CIDA's Briggs: No Policy Change on Funding Abortion Groups

Members of Canada's nonprofit sector have criticized the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pictured above, for sending mixed messages on the funding of women's groups. Photo by: Remy Steinegger / World Economic Forum / CC BY-SA 2.0 World Economic ForumCC BY-SA 2.0

The Canadian International Development Agency will continue funding organizations that provide abortion-related services overseas despite International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s recent announcement that Canada’s contribution to the G-8’s global maternal health initiative will not include funds for abortion.

CIDA’s Margaret Briggs said May 4 that the agency would not change its policy on funding organizations and aid agencies that provide abortion-related services in developing countries. CIDA will also continue providing funds to countries where the process is legal, Briggs said.

“There’s no change in the policy,” Briggs told a parliamentary committee when asked how the federal government’s position affects CIDA.

This is in spite of Oda’s statement during the opening of the G-8 development ministers’ meeting in Halifax on April 26.

“Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may involve various interventions, including family planning, which includes the use of contraceptive methods,” Oda said. “The details remain to be determined. However, Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortion.”

Meanwhile, the Star reports that the federal government has cut funding for 14 women groups over the past two weeks. The groups include Match International, a women rights advocate that has been receiving funding from CIDA for 34 years.

There are different speculations why the funding cuts occured despite Briggs statement.

“It was a political decision,” Match International Executive Director Kim Bulger said, adding that it may be connected to a directive by Canada’s auditor general that CIDA focus its operations on fewer countries.

“It got cut because it deals with gender rights and women in leadership. It’s a sad day,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said. “Things are being cut out of the CIDA budget that work.”

May suggested that the funding cut may be ideological and connected to a bigger government trend.

Other groups have criticized Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative government for their stance on women issues, the Star says.

Canadian women, however, said they would not keep quiet despite threats from the government.

In a recent Parliament Hill meeting, Tory Sen. Nancy Ruth told aid and international development advocates to stop debating the abortion issue, according to Montreal Gazette.

“We’ve got five weeks or whatever till the G8 starts, shut the f— up on this issue,” Ruth told aid experts during the meeting. “Let it roll out.”

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.