Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to speak to this Liberal motion. We have a moment in time because we are hosting this year's G8 and G20 summits, a moment in time when we could have the most profound impact upon the health of the world's poorest than we have seen in decades.
The reason the Liberal Party has put this motion has to do with a number of comments made by the government that have obscured the message of what we should be doing at this great moment in time. I will quote a couple of those comments.
The said, “family planning measures are going to never be part of that group”, i.e. what will be discussed at the G20 summit.
On March 16, the said, “It does not deal, in any way, shape or form, with family planning to be the purpose of this”, i.e. the plan of action in the G20 and G8 meetings is to save lives.
What we are dealing with here is not a political issue. It is a medical issue and a humanitarian issue. I want to describe some of the challenges and problems that are faced with maternal and international health and put forward a plan of action to deal with this problem. I sincerely hope, as I am sure do all colleagues across the House and all of the opposition parties, the government takes this opportunity to implement what works from a scientific basis. We have heard from many of my colleagues today, from my party and others, how to do this.
The challenge is that right now, every minute of every day, a woman dies as a consequence of or during pregnancy. That is 530,000 women every year. They essentially die from five largely preventable causes. Women bleed, hemorrhage and babies get stuck in obstructed labour They get infections, sepsis and something called eclampsia where the blood pressure goes high, they get seizures and they die. Also, 63,000 women a year die as a result of septic abortions, abortions they get because they have no other option.
What does that mean? It means that when the mother dies more than half of her children who are under the age of five also die. Many members of the House do not understand that. The death of the mother presages a death of most of her children under the age of five, which leaves not only a sea of orphans but also a sea of children who die, which is completely unnecessarily. This is devastating to the economy and the social cohesiveness of these countries. Most of these deaths are occurring in developing countries.
How do we deal with this? It is true, and the government is correct to say, that health systems are the key. It really is focusing on the basics: having a trained health care worker, access to the proper medications and diagnostics, clean water and proper nutrition, and access to a full array of family planning options, including access to abortions in those countries where it is legal.
The World Health Organization talks about this in a very important way. It says that family planning allows individuals to have the desired number and spacing of children by the use of contraceptive measures and treat involuntary fertility.
In other words, family planning is voluntary and contraception is tailored to the individual needs. We cannot try to foist our morals on other people, and no one is suggesting that for a moment, but we need to support that which is known to work and that which is legal in the countries that we are trying to assist congruent with what they want.
Why are we so focused on family planning? It we can provide people with family planning, it will save more than one-third of the 530,000 women who die every year while they are pregnant. Can anyone Imagine that one-third of those women's lives would be saved, including the lives of 50% of the children who die during early childhood? If the government wants to truly save lives, then needs to follow the science and enable people to access a full array of family planning options.
While the government has spoken about not opening the door on the abortion issue, we say, amen. However, if it does not want to open the door to the abortion issue then the logical conclusion is that we must give people the rights that currently exist, and one of those rights in our country is a woman's right to a safe abortion. Why is the government preventing women in other countries from having the same rights as women in our country?
If Canadian men and women did not have access to a full array of family planning options, we would have a much higher rate of maternal mortality and infant mortality.
In our country things are not all homogenous. There are segments and elements in our country, particularly in first nations communities and in rural communities, where maternal mortality and infant mortality rates are too high. Most Canadians would be shocked to know that our country, which spends the fifth highest amount on a per capita basis than any other country in the world, has the 22nd highest rate of infant mortality in the world. What kind of a situation is that? That is a national shame. The government should work with our provincial counterparts to deal with this.
When it comes to family planning, which this is important from a medical perspective, if women have the ability to control their own fertility, in other words, allowing them to space their children out and not having them when they are too young or too old, then they would be able to have their children at the correct age and with the correct spacing between them. This is a long established right, one that is recognized by the United Nations.
On the abortion issue, in 1994 in Cairo, members of the United Nations, including our own, agreed that women should have the right to safe abortions in those countries where it is legal.
