By Sam Singson
Following the Special Session on Children held at UN headquarters in May 2002, Canada, along with dozens of other countries across the globe, pledged to draft concrete strategies and legislation with the intent of bettering the lives of their youngest citizens.
In her quest to fulfill this commitment, Senator Landon Pearson, the self-described “senator for children and youth,” spent much of 2003 consulting with various government agencies and the private sector to craft a national plan of action for children. The final document, entitled A Canada Fit for Children, is scheduled for release this spring as part of our nation’s contribution to the world’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Year of the Family.
Throughout the drafting process, the senator’s office encouraged non-governmental organizations and members of civil society to fully participate through focus groups, forums or by sending in comments and suggestions through the mail. Pro-life and pro-family organizations, such as Focus on the Family Canada and Campaign Life Coalition, reviewed the draft and released reports with critiques and recommendations.
The reports from both FOTF and CLC acknowledged that there are some good aspects to the senator’s draft document, such as addressing the negative effects of poverty, drug addiction and violent and harmful content in the media. However, both organizations saw much room for improvement and strongly cautioned against two particular aspects of the senator’s document: the focus on “reproductive health” and the vague definition of the word “family.”
In light of the recent controversies at the United Nations regarding the ambiguous term “reproductive health” – and the outright admission that this term could be interpreted to include abortion – and the push to redefine the family to include many other “various forms,” the criticisms of FOTF and CLC are warranted.
Canada has a long history of introducing and promoting radical definitions at the United Nations. For example, it was Canada that introduced the (virtually untranslatable) term “sexual orientation” at the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995. Canada’s viewpoint on what “reproductive health” entails was made perfectly clear in 2002 (see sidebar).
The senator for children and youth: friend or foe?
One may recall reports that The Interim published during the negotiations for the Special Session on Children. The months preceding the actual conference were fraught with tension, indecision and confusion. The Canadian delegation, under Senator Landon Pearson’s leadership, was highly visible and incredibly active. Here’s what the senator was up to:
- The Senator, frustrated with a bombardment of criticism from pro-life lobbyists, released a “non-official” discussion paper in May 2001 directly criticizing the “religious right.” In her paper, the senator argued that the promotion of the concept of the traditional family is “too narrow” and that the definition must be widened to include other “various forms” (the acceptance of the term “various forms of the family” might include non-married and cohabitating couples, as well as homosexual “marriages”).
- Among other aspects of the paper, the senator also blasted pro-life and pro-family groups for their primary promotion of abstinence to stem the spread of the HIV pandemic. Also of note was the senator’s staunch objection to the use of corporal punishment.
- At a late-night negotiating session in June 2001, to the shock of UN delegates and civil observers alike, Andras Vamos-Goldman, a member of the Canadian delegation that was being led by Pearson, stated that the term “reproductive health services” was indeed abortion-inclusive. This bald-faced definition of the term was unprecedented and brought negotiations to a halt for weeks.