Bishop Douglas Crosby said equating women's rights with abortion was 'erroneous, confusing and misguided'

The head of the Canadian bishops’ conference has criticised Canada’s foreign minister for saying that abortion rights are a cornerstone of the nation’s foreign policy.

In a speech to the Canadian House of Commons, foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland equated women’s rights with a right to abortion and claimed these rights “are at the core of Canadian foreign policy”.

In a letter to the foreign minister, Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed “profound concern” over the speech, denouncing it as “erroneous, confusing and misguided”.

Bishop Crosby disagreed that abortion was “at the core” of Canada’s foreign policy, which has focused on “international peace, just order, free trade, foreign aid and global stability”.

“While the Catholic bishops of Canada share your concern for advancing the respect and dignity of women – an issue to which the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholics give great importance – we feel the need to point out, with all due respect, that your statement above is erroneous, confusing and misguided,” he wrote.

The bishop said that many important women’s issues were being “passed over in silence”.

“They include Canada’s economic partnerships with countries in which female infants are murdered for not being male; those in which women earn less than men for the same job or where they do not enjoy the same privileges under the law, including the right to education or protection from rape, physical violence, and other forms of abuse.

“Canadians recognise these as grave violations of human rights – indeed, as heinous crimes in certain instances – far more readily and unanimously than opposition to abortion and artificial contraception,” Bishop Crosby wrote.

He emphasised that for many people of all religions and none, “the unborn child is regarded as a human being created by God and worthy of life and love”.