Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly urged countries to uphold women’s rights and abortion access while rooting out sexual violence in a Monday speech to the United Nations General Assembly as the global gathering draws to a close.
Joly summarized Canada’s priorities and concerns in foreign relations, which includes being part of “a global coalition in support of equality” that will “repel these increasing attacks on women’s rights and freedoms,” she told the assembly in French.
“Sexual and reproductive health rights for women and girls are being rolled back or denied in too many countries,” Joly said in English.
“Canada will always stand up for your right to choose.”
Though Joly did not mention the United States in this section of her speech, her comments come after months of backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to ban abortions, with some seeking to prosecute those who help people end their pregnancies in other jurisdictions.
“We will speak up for your rights and dignity. No government, no politics, no judge _ no one can take that away from you,” Joly said, which prompted applause.
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Joly’s remarks instead mentioned women targeted by autocratic governments, such as the Taliban preventing Afghan girls from attending school. She called out Myanmar’s military junta imprisoning female democracy activists and sexually assaulting Rohingya women.
The speech cited Iran’s crackdown on protesters seeking accountability after the death of Mahsa Amini, when morality police arrested her for “unsuitable attire” in allegedly wearing a hijab improperly.
In a news conference on Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is sanctioning dozens of Iranians, including the morality police, as a result.
`We’ve seen Iran disregarding human rights time and time again,” Trudeau said.
“To the women in Iran who are protesting and to those who are supporting them: we stand with you.”
Joly also noted Ukrainian women have been subjected to sexual violence in Russia’s ongoing occupation.
She argued that deliberate policy choices are resulting in rising violence against women, who are excluded from “the negotiating table, the boardroom, the classroom.”
Her speech also echoed themes Trudeau raised last week in New York surrounding climate change and food security.
Joly called out the “abusive” use of veto powers by permanent members of the UN Security Council, such as Russia and China, noting the need to deter countries that are violating human rights.