Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé. My remarks will be a bit more moderate, but my message will come across just the same.
I am pleased to take the floor today to demonstrate to the House the government's disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology. As soon as it was elected, in January 2006, the Conservative government radically changed Canada's official development assistance and foreign policies by concentrating on its own economic and trade vision.
It deliberately abandoned the African continent. Up until then, African countries were getting a sizeable portion of our official development assistance budget. In 2009, the Conservative government decided Africa would no longer be a priority, and eight African countries were dropped from the priority list, including Rwanda, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin. The 2005 list included 14 African countries, but only 7 were left on the 2009 list.
The Conservative government preferred to prioritize countries with which it is signing or negotiating free trade agreements, such as Ukraine, Colombia, Peru and Honduras. Although these countries do experience poverty, CIDA's 2005 list of priority countries included more poor countries than the 2009 list. Under the Conservative government, Canada’s foreign policy has become merely a trade policy.
Over many decades, Quebeckers and Canadians earned a good reputation abroad thanks to their respect for human rights and international law and their fervent support for democracy, advocating diplomacy rather than the use of force. A majority of Canadians still support these values and principles, but since the Conservatives are in power, economic prosperity, militarism and the security agenda have replaced the values that once were so distinctively Canadian on the world scene.
This is another example of how this government has imposed its regressive ideology on Canada's official development assistance. During the G8 and G20 summits in June 2010, the government said that one of its priorities was maternal health, a millennium development goal. That is a very commendable and admirable priority. However, CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, refuses to fund abortion, even though many experts say it should be included in order to cover all women's health needs.
The women of Quebec and Canada have won this freedom of choice, and the debate is closed. In Canada, women have the right to choose to end a pregnancy and they have access to all the care and services required for that choice. So why did the government remove all funding for abortion in its assistance plan for women in developing countries, if not to appease groups that advocate this conservative ideology?
Since coming to power, Conservative members have been introducing bills meant to surreptitiously reopen the abortion debate. One such example is Bill C-484 introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. That bill would have given a legal status to a fetus, which has no such status under current laws.
Another perfect example is Bill C-510 introduced by the member for Winnipeg South. That bill patronizes women by implying they are frequently coerced into abortion, but the vast majority of women make their own decision to have an abortion and take full responsibility for it. It is clear that, once again, the Conservative government was trying to limit a woman's right to choose regarding abortion, by making women feel isolated when making such a decision.
This government will stop at nothing to promote its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it demonstrated with non-governmental organizations, civil society representatives and human rights groups.
The government is refusing or cutting funding for organizations that dare to criticize it, question its motives or voice a different opinion. The Canadian Council for International Co-operation, or the CCIC, and KAIROS, two organizations that are internationally recognized and known for their excellent work, had their funding requests denied by CIDA.
All of the controversy surrounding the refusal of funding for KAIROS clearly shows that the Conservative government is prepared to go so far as to allow a minister to falsify documents and make misleading statements to the House in order to ensure that there is no deviation from its ideology and that it can freely promote its partisan interests.
Shocked and disturbed by this behaviour, the members of the opposition raised a question of privilege. Yesterday, the Speaker of the House ruled that the Minister of International Cooperation did indeed abuse the privileges enjoyed by members of the House of Commons and that she could be found in contempt of Parliament if the opposition decides to take the matter that far. What is outrageous is that the government's ideology is harmful to democracy. We condemn the autocratic approach of the government, which has demonstrated on numerous occasions its total lack of respect for democracy and the parliamentary system.
The government has gone even further by imposing its regressive ideology on projects that it funds abroad. The government fears the unions in Canada, so it tries to stifle them abroad. Canada could help to improve the situation of workers in Mexico and other southern countries, but the Government of Canada is refusing or cutting funding for cooperative programs with labour organizations. CIDA ended funding for the CSN and the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière for their projects designed to support workers in the south.
Not only has the government interfered politically in official development assistance and let pro-life groups dictate its policies, but it is also slowly destroying Canada’s image abroad. It goes even further. It is even changing the terminology public servants should use. International organizations and NGOs have all agreed on a common terminology, but it seems it does not suit the Conservative government anymore. In order to avoid the key words often used by women’s organizations and other groups dedicated to the protection of rights, the Conservatives are imposing a whole new terminology on diplomats.
Under the Conservatives, “gender equality” does not exist anymore. It has been replaced by “equality between men and women”. We should not talk about “child soldiers”, but”. The terminology is being changed. When talking about rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the word “impunity” has been replaced by “prevention”. These are serious changes that show how much this government is under the influence of its strong right wing.
The crisis in the Rights and Democracy organization revealed the true face of the Conservatives. By appointing people who subscribe to the Conservative ideology to the board, the government could keep this organization under its control. But this organization should be instead at arm’s length from the Canadian government if it is to perform its work adequately and keep its credibility.
There is a long list of actions taken by the Conservative government to change Canada’s foreign policy to please its partisan base. The government does not realize how badly it is tarnishing Canada’s image abroad. When it failed, last fall, to win a seat on the UN Security Council, it should have understood that its radical positions are hurting its diplomatic relations.
In conclusion, the fundamental concern we all have is how far the Conservative government is willing to go to promote its regressive ideology.