Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Harper pledges to create watchdog office for global religious freedom

In this file photo, Stephen Harper tours a Coptic Christian Church in Mississauga, Ont., with Fathers Pishoy Wasfy, left, and Angelos Saad on January 13, 2011.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press/Mike Cassese/Reuters

Stephen Harper is dangling a promise to create an office within Canada's foreign affairs department to act as a watchdog for religious freedom around the world, a measure the Conservatives hope will win favour in immigrant communities.

The Conservative Leader, who is betting on winning more votes from new Canadians, made the announcement at a Coptic Christian community centre in the Greater Toronto Area Saturday.

He praised Coptic Christians in his announcement Saturday.

Story continues below advertisement

"Canada is fortunate to have men and women of such courage as you," he told the crowd.

"The spirit you have shown in standing up for freedom in your own lives should inspire all Canadians."

The pledge would cost $5-million a year and create a bureau called the Office of Religious Freedom. The Tories say this would monitor treatment of believers worldwide, "promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy.

No religious minorities are named in the promise, but Coptic Christians, under attack in Egypt, are surely at the top of the list.

Perhaps the biggest concentration of Coptics in Canada is in Mississauga, including the riding of Mississauga-Erindale, which Conservative Bob Dechert won by just 397 votes in 2008.

Mr. Harper said Canada is fortunate in that belief is not persecuted here.

"While are thankful to live in a country that spares us such tests, we must not let our comfort be an excuse to shirk our commitment to the cause of freedom."

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Globe Newsletters

Get a summary of news of the day

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at