The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union is trying to alert students to a petition that is trying to stop government funding for the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Saskatoon-Humboldt Member of Parliament Brad Trost started the petition and presented it to the House of Commons a few weeks ago.
The petition charges the International Planned Parenthood Federation of promoting “the establishment of abortion as an international human right, and lobbies aggressively to impose permissive abortion laws on developing nations.”
In 2006, the Canadian International Development Agency pledged $18 million of funding to the IPPF over four years. Trost’s petition asks the government to stop all funding to the group.
The petition has already stirred up a debate among Saskatoon citizens. The issue is divided as most people seem to be either strongly opposed to or in agreement with what Trost is proposing.
The petition also drew the attention of USSU vice-president external affairs Chris Stoicheff. It was Stoicheff who brought up the idea of taking action in the form of a counter petition that he is spearheading.
Stoicheff said there is certainly an element of the pro-life versus pro-choice issue entrenched in this debate, though he does not feel that issue is the centre of the problem.
“I think our foreign policy should reflect our domestic values. I think both the Women’s Centre and IPPF are doing a lot of good in terms of gender equality and reproductive rights,” said Stoicheff.
USSU president Warren Kirkland says the petition is important to students because IPPF plays a large role in Saskatoon’s health care system.
“It comes down to a lot of factors. The IPPF is directly affiliated with Saskatoon Sexual Health, which helps train the staff of the USSU…. The university does tons of work abroad and IPPF helps with that. These are issues that directly affect students and can have both a positive or negative impact depending on whether this goes through.
“The relationship that the USSU has with the Saskatoon Sexual Health Centre and the university’s work abroad means there is certainly cause to take a stance against Trost’s petition. Our hope was to raise awareness that a debate is ongoing,” said Kirkland.
He feels the IPPF does considerable good work in developing countries and that it was appropriate to take the position that they did.
“My initial reaction to the petition was surprise that it was going forward, and we wanted to do everything possible to prevent these motions.”
Kirkland and Stoicheff’s main goal is to continue to support the IPPF and to make sure students are aware of the debates between the two parties.
The USSU has received emails both supporting and disagreeing with the petition. While Kirkland appreciates this he still wants to have the debate open to the student body. He says these debates affect both communities here and the developing countries IPPF provides aid to.
Linh Le, the Women’s Centre coordinator, also feels very strongly about the petition.
“The funding is so crucial for these countries; the funding covers health care, health services, sex education,” said Le. “If you take that away you leave these women who are already disadvantaged with very little.”
Le also talked about the effects this petition could have on campus.
“When you have someone local who is so directly opposed to general rights and sexual rights and reproductive rights it can create a negative environment around both women’s rights and the women’s rights movement. It could create a negative stigma.”Â
The USSU welcomes the continuing debate and urges anyone who wants more information to contact them directly.