More than 80,000 women die as a consequence of iron deficiency anemia every year. Dr. Zlotkin from the U of T and many others in Canada have championed the micronutrient initiative, which we call pennies from heaven. We call it pennies from heaven because a small investment goes a long way toward saving not only a mother's life but also the lives of children.
As I said before, if we get the health system right, if we can treat the pregnant woman, which is millennium development goal five, then we can also treat 80% of those who go through a hospital emergency department. I am speaking of the big killers like gastroenteritis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition and HIV-AIDS.
The government speaks about wanting to be effective in terms of using taxpayer money, which we are all behind that, but if it wants to be most effective and make the most effective, sensible, cost effective use of taxpayer money, then the answer is family planning. Access to family planning is the most cost-effective way to improve the health of populations, as well as improve the economy and the environment.This is absolutely crucial. It is hard to understand why the government would not allow this to happen.
I also want to talk about the government's position on a few other areas related to this.
In Vancouver, Drs. Montaner, Thomas Kerr, Evan Wood and others have come up with a seek and treat program for those with HIV-AIDS. In my province of British Columbia, 12,000 people are HIV positive, the highest in Canada on a per capita basis. At the Centre for Excellence, Dr. Montaner and his team have put forward a program called Seek and Treat. They are also the champions of HAART therapy, the highly active, antiretroviral therapy treatment. They will use this to seek and treat undiagnosed people who are HIV positive. This is profound because the HAART therapy allows people who are HIV positive to receive triple therapy. If they receive this treatment, the viral particles can be dropped so low that they are actually prevented from infecting others. This is the most positive new evidence we have to curb this pandemic.
What is the government doing for harm reduction strategies like this? It has actually taken the Insite program in British Columbia that Dr. Montaner and his team championed and, remarkably, is taking it to court to prevent patients from having access to this program that is saving lives.
What kind of a government is actually depriving people from being able to access known, proven lifesaving initiatives? For all of those who are watching, that is what the government is doing today. It is actually standing in the way of lifesaving measures, including the Insite program in Vancouver, and is using the courts to do so.
The lower courts said that evidence from The Lancet to the The New England Journal of Medicine showed that this particular initiative saves lives and that governments must allow patients to access the program. What does the Conservative government do? No, it said, it could not allow this because it violated the government's sense of ideology. The government stands in the way and is actually going to the courts to block a lifesaving measure.
The reason the Liberal Party has put this motion forward is that the government has started to change its tale a little bit, stating it is not going to close the door on any family planning options but is also not going to open the book on abortion.
What does that mean? It could mean a lot of things. It is very different from saying it is going to enable people to access family planning, that it is going to bring it to the G8 and G20 tables and work with the most powerful leaders in the world to include this as part of an integrated plan to save women, men, and children's lives.
If the government does not do this, then not only does it mean the death of millions of women and children that could have been prevented, but it will also prevent many men and women from living through the HIV-AIDS issue. What the government in effect has been saying up until very recently is that it is not going to promote simple, well-known options for people to protect themselves from the spread of HIV.
What kind of government can possibly get it into its mind that it is going to deprive people from having the tools they need to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases? It is absolutely inconceivable.
Unless the government wants to tell us something else, the thing that is driving this is ideology. The reason we put the reference to President Bush in the motion is that President Bush put an obligation on U.S. aid and the PEPFAR program that they were not going to fund anybody, group or country who was in any way, shape or form going to enable women to have access to safe abortions.
I want to discuss this, just for a second, if I may. Far from the comfort of this particular room, something else is going on. As a physician who has worked in Africa right next to a war zone, I have seen some pretty horrible things. One of the shames of the world is the use of rape as a tool in conflict. In places like the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 70% of the women in some communities have been raped and gang raped. What option does that woman have if she has been gang raped and is pregnant?
Can the government members truly look into their own hearts, in their Christian hearts if they are Christian, and ask themselves if they could look that woman in the eyes and say, “We are going to prevent you from having an abortion even though you want one, even though if you take this fetus to term you will be a pariah and cannot handle it, which will be psychologically devastating to you”, for whatever reasons she may have.
