MP Cathy McLeod was on CBC Kamloops this morning (Sept. 2, 2014) promoting a “Roundtable” meeting today, on the federal Conservatives program on “Maternal Health”, at the Kamloops offices of the Canadian Red Cross.
Canada’s commitment to address the issue of maternal health is laudable. Certainly, the need is pressing. The world has cut maternal, infant and child mortality in half in the past 25 years, a huge advance. Yet much of that came before the Muskoka Initiative (2010). Today, some 6.6 million children under age five, half of them newborns, still die every year from preventable or treatable causes. At present, the UN is falling short of its goal to cut maternal deaths by three-quarters by next year, and those of children under five by two-thirds.
But, despite the federal Conservatives commitment, the Initiative lacks transparency, as a recent critique in the Lancet reported. An accounting of how and where the funds are being invested, the respected journal reported, is all but impossible to get.
Canada has also avoided or sent confusing messages on the critical issue of contraception and abortion, which experts say is part of the full range of maternal health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 120 million women around the world want access to family planning. But contraception is not properly on the table with this government. Fewer women and girls will be saved if a full range of sexual and reproductive health services are not provided to those most in need.
Unsafe abortion kills tens of thousands of women a year, but many more are maimed and affected for the rest of their lives. We need to offer a full range of maternal health services like other partner countries do.
The Conservative government’s record on foreign aid is flawed. On their watch, Canada’s aid program, currently $5.6 billion, has declined by more than $800 million in real terms, slipping to a meager 0.27 percent of our GDP. That’s well below the donor country average and target of 0.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have unleashed the Canada Revenue Agency to audit, some would say harass, organizations such as Oxfam because they do not always agree with the government. This impedes the ability of humanitarian and human rights agencies to advocate on issues such as poverty prevention and to help those in need around the globe.
More broadly, Canada’s International Reputation has been tarnished, by the federal Conservatives. Canada has been recipient of the International “Fossil of the Year” several years running. We failed to win a seat on the UN Security Council. Multilateralism and our hard-earned reputation as a balanced, credible voice and power-broker has suffered hugely. Bellicose rhetoric is not a responsible form of foreign policy for a middle power like Canada.
On Gaza, it is hard to comprehend why the Conservative government ignored an appeal to bring injured and maimed children from Gaza to Canada for medical treatment. In a letter to the PM, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, wrote:
“I am confident that any action by your government to help enable the humanitarian initiative will receive support among all federal political parties Many Canadians are asking themselves what can we do to help…to achieve peace, we must refuse to hate. Only in that spirit can we hope to bring people together to forge a just, secure and lasting peace.”
More urgently, children of Gaza are desperately in need of help, they are innocent victims, of a long-standing conflict.
Canada was once a highly respected and credible voice in international affairs. It is increasingly marginalized and not taken seriously. That has to change if we are to be a truly global and serious player.
Bill Sundhu, Federal Candidate (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo), The New Democratic Party of Canada.