It’s Time for Canada to Get Back on Track
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is [hu]man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”
– Nelson Mandela
Since its inception in 1991, International Development Week (IDW) has given Canadians the opportunity to learn about, reflect on and celebrate Canada’s contribution to the eradication of global poverty. Held annually during the first full week of February, IDW is our opportunity to showcase Canada’s unique place and role globally, while highlighting potential areas of growth.
This month finds Canada at a pivotal moment in defining our role in the world. The 2017 Federal Budget is due to be released and Canadians will find out whether we have finally reversed the trend of cuts to Official Development Assistance (ODA). Last month, Open Canada released an eye-opening report which concluded that Canada is far back when comes to historical and international benchmarks for international assistance.
As the chart below shows, Canada is near an all-time low for commitments to international assistance. Contrary to Prime Minister Trudeau’s exhortations that “Canada is back” on the global stage, if the government continues its current funding trends, “it will have the lowest commitment to international assistance of any Canadian government in the last half -century”. This is both shocking and unacceptable.
We know that international development is not only a good investment for Canada, but that there is also a moral imperative to invest. The human cost of the Canadian commitment gap in 2016 means that half a million lives that could have been saved were not. Canadian development assistance saves lives. If Canada were to spend one more cent per every 100 dollars of national income, we would be able to save a minimum of 25,000 people every year, most of these people being the most vulnerable—women and children.
With the release of the 2017 budget fast approaching, it is important that now, more than ever, we raise our voices to help all Canadians understand why our work is not yet over. In 1969 former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was head of the commission that made the suggestion of allocating 0.7% of GNI to ODA; however, 38 years later and Canada is nowhere close to reaching this target.
This IDW we need to rally the public to show politicians and our government that we cannot and will not stop pushing for a significant increase in ODA. By making noise, raising our voices, and rallying our peers, let’s make sure that this IDW, no matter the outcome of the 2017 budget, we show our support for an increased ODA.