For Immediate Release
March 21, 2016
Ottawa, ON — Today, the federal government voted against a motion in the House of Commons to renew the mandate of the Office of Religious Freedom. In addressing the issue, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion confirmed that, while the government will continue to defend and promote religious freedom as a part of its human rights agenda, the Office’s mandate will expire on March 31st.
In response, David J. Cape, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), issued the following statement:
“We are disappointed that the mandate of the Office of Religious Freedom will not be renewed. Operating on a relatively modest budget, the Office established a number of practical initiatives to help protect at-risk communities and strengthen Canada’s role as a leading voice for human rights. We also note that the Office was instrumental in uniting diverse religious communities in Canada – including Jews, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, among others – to work together as partners in this vital cause.
“Enshrined as a fundamental freedom in the Charter, freedom of religion is a core Canadian value and a universal human right. While persecution overseas takes various forms, millions of people from vulnerable religious communities face unique and growing threats. Among many examples, this terrible reality is currently illustrated by the plight of Christian minorities in large parts of the world – a tragedy that must be addressed by the international community.
“In light of the gravity of this challenge and the laudable record of the Office of Religious Freedom, we encourage the government to reconsider its decision. At the same time, we are pleased to note that Minister Dion affirmed in strong terms that the government remains committed to advocating for religious freedom abroad, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the Minister’s office on this important file in the coming days.”
As the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada, CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada by advancing the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.
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