MONTREAL — Canada will continue to encourage other countries to offer more family planning services including contraception and abortion because they're key to fighting poverty, the country's international development minister said Sunday.
Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada will continue to speak "frankly" with other countries on the need for such services, even if it remains controversial in some circles.
Bibeau arrived in Rwanda on Sunday of a four-day international conference on family planning that runs until Thursday.
In a phone interview from Kigali, she told The Canadian press that some countries are willing to discuss the topic at meetings but don't always follow up with concrete commitments.
"Canada has a very, very important role to play right now to talk about it in a very open way, and to make sure that the conversation stays wide, that the conversation is not narrowing," Bibeau said Sunday.
"We talk about everything and we talk about it openly," she explained.
Bibeau said reproductive and sexual education and access to contraception, and eventually abortion, are important steps in eliminating poverty, especially among women.
"What we want is for each child and each pregnancy to be wanted, and for mothers to have the means, that they be ready to receive that child," she said.
"To end poverty, we have to work on all the barriers that make it that girls and women don't have the chance to develop their full potential. For that to happen, it starts by having control over their own bodies."
The World Health Organization says some 214 million women who would like to delay or stop having children report not using any form of contraception.
The federal government pledged up to $20 million to fund sexual health and family planning initiatives in 2017 as part of an international campaign to fill a gap created by President Donald Trump's decision to ban U.S. funding for abortion-related projects.
Besides Canada, the other countries involved in the campaign include the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France and Belgium.
Vicky Fragasso-Marquis, The Canadian Press