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Canada’s moral obligation to pay foreign aid

Canada should spend money on people in Canada. But they absolutely should be spending money on countries elsewhere.

Canada’s recent budget has the federal government spending billions of dollars in international aid.

For example, Ottawa plans to spend $1.4 billion over 5 years on “international assistance to support developing countries and vulnerable populations [as they] respond to [the COVID-19] crisis and to meet growing humanitarian needs around the world.”

They announced $165 million over the next year to “provide international humanitarian assistance to save lives and alleviate suffering resulting from conflicts, food insecurity, and other crises in developing countries.”

The country has committed an extra $1 billion to its loan commitment to the IMF’s “Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, which provides interest-free loans to low-income countries.” Plus, it has provided over $70 million over the past year in “temporary debt service relief for the poorest countries through the G20 and Paris Club agreed Debt Service Suspension Initiative.”

Often, when some people hear of Canada spending money overseas—particularly on humanitarian efforts—they respond that Canada should spend money at home first. Never mind the fact that the federal government spends far more on domestic initiatives than it does on international ones.

Even so, here’s the thing: Canada has an obligation to contribute to international humanitarian aid efforts.

You see, much of the need for humanitarian aid is a result of the actions of Western nations, like Canada.

Companies from Western countries come into resource-rich countries in the Global South and extract their natural resources and send the profits overseas.

Suncor, for example, has offshoring drilling rigs near Libya, Syria, and Trinidad and Tobago. The BC-based mining giant Teck Resources operates in Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

And while these companies may employ workers in these locations, not all the resources extracted in these locations remain there—neither does all the revenue generated in these locations.

In exchange for exporting valuable resources and worker-generated revenue out of these countries, Canada imports their unwanted “resources”.

For example, it ships significant amounts of its garbage to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Second-hand clothing companies bale any clothing they deem unsellable here to overseas countries, where free clothing disrupts local economies, as artisans and merchants find it difficult to sell their products in markets flooded with free or cheap fast fashion castoffs.

Western countries like Canada built their modern economies on burning cheap fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, and gasoline. And now that we’ve built enough wealth and no longer rely on these fuels as primary drivers of the economy, we feel comfortable in reducing not only emissions within our own country but worldwide as well.

The problem, however, is that these emissions restrictions hinder the ability of emerging economies to build to the same capacity.

And the list goes on.

While Canada certainly has a responsibility to spend money domestically, and to make sure people who live here are taken care of, it also has a moral obligation to care for those who live elsewhere.

And not just because it’s a nice thing to do, but because we’re partially responsible for the challenges these countries face.

By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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