Address by Minister Gould to the Summit on Canada’s Global Leadership/Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Thursday, November 28 - Ottawa, Ontario
Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.
Good evening. Thanks very much for having made a little room for me in your program at the last minute! I have good reasons for wanting to come to the summit. I am very happy to be with you and to speak to you now as the minister of international development.
I was glad to work with so many of you when I was the parliamentary secretary and listen to you as we developed the Feminist International Assistance Policy. I was so pleased to see so much of the consultation reflected in the policy, and I am eager to work with you as we continue to implement the policy. The role of our Canadian partners will be very important. There is still much work to be done.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over where the areas are we need to improve, and what became very clear to me was that we need domestic engagement to ensure we have buy-in from Canadians on the development agenda.
It was clear from the election campaign that we have work to do here at home. When the official opposition campaigns on cutting 25% of our international assistance, we need to do more to engage Canadians. I am pleased to see that CCIC [Canadian Council for International Co-operation] has made this a priority for the year ahead, and I want to offer my commitment that I will be your ally and partner when it comes to talking with Canadians.
And part of talking to Canadians is doing a better job of telling our stories.
We must make a better effort to share our stories, our successes, with Canadians.
Because you do incredibly important and vital work abroad. You do brave work, and it is part of the long-standing Canadian tradition of trying to make the world a better place and shaping the post-war order.
From Bretton Woods to the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and the United Nations, Canada and Canadians have played an important role in building the rules-based international order. At a time when this order is under threat, we as Canada and as Canadians need to lead with our values. Not just because it is the right thing to do around the world, but because it is the right thing to do for Canadians.
Our job, your job as development practitioners and my job as minister, is to help Canadians see why the rules-based international system is so vital to protecting our own rights and freedoms and how our international assistance work contributes to a stable world in which we all can thrive.
CCIC is primed to showcase this work. You engage Canadians across the country, in every region, in every municipality, no matter how big or small. Part of our challenge that we must undertake is demonstrating to Canadians that it is not the government or an NGO that does development work somewhere far away, but everyday Canadians from every part of Canada.
Canadians are so generous when disaster strikes. But they are also passionate about everyday, long-term development. Whether it’s the local church group sending wedding dresses to Haiti, or farmers out in Manitoba who are dedicated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank or students across university campuses sharing their skills across continents.
I want to celebrate the fact that Canadian civil society organizations deliver close to $1 billion of Canada’s international assistance budget—almost a quarter of our development and humanitarian efforts.
Canadians care about the world in which we live and are proud of the role we have played in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world. Development needs to become just as much a part of the Canadian identity as peacekeeping. That is our task.
I just came from a portfolio where one of my primary responsibilities was defending our democracy against malicious foreign actors. The threats are real. We are living a moment where worldviews are confronting each other, and our story will be shaped by how we react.
Our work in development must be part of the narrative and part of our foreign policy toolkit to uphold democracy and protect human rights.
Canada is leading and we are at the forefront of the rights agenda, particularly when it comes to gender equality. But the world is seeing setbacks when it comes to gender equality. We are seeing the rollback of women’s rights and human rights around the globe.
Attacks on human rights defenders, on journalists, on humanitarian workers, are on the rise. We must stand up for them at every opportunity and fight impunity. That includes fighting impunity when it comes to sexual and gender-based violence. Too many women and girls continue to be attacked and exploited. Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war. We have done important work together to draw attention to this matter, and I want to assure you of my continued commitment to this issue and to the women, peace and security agenda. This is particularly important in the lead up to Beijing + 25 and the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325 next year.
And we need to remember why a feminist approach to foreign policy and development is so vital and so transformational. Because we simply cannot afford to leave half the population behind.
One of my most enlightening experiences when I was the parliamentary secretary was a trip I took to Ethiopia. I was in a small village outside of Mekele, and we stopped at the local health clinic. There were a half-dozen women there to greet us.
We talked about the vaccination program and nutrition for children and how these have made significant health improvements in their community. And then the talk moved on to birth control. And one woman talked about autonomy over her body and her reproductive life. And how it transformed the power dynamics in her marriage. How she became the community health practitioner and contributed to the family income. How her husband has to respect her because she earns a good income. And finally, how her daughter, who was 15, can see her as a role model and see that women can be self-sufficient and how her daughter is now in high school with the ambition of becoming a nurse.
We talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights as foundational for gender equality. But it is also catalytic to help us achieve our other development goals of food security, economic development, improved health outcomes and better education. And when people have income security and more stable health they can also be more engaged in decisions around the environment. We cannot divorce climate change from gender equality.
Gender equality and development go hand in hand. I am proud of the work we have done in developing the Feminist International Assistance Policy and the work we are doing to implement it.
Canada is now a leading donor on gender equality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We have also made important progress in engaging philanthropy and new sectors through the leadership of partners like the Equality Fund.
Through consultation with many of you here today and with the creativity within this sector, we launched dedicated funding for small and medium-sized organizations in Canada, and we are continuing to learn how to do this better.
Earlier this year, we announced new funding to advance the human rights of LGBTQ2 people in developing countries.
And we are the first humanitarian donor with a dedicated policy on feminist approaches to humanitarian action.
But we must continue to push forward, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. We cannot take our foot off the gas—I assure you I won’t. I hope I can count on you to work with me to continue to advance this important work. These efforts are all the more important as we look to the year ahead and the engagements and commitments that will shape Beijing + 25.
There is a lot I could talk about today, but the main messages I want to leave you with are ensuring we remain focused on delivering our Feminist International Assistance Policy and working in tandem, together, to reach out to Canadians about why development matters and why, as Canadians, we can be proud of the role we play.
I am eager to work with you.
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