By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Canada’s Catholic bishops are sounding alarm bells about the federal government’s “outrageous” promotion of abortion rights as part of its foreign policy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has equated women’s rights and human rights with the right to “sexual reproductive rights” and abortion. 

“These rights are at the core of our foreign policy,” Freeland said in a June 6th speech in the House of Commons. “For we are safer and more prosperous, Mr. Speaker, when more of the world shares Canadian values. Those values include feminism, and the promotion of the rights of women and girls.”

The promotion of abortion rights represents “a very significant and onerous shift in foreign policy,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton. 

“I don’t think many people are aware that this has become the centre of Canadian foreign policy,” said Smith. “A lot of people find this absolutely unbelievable and outrageous.”

In a letter to Freeland on June 29, the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Douglas Crosby, questions whether it was wise or responsible to claim abortion advocacy and “sexual reproductive rights” as the core of Canadian foreign policy, “as national values with which to enlighten others – knowing full well that they are not only legally contentious but completely contrary to the deeply held convictions of many both within and beyond Canada’s borders.” 

Smith hopes that the federal government will stop promoting abortion as part of its foreign policy.

“This, in no way, can so blithely be considered a Canadian value,” said Smith, noting that thousands participate in pro-life marches Canada each year, and many others are personally against abortion.

Smith said the foreign minister’s statement draws to mind what Pope Francis calls “ideological colonization” — western countries pushing what they claim to be their values onto other countries.

“What (this government) has every indication of doing is the promotion of abortion throughout the world as a good, as a right, when in fact the truth remains that it’s the termination of a human life in the womb of its mother and that in no way is a good,” said Smith.

 “This is absolutely unacceptable and I feel this is precisely what we’re seeing with the introduction into our foreign policy of the promotion of abortion rights.”

Canadian bishops note the federal government has pledged $650-million to facilitate abortion advocacy and sexual reproductive rights, but only $119.25-million to address severe food shortages in South Sudan, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Somalia.

Smith said it’s a “clear prioritization of death over life. That cannot stand unchallenged and it represents in my estimation a serious moral lapse on the part of our federal government.”

Smith said he hopes people will speak up against the federal government’s foreign policy position.

“Let the government know that this is unacceptable and in no way representative of our stance as Canadian citizens,” said Smith. “We can be confident that there will be no change if people do not speak.”

Read the full CCCB letter.