OTTAWA – The Office of Religious Freedom is gone but it has not been entirely forgotten by the government that closed it.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The fate of Andrew Bennett and the Office of Religious Freedom is up in the air as the office was not included in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister. Government silence has advocates for religious freedom worried about where religious freedom stands with the new Prime Minister.

Published in Canada

The Canadian Council of Churches has questions and it has plans. The questions are for the government and its plans are for Canada’s Christians.

As the CCC executive committee elected new officers, including the first Salvation Army president in the Council’s 68-year history, it also trekked to Parliament Hill to ask politicians and bureaucrats about environmental policy and plans for an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

“We went there knowing there are issues on the horizon that we would like to ask questions about and simply learn more about,” said CCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Secretary Bob Dechert expects the Canadian government will soon name  an ambassador to head the Office of Religious Freedom.

Dechert, who has been overseeing consultations for the new office that have been taking place across Canada, told the Second Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom and Governance April 2 the Canadian government is committed to making religious freedom a pillar of foreign policy. He did not announce a date for the office’s establishment, but said it will have an initial budget of $5 million.

Published in Canada

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.

Published in Canada

One of the more baffling events since last May’s federal election has been the emergence of grouchy opposition to the Harper government’s Office of Religious Freedom.

Curiosity dates back to the election campaign itself when the Conservative pledge to create an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade attracted surprisingly little notice, much less alarm.

Published in Peter Stockland

One thing the “great gay divorce crisis of January 2012” has shown is that our government can move fast when it feels a need to get something important done. The same-sex marriage debacle lasted all of about three days and ended with the government assuring all gay couples who married here, but do not reside here, that not only is their marriage valid but they can come here any time to enjoy the weather, curling and get a divorce.

Meantime, the government’s office of religious freedom, promised almost a year ago during the federal election campaign, still sits in limbo with no details being released to the public about what such an office would look like or when it might open.

Published in Guest Columns
January 3, 2012

Religion a core value

The Christmas morning bomb attacks on Nigerian churches that killed dozens of worshippers underscores why the Stephen Harper government cannot act soon enough to establish an Office of Religious Freedom.

Its creation was promised during last spring’s federal election and, under Foreign Minister John Baird, consultations began in October to set parameters for the new department. The Minister has promised details in coming weeks but, as yet, has not announced an opening date for the new office. Horrors like the carnage in Nigeria should spur him to keep this initiative on a government front burner.

Published in Editorial