2014 file photo of Andrew Bennett as Canada's first ambassador for Religious Freedom. Photo by Michael Swan

Former religious freedom ambassador embarks on new Cardus role

  • May 25, 2016

OTTAWA – Canadians must be willing to reject a growing perception that religion is a strictly private matter and instead be unafraid to publicly affirm their faith, said Canada’s former Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett.

Speaking May 19 at the launch of Faith in Canada 150, he also urged the rejection of the “post-Enlightenment myth” that religious belief and practices are private matters “best kept out of the public realm.”

“This is historically inaccurate,” he said. “It is theologically wrong. And, above all, it robs from our fellow citizens the ability to actively participate in what can be tens of thousands of conversations, encounters, friendships and transformative actions that will strengthen our country.”

Bennett’s three-year term as Religious Fresedom Ambassador ended in late March but he is staying on with Global Affairs Canada until June to help with the transition to the new Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, headed by Richard Arbeiter as Director General.

Bennett has taken on a volunteer role with the Cardus as a senior fellow and Chair of the Cabinet of Canadians for the think tank’s Faith in Canada 150 program. He’ll oversee an ambitious national project that aims to tell the faith stories of Canada, host events and celebrations across the country, and build a network of faith leaders across Canada.

“As we launch Faith in Canada 150 let us reaffirm the centrality of religious faith in Canadian history and in the lives of so many Canadians today,” Bennett said.

Bennett affirmed the right of religious believers to speak up “honestly and out of deep respect for our often profoundly different beliefs.” He pointed to the professions of variety of faiths, Christian and non-Christian that have contributed to Canadian society through education, healthcare and helping the poor.

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