Liberals’ replacement for Office of Religious Freedom will promote broader range of rights | National Post
2016/05/19 Leave a comment
Less new than meets the eye and unclear regarding resources(there was an existing Human Rights Division with 14 people) so it may be more repackaging and reorientation:
The Liberals have unveiled a long-awaited replacement for the Office of Religious Freedom, which will now include championing the rights of indigenous peoples abroad.
Canada has a “duty” to speak up for and help indigenous peoples around the world who may be struggling for their rights, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said in an exclusive interview to mark the launch of the new Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion on Tuesday.
“If we are improving, as we hope, the situation of indigenous people in Canada, we have the duty to try to do the same around the world,” Dion said from Vienna. “The situation of indigenous people around the world is worrying. There is a lot of room for improvement, to say the least.”
The emphasis on indigenous rights creates a potential conflict with Canada’s commercial interests, especially in Latin America and Southeast Asia where local populations have opposed Canadian mining operations. But Dion said he believed most Canadian mining companies would welcome the new approach.
“I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the mining industry of Canada will welcome this focus and will say it’s exactly what they want,” he said. “In order to do good business, you have to have the support of the populations. … So they will be willing to work with this office, I’m sure.”
The new office effectively replaces the Office of Religious Freedom, which the Conservatives established in 2013. Representatives from some faith groups had urged the Liberals to keep the religious freedom office open but the government let its funding expire in March.
Dion described the new office as a “pooling” of the former Office of Religious Freedom’s resources with Global Affairs Canada’s work on human rights promotion. He said the new office will have a budget of $15 million — three times that of the religious freedom office.
Dion said it was a “mistake” to “isolate” freedom of religion from Canada’s broader human rights efforts. The new office’s mandate will include promoting religious freedom, and an official will be in charge of interacting with faith groups and other stakeholders. But the work will fall under the broader rubric of inclusion.
“Inclusion is not only the freedom of religion,” Dion said. “It could be sexual exclusion. It may be political exclusion. So inclusion includes freedom of religion with other aspects of our society. Pluralism. Rights of women. Rights of refugees.”