by Navin Vaswani Thursday February 21, 2013

Andrew Bennett is Canada's new, and first, ambassador of religious freedom, and he'll head Canada's new Office of Religious Freedom. 

Here's more on Mr. Bennett, and the Office of Religious Freedom, from The Globe and Mail (emphasis in italics mine):

The Harper government’s new watchdog for international religious persecution is a scholar of Scottish nationalism who, until a few weeks ago, was a mid-level bureaucrat at the federal Department of Natural Resources. ... The Canadian [Office of Religious Freedom] ... will criticize mistreatment of religious minorities in other countries. ... [Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom] applauded the creation of the office, saying many in the West underestimate the influence of religion in politics around the world. "The focus will be not so much on religious freedom itself but on violations of human rights in general on the grounds of religion."

Religion isn't a very powerful force in Canadian politics, but it is in many other parts of the world. A couple of years ago, Steve Paikin interviewed James Ron, who was then teaching at Carleton University in Ottawa. Ron, now at the University of Minnesota, argued Canadians are too ignorant when it comes to religion, and that is handcuffing Canadian diplomacy and creating citizens ill-suited for a world in which religion still rules. Take a look: 

Image credit: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail.