The Tory platform, unveiled Friday, calls for the creation of special office of “Religious Freedom” within the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa.
The function of the new office would be to “monitor religious freedom around the world, to promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy.”
The new office would ensure that Canada protects “vulnerable religious minorities” abroad and would target them in refugee resettlement, or other programs through the Canadian International Development Agency.
I'm going to disagree with Ignatieff's apparent endorsement of this proposal. Not because I necessarily disagree with the concept of evaluating fundamental freedoms in foreign lands as part of our foreign affairs platform, but because of the longer range implications of this "special office".
First of all, I think for this to be a meaningful part of our foreign affairs platform we need to take steps to ensure that we are talking about all of the fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not just Freedom of Religion. I do not accept the supposition that freedom of religion deserves special status or profile in our foreign affairs.
Second, this is a play to "the base" of extremist religious lobbyists in Canada who have squawked and complained for several years now that their "freedom of religion" at home is being unreasonably constrained by a series of human rights rulings.
I suspect that this "office" will be given a mandate that will oblige it to evaluate the "Freedom of Religion" in foreign lands with respect to Canada's practices. Conveniently, it will have to "measure" freedom of religion in Canada in order to create a meaningful benchmark. You can pretty much bet that the "findings" of said measurement will be used to argue that Canada's Human Rights system is "not adequately safeguarding" religious freedoms - [particularly where "christian" beliefs about sexuality are concerned. Just about all of the cases involve "christians" discriminating against GLBT people]
This "initiative" is actually the HarperCon$ setting up yet another "wedge issue" - in this case, it is intended to be used to begin the process of undermining Canada's human rights law and the agencies that enforce it. The only people who have been squawkingabout this are the fundamentalist religious right wingnuts who seem to believe that it is their right to insist that they be able to project their moral code onto others who do not share their beliefs - and thereby forget the interesting paradox of the very notion of Freedom of Religion - namely that it includes Freedom _from_ Religion as well.