Liberals fund women’s rights abroad as Trudeau to raise abortion politics in New York

OTTAWA- The Liberal government is announcing funding for women’s rights abroad, in an apparent bid to showcase the Liberals’ position on reproductive rights against that of conservatives, both in Canada and the United States.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to reaffirm the Canadian government’s commitment to supporting reproductive freedom in New York City Thursday, where he is attending a star-studded summit.


Ahead of that event, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters in Ottawa Thursday morning that the government will spend $195 million over five years and $43 million every year after that to help women’s rights organizations that are focused gender equality.


He said the funding is needed because abortion access can be “swiftly” restricted across the world, including in the United States.


The money will fall under the government’s Women’s Voice and Leadership Program, first launched in 2017.


The government says it has worked with about 1,500 organizations through the program so far.


The announcement comes at a time when the Liberals appear to be cutting their overall development spending, which had been boosted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


This year’s federal budget shows spending will be down about 15 per cent in the coming fiscal year.


Sajjan used the announcement to contrast the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ positions on women’s rights.


“When it comes to women’s rights, our government is unapologetically pro-choice,” Sajjan he said at a press conference on Parliament Hill.


“The Conservatives continue to look for ways to reopen the debate on abortion access, and unlike them we will never be silent on these issues.”


Abortion rights have long been a political lightning rod in both countries, but the debate took on new heat in the U.S. last year when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling known as Roe v. Wade.


The Conservatives’ position on abortion in Canada has never been fully aligned with that of their Republican counterparts south of the border, but anti-abortion advocates are a loud voice within the party’s base.


Nonetheless, leader Pierre Poilievre has described himself as pro-choice.


Trudeau’s trip to New York will also include a focus on trade in critical minerals.


He is scheduled to meet with a UN task force on sustainable development and speak to the influential Council on Foreign Relations think tank.


Experts on both sides of the border hope to hear more about how Ottawa plans to rapidly grow its critical minerals sector.


Former diplomat Louise Blais, now a senior adviser with the Business Council of Canada, said it’s time to detail the plan for getting those 21st-century riches out of the ground.


Trudeau is aiming to capitalize on the momentum from what most observers say was a successful and productive visit last month from President Joe Biden.


He’s also stopping in at Global Citizen NOW, an annual summit meeting of change-minded celebrities, activists and lawmakers.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2023.



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