Evidence of meeting #144 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was work.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Diane Jacovella  Deputy Minister, International Development, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Sarah Taylor  Director General, North Asia and Oceania, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Arun Thangaraj  Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Planning, Finance and Information Technology, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Mark Gwozdecky  Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Heather Jeffrey  Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Troy Lulashnyk  Director General, Maghreb, Egypt, Israel and West Bank and Gaza, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Cheryl Urban  Director General, South America and Inter-American Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

I represent the beautiful riding of New Brunswick Southwest, as you know. You've been there. We have many organizations that would like to do more work, and everyone's looking for opportunities for funding.

I'm wondering what you would tell someone in my riding if that individual were in front of you asking, why do we invest so much internationally when we have so many needs at home? And possibly, what more can we do as Canadians at home and abroad?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

We need to be true to ourselves and take care of things at home while we look out for others around the world. The two are intertwined. What if we had been better, more strongly engaged, with what was happening in Syria years and years ago, for example, when the drought started? What if we had intervened with our development dollars? What if we had worked to coordinate and bring together international partners at a critical moment way upstream? Would the bodies of those little boys and girls still wash up on our shores?

There is a direct link between our doing our part around the world and providing leadership, particularly now that we have a feminist approach to what we're doing, which is more effective. There is a direct link between those interventions and greater safety and security for us, but there is also an economic advantage. Canada has, for example, technology around water and waste-water management, and we need to ensure that indigenous communities here have access to clean drinking water. We've made the right investments. The decisions on how to go about providing that clean drinking water for indigenous communities are in their hands, and to date we've lifted over a half of those boil water advisories. The other half will be lifted over the next two years. That means we have the expertise. We have the engineers. We have the technicians who can go around the world to places like the African continent and share that expertise and create economic development opportunities for Canada and for our partner countries. They're directly related.

As far as women's organizations in Canada go—and I'll put on my women and gender equality hat—we've invested historic amounts, over a half a billion dollars, over the last three years for women's organizations in this country. This includes investments in those who are working to address and prevent sexual and gender-based violence. This includes historic, never seen before capacity-building dollars. What I would ask you to share with all of your constituents, for those who are working to advance gender equality, is that there's an additional $160 million in budget 2019 over the next five years, beyond an election cycle. We're going to work really hard to make sure that we get to come back and that we're able to provide those dollars to communities. I hope that every government from here on is going to take the needs of women's organizations at home and abroad seriously, because they are the most effective way to advance gender equality.

May 30th, 2019 / 9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you for that.

When I did my first graduate degree, I did my thesis on, essentially, women's choices. One of the comments that came through during my 2015 campaign, at a door, was about abortion. I hadn't planned on raising it, but you raised it as your last comment in your presentation. One area that I said that I think we need to do more work in is really by respecting and encouraging the other options that are out there as well. It's abstinence. It could be early education when it comes to sexual activity. Young women choose to have their children or women choose to give their children up for adoption. I do believe that if we look at all those early choices, if we have more of a cultural shift to respect those, the choice for abortion, as long as it's accessible, would be very rare.

I'm wondering what our government is doing in Canada and abroad on some of the other choices that are out there.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

We know that, particularly for adolescent girls, they are at an age where they're making critical, life-changing decisions. Evidence shows that abstinence doesn't really work. What does work is sexual education and investing in planning. It's why we're investing in Planned Parenthood, for example, in Canada and abroad. Evidence shows that access to contraception helps immensely. I talked about the 1:2 ratio in terms of dollars invested and the return on that investment.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Michael Levitt

You have thirty seconds.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

The right to choose is to choose whether, how many, if and with whom to reproduce, and also whether to adopt. Some women are coerced to not have their babies and that's wrong. Most importantly, investing in women's organizations, so that they can continue their advocacy—because the work is far from over—is also an important part of the work we're doing at home and abroad.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Michael Levitt

MP Saini, please.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Good morning, Minister. It's always a pleasure to see you. Thank you very much for bringing your colleagues around.

I want to reference something that you said in your preamble. You talked about the situation in Cox's Bazar and the plight facing the Rohingya people. This issue is important to me personally because I have a very small, but a very strong Rohingya community in my riding. We know that the people who are living in that part of the world are facing horrific acts of violence perpetrated against them. We know that the army is involved in a lot of these killings, this burning and bulldozing of homes and in separating families. This is a tragedy that can only be conveyed as a humanitarian crisis.

Could you please update us as to how Canada is responding to this crisis, specifically in terms of the feminist international assistance policy?

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

The image of the women and children with very little on their backs walking to find safety is going to stay with all of us. The idea that some of those women—too many of those women—on that journey were carrying the results of incest and rape is horrendous and Canadians were outraged. Canadians stepped up and our government is investing $300 million over three years to provide the humanitarian assistance needed.

