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An Interview with Dr. Madeline Weld (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/10/23


Dr. Madeline Weld is President of Population Institute Canada. She discusses: family background; factors in birth rate; ethical rightness of human rights; rape as a weapon of war; climate change and overpopulation; authoritarianism and xenophobia; and a rational approach to immigration policy.

Keywords: Madeline Weld, Population Institute Canada, president.

An Interview with Dr. Madeline Weld: President, Population Institute Canada (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of family background, what was it?

Dr. Madeline Weld: My dad was an English Canadian. My mom was originally from Germany. He was working at the military mission in Berlin [and she was one of the local staff], choosing to marry her was unpopular with the Canadian government and his parents [Laughing].

He was a diplomat. We travelled a lot. Up until I was 15, I only spent 4 years in Canada. I lived in Brazil between 4 and 8. I lived in Pakistan from 10 to 12. Then we went to Switzerland and then came back here when I was 15.

As it happens, I was born in the United States. My father was posted in New York when I was born. So, I was born in White Plains, New York. Anyway, my childhood was constantly travelling every few years and returning to Canada after a posting abroad.

From an early age, I was aware of the population issue. I remember in Brazil seeing the Favelas and thinking, “Oh my goodness.” I was also aware, even though I was short of 5 when we went, of the contrast between how I was living, and they were living.

I got interested in population growth and the human population was growing rapidly. I remember thinking in Pakistan at pretty places, “Is this still going to be here? Or will it be deforested?”

That is how I got interested. I always have been aware of it for as long as I can remember [Laughing]. That is my family background [Laughing].

I have a bachelor’s degree from Guelph in Zoology. Then I have a master’s and Ph.D. in Physiology from Louisiana University in Baton Rouge. My most recent work was at Health Canada. I am retired. Yay!

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Weld: [Laughing] I worked for Health Canada for 14 ½ years up until October 2015.

2. Jacobsen: When it comes to demographics and population statistics or analysis, what are some of the top factors that are strongly negatively or positively correlated with the birth rate of a nation or a region of the world?

Weld: Certainly, the education level is strongly correlated. The higher the education level in the country. The more likely women are to have smaller families. That is strongly correlated, so is culture. Because in strongly pro-natalist places, where tribalism is also strong, it is harder to get acceptance of birth control.

I would say correct information too. Part of the problem in Africa is there are incorrect myths of birth control: the harms, causes of infertility, and so on, or that it is a Western plot. It is the case in some Muslim countries and some imams have been saying it. Then we have, in Tanzania, the president, Magufuli, who is pro-natalist. [He said people should have as many children as possible and those who don’t want a lot of children are lazy.]

The other very important thing is availability. Bangladesh got its total fertility rate close to 2.0. It made a concerted government effort to provide family planning for women in the villages in a culturally appropriate way.

Family planning and government-political will to do something are helpful. Thailand, for instance, in 1970 – and the Philippines – had the same poverty level and population. Then Thailand promoted family planning quite vigorously, but not coercively as in China.

The Philippines had the Roman Catholic Church that was against family planning. Thailand’s total fertility rate fell. Now, it is a net exporter of rice; whereas, the Philippines must import rice. Thailand is doing better economically. The work of Jane O’Sullivan in Australia showed something interesting.

Usually, we say, “Birth rates fall when a nation accumulates a certain amount of wealth.” But what happens is the reverse, when the birth rates fall, especially when they have 2-3 children, the wealth of the nations increases. So, individuals become richer.

I think we are putting the cart before the horse when we say, “If we bring wealth to a certain level, we will get a particular birth rate drop.” I think the most pernicious myth is the demographic transition theory. It assumes all nations will go through the same stages Europe went through.

That when wealth increases then the total fertility rate will fall. It has not happened on the continent of Africa, and a few other countries. People need to speak to the benefits of small families. Both to societies and to the environment.

Some have done this in an appropriate and effective way.

3. Jacobsen: On the last point, if someone argues for the ethical rightness of human rights – in other words, the implementation of reproductive rights for women, and if one looks at the economic development of a society as a result of family planning and other things like this, could an easy argument be made that it is both morally and economically the right choice to have family planning and reproductive health rights for women respected and implemented?

Weld: Yes, I agree. Even if the world were not overpopulated, I am in favour of women’s rights, education, and the right to choose to have kids or not. I believe that is a choice best made by a woman and, preferably, her partner [Laughing]. That they raise a family together.

So, I think the choice is important, and the informed choice depends on being independent. Because a lot of women in these surveys say that they are not the ones to decide. It is their husbands or their mother-in-law. They think it is a duty.

It would be educating them that they have their own rights and rights to self-determination, and so on. That is not the case for a lot of them. Right now, we have the resurgent Islamism. That is one of the things there. They become very pro-natalist.

The more fundamentalist the place – regardless of religion, but some more than others – then the more kids they will have; the less choice and economic independence that they will have. So, I would say. It is, as of right now, people have as a right to have as many kids as they want, even if they cannot afford them.

But they will have the consequences. In a lot of these overpopulated places, where there is conflict and women are raped, even unhealthy family planning, no family planning has imposed the horrors that they experience in conflict zones, overpopulated conflict zones like Darfur.

It is partly ethnic. It is partly Jihadi. Even if you have ethnic groups that do not get along, the more there are economic and resource pressures, then the worse they will be.

