Tag Archives: international

CFUW joins in calling on the Government of Canada to Fund Abortion Services Abroad

October 21, 2013

The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., MP
Confederation Building Room 507
Ottawa, ONK1A 0A6

The Honourable Kellie Leitch, P.C., MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ONK1A 0A6

Dear Ministers Paradis and Leitch,

As organizations who are deeply committed to the rights of women and girls, we are very concerned by recent statements regarding the Government of Canada’s refusal to fund safe abortion services abroad, including in cases of rape and for young women and girls in forced marriages. This approach represents a serious setback on women’s human rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence and girls in early and forced marriages.

As many as 70%of women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and the first sexual experience among up to a third of them is forced. These women are twice as likely to experience unintended pregnancies. A significant proportion of these women and girls seek to terminate these pregnancies. Legal and social barriers and a lack of availability of quality services lead to the 22 million unsafe abortions that the WHO estimates take place each year, which result in 13% of the maternal deaths that occur worldwide. Death and injury from unsafe abortion increases dramatically in conflict situations, where women and girls are often vulnerable to rape, sexual assault and other gender-based violence. In such situations, 20-50% of maternal deaths are related to unsafe abortion. UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon has made clear that “access to safe emergency contraception and services for the termination of pregnancies resulting from rape should be an integral component of any multisectoral response.”

The health needs, including the sexual and reproductive health needs, of the millions of married young women and girls must also be addressed by Canadian efforts on early and forced marriage overseas. Married girls are twice as likely to experience sexual violence, encounter unwanted pregnancies and seek to terminate those pregnancies. WHO evidence shows that restrictions placed on abortion services or the lack of availability of safe services do not reduce abortion rates. They force women and adolescent girls to turn to unsafe methods and unskilled providers which can result in permanent disability or death. These deaths are entirely preventable. In low and middle income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19.

The majority of countries worldwide permit abortion either in cases of rape or to preserve a woman’s mental health. Globally, 134 countries permit abortion to preserve a woman’s mental health, in cases of rape and/or upon request. Twenty-four out of Canada’s thirty-three[1] “countries of focus” for international development permit abortion on grounds of women’s mental health, rape or without restriction. Given the legal permissibility of abortion in most of these countries as well as in Canada, there is ample scope for Canadian international cooperation efforts to support increased access to safe and legal abortion services for women and adolescent girls as part of a comprehensive and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services. According to the WHO: “Ready access to contraception and to early, safe abortion significantly reduces high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity; it prevents the costs currently imposed by unsafe abortion on health systems and on society and individuals.”

Canada’s refusal to provide women with access to safe abortion services constitutes not only a deeply troubling inconsistency with Canadian law, which permits abortion regardless of reason as an essential medical service, but also international agreements that Canada has made. In the ICPD Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action, governments agreed and committed to provide women with a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion. Failing to provide women and adolescent girls with access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, which includes safe abortion, denies them their human rights, including their fundamental rights to life, to health, to bodily autonomy, to decide freely about the number and spacing of children, to self-determination, to freedom from torture, and to freedom from discrimination as well as the right to be protected from violence. By insisting that Canadian funds cannot be used to fund access to safe abortion services, Canada is complicit in the continued violation of women’s and girls’ human rights overseas.

We call on the Canadian government to: 

  1. Include access to safe abortion services as part of the package of sexual and reproductive health services funded by Canadian international cooperation initiatives;
  2. Support effective strategies to ensure that survivors of sexual violence and young women and girls in early and forced marriage have access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion; and
  3. Produce clear policy for Canada’s international initiatives that adopts a human rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health.

The lives of women around the world, particularly survivors of sexual violence and married young women and girls, depend on their access to a life-saving service. Canada can be a leader on these issues: let’s not let women and girls down.