If members of the government look in their hearts, do they truly think they can also look at that woman today and say, “No, you will not have access to a abortion.” I would ask them to reflect on that, because that is the reality in too many countries in the world. It is the dark side of too many countries in the conflict zones in our world today. We would like to believe that it does not happen, but it is the reality in too many counties in the world. That is why the world has agreed to what is known as an integrated series of options and initiatives to enable us to save the lives of children, men, and women, as the government says it wants to do.
It is this series or bucket of solutions, which I have articulated here, that is science and fact based. The actually supported this last year. What the Prime Minister signed onto at last year's G8 summit in Rome is the following. The summit members, including the Prime Minister, committed to “accelerate progress on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning”.
The people at the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, including Maureen McTeer, Dr. Lalonde, and Dr. Dorothy Shaw, who is one of the key people and our spokesperson on the G8 and G20 and part of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and others, have articulated very clearly, dispassionately, factually and scientifically a series of initiatives that Canada could and should embrace based on the science.
I understand the sensitivities of members on the other side about the abortion issue. They may be personally opposed to it. That is their right, but they do not have the right to deprive other people of what will save their lives. That is the crux of the matter and that is why we have tabled this motion today.
It is also a moment in time when Canada is going to lead. We are going to lead at the G8 and G20 summits. If the government simply puts out these very vague terms saying that it is not going to close the door on anything in particular and it is not going to open the book on abortion, it should come clean about what it is going to do.
This is how it can happen. Right now the sherpas are meeting and this month the foreign ministers will be meeting in Gatineau. The month thereafter the development ministers will be meeting. What they need to do is to come up with an integrated plan. The inputs are known and the tasks be divided up so that each G8 member country takes a leadership role in each of these particular areas. One country could do health human resources and others could do water, power, micronutrients and family planning. Each country therefore could take a leadership role.
The sherpas should be part of an ongoing working group to implement that plan. There would be one plan of action based on the science, one implementing mechanism and one oversight and reporting mechanism to taxpayers in the countries. Of course, all of this should be transparent. As the has said, he wants transparency and accountability. We are all in favour of that, and it is what they need to do. They need to post and record what they are doing. They could even partner with different groups in our country.
There is an initiative now with some of our universities, called the Centres for International Health and Development. Essentially, the government has the opportunity to link up our universities with institutions in developing countries, using our universities as a way to capacity-build based on what the recipient countries want. That is a functional way the government can implement a lot of these measures, partnering with NGOs, universities, and international partners like UNFPA, and domestic partners like ACPD and others to implement what we know needs to be done to save lives.
It would be unacceptable for the Liberal Party to let the government off the hook. We are not going to buy into vague statements by the government that are meant to obscure this issue. However, we will work with the government to implement what is necessary to save mothers' lives, men's lives and children's lives.
I want to appeal to the sense of humanity of the members of government. If they could look beyond their own personal ideologies for a moment and put themselves in the shoes of somebody who lives in a country far way, or even in some communities in our country, and consider the difficult choices that people sometimes have to make to protect themselves and save the lives of their children and families, I would ask them to consider what they would need to save their own lives and those of their families. The only conclusion they can arrive at is to allow others to have access to the same options that all of us have, whether we choose to embrace them or not, and allow everybody to have the full range of primary health care services, including access to a full range of family planning options and the ability to have a safe abortion where legal.
I would ask the members to look into their hearts and allow this, because failure on this will result in millions of lost lives. Do they want to save lives or not? That is what I will leave them with.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part this afternoon in this debate. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
My comments will focus on what the government is doing to provide more effective, better targeted and more transparent help to children and young people.
Nearly two months ago, our indicated that he wanted to play a leadership role at the G8 summit to be held in Canada and to make aid given to women and children in the poorest countries a priority.
