday by a government inquiry that determined the deaths of more than 1,000 aboriginal girls and women in recent decades was a national genocide.

The report blamed the violence on long-standing discrimination against indigenous people and Canada’s failure to protect them.

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