The Conservative government will soon announce an Office of Religious Freedom, fulfilling a promise made in the 2011 election campaign. The stated intention of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is to create an organization that will monitor and criticize religious persecution and to promote religious freedom around the world. There is no shortage of persecution in countries as diverse as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia and Mexico, but as is always the case in politics it is important to scrutinize the intent and the fine print of any undertaking. Doing so raises some genuine questions about the wisdom of this idea, a fact that may also explain why the government has been so slow in fulfilling its promise.Read More
Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’
We are approaching an important anniversary in Canada, which doesn’t appear to be getting the same amount of attention as are events to celebrate the War of 1812. It was on July 1, 1962 that publicly administered …Read More
In October 2011, the leaders of about 30 faith communities met in Ottawa to talk about the urgent need to take a stand on climate change as a moral issue. These deliberations were organized by the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches. The faith leaders crafted and released an interfaith call for action in advance of an international conference in Durban, South Africa. They held a news conference, lobbied politicians on Parliament Hill and created a petition that MPs could table in the House of Commons. Recently about 100 people, including Green party leader Elizabeth May and three other MPs, gathered in a meeting room near the Hill for a panel discussion about whether last October’s interfaith call is having an impact.Read More
On May 2, 2011 Canadians held a federal election that provided Stephen Harper and the Conservatives with a majority government. I wrote a piece for my blog at the time reviewing the election through a religious …Read More
Public hearings are occurring for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the northern British Columbia port of Kitimat. There the crude would be loaded onto oil tankers plying the B.C. coastal waterway and sent to China.
There are billions of dollars at stake and the Prime Minister, it appears, will not tolerate anything but a swift and affirmative decision for the project. Various government ministers have, in effect, labelled those who raise concerns as “radical environmentalists” and enemies of the state who are financed from abroad. The government signalled in its recent budget that it will have the Canada Revenue Agency crack down on charitable organizations considered to be too political. It is no secret that they are taking aim at environmental groups.
David Suzuki has chosen to step down from the board of the foundation that he created so that he can continue speak his mind – and he hopes that the Suzuki Foundation will not become a target of the government. The government has also promised that it will shorten the time that it takes to hold an environmental hearing. This kind of activity by governments is common in most petro states. The amount of money at stake is astronomical and that usually trumps democratic process or environmental concern.Read More
It’s taken awhile but Catholics and their leaders are beginning to protest against draconian cuts made by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The organization, created in the 1960s by Canada’s Catholic bishops, has been a long-time partner in development in development with CIDA – but much less so now. As I reported on March 19, CIDA, which had provided Development and Peace with $44.6 million in the years 2006-11, has slashed that amount by two-thirds, to a total of $14.5 million over the next five years. The organization had been waiting anxiously for 18 months while CIDA Minister Bev Oda came to her conclusions. The bad news finally arrived in February 2012.Read More
Mike Flynn is a frustrated man. He is a former English sector director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). He has more than 25 years of experience with voluntary organizations in the field of international development, social justice and public education. He lives in Montreal. He has responded to my recent blog posting about a decision by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to cut CCODP off at the knees. The organization waited anxiously for months, only to learn recently that its funding from CIDA will be chopped by two-thirds in the coming five years. CIDA had provided $44.6 million in the years 2006-11 for CCODP projects with partners in 30 of the world’s poorest countries. CIDA has decided to shave that amount to a much-reduced $14.5 million over the next five years, a catastrophic loss of $30 million.Read More
Canada’s foreign affairs minister was talking through his hat recently in Israel. John Baird was on a state visit and repeated at every opportunity that, “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada.” Then he would recount his story about how, as a young Parliamentary assistant working in the office of the Conservative foreign affairs minister in the 1990s, he could not stay quiet during the daily briefings about Israel. “I took a pad of paper and drew a white hat on one side and a black hat on the other. Under the white hat, I wrote ‘Israel’ and under the black, ‘Hezbollah.’” This recreated story, like much of what Minister Baird says, smacks of theatre but lacks the ring of authenticity. But obviously he believes it will play well back at home, where he hopes that the Harper government will be able to rewrite the traditional playbook on Canada’s role as an honest broker in Middle East diplomacy.Read More