Our government understands that success in development is much easier to achieve when children and young people get a good start in life. That is why the future of children and young people is a fundamental priority for the Canadian International Development Agency, whose mission is to coordinate Canada's international aid to improve the living conditions of the least fortunate. Développement international Desjardins, whose head office is in Lévis, also contributes to Canada's humanitarian work throughout the world.
There have never been as many young people as there are today. Nearly half the world's 6.8 billion inhabitants are under 25. Of that number, nearly 90% live in developing countries. When young people receive the care and education they need, they can thrive and contribute positively to their society. But many young people face obstacles.
Lack of access to services and the substandard services they receive are factors that threaten their well-being and their survival. Too often they are victims of violence, exploitation and neglect, especially in countries that are economically fragile or in conflict situations.
This is particularly true for girls and young women, whose basic rights are far from being respected. They are less educated, in poorer health and less likely to contribute to society.
Regardless of where they live, children and young people have the right to live in a safe environment, free from violence and discrimination, which is not always the case.
Our government understands this fundamental principle and, through CIDA, is implementing a children and youth strategy, which will help more young people positively contribute to society. When it comes to children and young people, it is clear that something needs to be done.
Lack of education and skills, under-investment in programs for girls, violence and abuse, high rates of infant and maternal mortality, not to mention exponential population growth, are all factors that put the current generation of children and young people in serious danger.
CIDA's strategy has three priorities: child survival, including maternal health; access to quality education; and safety and security of children and youth.
We must increase our efforts to improve child survival, since nearly 9 million children die every year before their fifth birthday as a result of preventable and treatable diseases.
First, we must take care of the mothers. In developing countries, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every minute. We must consider maternal health just as important as child survival.
Our government made its commitment clear when our announced in January that maternal and child health would be one of the top priorities at the G8 summit that will be held in Canada this year.
Canada plans on working with its G8 partners to develop a comprehensive approach, in order to improve the health of mothers and children under the age of five and to make concrete advancements in achieving the health-related millennium development goals.
CIDA’s second priority is education. An educated workforce is essential for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Access to education has improved in developing countries, but for various financial, social, health and security reasons, 72 million children—including 39 million girls—still do not go to school.
Educating children is a priority, just like the ability to finish the basic 10-year program. Our government is also working on strengthening various national educational systems through teacher training, the development of appropriate curricula, and better learning materials.
The efforts that Canada has made to provide a better education to a larger number of children and young people in developing countries are aimed at establishing educational systems that are better structured and enable young people, especially girls, to acquire the basic skills they need to become productive citizens.
Finally, the third part of this strategy is the future: a secure future for children and young people.
In many developing countries, violence, abuse and exploitation—not to mention child trafficking and the worst forms of child labour—are often widespread. Girls are especially vulnerable, as are poor, marginalized children and young people.
If we turn a blind eye to security and protection issues, our investments in health, education and other areas will not have any lasting effects on the lives of women and children. Children, as the most vulnerable group in society, are entitled to a safe environment in which to grow and develop.
Canada will therefore strive, along with the countries involved, to develop the legal frameworks needed to ensure that more and more children and young people, especially girls, are protected against violence, exploitation and abuse.
These priorities are not determined in a haphazard way. Quite to the contrary, we consulted with numerous stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, other governments, donor countries and international corporations, to design a strategy that would help both to reduce poverty and give more children and young people a chance to live productive lives, enjoy good health and be protected against violence and discrimination—problems that too many of them still have to face.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that the approach taken to international assistance under the Liberals lacked coherence. In spreading money all over without setting priorities, they failed to accomplish anything. Our government has taken the steps needed to concentrate our bilateral aid in 20 key countries in which we can make a difference.
We saw this in January with the 's intention to focus the G8 meetings on the issue of women’s and children’s health. We also saw it in a much more tangible way in Haiti, when the humanitarian catastrophe arose. In this case, there was much more than mere words and speeches. There was humanitarian assistance and the concerted action of our military personnel and leaders to come to the aid of the people of Haiti, and more especially Haitian women and children.
