Former UN envoy blasts Harper’s foreign aid policy
Nothing differentiates the Conservatives and New Democrats as much as their approach to international social justice, former UN envoy Stephen Lewis told NDP delegates on Saturday.
“The Conservative government believes that a creeping, bellicose, military fundamentalism will re-establish our place in the international sun,” Lewis said. “They’re dead wrong.”
Lewis, who served as the UN’s special envoy for HIV and AIDS, and was also the leader of the Ontario NDP from 1970 to 1978, blasted the Conservatives for neglecting international aid.
“The government of Canada occupies an unholy place in the corridors of shame,” he said before listing off a litany of funding deficiencies, including the Harper government’s controversial decision to fund maternal health initiatives abroad, but not for any programs related to abortion.
However, Lewis said, “most reprehensible of all,” was the fact that bill C-393 was not supported by the Conservatives in the Senate. The bill would have amended Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, which intends to make it easier for drug manufacturers to produce one-time versions of brand-name drugs, including antiretrovirals, to sell to developing nations.
This disappointment, Lewis said, was compounded by the fact that it is a Canadian who had the breakthrough theory for treatment as prevention, thanks to the use of antiretrovirals.
Lewis, who was speaking to introduce a group of international convention resolutions, threw his support behind one that would have the NDP reintroduce the bill C-393 in the House.
But it wasn’t all bad news. In his speech, which was interrupted several times by long periods of applause, Lewis also commended the new NDP caucus for taking action already with its amendment to legislation passed last week to extend Canada’s mission in Libya.
The amendment will allow for a portion of the money allotted for humanitarian aid to go to victims of rape, which Lewis described at length as having become a global “contagion.”
“It’s as though a war on women is the new benchmark of international depravity,” Lewis said, before highlighting many of the worst international cases.
Combatting these injustices, he said, is part of what makes the NDP important.
“It is of immense importance that a social democratic party like ours in a country like Canada takes this issue on frontally and that we know no pause until this epidemic of emotional and physical femicide is brought to an end,” he said, before exiting to a standing ovation.