The federal government is pledging to spend $1.4 billion a year “advancing the health and rights” of women, teens and children around the world.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on the first full day of Women Deliver 2019, an international conference on gender equity being held in Vancouver this week.
The aid package renews Canada commitment to women’s health abroad by pledging to extend the current $1.1 billion a year aid beyond 2020, when it was set to expire, and increase it.
Maryam Monsef, the minister for women and gender equality, called the 10-year commitment “unprecedented.”
She said the announcement means funding is promised under her government until 2030, and the $1.1 billion amount will increase gradually to $1.4 billion a year by 2023.
A 10-year maternal, newborn and child health policy that expires in 2020 had been brought in in 2010 under the previous Conservative government.
Monsef and her staff said most of the extra funding of $300,000 a year would be spent on the “neglected” area of sexual reproductive health rights, including abortion.
When Trudeau announced the funding commitment at the start of Tuesday’s plenary, he said such funding was needed more than ever.
He noted there are 200 million women around the world who have no access to contraceptives, and he and several other presenters at the conference spoke of “pushback” to gains for women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
“The unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where rights are increasingly under threat,” Trudeau said in a brief announcement.
Speaking in French, he said only women should have the right to determine what is best for their bodies and that abortion “must be accessible, safe and legal.”
“We can’t talk about sexual and reproductive rights in isolation from the rest of women’s health because, just as there are 200 million women who don’t have access to contraception, hundreds more die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth,” he said.
The Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) called the federal promise of funding an “historic day.”
“The investment will not only ensure that Canada’s long, proud tradition as a leader in women and children’s health continues, it comes with a purposeful approach that addresses critical gaps in the health needs of women and adolescents,” the organization said in a news release.
It said it renews funding for reproductive, maternal, newborn and children’s health and nutrition and adds aid for the “most neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Its acting executive director, Julia Anderson, said in the release that the funding comes at a critical time “when rollbacks on women’s health rights are being acutely felt around the globe.”
Soon after his election in 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-governmental organizations that deliver any counselling or abortion services, no matter what nation pays for that service, from receiving U.S. government support.
A number of U.S. states have recently or are considering abortion bans.