Canada names minister for religious freedom

February 28, 2013

After nearly two years of delay, Canada has finally named its ambassador for the Office of Religious Freedom. At a mosque north of Toronto, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Andrew Bennett to head the office.

“Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread, and they are increasing,” Harper said February 19 at the Ahmadiyya Muslim community center and mosque in Vaughan, Ontario. “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.”

Bennett, a Catholic, is dean of Augus­tine College, a Christian liberal arts college in Ottawa.

Harper first promised to create an Office of Religious Freedom during his 2011 campaign. It will be part of the Foreign Affairs ministry and have an annual budget of $5 million.

“This was a platform commitment, to create an office of religious freedom, to make the protection of religious freedom of vulnerable religious minorities a key pillar of Canadian foreign policy,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who attended the announcement.

Critics have said the office is a misguided attempt to inject religion into foreign policy, and some have expressed concern that it would be biased in favor of Christians.  —RNS