International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says Canada will support a global safe-abortion fund set up in response to President Donald Trump's order banning U.S. financing for any organizations that mention abortion.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail from Amman, Ms. Bibeau said she will announce this week that Canada will join an international campaign to fill a $600-million (U.S.) gap left by Mr. Trump's reinstatement of the so-called global gag rule prohibiting funding to international organizations that fail to disavow abortion. She did not say how much money Canada will contribute to the initiative.
"I will be in Brussels on my way back to Ottawa on March 2 participating in a conference, which is linked to the 'She Decides' initiative from the Netherlands. And I will make the announcement on Canada's contribution," Ms. Bibeau said.
Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation Lilianne Ploumen is leading the international campaign to establish the safe-abortion fund. She told the Guardian last month that up to 20 countries had indicated support for the plan.
Ms. Bibeau is in the Middle East this week to announce that Canada will provide $240-million (Canadian) over three years to address humanitarian needs in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The funding will be disbursed to experienced non-governmental organizations to support the basic needs of those hit hardest by the region's conflict, including food, shelter, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene.
"We are being innovative with this multiyear commitment. So we gave the time to our international NGO partners to think about it and to develop multiyear projects. This is what they were asking for," the minister said. "They are very happy with the multiyear commitment."
The funding is part of the more than $1-billion in aid and development support the Liberal government committed as a part of its strategy against the Islamic State, announced in February, 2016.
In addition, Ms. Bibeau said Canada will provide $17.5-million over five years to Iraq to support those affected by conflict, including ex-combatants, and $750,000 over six months to address the immediate needs of internally displaced people in the Kurdistan Region and to ease tensions in the northern part of the country.
Ms. Bibeau also visited Iraq as a part of her trip. During bilateral meetings in Baghdad last week, she said three government ministers expressed support for Canada's plan to appoint its first ambassador to Iraq in nearly 26 years.
"They were asking me the question of when," Ms. Bibeau said. "They knew that we were working on it and they really look forward to our ambassador."
The Globe first reported the government's plan to name an ambassador to Iraq last month. Sources said the government believes the additional Canadian military and development assets in Iraq require more diplomatic and political co-ordination on the ground.
Ms. Bibeau said she does not know when the ambassador will arrive in Baghdad. Canada currently has a chargé d'affaires at its Baghdad mission, which operates out of the British embassy in the Green Zone, an area considered the city's safe haven. Ms. Bibeau said she has not discussed with her colleagues any plans to establish an independent Canadian embassy, adding that it may not make logistical sense to do so.
"From what I've seen, it's not only an embassy as I've seen in many countries, it's a compound. It's very important that we include the residence of the workers from the U.K. embassy, the Canadian embassy; and the World Bank is also located in the same [compound]," Ms. Bibeau said.
"It's almost like a university campus. For security reasons, it's easier to be all together."