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Canada's Green Party Wants to Stunt the World's Population

Amid a closely-fought Canadian federal election campaign that sees the Greens fighting to stay relevant, their policies are facing increased scrutiny.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Invoking Jesus, the official policy for Canada's Green Party commits to pushing for "reduced fertility" worldwide.

That fact, which has been buried for years in an encyclopedic policy book for Canada's fifth-place party, is just the latest in a long list of controversial policy goals adopted by the environmentally-minded party, led by long-time leader Elizabeth May.

Now, amid a closely-fought federal election campaign that sees the Greens fighting to stay relevant, May's policies are facing increased scrutiny.


May, speaking to VICE News, says her party policy isn't controversial, it's responsible.

"How could any party concerned with global issues and survival not take an interest in population pressures?" she said in a phone interview from Toronto. "Is global survival an end that is somehow controversial? We need to have a stabilization of global population."

May, who has led the Greens since 2006 and has served as Member of Parliament for the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands since 2011, already drew criticism in July for signing a petition calling for Western countries to adopt an official two-child policy.

The Green's program opens by noting that "when the historical Jesus of Nazareth was born, he was one of an estimated 200 million people on the planet," and warning that, at six billion people, the earth began "outrunning its water supply."? Now, at seven billion, the problem is becoming even worse.

The document, which dates back to at least 2014, calls on Canada to do more to limit the world's population growth. "We only have one earth. Exceeding it has dire consequences," it cautions.

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The policy did not make it into the party's official election platform, which was unveiled this week and includes pledges to scrap tuition for universities and colleges, eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and pour money into rail and urban transit. May says that it was simply a matter of choosing priorities to focus on during the campaign, and in the House of Commons.


The policy document argues that "issues of migration, trade, equity, militarism and environmental degradation are all important factors in the question of whether there are too many humans."

The document continues that past population control efforts have "been ineffective and unacceptable. Some have violated basic human rights. Forced sterilizations of women are but one example of the worst kind of inhumane population policies."

Instead, Green Party legislators will work to "align our [overseas development assistance] to Africa with population and climate goals."

May says the Greens would adopt an approach to reducing fertility that would still respect human rights. They'd seek to educate women and girls, improve health care, and expand access to birth control and abortion — goals, May says, the Greens already support — to help stunt the world's population growth.

VICE News asked the Green Party leader if actively trying to reduce the fertility of women in the developing world is tantamount to social engineering.

"If that's social engineering," May says, "I think you've twisted my meaning and intention out of all recognition."

She adds that the policy is "very sound empirically" and that "we don't have a policy on population control. We have a policy on population."

May is largely leaning on a report from the United Nations that projected the world's population could hit 11 billion by the end of the century, and theorized that nine billion is the maximum capacity that the earth could handle.


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That projection was rejected by the Deutsche Bank, which did its own projection, and found that the world's population was already beginning to level off, and would peak by the middle of the century at below nine billion.

Sanjeev Sanyal, Global Strategist for Deutsche Bank, told the BBC in 2013 that most countries worldwide are actually seeing declining population growth, and argued that developing countries will not continue to grow forever.

"Surely Nigerians will recognise at some points that things are getting crowded and stop having so many babies?" Sanyal said.

But it's not just about developing countries. The policy reads that the Greens would "recognize that the high level of per capita resource consumption in developed countries makes the impact of their populations much more serious."

It does not, however, make specific recommendations on what Canada should do to reach that goal.

May says that the Greens aren't planning any child-limiting policies at home. "It's not a policy that really applies to Canada," she says.

In July, the right-wing and anti-abortion Life Site news blog revealed that May had signed a petition sent from the Population Institute of Canada, proposing "that all tax credits and government payments be structured so as not to provide additional funding to families with more than two children."

May distanced herself from the resolution, telling Life Site that "it might look like there is an unfeeling dismissiveness towards additional children." She repeated to VICE News that she did not agree with all parts of that petition.

The Green Party has already gotten in trouble for introducing a petition written by the 9/11 truth movement, touting junk science to warn against wi-fi, aggressively arguing that genetically modified foods are harmful to Canadians' health, and a host of other lightly-sourced theories that have at times verged into conspiracy.

Polls put the Green Party at roughly 5 percent nationally, meaning that they may win anywhere between one and three seats out of 338 in the House of Commons.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling