Montreal Gazette

Canada urged to champion girls’ education at G7

Asks to focus on girls’ schooling as head of G7


• Interim Conservati­ve leader Rona Ambrose wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to answer Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai’s call to put advancing girls’ education at the heart of Canada’s turn at the helm of the G7.

Ambrose met with the 19-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and newly minted honorary Canadian citizen Wednesday after she used a speech to Parliament to charm and challenge Canadians to do more for girls’ education.

“The world needs leadership based on serving humanity — not based on how many weapons you have. Canada can take that lead,” Yousafzai said.

She urged the government to make the issue the central initiative of next year’s G7 presidency, and also to host the replenishm­ent conference of the Global Partnershi­p for Education, a multilater­al organizati­on that has received close to $200 million in Canadian funding since 2007.

“I am asking that your government answer Malala’s call,” Ambrose writes in a letter to Trudeau released Thursday.

Ambrose was the Conservati­ve status of women minister when Canada last hosted the G7, where the government’s maternal, newborn and child health project — an effort that become known as the Muskoka initiative — was the centrepiec­e.

“Malala asked us to seize every opportunit­y for girls’ education over the next year,” she writes. “My party and I stand with Malala, and I hope you agree with me in making girls’ education Canada’s central legacy project for the G7 presidency.”

Trudeau met with Yousafzai after her speech as well, saying he was inspired by her words and looks forward to renewing Canada’s efforts to have a positive impact on the world.

The Liberals are preparing to announce a new internatio­nal aid policy, with women and girls expected as a major focus. Canadian internatio­nal assistance to the education sector in 201516 was approximat­ely $377 million, down from $457 million the year before, government reports show.

Yousafzai spoke of the benefits that flow from increased access to education for girls, but next door to her home country of Pakistan, whether internatio­nal aid dollars for education are achieving those kinds of results is under investigat­ion.

Global Affairs Canada officials say they are still looking into the possibilit­y that Canadian dollars put into a World Bank program to increase girls’ access to education in Afghanista­n may have disappeare­d into the pockets of corrupt officials.

Last December, Afghanista­n’s education minister told the country’s news media that while the previous government said 11 million kids were in school, it appeared only six million had been enrolled.

The schools and their teachers are funded through a World Bank program called the Education Quality Improvemen­t Project, to which Canada has donated more than $117.6 million since 2006.

“Since these allegation­s were made, Canada has engaged with partners, including the World Bank, which is assessing the validity of the informatio­n and whether fraud has occurred,” Brittany Venhola-Fletcher, a spokespers­on for Global Affairs Canada, said in an email.

“Canada is also following up on these allegation­s directly with the Afghan Ministry of Education. Further actions will be determined following the results of these assessment­s.”

Earlier this month, John Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanista­n reconstruc­tion, met with foreign affairs officials as part of a trip to Canada organized by the University of Ottawa.

Sopko continues to investigat­e the so-called ghost schools issue; a review of schools in Balkh province released in March found while officials reported an enrolment of 2,461 at the 26 schools inspected, only about 30 per cent were observed attending at the time of inspection.

He said he had frank conversati­ons with Canadians about ongoing investigat­ions into schools and other projects, and offered the support of his office.

 ?? ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Interim Conservati­ve leader Rona Ambrose speaks with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai during her visit to Parliament Hill on Wednesday.
ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS Interim Conservati­ve leader Rona Ambrose speaks with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai during her visit to Parliament Hill on Wednesday.

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