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Foreign aid funds for maternal health initiative will not cover abortions, says minister

Industry Minister Christian Paradis responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday October 23, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada will not provide funding to help overseas victims of rape and child marriage gain access to abortions, international development minister Christian Paradis says.

The federal government announced last week that it would support a United Nations initiative to address sexual violence in conflict zones but did not say whether it would support organizations that perform medically necessary abortions.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in 2010 that Canada would contribute $3-billion toward a landmark maternal and child health initiative, he said the money would not fund abortions in developing countries.

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Asked if Canada would make an exception to that policy in cases of rape and child marriage, Mr. Paradis referred back to the 2010 announcement, which was made during a G8 meeting in Muskoka, Ont. "We've been clear in Muskoka, so you can think that the same logic will apply here," he said.

Mr. Paradis, who was appointed international development minister in July, said there are other measures that can be taken to help victims of rape and child marriage but declined to elaborate further. "When we have an announcement to do we will do it in due course."

The topic has been a source of controversy for the federal government at both the international and domestic levels. During the past year, a growing number of Conservative MPs have worked to put abortion on the agenda despite repeated assurances by Mr. Harper that the government would not reopen the debate.

Niki Ashton, the NDP's critic on the status of women, called the decision not to fund abortion in cases of rape and child marriage an "embarrassment" for Canada.

"We're talking about victims of war, conflict, girls and women forced into marriage. I mean, these are the women that need the support most, and need the healing and access to health services the most, and Canada is slamming the door on them," she said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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