Monday, 10 September 2007

Matt Damon criticizes Harper on African aid stance

aid stance


Updated Mon. Sep. 10 2007 10:58 AM ET


Canada AM


Hollywood actor Matt Damon has lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his stance on humanitarian aid for Africa.


Echoing the sentiments expressed by musician and activist Bob Geldof expressed after the G8 summit in June, Damon said that Canada was backtracking on earlier promises it had made to assist African countries.


"Harper's not following through on the promises that were made by Canadians in Gleneagles ... originally in 2003 and then made again in 2005," Damon told CTV's Canada AM.


Damon said Harper's position was "incredible" given the fact that Americans view Canadians as "the greatest people" in the world.


"You would never expect that (Canadians) would be lagging in terms of keeping these promises," Damon said.


Damon was speaking in Toronto while he was in the city to host the One X One Gala on Sunday for the second consecutive year -- a decision that he said was a "no-brainer."


The event, which has occurred during the Toronto International Film Festival for the past three years, raises money for domestic and global children's charities. The 2006 gala raised more than $3.5 million and the foundation.


Since last year's event, Damon said the organization raised over $2 million for his clean-water initiative H2O Africa. Additionally, the charity was able to fund a Millennium Village in Timbuktu in collaboration with last year's gala keynote speaker, economic adviser Jeffrey Sachs. Millennium Villages are projects created to help rural African communities emerge from conditions of extreme poverty.


"It's been a really great year for us," Damon said. "We were excited to tell everybody how their money was spent and try to raise more."


The gala recognized many people for their efforts to fight child poverty and suffering. Among the honorees was actor Richard Gere; supermodel Petra Nemcova; Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York; and national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine.


The event also featured performances by musicians Shakira and Wyclef Jean.


Jean provided music for "Running the Sahara," a documentary executive produced and narrated by Damon that was screened in Toronto on Saturday.'


The documentary features runners -- including Canadian Ray Zahab -- who trekked nearly 7,000 kilometres across the Saharan desert, in an attempt to bring attention to H2O Africa.


"The issues of extreme poverty in Africa are incredibly important," Damon said. "There are not only issues that we can solve today, but they are things that if we don't, they're going to come back to bite us in the behind in generations to come."


With files from The Associated Press



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