Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told Canadians that he will champion "a new G8 identity focused on ending child mortality and other health woes in poorer countries" because there "is a pressing need for global action on maternal and child health."
Indeed there is. However, does this statement indicate a temporary shift or a real change in Harper's policies, up to now perceived to be anti women and children, considering the programs that were cancelled and defunded since he came to power? If the interest is genuine, why limit the "championing" to the G8 when Canada is also hosting the G20, a forum that may be as good if not better, considering its larger and more diverse membership?
While still in opposition, Harper had committed to supporting women's rights, continuing Canada's commitments to Canadian women, and bringing in government accountability and transparency, but did he deliver once in power?
In spite of a surplus of $13.2 billion and a debt at its lowest level in 30 years, the new Conservative government was quick to axe a number of programs and initiatives, turning back the clock on women's advancements at the behest of Harper's religious social conservative base, mainly the old Reform-Alliance stock.
Canada Family Action Coalition, Concerned Christians Canada Inc., Aglow International Canada, Canada Christian College, Focus on the Family (Maurice Vellacott, Rob Anders and former President & CEO of Promise Keepers Canada, David Sweet, are supporters), REAL Women Canada and other like-minded organizations were and still are vocal in wanting to impose their religious beliefs and values on all Canadians, as do some social Conservative Parliamentarians. Most of these groups are on the fringe of the Evangelical movement.
Another issue that binds some of these groups together is their uncompromising commitment to Israel, and therefore their interest in foreign policy based on their literal interpretation of Scripture. Zion's Christian soldiers, or Christian Zionists, believe that the physical ingathering of Jews in Biblical Israel is a precondition for the End Days to unfold and for Judgment Day to happen. This commitment to their own religious beliefs rather than the best interests of Israelis - includes political lobbying against a just peace. They reject any solution that includes a sovereign Palestinian state on any part of Biblical Israel.
Any organization that seeks to treat Israel as any other UN member state is therefore seen as an enemy and treated as such, not only by Christian Zionists but by some elements of the Canadian government, as seen in the defunding of Kairos and the mistreatment of Rights and Democracy, both organizations work on projects to improve women's lives in various parts of the world, including in Afghanistan, the Congo and Latin America.
While anyone has the right to live by religious or other beliefs, that freedom does not and should not extend to imposing them on others. This is however what happened when the government heeded REAL Women Canada's message and cut funding to the Status of Women Canada (SWC), an agency that promotes gender equality.
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