PM Harper To Unveil Canada’s Office Of Religious Freedom

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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | February 17, 2013 8:43 PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will inaugurate the long-awaited Canadian Office of Religious Freedom and announce the first religious freedom ambassador Tuesday.

Tories first pledged to launch the religious office in 2011 under the aegis of Foreign Affairs, but the foreign ministry was unable to find a commissioner to take the job.

However, the name of the ambassador is still unknown to the public.

"We haven't seen the mandate and we don't know who the ambassador is," National Post quoted Gerald Filson of the Bahai Community of Canada, as saying.

"We will have to see what happens with the office and what the mandate is," Gerald added.

Critics questioned the intention behind the launch of this new office, and many are worried that the institution might be used as a tool for domestic political gain.

Rick Roth, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the new office is a priority for the federal government.

"(The office) is a priority for our government, and is a part of our principled foreign policy," Roth said, according to National Post.

It is not yet clear what will be the main role of the office and how it will fit into Canada's relationship with the rest of the world.

Kathryn White, executive director of the United Nations Association of Canada said the office holds great potential.

"The potential (for the office) is great," the newspaper quoted Kathryn, as saying.

 "But there remain lots of potential pitfalls in terms of how the office actually conducts its mandate," White added.

Jim Karygiannis, Toronto liberal MP said that the Conservatives took too long to launch the office and he warned that "government's main motivation in setting it up was to win votes in key Toronto-area ridings during the last federal election."

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