Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Almost two years ago, the previous Conservative government initiated a campaign through the Status of Women Canada called It Starts with One – Be Her Champion. It encouraged leaders in the public and private sectors to become a champion for a woman by providing her with formal and informal mentoring.
Could the leader tell us what progress has been made with this initiative, and why have we not heard much about it since the election of the Liberals? Could the government leader please make inquires and tell us if this initiative is ongoing?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and will do as she has asked me to do. I want to take the occasion, though, to reference the announcements made this morning by the Minister of International Development together with the Prime Minister. They indicated a $650 million allocation over three years to uphold the provision of health services to women and girls where needed and where funding is being withdrawn by others.
Senator Raine: The announcement this morning was quite different because it says that if another government or another country withdraws funding, we will step in and provide that funding. I personally found that to be very strange in that the actions of the Government of Canada are reactive to another government’s decision-making.
I’d like to find out a little bit more about this, please. Could you please tell us who will make the decisions on how we invest our taxpayers’ money in these projects overseas? I support 100 per cent the objective of the previous government’s commitment to maternal and infant health care, but I’m a little concerned if we start to react to another government’s decisions.
Senator Harder: It’s important for all senators to recognize the ongoing nature of Canadian foreign policy over the last number of years. This is not about one government or another. Canadian governments have in their aid programs focused on gender issues for many years.
What is unique about this announcement is that Minister Bibeau has, in consultation with a number of like-minded countries, assured the providers of the services that the Government of Canada will step in and ensure that as funding is withdrawn, it will be available to ensure the ongoing delivery of health care and necessary reproductive health services.
This is a comprehensive announcement. The minister will be updating Canadians on a regular basis as to progress, but I think it’s significant, particularly on a day like this, that the Government of Canada stands in solidarity with the needs of women and girls around the world.