We are in favour, therefore, of targeted international assistance to provide practical solutions.
I will gladly take questions from the members of the House.
Mr. Speaker, we will not be supporting the motion before the House. The motion is a transparent attempt to reopen the abortion debate that we have clearly said we have no intention to get into. By voting against the motion, we are proving that we will not reopen the abortion debate.
In addition, the motion contains rash, extreme anti-American rhetoric that we cannot as a matter of foreign policy support.
This government cares about saving the lives of mothers and children. That is why Canada is championing a major initiative on maternal and child health at Canada's G8 this year. As the wrote in his opinion piece announcing this year's G8 meeting:
|| Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health and Canada will be making this the top priority in June. Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health-care solutions.
Our presidency of the 2010 G8 allows us to mobilize our international partners and to work together to take effective action that will improve the lives of millions of mothers and children around the world.
In the weeks ahead, we will be consulting and working with other partners, including our G8 counterpartners, to help bring about this change. Cleaner water, more vaccinations and better nutrition, along with the training of health care workers to care for new mothers and babies, will be the top priority in this new maternal and child health initiative.
CIDA's mandate is to reduce poverty in developing countries and especially for the most vulnerable populations, including women and children. Through its children and youth strategy, the Canadian International Development Agency is already working to improve vulnerable women's access to maternal health care, reduce sickness and death in newborns, increase immunization and promote nutrition.
Canada is working with partner countries so their health systems will be capable of delivering better health services that are closer to home for mothers and children. We have repeatedly stressed the importance of strengthening health systems so that people will have access to quality health services.
Canada is blessed with incredible expertise and know-how in maternal and child health. Increasing access to family health services is a key programming area for international organizations supported by the Canadian International Development Agency. In addition, responding to the needs of developing country partners, many of our health services are integrated with other activities in a number of CIDA's projects.
The need is great and the opportunity we have to make a difference is real.
Canada has a real opportunity to bring the issue of maternal and child health to the forefront of the world stage. The G8 development ministers meeting in Halifax will set the stage for the June first ministers meeting.
We cannot talk about international development without thinking about the context of human rights. Human rights are a central theme of Canadian foreign policy because respect for human rights is a core Canadian value. We recognize that Canadians expect their government to be a leader in the field of human rights by reflecting and promoting Canadian values, including democracy and the rule of law on the international stage.
This government is well aware that women and the realization of women's rights are central to achieving sustainable development results. Increasing evidence has demonstrated that equality between women and men is necessary eradicate poverty.
In the service of its mandate and consistent with international human rights standards, CIDA seeks to address the barriers of exclusion and discrimination that often exist, so as to extend the benefits of development to the most marginalized peoples and to achieve meaningful development results.
CIDA is working to integrate equality between women and men and good practice principles of inclusion, participation, equality and non-discrimination through its developmental work. That is why they figure prominently in all three of CIDA's priorities: increasing food security; securing the future for children and youth; and sustainable economic growth.
The third priority reflects the fact that focusing on children and youth is one of the best ways to achieve long-term development and poverty reduction. CIDA aims to achieve concrete results that will make a significant sustainable difference in the lives of children and youth. Special attention will be focused on young women and girls because investment in girls and women brings great social and economic returns to their societies. All children have a right to be healthy, receive quality education and grow up in a safe and secure society.
CIDA is committed to helping children and youth in developing countries attain their full potential to become the strong, positive and engaged citizens of tomorrow. For this reason, on Universal Children's Day, the outlined CIDA's children and youth strategy, which will respond to the needs of the world's most vulnerable and help them become resourceful, engaged and productive young men and women.
CIDA's children and youth strategy will focus on three paths: child survival, including maternal health; access to quality education; and safe and secure futures for children and youth.
Under the safety and security path in this strategy, CIDA will support developing countries with a view to fulfilling the following priorities for action: strengthen and implement national protection legislation and mechanisms to safeguard the human rights and security of children and youth and to protect them, particularly girls, against violence and exploitation; ensure that schools are safe, free from violence and are child-friendly spaces for learning; and support efforts to help youth at risk find alternatives to violence and crime and engage as constructively as full members of society.
