Paris: Should religion be a tool of Canadian foreign policy?

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19 February, 2012
By: Erna Paris
Award-winning author, journalist, and historian

Religion is already a tool of Stephen Harper’s foreign and domestic policies, with as yet unknown results. With the exception of Mackenzie King’s anti-Semitic policies towards Jewish refugees from the Nazis, no Canadian government has so overtly used religion as wedge politics. Harper has already cut funding to human rights organizations that promoted equitable rights abroad. He favours Israel in ways that belie Canada’s historically balanced policies. He also relies on fundamentalist Christian electors who will appreciate this new gesture.

Although clothed in benign rhetoric, the planned Office of Religious Freedom sends a wrong-headed message about Canada’s priorities. To succeed, multi-religious, immigrant-based countries must operate in an entirely secular space, at home and abroad. For example, as Canada opened to immigration in the post-war years, it simultaneously created an umbrella of civic culture, equality, and secular law to protect its diverse citizenry. Our longstanding reputation for evenness risks being further jeopardized by this emerging Office of meddling intervention.

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