From 18 May to 31 July 2016, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) held consultations to review Canada’s approach to international assistance – the first time in over two decades that such a review has taken place.
GAC prepared a discussion paper to inform the process. The paper identifies “health and rights of women and girls” as one of 6 priority areas. The previous governments’ approach to development assistance, particularly as it relates to the Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH), was critiqued for being narrow in scope.
Specifically, since 2010, Ministerial restrictions prevented spending on abortion services in Canadian aid. It is believed that this approach resulted in a chill effect on other sexual and reproductive health and rights-related issues, including family planning, and a shift towards the adoption of more regressive positions on SRHR and gender equality in multilateral negotiations.
Since the 2015 federal election, the new Minister of International Development has been given explicit instructions to close existing gaps in the Muskoka Initiative with respect to reproductive rights and health care for women. The review process is therefore a key opportunity to ensure that Canada’s future development assistance advances sexual and reproductive health and rights, with particular attention to access to safe abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, and advocacy related to SRHR.