Under the child survival and maternal health path of CIDA's children and youth strategy, the government will contribute to ensuring mothers and children have access to the services, medicines and nutrition needed to lead healthy lives.
In addition to programming specific maternal health, CIDA is working to ensure we can make a difference in the lives of children living in developing countries. CIDA recognizes that we need to work with our G8 partners, improving maternal and child health. The maternal and child health discussion is not about what we are including or not including. It is about simple measures that focus on saving the lives of 500,000 pregnant mothers who die annually during childbirth and pregnancy. This initiative is about the nine million children who do not make it past their fifth birthday. This initiative is about providing health services, nutrition and clean water.
I realize that we sometimes tend to play politics in this House. I understand that the job of the opposition is to criticize the government, but I hope we can eventually find a common ground when it comes to maternal and child health.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the opposition motion. Even though some on the other side feel this is about politics, it is actually about the lives of women and children.
The science is clear. The facts are clear. The statistics are horrific.
I have delivered probably 2,000 babies as a family physician, and I have seen one maternal mortality in my lifetime. It is a day I will never forget. We had every possible modern medicine technology there in the room to try to save this woman's life and she died anyway.
I have seen many babies die. To this day, I feel that every single one of those babies had a family, had grandparents, and that experience changed the lives of those families forever.
Once as a medical student in the Caribbean, I saw a woman arrive with a temperature of 104°, chills and rigors, septic from the effects of an illegal abortion.
We actually have to get on with this file. It is one woman dying every minute of every day. In my lifetime I saw one maternal death, but in Sierra Leone 2,000 women die in every 100,000 births. That is two per hundred. This is unacceptable and we have to do better.
However, we also have to do better here in Canada where, because of the gap in health status of our aboriginal peoples, we still are not doing well enough on the world standard. We still are losing 5.2 babies per 100,000 when even Cuba was able to reach the goal of 4.8 per 100,000 in the last year.
The report, “Adding it up: The Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care” by the Allan Guttmacher Institute and the UNFPA states that sexual and reproductive ill health account for one-third of the global burden of disease among women of reproductive age and one-fifth of the burden of disease among the population overall. It says that HIV-AIDS accounts for 6% of the global disease burden. It says that the need for sexual and reproductive health services, and thus the potential benefit of meeting the need, is greatest among the poorest women, men and children in the world's lowest-income countries.
We know that satisfying the unmet need for contraceptive services in developing countries would avert 52 million unintended pregnancies annually, which in turn would save more than 1.5 million lives and prevent 505,000 children from losing their mothers.
A woman cannot die from complications arising during pregnancy and childbirth if she is not pregnant, and we know the children do not do well when their mother is dead.
Yet by refusing to fund programs that respect women's reproductive rights, including contraception and all aspects of reproductive health services, the government is allowing its ideological differences to get in the way of good health and gender equity.
The Mexico City policy was created in 1984 by the Reagan administration. This later became known as the global gag rule and was a policy of the United States government that barred any foreign organization receiving U.S. foreign assistance from using its own funds or funds from other donors to perform abortions, advocate for the liberalization or decriminalization of abortion in laws and policies, or provide information, make referrals or counsel women on the procedure, even in countries where abortion was legal.
The Mexico City policy was announced as a new restriction at the international conference on population development in Mexico City in 1984 by the Reagan administration. This policy was in place until 1993 when, as his first act in office, President Bill Clinton overturned it. Yet on January 22, 2001, President George Bush issued a presidential memorandum reinstating the Mexico City policy. It was his first act as president. On January 23, 2009, President Barrack Obama overturned this policy once again.
According to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, approximately 500,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year, and according to the United Nations Population Fund, 74,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions.
They go on to say that an estimated 201 million women have an unmet need for family planning. The highest unmet need is in sub-Saharan Africa where one in four married women wants to limit or space her births but does not have access to the services to do so.
