UN Special Rapporteur discusses freedom of religion or belief in Canada

Earlier this week, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, engaged in an online dialogue with several distinguished guests on Canada and the future of religious freedom. The event was hosted by Canadian International Council, a council focused on foreign relations and strengthening Canada’s role in international affairs. With Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom opening soon, this was a timely discussion on Canada’s contribution to the more global discourse on religious freedom and belief.


Bielefeldt’s comments highlighted a growing danger in the “bizarre misconception” that freedom of religion serves as a “natural tool” against LGBTQ rights. He believes clarification needs to take place that starts from a human-rights approach, recognizing freedom of religion or belief and other basic rights as indivisible and interrelated. He noted that while the enjoyments of rights need to be balanced, the right itself to freedom of belief is absolute. With issues arising in Canada that many other countries have not needed to address yet, like children carrying a kirpan, a Sikh ceremonial dagger, to school, Bielefeldt believes we have a lot of guidance to offer the world.

Recent allegations from the Algerian prime minister that Canadian Islamists were involved in a terrorist attack raises the eternal question about the balance struck within our own nation of a tolerant value system. It will be interesting to see how an office tasked with the promotion and protection of freedom of religion and belief affects our domestic dynamic and international influence. A news release for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s trip to London for an international meeting on religious freedom this week, suggests it will open “in early 2013”.

Panel’s full discussion: http://opencanada.org/features/the-think-tank/video/discussing-freedom-of-religion-or-belief/

Informative background article for the discussion: http://opencanada.org/features/the-think-tank/comments/canada-and-the-future-of-religious-freedom/

For more information on Canada’s “Hard-Won Religious Freedom”:  http://www.cardus.ca/blog/2013/01/hard-won-religious-freedom?