The undersigned organizations:

  • Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) / Coalition pour le droit à l’avortement au Canada (CDAC)
  • Action Canada for Population and Development / Action Canada pour la population et le développement
  • Amnesty International Canada (English)
  • Amnistie InternationalCanada (Francophone)
  • Canadian Council of Muslim Women
  • Canadian Federation for Sexual Health
  • Canadian Federation of University Women
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Choice in Health Clinic
  • Clinique des femmes de l’Outaouais
  • Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances (FQPN)
  • Kensington Clinic
  • Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba
  • Inter Pares
  • MATCH International Women’s Fund
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Oxfam Quebec
  • Planned Parenthood Ottawa
  • West Coast LEAF
  • Women’s Health Clinic, Winnipeg
  • Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund / Fonds d’action et d’education juridiques pour les femmes
  • YWCA Canada

CC The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C.
Prime Minister of Canada

CC Hélène Laverdière, NPD, MP
NDP International Development Critic

CC Kirsty Duncan, Liberal, MP
Liberal International Development and Status of Women Critic

CC Paul Dewar, NDP, MP
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic

CC Marc Garneau, Liberal, MP
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic

CC Niki Ashton, NDP, MP
NDP Status of Women Critic

[1]Includes the 14 countries of the Caribbean programme.

CFUW Calls On Government to Put Human Health Before the Asbestos Industry


OTTAWA, June 16, 2011 – “It’s time to put human health ahead of the asbestos industry” was the message sent to Prime Minister Harper today. Brenda Wallace, National President of the Canadian Federation of University Women, called on PM Harper to stop preventing the UN Rotterdam Convention from adding chrysotile asbestos to its list of hazardous substances.

It is well recognized that many countries who import chrysotile asbestos have lax standards for safe handling of the product. For fear that it will not be handled safely, most countries have either severely restricted or banned the use of all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile. Canada’s failure to take action on this issue is contributing to the premature deaths of many thousands of people in countries with poor standards.

The Convention promotes responsible trade by requiring that “prior informed consent” be obtained before a country exports a hazardous substance on its list. The Convention’s Chemical Review Committee has repeatedly called for chrysotile asbestos to be put on the list, but Canada has refused. Harper and Minister Christian Paradis have said that Canada will continue to block the listing.

“It is indefensible for Canada to continue to block the listing, and their actions are bringing shame on Canada’s international reputation,” said Wallace, “We call on PM Harper to do the right thing: Support the Rotterdam Convention and human rights, not the asbestos industry.”

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization of close to 10,000 women university graduates, students and Associate Members in 113 Clubs across Canada that works to improve the status of women and human rights, education, social, justice, and peace. CFUW holds special consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC) Commission on the Status of Women and belongs to the Education Sector of the Canadian Commission to UNESCO. CFUW is the largest of the 67 affiliates of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW).

For more information contact:
Robin Jackson, executivedirector@cfuw.org, 613-234-8252 ext. 102

Council Meeting, Double Decker Bus and Xochimilco

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

No need for an 8:00 am CFUW Caucus Meeting this morning!  Breakfast was leisurely – but is there a cost to daily bacon??  Surely the papaya and watermelon cancel out the cholesterol.  Better have some low-fat yoghurt as extra insurance against unwanted weight gain!

Lisa Chenier Texting in Lobby

Nora Kudrenecky Reading in Lobby

Marianne Haselgrave, IFUW President 2010 – 2013, chaired the 91st Council Meeting (similar to our CFUW Post-AGM Board Meeting) and introduced the new Board who sat with her at the front of the room:  Vice Presidents Anne Negre (French Federation), Jenny Strauss (Australian Federation), Willemijn Van Der Meer (Netherlands Association) and Treasurer Catherine Bell (South Africa Association) serving a second term. Vice President Patricia Galeana (Mexican Federation) was not able to attend the meeting.

IFUW Board 2010 - 2013 and Secretary General 91st Council Meeting

Among the ratifications of appointments was that of (CFUW member and Past President) Roberta Brooks as IFUW Assistant Treasurer.
The roll call for Council and Conference Meetings is always taken by Leigh Bradford Ratteree, the Secretary General of IFUW whose headquarters are in Geneva.  There is such a feeling of pride as the names of all the IFUW countries are called and the Voting Delegates raise their cards in response.