This lack of access to family planning results in 80 million unintended pregnancies a year. They go on to say that of the 80 million unintended pregnancies each year, 60% end in abortion.
The problem was that the global gag rule tied the hands of the trained reproductive health providers, because family planning organizations receiving U.S. funds could neither perform abortions for their clients nor advise women on where to seek the procedure.
As a result, women were not able to turn to trained doctors or nurses for safe medical care. They were left to find their own care, which often meant an unsafe, illicit abortion. Globally, 16 women die every hour from unsafe abortions.
Restrictive government laws on abortion often force the practice underground, as the centre said, contributing to the morbidity and mortality rates associated with unsafe abortion. Instead of fostering civil society participation in government and promoting democratic values, they felt that the global gag rule undermined rights, such as the freedom of speech and assembly rights that Americans enjoy, by prohibiting international organizations from working with their governments.
What was worse was that the global gag rule also prohibited organizations that provide information and services related to abortion from receiving U.S. contraceptive supplies, such as female and male condoms, birth control pills, intrauterine devices and other medically effective methods of contraception. As a result, services providers either had to comply with the policy or forgo the much-needed family planning.
We are hugely concerned on this side that should the government go forward with its plan, where it believes it can restrict or cherry-pick parts of a family-planning approach, we will again end up with the effect of the gag rule.
While immunization, access to clean water, better nutrition and improved training for health-care workers are all important to the health and safety of women and girls, addressing the real issues underlying poor maternal and infant health requires that the full gamut of options be made available to promote education, family planning and gender equality. Anything less is a mere band-aid solution.
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health has produced an excellent consensus document. Their aim is “every pregnancy wanted, every birth safe, every newborn and child healthy”. They have a plan that will save the lives of more than 10 million women and children by 2015.
How will it be accomplished? The consensus document could not be clearer. It calls for political leadership and effective health systems that deliver a package of high-quality interventions in key areas along the whole continuum of care.
Effective health systems are necessary to target the most disadvantaged, and to prevent, treat, manage, assess and evaluate all aspects having an impact on maternal health, as well as on those living with HIV-AIDS or STDs.
I wish to thank Janet Hatcher Roberts, the executive director of the Canadian Society for International Health, for her incredible work in advocating the strengthening of national health systems in every developing country.
It is important to say how this plan would be delivered through a strong, well-funded health system, with trained appropriate and paid health professionals. The continuum of care must include: comprehensive family planning; skilled care for women and newborns during and after pregnancy, including antenatal care; quality care at birth; emergency care for complications; post-natal care and essential newborn care; safe abortion services when abortion is legal; and improved child nutrition, and prevention and treatment of major childhood diseases. These are all explicit in the partnership document in terms of its plan.
It also stress that barriers to access must be removed, and skilled and motivated health workers be in the right place at the right time. Accountability at all levels must be ensured for credible results.
I would like to commend Dr. Dorothy Shaw, Canada's spokesperson for Partnership for Maternal and Child Health for the G8-G20 and her excellent work on this initiative. I implore the Government of Canada to take her advice and put forward at the G8 table the full spectrum of the plan and the consensus document put forward by the partnership.
Action Canada for Population and Development, under the leadership of its excellent executive director, Katherine McDonald, has written an extensive call to action, asking the to assure that he will not change Canada's long-standing tradition of recognizing women's reproductive rights and access to contraception as part of his maternal health initiative at the G8.
ACPD has explicitly called on the to work with Canada's G8 partners to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly access to family planning, including contraception, will be part of the G8 maternal and child health initiative.
ACPD also stresses accountability, and I am pleased that the government has stressed that accountability be a focus of this year's G8. At last year's G8 in Italy, the heads of government agreed that maternal and child health was one of the world's most pressing global problems. They committed to accelerating progress on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services, and voluntary family planning. The promised last year; the Prime Minister must deliver this year.
