PM Trudeau plays up feminist cred on International Women’s Day
OTTAWA -- Canada's feminist prime minister took full advantage of International Women's Day to remind his supporters of his much-emphasized commitment to gender equality.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the day by announcing $650 million in funding for women's sexual and reproductive health rights around the world, following it with a noon-hour speech and Q and A with 338 women who came from across the country to see what it would be like to be an MP.
The Trudeau government also tied International Women's Day to their announcement that they plan to eliminate elements of the Criminal Code that are no longer in force following court rulings, including the provision banning abortions.
In the reproductive health funding announcement, Trudeau and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau emphasized the Canadian government's feminist view and belief in women's right to choose when and with whom they want to have children.
The money will be provided from 2017 to 2020 and comes from the existing international development budget, but is not coming out of the $3.5 billion dedicated to maternal, newborn and child health programming set up under the previous government, an official said.
The funding will provide sexuality education, reproductive health services -- including abortion services where they're legal -- and family planning and contraceptives. It will go to programs to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, including child and early forced marriage, female genital mutilation and cutting, and post-abortion care, according to a news release.
Later in the afternoon, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced she's introducing legislation to trim some of the parts of the Criminal Code that are no longer law in Canada.
"Removing these provisions from the Criminal Code will ensure the law on the books reflects the current state of the law in practice," Wilson-Raybould said.
The Supreme Court struck down the ban on abortion in 1988, writing that it was unconstitutional because it violated a woman's right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Wilson-Raybould said she was "very pleased" to be announcing the bill on International Women's Day.
"Our government without equivocation recognizes and acknowledges the constitutional rights of women and are taking the courageous step to ensure that we remove this from Criminal Code," she said.
'A lot more to do'
Canadian international development funding is at near-historic lows, according to aid organizations. World Vision Canada told CTV News that it's encouraged by Trudeau's funding announcement, but wants Canada to double its development spending over the next 10 years.
"World Vision's Canadian-funded programs in developing countries improve the lives of vulnerable women and children," spokeswoman Trisha Owens said. "In Tanzania, with Government of Canada support, World Vision provided much-needed health services to more than 17,000 pregnant women and close 125,000 children under five. We saw an increase in both the number of women attending prenatal clinics and babies delivered by trained health providers."
Oxfam Canada called earlier this week for the federal government to put its money where its mouth is, saying it's encouraged by the policies announced under Trudeau, but needs to see additional money dedicated to those policies.
"It's kind of the right commitments, but we need more tangible policy decisions and most importantly investments," Lauren Ravon, director of policy and campaigns for Oxfam Canada, told CTV News on Monday.
"A commitment without resources isn't much of a commitment at all," she said.
Trudeau told reporters Canada is doubling its current funding for reproductive health, calling it no small thing.
"We know there's a lot more to do... Canada was doing good things before, but was missing these essential elements of defend the reproductive rights of women," Trudeau said in French.
"Recognizing people's rights is fundamental in any free society. The right of women to choose when, how, with whom to start a family is one that we all must fight for and defend," Trudeau added in English.
Approximately 225 million women and girls around the world want to use contraceptives but don't have access to them, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Letting women choose how many children to have is a key factor in reducing poverty.
The UNFPA says if all women with an unmet need for contraceptives were able to use them, it would prevent 24 million abortions, 14 million of which would be unsafe, 6 million miscarriages, 70,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for adolescent girls, the UNFPA says, and their babies face a higher mortality rate. Most of the women with unmet contraceptives needs live in the world's 69 poorest countries.
This is over 3 years, in addition to previous govt's maternal, newborn & child health funding. Comes from existing aid budget #cdnpoli— Laura Payton (@laura_payton) March 8, 2017