January 5, 2012
Canada's government is preparing to install an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs, according to The Globe and Mail. The new office, a campaign promise by Canada's Conservative Party, is expected to be fleshed out in early 2012. Conservative Party leaders say they are committed to making the defense of the right to worship a central objective of Canada's foreign policy, noting that religious persecution has increased around the world in recent years. Their decision to create the office was solidified by the assassination of Pakistani religious freedom activist Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's first minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in the Islamic state's cabinet. Bhatti was killed by militant Islamists just weeks after meeting with Canada's prime minister, and Conservatives said they were impressed by his persistence in fighting religious intolerance amid death threats as well as deeply affected by the reality of such persecution.