Federal Office of the Religious Freedoms Established

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By A Correspondent

Canada is recognized globally for its leadership on human rights issues, and takes principled positions to promote Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance throughout the world.

On February 19, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which will be dedicated to promoting freedom of religion or belief around the world.

The appointment of Dr. Andrew Bennett was announced as Ambassador to the Office. The Prime Minister was joined by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation.

“Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing,” said the Prime Minister. “Dr Bennett is a man of principle and deep convictions and he will encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world so all can practice their faith without fear of violence and repression.”

Under Ambassador Bennett’s leadership, the Office – which is now operational – will promote freedom of religion or belief as a Canadian foreign policy priority. The Office will be an important vehicle through which Canada can advance fundamental Canadian values including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.

“Our Government is dedicated to promoting the freedom and prosperity of the people it serves,” added the Prime Minister. We will work with other countries and all people of goodwill, to promote the principles we share.“

A Canada-based ambassador and a team of officials will focus on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming. It will carry out the office’s mandate, which is to:

  • protect, and advocate on behalf of, religious minorities under threat;
  • oppose religious hatred and intolerance; and
  • promote Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance abroad.

Activities will be centred on countries or situations where there is evidence of egregious violations of the right to freedom of religion, violations that could include violence, hatred and systemic discrimination.

In Canada’s view, freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right. Through the Office of Religious Freedom, Canada will continue to work with like-minded partners to speak out against egregious violations of freedom of religion, denounce violence against human-rights defenders and condemn attacks on worshippers and places of worship around the world.

Professor Carment in The Globe and Mail: Religious freedom? This office is about ethnic votes: The appointment of Andrew Bennett, an obscure bureaucrat turned academic from a small religious school in Ottawa, to lead the Office of Religious Freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) is part of the Conservative government’s one-two punch to capture the ethnic-minority vote.

For some time now, the department has toyed with the idea of a “global citizens” agenda, a nascent policy that would see Ottawa tapping into expatriate and diaspora expertise to advance Canadian trade and cultural and development interests overseas….Read more.

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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