Canada At the UN Human Rights Council March 2015

On March 11, 2015 Canada’s Catherine Godin spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council and included comments about blasphemy laws; Ms. Godin’s comments begin at around 20:29

Following is an un-official transcription of Ms. Godin’s comments for consideration:

Canada remains deeply concernd about the plight of persecuted religious communities globally, targetted because of their faith, either through government restrictions, terrorist violence or extreme social hostilities.  The promotion and defence of freedom of religion or belief remains a central element in Canadian foreign policy.  We are deeply concerned by the alarming resurgent form of anti-Semitism seen today and increasing reports of violence against Jews around the world.  This is part of a worrying trend of persecution and human rights abuses against religious communities especially in minority situations.  We have witnessed in Nigeria, Syria and Iraq extremist interpretations of religion used by terrorist groups to justify attacks on others who do not subscribe to the group’s extremist views.  As outlined in your report,  tackling such violence requires concerted action by a broad range of actors with states having an over-arching obligation to respect protect and promote human rights.  The report also outlines the importance of freedom of expression in combatting hate-speech and we are sympathetic to the call for the repeal of blasphemy laws and other restrictions.  Canada has consistently spoken out about the importance of freedom of religion or belief and the need to combat religious intolerance in the world.  Our Office of Religious Freedom is funding programming implemented by civil society partners to promote interfaith dialogue, pluralism and human rights while both engaging governments and calling them to account to defend and promote religious freedom.

Ms. Godin conluded her question with the question, “How can the international community and governments better protect the vulnerable groups identified in your latest report?”scription of Ms. Godin’s comments are provided here

Centre For Inquiry Canada and Humanist Canada are two actors, to borrow Ms. Godin’s term, who offered thoughts to Ambassador Andrew Bennett during our December 2014 meeting, in a letter to Justice Minister Peter MacKay in January 2015 and a recent letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson:  Canada can repeal Criminal Code Section 296 – the blasphemous libel law.

If the Canadian government is in earnest about defending human rights and religious freedoms, if it is truly sympathetic to calls to repeal blasphemy laws, we must start in Canada.

 

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