A group of Canadian religious from different faiths met with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, standing fifth from left, Jan. 18 in Toronto to discuss the proposed Office of Religious Freedom. Among those at the meeting was Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, second from right. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Religious leaders meet with minister to discuss Office of Religious Freedom

  • January 24, 2012

TORONTO - Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird met with a group of religious leaders in Toronto Jan. 18 to continue discussions on the soon-to-launch Office of Religious Freedom.

“The only thing the minister said is that this office is for religious minorities abroad — not at home — and it has a budget of $5 million,” said Imam Abdul Hai Patel, who was in attendance at the consultation.

But there was not a clear answer as to how this is going to be enforced, he said.

Among the representatives from various faith communities was Archbishop Thomas Collins.

“I am glad that there is an Office of Religious Freedom and I hope that it will be effective,” Collins told The Catholic Register via e-mail.

Joseph Lavoie, press secretary for Baird, said the ministry is currently in the final stages of consultation.

“We’re getting very close to choosing a launch date,” said Lavoie.

“It’s early in the new year, I would classify early as the first quarter of the new year. So I would say the next month or two.”

Lavoie said details from the consultation are done with a certain degree of privacy so as to encourage people to speak “freely and open without fear that it may make its way out into the public domain.”

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