University of Saskatchewan students may soon be getting national publicity for their stance against Conservative Member of Parliament Brad Trost.
Trost, who represents the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding, recently began distributing a petition asking the federal government to stop funding the International Planned Parenthood Foundation. His main contention is that the IPPF offers abortion to women in developing countries.
After reading it, University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union vice-president external Chris Stoicheff was motivated to draw up a counter petition that the USSU then released.
“There are two roles the petition plays,” Stoicheff said. “One is to raise awareness in the campus community about this issue, which I think is very serious. The other goal was to get it read in the House of Commons.”
Having this petition read in the House of Commons will, Stoicheff feels, “show that students can play a role in shaping the decisions that the government makes.”
Stoicheff will see his second goal met soon — two MPs have confirmed that they will present the USSU’s petition to the House of Commons. Megan Leslie, a New Democratic Party MP representing Halifax, and Winnipeg’s south-centre Liberal MP Anita Neville have been in contact with Stoicheff about the petition.
Stoicheff says the fact that more than one political party is interested is in itself a victory.
“Two parties reading it out brings more credibility to the petition,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m just personally delighted about the interest from a number of political parties.”
The first MP he contacted was Neville; Stoicheff was impressed that the first person he was in touch with was interested.
When asked about the involvement of other student unions, Stoicheff responded that the U of S is the only university whose students have responded to Trost’s petition, though “other student unions have historically taken on the issues that the IPPF deals with.”
He also mentioned that he is proud of the USSU for being the only student union to deal with Trost’s petition.
Stoicheff and the rest of the USSU executive felt it necessary to voice their disagreement with Trost’s petition because the IPPF does extensive work in the developing world and Canada to promote safe sex and to prevent sex-related crimes.
“The IPPF does a number of things,” said Stoicheff, “with regard to gender equality, and the promotion of safe sex, particularly in developing nations. It ensures such things as genital mutilation don’t occur, and it also helps to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
The IPPF’s activities make it an organization that Stoicheff feels Canada needs to support. However, he is open to the idea of debating how much funding should be given, calling it a “fair argument.” Canada pledged $18 million to the IPPF in 2006.
The USSU did not try to contact any Conservative MPs to see if they were willing to read the petition because, Stoicheff said, it would be very unusual for them to present a petition made against one of their own caucus members.