Madam Speaker, I thank my friend across the way for bringing this matter back to the floor for further debate, specifically as it relates to the election of Saudi Arabia to the UN commission on women's rights and this government's view of the importance of promoting women's rights and gender equality in all forms, both at home and abroad. Certainly, we have been clear that the protection and promotion of human rights is central to our foreign policy and that we will never hesitate to defend human rights, including women's rights, and promote gender equality in all fora around the world.
To answer the question the member opposite initially posed, the UN Economic and Social Council chooses the members of the Commission on the Status of Women. To be clear, Canada did not vote, as it is not presently a member of the UN Economic and Social Council. Saudi Arabia's regional candidacy was also uncontested.
The overall human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is certainly a source of concern. Specifically, we have concerns related to women's rights, minority rights, freedom of expression, and the widespread use of the death penalty. I can assure everyone that we raise those concerns at every opportunity and at all levels. We are well aware that there is still much progress to be made when it comes to human rights in Saudi Arabia.
I want to reiterate that our Prime Minister is, of course, a feminist. I am also proud that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of International Development announced $650 million in funding for women's sexual and reproductive health last March.
We know that empowering women, overseas and here at home, makes families and countries more prosperous.
Our government is committed to advancing gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the promotion and protection of their human rights. Achieving gender equality requires changing unequal power relations and challenging social norms and gender stereotypes. That is why Canada is fully committed to renewing its national action plan on women, peace, and security.
As the member opposite cited, we are energetically pursuing a two-year term on the UN Security Council. We are seeking this seat because we want a safer and more prosperous world and because it will allow us to share our Canadian values, including those of feminism and the promotion of the rights of women and girls. These rights, as I said, are core to our foreign policy.
It is clear that Saudi Arabia has many challenges to address its human rights record, but that is why we are committed to continuing to make use of every opportunity to engage our Saudi counterparts to raise those concerns. In fact, that was the view of the hon. member's friend, the former Conservative foreign affairs minister, John Baird. He said:
Canada has an active partnership and candid relationship with Saudi Arabia.…We will maintain an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, including human rights.
Canadian officials engage both bilaterally and through multilateral forums such as the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the Commission on the Status of Women. We will always stand up for the promotion of gender equality and women's rights as they relate to Saudi Arabia and all nations around the world.