4. Jacobsen: Also, the trend right into the present with rape as a weapon of war.

Weld: I hate to say it, “Humans are not perfect. They are a mixed bag based on evolution. Maybe, that behaviour is evolutionary, which is not something that I would support from an ideological point of view. But, maybe it is.

It takes a moral code to behave decently if you are the conqueror or the winner of a war – not to abuse the women. I wouldn’t want to be the women in a conquered nation or a conquered tribe [Laughing]. Some call them primitive societies and not technological societies.

In some cases, there is a lot of raiding and kidnapping of a woman, as has been described by Napoleon Chagnon in some South American tribes. But from that perspective, when the population is low and not technologically advanced, the damage is limited, especially environmental damage.

With our population, we can cause a huge amount of damage. The progressive movement ignores the impact of population growth, “It’s Capitalism or overconsumption.” [Laughing] But all these people, the question is, “Do they want to live on a subsistence level or consume some more?”

The Chinese started to develop and eat more meat. Can anyone blame them? They could not before. Once they got the chance, they did. As a human, we should not expect people to behave like ascetics once they have the chance to consume more.

They will continue to consume, not at a minimum level. The more people there are then the less likely they are to be able to attain a higher economic level. Right now, we are depleting the oceans. We are overfishing.

In Africa, most of the cause of deforestation is subsistence farming. They cut down trees, need more fields as the population grows but the fields might not last very long (erosion, depletion of soil).

5. Jacobsen: I agree with you. On that strain of the progressive movement or their arguments, I disagree with them. I agree with the arguments and evidence that population and overpopulation is problem number one.

It relates to another problem of our time, which is climate change.

Weld: China in absolute terms produces more greenhouses gases than the US. It has the population. Some pollution in places in China is unbelievable. They do not have the same environmental protections [Laughing] as we do.

I guess protestors can be more easily dealt with by the Chinese government.

6. Jacobsen: [Laughing] If we look at some of the leaders, some would be the Tanzanian leader. It would be the religious leaders of theocratic states.

It would also be some rising in Western Europe and North America with a certain zeal, tendency toward to authoritarian thinking, and xenophobia with attempts to try and return women to the home.

Weld: What is happening in Europe now, and starting to happen in Canada, there is too much immigration before integration; the population is not happy with it, with some of the cultural things happening. They are starting to react.

With the massive immigration in Australia, in Britain, in the US, it does not benefit the people economically. We do not need this amount of immigration from an economic perspective. It benefits developers. It benefits bankers who get more mortgages. It benefits some businesses who get cheap labour. They have strong political influence.

Also, politicians want the ethnic vote. One way to do it through more immigration. It is what Mulroney’s Immigration Minister, Barbara Jean McDougall, did when she vastly increased the amount of immigration coming to Canada to a minimum of 250,000 per year.

Every government has done this. (Justin) Trudeau upped it. Finance Minister Bill Morneau pointed out young people face a job insecurity problem. If young people are having trouble and immigrants are too, why bring in vastly more? There is no justification for doing this.

Immigration has not lowered the average age. Because we bring in such a large number of immigrants (including parents in the family reunification category). This has been shown by several studies and known for a long time. But the issue of “our aging population” is continually brought up as an argument for more immigration.

If immigrants cannot get a decent job, and get more in public services than they pay back in government taxes, and two mainstream economists estimated this at $30 billion per year, how are they going to pay our pensions?

We have Canada’s policy of mass migration benefitting a few and the costs are borne by all. They include more congestion, more smog in cities, lost time in traffic, and so on.

7. Jacobsen: What would be a rational approach to immigration policy for societies that already have a lot of infrastructures?

Weld: Our infrastructure is under stress. You can see that in big cities including Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa. I can see the quality of the roads going down. We keep increasing the population. But we need to put more into infrastructure because they are being used more.

There is a lot of pressure on infrastructure. We should have balanced migration. There is no reason that we should be constantly increasing the population. When is it going to be enough, when we have 1.3 billion like China? The argument about big space is bogus. Because much of Canada is chilly and mostly rock like the Canadian Shield.

We should be realistic and incorporate ecological considerations. We should help people where we are. Whenever we bring an immigrant to Canada, we spend a lot of money on that person; we could spend more on people in place, including refugees – help them where they are and help them return to cultures more familiar to them.

Basically, we are finding all excuses to increase the population. The Prime Minister says, “We are strong because of diversity.” No sociological studies support that. In fact, they show there is less cohesion in mixed neighbourhoods.

Robert Putnam’s study (E Pluribus Unum, 2007) found that. Putnam is liberal. He was dismayed by his findings. He could not find confounding factors that changed his results. Whatever he did, his conclusions were the same.

There is no need to increase our population. We should support countries – not Tanzania – that are trying to implement rational family planning policies.

Population control has become a dirty phrase. Norman Borlaug, who launched the Green Revolution, which saved India from starvation that Paul Ehrlich predicted, said the problem of hunger will not be won until the people working for food production and those working for population control work together.

He recognized that a continually growing population will run out of food. We are turning Earth into a feedlot for humanity, in Paul Ehrlich’s words. I think it is what we are doing. We are cutting down trees and making forests into fields.

Everything for human consumption. Even green energy, like these miles of solar panels. That is not a place where birds can nest, or Cariboo can run.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] President, Population Institute Canada.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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