Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Office of Religious Freedom: Persecuting Tolerance

Canada does not have an Office of Free Speech, it does not have a Bureau of Foreign Public Safety, it does not even have a Multi-Purpose Room of Peace Protection, but with priorities in order, this Conservative government is making sure Canada will soon have an Office of Religious Freedom.

And though religious freedom within our borders is but one example of our tolerance as a nation, imposing religious freedom on other countries is not.

The 2011 Conservative Platform (pdf pg 40) offers the only details, albeit few, of the new government office. In the platform the Conservatives promised to:

"Create a special Office of Religious Freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to monitor religious freedom around the world, to promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy, and to advance policies and programs that support religious freedom."
It is hard for anyone to argue against protecting innocent people, and I am sure no one will, but arguing against a prejudiced selective process on who to protect is a completely different story, especially if protecting does not just entail protection, but financial support, investment, infrastructure and the infringement of other nations sovereignty.

The mandate for the Office of Religious Freedom is not just to act when lives are in danger, and even in those cases protecting religious freedom wouldn't be needed for the justification to act, but this office has a much broader mandate and that is to act even when a certain faith is merely "persecuted" or even just "repressed".

For Canada to intervene in another country's affairs through policies and programs merely because their society does not believe that every religion should be recognized is a Canada that is not tolerant of other nations.

The new Office of Religious Freedom is not an institution to protect innocent people, it is an office to choose who to protect based on which religious denomination, without the slightest consideration of whether we should impose our values on other countries with different societies and cultures.

Of course it is speculation to conclude that certain religious groups will be ignored by this new office and that others will be preferred, excluding the fact certain religious groups have already been ignored in the creation of it.

One thing that cannot be denied is that institutionalizing a global enforcement unit based on our own cultural and political values within the Canadian government is not tolerant, but intolerant. Not just possibly and most likely intolerant to religions that are viewed negatively by this government but intolerant to whole cultures that do not hold similar beliefs in a religiously pluralistic society.

Our new Office of Religious Freedom is not an example of tolerance; it seeks to impose our values, our beliefs on other countries and other societies. The new office seeks to subvert our traditional Canadian quality of our tolerance, replacing tolerance with intolerance.

This change, this creation of a new office is an attempt to end persecution, but instead perpetuates it in its end of Canadian tolerance and beginning of the assumed Canadian claim of moral, cultural, and religious superiority.

The office may attempt to end persecution of religious groups in other countries, but in imposing our values on other nations it will only succeed in persecuting tolerance within our own borders.


Sixth Estate said...

I think you may be over-estimating what this new office is likely to do. It isn't likely to engage in "protection" of anyone. Given both the limitations of Canadian power and (probably) the dubious commitment of the government to this particular project, I can't imagine it doing any more than producing regular survey reports on religious freedom, similar to what other branches and in other governments do with respect to human rights more broadly.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Sixth Estate, I understand your comment, you are suggesting I am over-estimating the office because I am taking the Conservatives at their word, when they will not live up to it.

If you looked at the full entry in the platform in addition to all the other promises of protecting selective "religious freedom" you would also see that the Conservatives have promised to use CIDA to support religious minorities being repressed.

Your comment cannot be proved true or not true, but considering the variety of promises the Conservatives have made in regards to this office's scope, I think there's a strong argument that suggests it will protect, at least to some extent, whoever the Conservatives want to protect.