ACPD is calling on Canada's G8 partners to build on, not backtrack, previous commitments. Sexual reproductive health and rights, especially access to family planning, including contraception, must be part of the initiative.
Therefore, in order to be accountable, the government must honour its own commitment at last year's G8 to accelerate the progress on combating maternal and child mortality, including through sexual and reproductive health and family planning.
We know that dividing the G8 is not leadership. It is not leadership for Canada to say, “We will do this and the other members of the G8 can do the ones that we do not want to do because of our socially conservative ideology”.
We noticed in the 's remarks last week that “they”, the G8 leaders, not Canada, will chart the way forward to save the lives of mothers and children. “They” is not good enough. We need Canada to lead by affirming Canada's commitment to providing the full range of reproductive health services and a pledge of financial support befitting the Canadian leadership the has promised.
The was quoted as saying that she was not closing the door on any options that will save the lives of mothers and children. There is, however, a huge difference between keeping a door open and Canada coming up with a consistent, comprehensive approach to sexual health and reproductive health services.
We have become particularly concerned in the government's ability to present a comprehensive and coherent plan, when we hear its own members spreading false information.
In a recent editorial the member for and the member for told readers that there was no evidence to back up claims that proper education, resources and support would reduce maternal deaths and complications in spite of the wide swath of evidence already mentioned in our remarks.
How can we be confident in the government's ability to represent the mothers and children of the developing world, when here in Canada it has launched a systemic assault against women's health?
The four centres of excellence for children's well-being, whose job is to put research into practice in early childhood development, in child welfare, in children with special needs, and in youth engagement, did not have their funding renewed under the government's new program review. The centres of excellence for women's health received informal cuts and are being forced to operate under a new, more narrow and constrained mandate.
The government's new program review uses three criteria: accountability, cost effectiveness and alignment. I find this last criteria particularly worrying. It is a code for any intent of the government to cancel programs that are not aligned with government priorities. It also allows the government to cancel programs that it determines are not aligned with its strict interpretation of federal responsibility; that is, health and health care. We are all concerned that community-based programs may be increasingly at risk.
In leadership the first test is always what is happening at home. We draw the attention, although admirable, of the to the state of the developing countries with issues like potable water and deplorable housing conditions.
We actually want the government to look at home, to the plight of our aboriginal people, where there are 17 people living in one home with no running water, as we learned, on the reserves in Manitoba in June during H1N1.
It is extraordinary that we have to do more at home. It is a national and international embarrassment. We have to begin at home.
The Government of Canada has also refused to provide the International Planned Parenthood Federation with $18 million over three years, funding that is essential if the government truly wants to abide by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health's consensus document, answer ACPD's call for action, and honour Canada's international obligations to meet—not renege on—previous commitments to provide funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights in general.
Effective family planning is a human rights issue. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which Canada is a signatory, says countries must ensure access to health services, including those related to family planning.
The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing recognized the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.
Without this right to make decisions about fertility and family planning, women's capacity to exercise their own civil, political and economic rights is limited. The consequence of their absence has serious implications for women, and may even jeopardize their right to life.
Immediate action is needed. I have said before that it is crucial that politicians do the politics and that scientists do the science, and that the transmission of information from the scientist to the politician be done transparently, with accountability, and without ideology.
I implore the government to listen to the partnership action plan for the G8 and act in terms of what the midwives and the obstetricians, and the professionals have said is an essential, coherent plan, not to cherry-pick the bits that it wants to do.
I would encourage all members of this House, especially my colleagues on the government side, to support this motion, support the millennium development goals four and five, and ensure that Canada builds on its commitments to include the full range of family planning, sexual reproduction and health options, including contraception, as part of the G8 initiative.
The opinion piece was a beginning. We welcomed it. We now want real leadership in honouring Canada's history in the world, and the government's previous commitments in Italy and at the UN. The government must put forward a real comprehensive plan based on the partnership of the G8 and full access to reproductive care.
The government must put leadership-level dollars on the table. Canadians want Canada to lead. We implore members to support this motion.