The Canadian delegation was particularly active at this meeting, playing the role of champion for reproductive rights and freedoms for adolescents. When the EU tried to facilitate negotiations by compromising on reproductive health services language, Canada and several other countries formed a new negotiating block called the “Like-Minded Group” (composed of Canada, New Zealand, Norway and South Korea) in order to counter any potential compromise between the U.S. and the EU.
At a Canadian NGO briefing at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN, Senator Landon Pearson, the head of the delegation and the appointed personal representative of Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the Special Session on Children, distributed what she termed a ‘backgrounder” on the negotiating position’ at this meeting. The document was printed on official Senate letterhead and distributed at an official governmental briefing.
The position paper directly attacked various groups at the UN, which Senator Pearson classified as part of the “Religious Right”. She severely criticized the positions that pro-life and pro-family groups advocate at the UN, including that the family is the basic unit of society, the primary role of parents have in the lives of their children, and views on the reproductive health of adolescents.
Pearson’s paper goes further. Commenting on corporal punishment, she writes, “‘Pro-family’ groups believe that parents have the absolute right to choose the most appropriate way to discipline their children and disagree with the CRC’s emphasis on the dignity of the child, which would argue against the use of corporal punishment.”
Pearson appears to draw the conclusion that corporal punishment is contrary to principles laid out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that it should not be used in the disciplining of children. In a recent Ontario Court of Appeals case the federal government upheld the right of parents to use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. The court unanimously agreed with the federal government’s position. Pro-family groups rightfully wondered, how then could Senator Pearson present a view contrary to that of Canadian law?
Once again, pro-life groups such as Campaign Life Coalition and Focus on the Family, questioned the Canadian position at the UN.law. This above case is just another example of why we need to hold the government accountable and make the process of determining the Canadian foreign policy position more transparent and responsive to the electorate.