April 14, 2013
Toronto, Ontario — Protecting and promoting the rights of vulnerable groups is a priority for Canada. The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, affirmed this priority and delivered remarks today at an event on religious freedom hosted by One Free World International, an international human rights organization.
"Canada is committed to protecting and promoting religious freedom and has made this an important part of our foreign policy and international development work," said Minister Fantino. "The reality is that excluded groups, including religious minorities, are often the most vulnerable in society."
Canada supports various international commissions and national institutions that protect and promote human rights, including the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Peru's Office of the Ombudsman, and the Organization of American States. Canada also works with governments and civil society organizations to protect and promote the human rights of the most vulnerable and support democratic development.
Through the efforts of the newly established Office of Religious Freedom, and Canada's network of missions abroad, Canada will continue to work with international partners to promote respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as advance Canadian values of diversity and tolerance around the world.
"There is no right more fundamental to human dignity and to truly free and inclusive societies than freedom of religion. With the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom, the world is looking to Canada as a leader in the promotion of minority rights," said Rev. Majed El Shafie, President and Founder of One Free World International. "Events such as this one are critical to encourage both the Canadian government and the Canadian public not to ‘look the other way' when a minority is denied the most basic human rights. When one minority community is persecuted, we are all diminished."
Freedom of religion is enshrined in a number of key international human rights instruments, which include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Economic Action Plan 2013 reaffirms Canada's commitment to international development assistance including support for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As announced in EAP2013, the Harper Government will enshrine the responsibilities of the Minister and the priority of international development and humanitarian assistance, for the first time ever, into law. The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will enhance coordination of international assistance with broader Canadian values and objectives.
For more information, please visit Canada's Office of Religious Freedom.
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For more information, media should contact:
Daniel Bezalel Richardsen
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation