Posted by Zia H. Shah MD - Twitter: @ZiahShah1
BY LEE BERTHIAUME, POSTMEDIA NEWS
February 15, 2013
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will unveil the government’s long-awaited Office of Religious Freedom and name Canada’s first religious freedom ambassador at a Toronto-area Ahmadiyya Muslim community centre on Tuesday.
The announcement at Tahir Hall in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan will fulfil a two-year-old promise that has seen its fair share of controversy since it was first proposed during the 2011 federal election.
The government has pointed to a growing body of literature linking religious freedom with democratic rights and societal well-being to justify making the safeguarding of religious minorities abroad a key tenet of Canadian foreign policy.
But critics have worried about the government picking and choosing which religions the $20-million office defends, and using the institution as a tool for domestic political gain.
The government has not officially confirmed the prime minister’s presence at Tahir Hall, which was opened by the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim community last July and can hold 800 people.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s spokesman Rick Roth would only say the office “is a priority for our government, and is a part of our principled foreign policy.”
However, numerous organizations have confirmed receiving invitations to the prime minister’s event, which was first reported by Ottawa-based foreign policy newspaper Embassy.
Those interviewed expressed cautious excitement about the religious freedom office’s official launch. Read further.