mercredi 23 novembre 2011

Federal Foreign Minister Baird, the Near-East and the Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met with the Under-Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, at the Vatican on October 10, 2011. Minister Baird used the opportunity to discuss the issue of freedom of religion.

The government committed to creating an Office of Religious Freedom within Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, as outlined in the June 3, 2011, Speech from the Throne. This was a pillar of Minister Baird's address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2011.
Minister Baird meets with Monsignor Ettore Balestrero
in Rome last October

Federal bureaucrats told Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to tread carefully during this meeting about his plan to set up an office of religious freedom within his department.

A briefing note obtained under the Access to Information Act by The Canadian Press pointed to a potential trouble spot with the Vatican which is watching a case before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The case involves the parents of Drummondville, Que., students who object to the religious teaching their children receive and bureaucrats advised Baird not to mention the case. If it did come up, they suggested he dismiss it as a provincial matter.

According to the Canadian Press agency, the parents object to their children being forced to take a course in ethics and religious culture because it teaches them about other religions, not just Catholicism. The parents argued that the course caused "premature" contact with a series of beliefs that ran counter to the religious faith of their family. This characterization is inaccurate: the parents do not oppose facts about other religions (the curriculum, in any case, requires very little facts to be known) but the way these religions and life choice in ethics is presented, which they deem to be relativistic.

The Drummondville case was clearly at cross purposes with Baird's intention for the meeting, which was to work with the Holy See "to promote and protect freedom of religion and conscience around the world."

In a section titled, "Key Messages to Convey," Baird was advised to sidestep the topic of the Quebec program during the Oct. 10 meeting and say, "Education policy is set at the provincial level." The message was deemed "Responsive Only," which is bureaucratese instructing him not to raise the matter unless his Vatican hosts bring it up.

"The Holy See speaks out against the marginalization of religion in countries 'that accord importance to tolerance and pluralism.' It has for example objected to Quebec's obligatory Ethics and Religious Culture course," the memo states.

"The Holy See is following the appeal to the Supreme Court by parents in Drummondville to overturn the compulsory nature of the province-imposed course."

The memo noted that the Vatican's previous ambassador to Canada and a highly-placed Canadian cardinal in Rome "have publicly criticized this course as contrary to the UN guaranteed right of parents to make decisions about the education of their children."

See also
Mother to National Post: "Gross misrepresentation of my views"

Soutenons les familles dans leurs combats juridiques (reçu fiscal pour tout don supérieur à 50 $)

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