Monday, May 03, 2010

No thanks

Update (11:55 p.m.) below.

"Aid groups advised to ‘shut the f--- up’ on abortion" by a Conservative Senator, speaking as a representative of the government, on Parliament Hill, to international aid groups. Another banner day in Harper's Canada:
Aid experts alarmed by Canada’s new anti-abortion stand in foreign policy have been advised to “shut the f--- up” or risk Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking even more harsh measures – abroad, or maybe even at home if abortion becomes an election issue.

“We’ve got five weeks or whatever left until G-8 starts. Shut the f--- up on this issue,” Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told a group of international-development advocates who gathered on Parliament Hill on Monday to sound the alarm about Canada’s hard-right stand against abortion in foreign aid.

“If you push it, there will be more backlash,” Ruth said. “This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country.”

Ruth’s remarks, intended more as friendly advice than a warning, were met with gasps of disbelief and even anger among the approximately 80 aid representatives who converged on Parliament Hill to condemn what they see as a gathering storm against women’s rights in Canadian aid policy.
“I hope I’m not proven wrong but I have every confidence that it will include family planning,” Ruth said. “Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t make it into an election issue.”
Threaten much? Thanks for being so forthright about it. This censorious attitude, coming from the government, is just patently unacceptable in Canada. Canada is firmly a pro-choice country, our foreign policy should mirror our domestic. And if that latter part is meant to suggest that there is thought, that Ruth is here articulating, about putting Canada's domestic pro-choice position on the table in a future election, what a gaffe.

Cue the backpedaling but the remark is just an apt description of the Harper policy and there's evidence the intimidation is having an impact. Aid groups have been feeling the heat and have actually caved to it, they're watching what they say.

Update (11:55 p.m.): Her background is part of what makes the incident today so notable. The moderate voices in the Conservative party aren't opposing the stifling of legitimate opposition to the focus of Harper's maternal health initiative, they're going along with it and contributing to a climate of intimidation. For that reason, the messenger is part of the problem.

Further update: Video report here, gives a bit more context.