Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill before the House today. Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad, is an important piece of legislation. Although it is a private member's bill, I feel quite comfortable in saying that New Democrats will be supporting it.
I also want to acknowledge the tireless work of the member for Halifax. She has spoken passionately about the importance of this bill before the House. In a previous Parliament, she introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-243. I want to acknowledge the very good work done by the member for Halifax on this particular piece of legislation.
Although this bill talks about issues such as looking at accountability and transparency and does not specifically address money, I think there is an important context to this bill. An Embassy article on March 21 talked about the fact that Canada's official development assistance level fell from 0.34% of GNP in 2005 to 0.33% last year. Barring any large changes, that number is expected to drop to 0.32% in 2007.
As the needs are increasing throughout the world, we see that Canada's commitment is actually dropping off. Many of us have supported the 0.7% allocation for aid and we would encourage all members of the House to work hard in that direction.
I want to address a couple of issues about why this private member's bill is so important. I will refer to some of the work that the Stephen Lewis Foundation has been doing. It has been doing a tremendous amount of work around the grandmothers to grandmothers campaign. This highlights the need for this particular piece of legislation. I will read for members from an article from one of the websites:
Sub-Saharan Africa has overwhelming numbers of children orphaned by AIDS--an estimated 15 million, projected to reach 18-20 million by the year 2010. As the death rate accelerates, countries and communities simply cannot cope. They are so impoverished that they're driven over the edge by additional mouths to feed and by the desperate efforts to absorb the orphan children.
Amidst this devastation, grandmothers have stepped into the breach. They bury their own adult children and then look after their grandchildren; often as many as fifteen to twenty kids. Somehow, these unrecognized heroes of Africa hold countries and communities together.
Part of the goal of this grandmothers to grandmothers campaign is to have grandmothers and grandfathers in Canada work to support grandmothers in Africa, who are often the glue that is holding families together. Without these grandmothers, many of these children would simply end up on the streets and eventually die.
This is an effort by a number of groups throughout Canada. I want to talk about one in particular from my own riding in Nanaimo. There is a group called the Nan Go Grannies. The Nan Go Grannies formed after hearing Stephen Lewis speak about the plight of women and children in Africa. They developed a group that came together to do fundraising to help out grandmothers in Africa who are dealing with children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
The Nan Go Grannies have drafted a mission statement that states:
We are moved to act by the generations of people affected: the millions of children who see their mothers die, the mothers who die in extreme poverty without even meagre resources to ease their suffering, and the elderly, often frail grandmothers who shoulder the burden of raising many children despite their own grief and the lack of resources.
Thus, we have an example in my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan of grandmothers coming together to work hard on behalf of the children and grandmothers in Africa.
In addition, my riding also has another project on the go that is supporting people internationally. There is the Malaspina Ghana project, which is a collaboration between Malaspina and two colleges located in Ghana. It is partially supported by CIDA, but in addition, the Malaspina Ghana project is doing fundraising in the community for this initiative.
The purpose of the project is to help reduce poverty in the Sunyani district of Ghana through four community development projects identified by their partners. These include reducing household waste, reducing HIV-AIDS, improving forest fire management, and developing ecotourism.
The intent of this project is to work with partners in Ghana to develop outreach programs and other strategies aimed at providing rural communities with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively address the four project areas described above.
It is these very good local initiatives that are so important in supporting citizens in other countries in their desperate struggles around poverty, sickness and lack of access to clean drinking water. Many of these things have been outlined in the millennium development goals. It is very important that we in Canada continue to support this good work.
I want to talk a bit more about the reality of HIV-AIDS and again about why accountability and transparency are so important in the dollars we are sending overseas. On the grandmothers to grandmothers website, they talk about “key statistics on orphans, grandmothers and HIV-AIDS”.
These are global figures. The number of people living with HIV-AIDS in 2006 was 39.5 million worldwide, and 24.7 million in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of women living with AIDS in 2006 was 17.7 million worldwide, and 13.3 million in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people newly infected with HIV in 2006 was 4.3 million worldwide, and 2.8 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
Those are generations of people that we are losing. In many cases what we are talking about is the hollowing out of the working people. We are talking about losing people between the ages of 18 to 49. In Africa, those are the most productive years of people's lives. Those are the mothers and the fathers, the workers, the farmers and the truck drivers. Africa is losing that entire generation, thus passing on that burden to the grandmothers.
The article goes on to talk about the fact that sub-Saharan Africa has 10% of the world's population but makes up more than 60% of all people living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, approximately 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, a higher number than the total of every girl and boy under 18 in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland combined. That figure is expected to reach more than 18 million children by 2010.
According to HelpAge International, older women are the backbone of AIDS care. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, between 40% to 60% of orphans live in grandparent-headed households, with the vast majority of these grandmothers. Over 50% of orphaned children live in grandparent-headed households in Botswana and Malawi and over 60% in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
These are frightening figures. If we can encourage members of this House to support this important piece of private members' business now before the House so we have a quality of life in other countries, so we can say with some confidence that we are completely behind the millennium development goals, and so we are urging this House and all Canadians to support the 0.7%, it would be an important step. We could hold our heads up high in the international community.
As it is, Canada continues to fall behind the goals that have been set by many people in this country, including the make poverty history campaign. I would urge each and every member of this House to support this private member's bill, to say yes and demonstrate that we can be leaders in the international community.