Among the items of business discussed under the Conference themes of Education, Development and Empowerment was Marianne’s comment that we need to emphasize “action” in the Program of Action – for example, making an inventory of the IFUW scholarships, an “appreciable asset worldwide” for which we are “good at doing but not good at selling.”  I will let you know when the new Program of Action for this Triennium becomes available on-line.

Marianne asked that countries willing to host the 31st IFUW Triennial Conference in 2016 let her know sooner rather than later.  The CIR from Egypt, sitting beside me, immediately stood up and offered her Association as the host.  Soon after, Nigeria also expressed interest, as did India!  Naturally, a formal request would have to be forthcoming from any NFA (National Federation or Association) willing to undertake this responsibility.
The meeting ended at 11:00 am.

After renewing my Internet service, I spotted Nora Kudrencky reading in the lobby.  She had some “found time” having mis-read her plane departure date and wished to do a bus tour of Mexico City.  That sounded like a great plan to me and I mentioned that the top deck of the double-decker tour bus had been recommended as a great place to view the architecture and street scenes of this historical city.

Just before we set off, along came Glenda Hecksher from the Mexican LAC (Local Arrangements Committee) who said that the Government had offered 40 tickets for a canal tour to the Floating Gardens at 4:00 pm that afternoon.
Nora and I glanced at each other.  Would there be time for us to do both?  All of  the other tours had begun on “Mexican time.”  We would chance it and buy a ticket, packing two tours into one day.

Double Decker Tour Bus Entering Zocala Area

Off we scooted to grab umbrellas, hats and sunscreen and then a quick bowl of delicious chicken soup before setting off for the bus stop a few blocks away to catch the 1:00 bus.

The city tour was excellent, with headphones available for commentary in the language of your choice on the many points of interest including the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts)

Mexico City Art Gallery

made of 84,000 tons of marble, the Zocala (Plaza of the Constitution in the old, walkabout historic section), the Art Gallery made of stone with teak-coloured wood framing on all of the windows, the historically significant Monument of Independence with its 105-foot-high golden angel, The Avenue that is modelled after The Champs Elysees, and the National Auditorium – an historical theatre.  Of course, the many street scenes captured constant interest, from the ubiquitous red and gold taxis to the police with their bullet-proof vests to the families out for an afternoon stroll.

Monument of Independence in Mexico City

We stayed on the open top deck of the bus the whole time and finally the two-and- one-half-hour tour returned us to our original stop after three-and-one-quarter hours.  Hmm!  Could we still catch the bus to the Floating Gardens? As we entered the hotel block I spotted a bus, and ran the rest of the way to see if it were ours and to hold departure.  Yes!!  They had waited for us.  Off we went, as soon as Nora arrived, for the half-hour or so drive to the canal.

The canal was once the main route between downtown Mexico City and Xochimilco (meaning “flower field place”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of 122 square kilometres and located about 28 kilometres to the south.

On the Canal, Heading for Xochimilco

We boarded the roofed boats, sitting on benches or chairs facing each other along each side.  Small, soft motors propelled us through the water with its floating foliage and water fowl to the Floating Gardens which were artificial islands formed by rooting twigs in the mud and gradually building up the soil.

Kathleen Laurila, Griselda Kenyon, Heike Mensch at Steam Bath Hut

Indigenous Woman Selling Dolls Curbside

After viewing the carvings, the steam bath huts and the natural beauty of this environmentally-protected and now privately-owned preserve, we were served tacos and tamarind juice in an open-sided thatched hut while serenaded by two marimba players (remember Cielito Lindo?).

Marimba Players on Floating Islands

As usual the dark clouds rolled in behind us as we made our way along the series of canals towards the clear western sunset, enjoying the dulcet strains of the marimba which was partially under cover on our boat, exchanging information about our IFUW activities and boarding our bus just before the downpour.

It was only 9:00 pm when we arrived at our hotel – well before the usual end of IFUW activities.  Maybe I should make use of that Internet time I had booked, and do some blogging!