Canada’s Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, recently announced $97 million in funding for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in line with Canada’s “Feminist International Assistance Policy”.
This funding comes in the context of 20 years of violent internal conflicts in the DRC. Currently, their president is 6 months past the expiration of his term and refuses to call an election. Aggressors in Congo’s wars use sexual assault to terrorize women and their communities. In a 2013-2014 survey, more than half of DRC women reported experiencing physical violence and over a quarter reported experiencing sexual violence.
The DRC lacks the ability to provide proper health care services, and 14% of woman reportedly suffer from chronic under-nutrition. The DRC reports 846 maternal deaths per 100,000 lives births, more than double neighbouring Tanzania and over 100 times higher than Canada.
The need is great and Canada could certainly help – which is the aim of the $97 million. Canada’s funding has four objectives: protecting children working in mines, providing humanitarian assistance, empowering women to promote economic growth, and increasing access to “sexual and reproductive health services”.
But Canada’s international funding is skewed towards one issue: abortion. Minister Bibeau says Canada is mainly “interested in the abortion part” of the plan to help the DRC – even though abortion is illegal in the DRC and, as Bibeau admits, the Congolese do not want abortion to be legalized.
Increasing access to abortion is, also, an essential part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. This policy is foreign aid with a feminist lens – the idea is that helping women and improving gender equality will benefit everyone.
However, Minister Bibeau’s concept of feminism is inextricably tied to abortion. Abortion is no subtle theme, as the policy says: “Women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights—and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of our foreign policy.” The government has been transparent on this issue. The core of its effort to help woman internationally is to ensure abortions are available.
The Policy bemoans other countries’ “mix of discriminatory laws and policies, coupled with inadequate services and harmful cultural practices” that restrict access to abortion. To combat other cultures’ supposedly backwards policies, Canada has pledged $650 million to increase access “to a full range of health services”, including abortion, around the world.
Much of Africa, including the DRC, is pro-life, with abortion being illegal in 90% of African countries. In such countries, Canadian aid money goes to “removing judicial and legal barriers” to abortion, according to the Globe and Mail. In other words, we’re funding lobbying efforts to allow abortion.
Does the Democratic Republic of Congo need our help? Yes. Canada could send money to put food on tables, finance local women in entrepreneurial endeavors, or aid local organizations who work with DRC children. We could help to improve their healthcare system, making it safer for women to have children.
Instead, valuable funds go to pushing an abortion-focused, feminist political and ideological agenda on a country that does not want it, with a result of both offending Africans and dividing Canadians.
This is a guest post by Tabitha Ewert, articling student with ARPA Canada.