Aid proponents worry low public profile of $650-million federal program could expose it to cuts

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy is a massive $650-million Canadian program to help women and girls around the world, and even though it’s the been the centrepiece of the Trudeau government’s overseas development policy for four years, hardly anyone knows about it, according to documents obtained by Global News.

“Recent surveys from the Privy Council Office reveal that only one per cent of Canadians can describe anything about the Feminist International Assistance Policy,” wrote Kevin Chappell, the manager of the public opinion research and evaluation unit at Global Affairs Canada, in a memo submitted on May 7 to the department’s deputy minister, Marta Morgan.

“Also only two per cent of Canadians can mention anything about the Sustainable Development Goals, which they believe are objectives to improve the environment,” Chappell said.

“Communications on development do not appear to resonate in the intended manner with the Canadian public.”

Aid workers and experts in the development community worry that the failure of foreign aid programs like the Feminist International Assistant Policy “to resonate” with the public makes them vulnerable to cuts by politicians who do not see their value.

Indeed, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives campaigned on a platform that included slashing Canada’s overall foreign aid budget by 25 per cent, or about $1.5 billion.

“I, along with many Canadians, was very disappointed to see that,” Karina Gould, the new International Development Minister said in an interview with Global News this month.

“But I also think that …  it speaks volumes to the fact that we need to do a better job of talking about what it is we’re doing.”

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