Libby in Question Period - Canada failing international committments on maternal and child health

The Conservative government has been vocal in its decision to change Canada's internationl development policy and stop funding access to safe abortions where it is legal. Yet the same government has been silent on mother to child transmission of HIV. Libby recently raised these issues in the House of Commons.

House of Commons
HANSARD
Question Period

International Co-operation

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, on the topic of maternal health and the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings, the Conservative government has been vocal on issues where it should not have been and silent on issues where Canada needs to take a strong stand. Let us start out with what it should not have said.

Ignoring advice from the WHO to provide funding for access to safe abortion, the government decided instead to dictate its Conservative ideology to women in developing countries.

Does the government really believe it knows better than the WHO? Could it possibly be that arrogant?

Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to inform the House that this week the G8 ministers expressed their support for Canada's maternal health initiative. The government wants to save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world in a way that unites, rather than divides Canadians.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the reality is the government is taking a stand that puts us at odds with our international partners and aid organizations, yet it is silent on issues where Canada's voice is desperately needed.

Why has the government said nothing on mother-to-child transmission of HIV? Four hundred thousand babies are born annually with HIV. The international goal is to eliminate mother-to-child transmission by 2015.

Will the government commit today to support initiatives to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, our initiative will focus on training and support for front line health workers, on treating and preventing disease, and on screening for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, clearly initiatives aimed at the spread of HIV and AIDS would also protect mothers by increasing their access to ongoing treatment. Surely, the prospect of ending mother-to-child transmission is a goal that we can all get behind. We need to get behind the full plan, not just one element of it.

Why has the government been ducking this issue? We want to know if the government will listen to the experts and get behind the full goal and the full program of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. It should get behind not just some little part of it, but the full deal.

Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I just told the House, our initiative focuses on screening for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS, as well as proper medicine, obstetric care and training for front line nursing staff.
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This Question Period Transcript was posted on May 3, 2010