Paul Tuns
The Interim

On the eve of President George W. Bush’s visit to Canada, it was reported that the Liberal government, in the words of the Toronto Star, would raise “a small flag of independence” with a planned announcement that Ottawa would provide “a major funding increase” for the United Nation’s Population Fund, the UN’s population-control arm.

On Dec. 1, while Bush was in Halifax, International Co-operation Minister Aileen Carroll announced Canada would increase its contribution to the UNFPA by 40 per cent. Canada and other countries have criticized the Bush administration’s refusal to support the UNFPA because of the population agency’s support for China’s one-child policy and possible role in that nation’s (and others’) coercive abortion policies and involuntary sterilization programs.

Through the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada currently gives $13.1 million to the UNFPA, but will commit $16.9 million each year until 2008. About one-seventh of the funding will go directly to birth-control supplies such as condoms, although the government is silent on whether it will fund programs that provide abortion.

Canadian pro-life groups are questioning both the policy and the timing of its announcement. Campaign Life Coalition expressed its outrage at Carroll’s announcement and called upon the minister to rescind the new funding immediately.CLC international affairs officer Samantha Singson told The Interim, “It is shocking and disgraceful that the Canadian government should approve any increase in funding to the UNFPA without making any of its own efforts to investigate allegations of the UNFPA’s involvement in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.” Singson said that, at the very least, Canada should investigate whether the UNFPA supports China’s coercive abortion and forced sterilization programs and not rely on the population control agency’s denials.

Canadian supporters of the UNFPA, including pro-abortion feminists, make much of the fact that a U.S. State Department fact-finding mission did not uncover any evidence of coerced abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China. A little healthy skepticism would go a long way in this case – the State Department staff who went to China were official guests of Beijing and it was unlikely the Chinese would have provided any damning information.

But a 2002 report by the Population Research Institute found evidence of women who were forced to have abortions and families who were punished by local Chinese authorities in the very regions that UNFPA calls “model villages.” In these areas, the state’s one-child policy hasmet its targets – often employing coercive tactics. Also in 2002, the U.S. Congress heard testimony from Ma Dong Fan, who accused the UNFPA of supporting the brutal enforcement of China’s one-child policy. Fan was forced to have an abortion, given an IUD without her knowledge and had Norplant implanted against her wishes before she was able to flee China. Gao Xiao Duan, a former administrator of a Planned Birth Control Office, described the lengths to which government officials would go to ensure families had only one child.

The PRI also found evidence that the UNFPA supported forced sterilizations in Peru, where local officials have tied social assistance to women undergoing tubal ligations after giving birth to their first child. It seems odd that feminists who support “choice,” including minister Carroll, are silent about the UNFPA’s violations of women’s reproductive freedom.

The timing of Carroll’s announcement, although coinciding with World AIDS Day, was suspicious. The news leaked out days before the announcement, and just one day before Bush landed in Canada for a 30-hour visit. It seemed that it was designed to embarrass the president. Canada is among a large group of nations that have chastised the Bush administration for not funding the UNFPA. A senior adviser to the prime minister has been quoted defending Canada’s taking a different course on UNFPA funding. “Being friends with the United States doesn’t mean agreeing with everything,” he said. CLC’s Singson retorted that that doesn’t mean “Canada has to disagree with everything the United States does.”