I think it's really important to talk about why three years is important. We hear this from all organizations that are dependent on dollars. Without predictable and sustainable funding, the work that those hard-working individuals do on the ground becomes more challenging. First and foremost, we provided stability and peace of mind to the individuals providing services.

We have been the strongest in our condemnation in terms of the genocide. Colleagues in the House all stood and agreed that what was happening was wrong, and more importantly, that it was a genocide.

We are also grateful to the people of Bangladesh who have welcomed a million refugees. That's a significant number. We also know—just as we heard from folks in Colombia with the Venezuelan crisis—that there are economic opportunities for Bangladesh to be welcoming these individuals, but we thank them for doing this work.

We are working with the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh and we're providing $16.3 million to implement an innovative mechanism where every dollar we put in unlocks $5 in grant funding. That means we're leveraging over $81 million from the World Bank to support health, nutrition and basic education services for Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar. I talked about those safe women's spaces, but this comprehensive, wraparound support is particularly important.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

I'm going to change topics for a second.

The other committee I serve on is access to information, privacy and ethics. I'm sure you're aware that we wrapped up two days of meetings with the international grand committee. One thing that we discussed during the time was online platforms and the numerous disinformation and false information that can be conveyed on those platforms. We also know that an independent free press is extremely important for conveying accurate information and to protect the foundations of our democracy. We also know that journalists around the world put their lives at risk making sure that we get the truth. They chase the stories that need to be told.

Could you please update us on what the government is doing to make sure that journalists are kept safe and how we are supporting their important work?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Following the Christchurch shooting, the Prime Minister stood in the House and called on the international community to come together and to address the online violence that is part of the spectrum of terrorism that leads to massacres in Canada and around the world. The international community did come together.

We've introduced a charter around what's happening online. We're working with our international allies and the platforms themselves to address misinformation but also terrorism that occurs online. That's work that Karina Gould and Nav Bains and the Prime Minister, as well as Ralph Goodale, have been keenly focused on. I think it is exciting. It's uncharted territory, and if we don't step up to do something, the violence that happens online will continue to spill over into our communities.

World Press Freedom Day was a few days ago. I made an announcement of an investment of over $11 million to ensure that Journalists for Human Rights continue to have the funding they need to send journalists from Canada, who put their hands up and choose to go abroad in some of the most distressing situations, including in the Middle East and including parts of—

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Michael Levitt

You have 30 seconds.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

—Africa to basically teach journalists there how to fish with a specific focus on women journalists telling the stories that may not be told.

When journalists' rights are threatened and when their lives are lost—we lost some 90-plus just last year—protecting human rights and human dignity becomes more difficult.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Michael Levitt

The second-last question in this round goes to MP O'Toole.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here, Minister.

I have to say at the outset that I was rather disappointed with your remarks. You had 10 minutes of remarks for your first time before committee, and almost eight minutes of it used “the middle class and those working hard to join it”. You used that line twice. You recited the list of names of all members of cabinet, and it was only in the last two minutes that we actually got into international development. So I'd ask you to take that back for your next appearance. We'd like to see a robust discussion of the issues under your portfolio.

The Rohingya have come up both from Mr. Saini and in discussion. The plight of the Rohingya was first advanced by then-ambassador Bennett in 2014 and 2015 when he travelled to Myanmar. He was the ambassador for religious freedoms, an office your government cancelled and replaced with the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion. The budget was tripled, but we've heard nothing from that office. Can you give an example of when you partnered with that office on a development issue around the world?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

I'm sorry you were disappointed, but I have to say that a strong middle class at home and abroad is what we're striving to achieve, right? Why are we investing development dollars all over the world if not for that? It's really important for me to share that.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

You'd have to agree with me. That's one of the tag lines of your government, so the first eight minutes—

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

It's also good economic and development policy.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

—sounded more like an election ad than an appearance at committee.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

That's why I spent a little bit of time talking about it, but I also talked about what's happening at home, because we have to make sure Canada is strong and resilient while we do that work. That's sustainable development.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Did you have to list the names of all your colleagues, leaving out Jody Wilson-Raybould, I note?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Those who are doing work internationally ought to be recognized. My goal was to show that our government takes this portfolio particularly seriously. It's not just on one minister's shoulders, but it is a whole-of-government approach, and that's how it should be because, as colleagues mentioned, there is a lot happening all over the world that requires all sorts of eyes.

In terms of religious freedoms, to answer your final question, we believe in religious freedoms and religious rights, and we're always going to stand up for them. We are the country of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We like to have that freedom to worship at home, and we expect that freedom to be protected for others around the world.

That office that you referred to is working within Global Affairs Canada, and it is doing really good work.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Can you name one example?