Let’s put aside for a moment that IMHO, this is an enormous waste of money in an effort by the Harperites to appease religious groups of all stripes, I have a few direct questions.
- What about atheists? Will the Office monitors rights violations of non-believers? Atheists live in fear in many Islamic countries. Will they be given the same attention as the persecuted Christians in those parts of the world?
- Will this increased scrutiny on religious freedom take away attention from other rights abuses around the world and here in Canada? Will religious freedom trump women’s rights? How about the rights of children and the enlistment of young kids into militias – are these violations OK if the militia is religion-based?
- Will the religious right set the agenda of this Office? Judging by the lineup of support by prominent members of these groups, this may indeed be the case.
A key part of the ambassador’s job should be to help formulate immigration policy, argued Don Hutchinson, vice-president and legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
“It’s very important for us as a nation to have an understanding of religion and the communities where we are establishing relationships [in order] to accept refugees and other immigrants,” explained Mr. Hutchinson, who advised the government on the creation of an office of religious freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
4. Finally, is protection of religious freedom the new cornerstone of Canada’s foreign policy? Not democracy-building? What happened to that?