Op Ed (February 17 and 20, 2017, iPolitics and Hill Times)
Many Canadians may be surprised to learn that Canada is not a global leader in allowing people to organize, participate, and communicate freely and without discrimination.
During his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump last Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the “last thing Canadians want is for me to lecture another country on how they should govern.” That may well be the case, but there has never been a more important time for Canada to show progressive leadership globally in support of inclusive and open societies that respect human rights. As the government prepares a new budget and a new approach to international assistance, the stage is set for Canada to put its money where its mouth is to support its values, at home and abroad.
Without substantial increases in the next couple of years, this government risks having the worst record in Canadian history in terms of investments in foreign aid.
A strong development and humanitarian assistance policy requires a strong financial commitment: that is the clear and striking conclusion of the latest report of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee.
All eyes were on the United Nations two weeks ago as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his inaugural speech to the General Assembly.The speech was forward-looking, laying out a hopeful and ambitious case for building inclusive and diverse societies, and recognizing that Canadians are unavoidably affected by and linked to “what happens beyond our borders.”
The federal government now needs a framework and an action plan to implement its vision for Canada and the world. Fortunately, a global framework such as this already exists: the Sustainable Development Goals.
Last week-end, the Canadian government successfully hosted the 5th Global Fund replenishment conference in Montreal. If the objective was to demonstrate that Canada can be called upon to rally the international community around urgent global issues, it was achieved. The fund almost reached its 13 billion pledge target (12.9 billion on last count, with some pledges still outstanding) and the government was successful in mobilizing its top representatives, civil society partners and other stakeholders to put together an engaging world class event.
Prime Minister Trudeau, Governor General Johnston, Ministers Bibeau, Philpott, and Dion, Parliamentary Secretary Gould, Ms. Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and many more were hosting and championing the conference, soliciting generous pledges from the many Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers that were present, some pledging for the first time. Other key players at the conference included Michaelle Jean, Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation (and sustained supporter of the Fund).
As the prime minister and his government consider how to meet their targets and commitments on the international stage, they should both recognize and maximize the impact of Canada’s development assistance.
At the World Economic Forum, the prime minister invited the world to look to Canadians’ resourcefulness. During meetings with civil society organizations in Davos, he also acknowledged the importance of increasing Canadian Official Development Assistance.
These two admirable objectives—building global interest in Canada and increasing Canada’s contributions to the world—go hand in hand. With the international community rallying around a new sustainable development agenda, resourcefulness and determination will be essential to meeting our shared global responsibilities.
From the Syrian refugee crisis, to climate change, to financial instability and growing global inequality, it is a truism to state just how much we are interconnected globally—as people and as a planet. How Canada and Canadians engage (or don’t) in this changing and globalizing world will be a defining feature of the success or failure of any future government.
More than ever before, foreign affairs matters in the coming election. And the Munk Debate is a unique opportunity for leaders to share with Canadians their vision for Canada’s place in this changing world.
Co-signed Op Ed (March 26, 2015, The Ottawa Citizen)
In recent years, there has been considerable controversy about the role of charities in public policy development. Some government and industry officials have stated that our organizations should not be involved in important public discussions on issues like climate change, human rights and poverty reduction.
It’s critical for Canadian society that charities be involved in public debates. That’s why 18 environmental, international development and social justice organizations recently came together to ask all political parties in Canada to make an election year commitment to protect this role.
Op Ed by Julia Sanchez (Feb.5, 2015, Embassy Magazine)
This year has special significance for those of us in the international co-operation field.
Perhaps most significantly, the Millennium Development Goals will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals in the fall. The formal negotiations are finally underway, after what has been a chaotic but very rich process of consultations, high-level panels, the open working group, a UN task team, several global civil-society organization campaigns, online consultations, regional and national consultations and more.
There is no doubt that, no matter how imperfect the SDGs end up being, they will mark the pace for international co-operation in the decades to come. And whether organizations in this field have engaged a lot or very little with the process to date, we will all be learning to live and work with the SDGs very soon. As we did with the MDGs in their initial days.
Op Ed by Julia Sanchez (Sept.15, 2014, The Ottawa Citizen)
Last week, the North-South Institute (NSI) announced that it is closing down after being a leader of international development thinking, in Canada and abroad, for almost 40 years. The international community in Canada, and many of its partners around the world, are saddened and worried by this development. But why should Canadians care?
Think tanks are in the business of knowledge creation, analysis and dissemination – but are distinct from other knowledge centres such as universities, in that they focus their research efforts on policy matters of immediate relevance to the public, governments and civil society organizations.
Op Ed by Rachel Warden and Barbara Wood (June 26, 2012, Embassy Magazine)
On June 14, the Canadian government quietly tabled its second report on the human rights impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. So quietly, in fact, that even those who had been anticipating its release almost missed it. The report was deposited with the clerk at the end of the day, rather than during routine proceedings in the House.
The reporting obligation was enshrined into law in 2010 to address widespread concerns that the free trade agreement would exacerbate the alarming human rights crisis in Colombia. The government has touted the reports as a meaningful way to ensure human rights accountability in trade with the troubled Latin American country.
Unfortunately, this latest report’s tone and content—and the quiet way in which it was tabled—seem intent on avoiding scrutiny and leave us wondering what the government is trying to hide.
