WED FORUM: Understanding Religious Freedom Today

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Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom

On February 19, 2013, Canada’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom within Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Its mandate is to promote and defend freedom of religion in the world as a key foreign policy priority of the Government of Canada.

In advancing freedom of religion, the Office of Religious Freedom will draw upon the Canadian experience of pluralism that is grounded in Canada’s multicultural and multi-faith society. Promoting and defending freedom of religion is a core element of Canada’s principled foreign policy based on respect for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The Office of Religious Freedom focuses on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming relating to protecting and advocating on behalf of religious communities under threat no matter which faith they profess. The Office opposes religious hatred and intolerance and promotes the values of pluralism and inclusive democratic development abroad. Activities are centred on countries or situations where there is evidence of violations of the right to freedom of religion, violations that could include violence, hatred, and systemic discrimination.

Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom
kMmOK6jDr. Andrew P. W. Bennett was named on by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Canada’s first Ambassador for Religious Freedom on February 19, 2013. Ambassador Bennett heads the Office of Religious Freedom. Dr. Bennett is a public servant and academic with an extensive educational background in history, political science, and religious studies. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History (1st Class Honours) from Dalhousie University in 1995, a Master of Arts in History from McGill University in 1997, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Edinburgh in 2002. Dr. Bennett is a leader in his community, actively involved with Augustine College in Ottawa as volunteer Dean and as Professor of the History of Christianity. He is also a religious leader in his capacity as Subdeacon and Cantor with both the Holy Cross Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy and St. John the Baptist Ukrainian-Catholic Shrine, both in Ottawa.

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