Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada first announced its intention of creating an Office of Religious Freedom during the federal election campaign of May 2011. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird subsequently reiterated this goal in a speech at the United Nations, where he cited the initiative as consistent with “core Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” As a result, Canada vowed to protect these principles in the international community “whether it was popular, convenient, or expedient.”

The decision to open an Office of Religious Freedom, however, raises a number of important questions related to both religion and Canada’s foreign relations. As a secular state, should Canada be pursuing religious objectives in its foreign policy? Is it realistic to think that Canada can have an impact on the treatment of religious groups in other states? Is the Office committed to multi-faith perspectives or simply Judeo-Christian views? The Office of Religious Freedom will open in 2012, but critics are already questioning its role and relevance. The answers to these questions will help determine if the Office represents a myth or reality in Canadian foreign policy.

Speaker: Christopher J. Kukucha

Christopher Kukucha is an associate professor at the University of Lethbridge. His most recent publication is the second edition of Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates and New Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2011), co-edited with Duane Bratt. He is also the author of The Provinces and Canadian Foreign Trade Policy (UBC Press, 2008).

In 2007, Chris served as the William J. Fulbright Research Chair in Canadian Studies at the State University of New York (Plattsburgh). He is past President of the International Studies Association of Canada and a book review editor for the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal. His primary teaching and research areas include Canadian foreign policy, international political economy, international relations theory, and Canada’s global trade relations.

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