Op Ed byRachel Warden, Barbara Wood and Brittany Lambert (May 22, 2013-Embassy Magazine)
The Parliamentary SubcommitteeonInternational Human Rights’ decision to study Honduras was well-founded. The situation there has been called a “human rights emergency” and is widely-recognized as one of the worst in the hemisphere. The hearings have painted a dismal picture of extreme violence against rights activists and political opponents; of widespread impunity and police corruption; of judicial politicization; and of institutional decay.
Why then, is Canada treating the current Honduran government like a friendly partner rather than denouncing its human rights abuses and the lack of rule of law?
Op-ed by Julia Sánchez (9 December 2012 - iPOLITICS)
In recent days, media coverage of statements by Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino might have left the Canadian public with the impression that NGOs are dependent and self-serving organizations that “think that CIDA (the Canadian International Development Agency) only exists to keep (them) afloat” — to use the minister’s own words.
Op-ed by Brittany Lambert and Raul Burbano (May 23, 2012)
The Canadian government has shirked its responsibility to human rights by failing to table a serious and credible report on the impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCOFTA), as mandated by law. The CCOFTA came into force in August 2011 after being stalled in Parliament for nearly three years due to widespread concern that it could exacerbate existing human rights violations in Colombia.
Op-ed by Beatriz Gonzalez, Rachel Warden, Julia Sánchez (April 11, 2012, Embassy)
In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper designated Latin America as a foreign policy priority. He appointed a minister of state for the Americas and embarked on a high-profile visit to the region. The record of action to date has been narrowly focused on trade, at the expense of deep engagement on such important issues as development, security, corporate accountability, democratic governance, and human rights.
Op-ed by Gauri Sreenivasan (August 17, 2011 - Embassy)
August 15th 2011 marks the coming into force of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. The date starts the clock not only for new calculations on tariffs, but also the start of the period in which the Canadian and Colombian governments must track the agreement's effects on human rights as part of obligations under a unique new human rights treaty. Will this new treaty be a force for accountability for the effects of trade and investment on human rights?
The Government’s second annual report to Parliament under the new Official Development
Assistance Accountability Act, suggests the Government has opted, like in its first report
produced last Autumn, for under‐reporting and minimum implementation when it comes to
Canada’s new aid legislation.
Op-ed by Gerry Barr (March 13, 2010 –Toronto Star)
Foreign aid was hit hard in last week's federal budget as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a freeze on aid spending.
It's easy to get lost in numbers, percentages and charts, but in a world where more than 1 billion people are undernourished and 72 million children are unable to go to school, we should never forget that when we talk about foreign aid we're talking about the human struggle to escape poverty and pursue of life of dignity.
Letter to the editor by Gerry Barr (Jan 8, 2010 - Globe and Mail)
First, she says Immigration Minister Jason Kenney got it right when he described the ecumenically-based human-rights organization Kairos as a leader of a boycott campaign against Israel. But both she and Mr. Kenney are wrong. Kairos does not advocate for the boycott of Israel and, in fact, has rejected it on the record.
If one was to choose the icon that best reflected Canada’s foreign aid direction at the end of the first decade of the new Millennium it would have to be a cross-roads sign, festooned with multi-directional arrows to just about everywhere. Many of those arrows point in opposite directions, so predicting Canada’s future path is a challenge.
Letter of the editor by Dana Stefov (December 10, 2009 – Toronto Star)
There are two fundamental issues up for negotiation in Copenhagen: the scale of emission reductions and the provision of financing to help poorer countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change and reduce their own emissions. The first has clearly been at the forefront of the news and with good reason. It is imperative that wealthy countries like Canada adopt ambitious targets to reduce global emissions 25‐40 percent below the 1990 level by 2020.
Letter to the editor by Sylvie Perras (December 9, 2009 – Globe and Mail)
Bob Geldof is right. Canada must repair its tarnished international reputation on climate change. Canada must also restore its relationship with Africa. Africa is on the rise, yes, but still struggling with widespread poverty. And progress has been further jeopardized by recent global crises – food, financial and climate. Climate change adds an additional burden to the challenges of sustainable development. Africa, as the most vulnerable continent, which has contributed the least to the global greenhouse gas emissions, deserves full support to adapt to climate change.
Op-ed by Gerry Barr (December 8, 2009 – Georgia Straight)
As the United Nations climate change summit opened on Monday, thousands of negotiators, journalists and activists have converged upon Copenhagen Denmark for the climax of two years of negotiations. Reaching an ambitious, just and binding post-2012 agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be one of the great tests of our generation. What must governments deliver in Copenhagen?
Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago takes place in a context
of rapid economic and political change in the southern half of the
hemisphere. That change has been accompanied by another significant
shift in the United States. The election of President Obama has raised
expectations of a sea change in American policy from that of the Bush
Stuart Clark and Cathleen Kneen. (June 2008– Toronto
This crisis is affecting more people than all the
natural disasters of the past 20 years. More than a billion people
don't know where their next meal will come from and whether they can
afford it. This reflects the world's failure to respect, protect and
fulfill the human right to adequate food.
Jim Cornelius and Gerry Barr (28 May 2008 – Alberta Express and Manitoba Cooperator)
Take a walk in your local grocery store and you are likely to see
something new happening - an increasing number of Canadians are voting
with their dollars to support the livelihoods of those who grow their
food. Whether through buying more local food or demanding
fairly-traded products like coffee, Canadians are paying attention to
the ethical implications of where they spend their food dollars.
Op-ed by Gerry Barr (28 February 2008 – National Post)
Segal calls for a legislated
mandate for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He's
right, a weak mandate handicaps CIDA, and civil society organizations
in international development have advocated a clear mandate for CIDA