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Accountability & Democratic Renewal

Harper and Senator must apologize for profane threats to foreign aid groups

Posted on May 3, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must apologize for using one of his Senators to try to bully and intimidate the international development community into toeing the Conservative line about abortion.

“Sending Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to threaten and blackmail Canada’s foreign aid community is the most extreme example yet of how this deceitful and intolerant Prime Minister operates,” said Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville.

“Senator Ruth must apologize for her profane remarks, and Prime Minister Harper must cease his attempts to bully Canada’s international development groups, who are only trying to help the world’s poor and impoverished. This is truly appalling.”

About 80 international development advocates were gathered on Parliament Hill today to express their concerns about the direction Canada’s foreign aid is going, particularly after Stephen Harper confirmed the government would no longer fund any programs involving reproductive rights.

At that meeting, they were told to “shut the f— up on this issue” by Senator Ruth – causing gasps of disbelief and anger amongst those present, according to a media report. “If you push it, there will be more backlash,” Ms. Ruth said.

Ms. Neville said both the Senator and the Prime Minister have clearly crossed the line in their attempts to muzzle voices of dissent.

“People who work with our international community have every right to be deeply concerned about this government’s backwards approach to maternal health,” she said. “They are saying their development effectiveness is being undermined, and there is a ‘chilling’ climate in the foreign-aid community where advocates are afraid to speak out for fear of having their aid dollars cut.

“And now we’ve got the Prime Minister using his Senators to do his dirty work. This is beyond unacceptable. Mr. Harper must give his unequivocal assurance to all Canadians that there will be no retaliation against groups who disagree with his ideological position on reproductive rights, and he must make it clear that he will not condone threats and blackmail from his caucus or anyone else.”