Industry Minister Christian Paradis speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
International Development Minister Christian Paradis says the government will not fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and child brides to obtain an abortion.
The Conservative government's position on the matter was unclear last week after it backed initiatives to tackle sexual violence and forced marriages at the United Nations.
But Paradis says the government's policy would follow the same logic as that behind Canada's $3-billion G8 funding commitment for maternal and child health — no money should go towards abortion services.
At the time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said none of the those dollars would go toward abortion services because there were enough other worthy initiatives to support.
"We've been clear in Muskoka, so you can think the same logic will apply here," Paradis told reporters after a speech Friday.
"There are plenty of measures that can be taken and Muskoka demonstrated that and we'll follow it in a consistent way with Muskoka."
That's a change from comments made by the president of the Canadian International Development Agency in 2010. While Canada has never directly funded abortions, Margaret Biggs told a committee that the agency would continue to fund aid groups who might provide referrals for abortion services.
CIDA was folded into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade earlier this year.
An upcoming report to the UN Security Council from Secretary General Ban-Ki moon is expected to recommend access to abortion services for pregnancies resulting from rape during conflict, according to the Global Justice Center in New York.
Speech to UN
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered a speech to the United Nations last week calling for more action on child and forced marriages. He also publicly backed a British initiative condemning sexual violence during conflict.
Ottawa pledged $5 million in the spring to help victims of this kind of sexual violence. So far, nearly $1 million has gone to a family hotline in Afghanistan which refers victims to legal, medical and psychological help.
Paradis said further details on how Canada will address both issues will be announced in due course.
The British government explicitly said earlier this year that its development budget can be used to provide abortion care where allowed by national laws.
"In conflict situations, where denying an abortion in accordance with national law would threaten the mother's life or cause unbearable suffering, international humanitarian law principles may justify performing an abortion," reads the statement by the U.K. Department for International Development.
Abortion continues to be a topic of debate in the House of Commons, coming up periodically as Conservative MPs bring forward private member's bills on the issue. An annual pro-life rally on Parliament Hill draws thousands of participants. Harper has said he does not want to re-open the divisive debate.
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