Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Urgent Action Alert to Prime Minister Stephen Harper – Better World Health is Priority for G8/G20

June 24, 2010


Almost lost in the talk about the billion dollar security boondoggle and impending traffic chaos is what the G8 and G20 Summits are really all about and, more importantly, what they can achieve.

On June 25-26, the Group of Eight (G8) countries will be meeting at a resort near Huntsville, Ontario. This meeting will include Canada, U.S., Japan, Italy, France, Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom. These counties meet once a year to discuss global economic issues, the environment and international security.

Immediately afterwards, on June 26-27, the Group of Twenty (G20) countries is meeting in Toronto. This group includes many of the world’s emerging economies and is responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s economic output.  [i] As such, the G20 is the key to ensuring global sustainable economic growth and development and has replaced the G8 as the primary vehicle for  economic cooperation.  

As the host of the G8 and G20 summits, chair of the G8 and co-chair of the G20, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an exceptional opportunity to take the lead on issues related to poverty, human rights, the environment and social justice. He will need to reverse the trend of recent years that has seen Canada drop two places behind the United Kingdom and Japan in actual allocation of new resources to fulfill commitments made at the 2009 G8 meeting.

Most RNs will not question that ensuring security for the world’s leaders is important. But the real issue is not the cost of a Muskoka-proportioned lake in a downtown Toronto convention facility or the need for ear-splitting sound cannons – ridiculous though they may be as part of an outrageously high $1 billion security bill. These are distractions from the real issues. When the leaders return home after two or three short days of face-time with their fellow heads of state, the question will be whether they have made meaningful progress to creating the conditions that improve health, including access to health care, a cleaner environment, economic growth and a brighter future for our children.

For nurses, and for world leaders, it’s a question of priorities. What issues make the agenda and which ones are brushed under the carpet and must wait another year?


This is where Prime Minister Harper needs to hear from you. As a registered nurse, you know what will make a difference. If they have more than a billion dollars to build a steel fence for three short days of meetings, then they have money for real priorities to improve the lives of people. Tell Prime Minister Harper your advice for the G8 and G20 leaders. What results do you want to see come out of these meetings? How would you spend one billion dollars?

Here are some examples of what you could buy for $1 billion:

  • Double the $500 million that International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda recently announced for international aid;
  • Invest $1.4 billion over five years (about $300 million a year) in maternal health as requested by the International Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.[ii]
  • Take maternal health and reproductive health seriously. In 2000, all United Nations member states committed to meet eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. These MDGs set hard targets to reduce poverty and hunger, provide universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and create a global partnership for development. MDG number five pledges to improve maternal health. Yet, with only five years to go before the 2015 target, more than 500,000 women still die every hear in childbirth or during pregnancy, 99 per cent of whom live in developing countries.[iii] It’s the millennium development goal that has seen the least progress among all the goals. While the region with the highest level of maternal mortality is sub-Saharan Africa, one can look much closer to home: the infant death rate in Canadian Aboriginal communities is 1.5 times higher than the overall Canadian rate. [iv]Leadership is needed to put all millennium development goals back on track, to reduce maternal mortality and improve access to sexual and reproductive health services. One billion dollars – in new investment, not at the expense of other essential programs - would be a good start to putting our money where our mouth is.
  • Tackle Global Poverty. While recent increases in development assistance have achieved some measurable results, aid is only part of the solution. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, 70 per cent are women and girls. Systemic gender discrimination continues to be a major cause of poverty. Issues of global food insecurity, persistent lack of access to HIV services to the people who need it the most, and the 900 million people who currently have no access to safe and clean drinking water – these are the issues that G20 leaders should be addressing.
  • Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support. At the 2005 G8 Summit, governments promised to “develop and implement a package for HIV prevention, treatment and care, with the aim of coming as close as possible to universal access to treatment for all those who need it by 2010”. With only days to go until the G8 and G20 Summits, this commitment has not yet been kept. At least two million people died of AIDS-related illness in 2008 and a further 2.7 million were newly infected. More than 30 million people live with HIV today. World-wide, AIDS is the number one cause of death among women in their reproductive years.[v] Prevalence is especially high in Africa where there is a dangerous shortage of health professionals and continuing lack of access to generic antiretrovirals. Many AIDS deaths  are preventable; what is required is for the G8/G20 countries to commit to a binding, costed plan to deliver on their commitment to ensure universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care for those in need.
  • Environmental sustainability, climate change, ending dependence on oil. Certainly the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should serve as a wake-up call to all G8 and G20 leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has refused to acknowledge until now the ticking time bomb of global warming, Arctic drilling for oil, and the Alberta tar sands. Like climate change, the immediate impacts of the BP oil disaster will target the poorest and most vulnerable people. While the Group of 20 countries are directly responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Harper is unlikely to spend significant time at the G8/G20 Summits discussing the folly of our continuing dependence on fossil fuels and the need to get us back on track to meeting climate change targets.[vi] Prime Minister Harper needs to hear that investing in environmental sustainability is a priority for you and your family.


  1. Email the letter below to Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

  1. Please share this action alert with your colleagues, friends and family and ask them to write as well.


Below is the email that will be sent automatically to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. You can use this general version or insert your own priorities and examples. You are also encouraged to add examples from your professional and personal lives to illustrate why this issue is important to you.



For More Information:

1. On Millenium Development Goal 5 – Improve Maternal Health http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/maternal.shtml



2. On the issues at the G8 Summit in Huntsville, Ontario, June 25-26, 2010:

RNAO G8/G20 link




3. On the issues at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Ontario, June 26-27, 2010:

RNAO G8/G20 link






5. On People’s Summit events and activities June 21-27, 2010:


6. On how you can join a peaceful activity or attend a public rally with other RNAO members and friends. If you are interested in getting more information on RNAO G8/G20 activities, please visit this link:




i G20 countries include: Canada, US, Japan, Italy, France, Russia, Germany, United

Kingdom, Iran, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia,

China, Indonesia, Turkey and the European Union.

ii Toronto Star. (May 28, 2010). “G20 Security Tab: What Else Could $1B buy?”

iii United Nations Development Program 2007, http://www.mdgmonitor.org/goal5.cfm

iv Health Canada. Healthy Canadians, A Federal Report on Comparable Health 

Indicators, 2002. Retrieved June 10, 2010, from:


v Stephen Lewis, Chair of Stephen Lewis Foundation. (Dec. 22, 2009).


vi Toronto Star (June 12, 2010). “How to get climate change on the G20 agenda”