Coptic Christians in Egypt

Mr. Chair, clearly, religious freedoms are human rights: the right to believe and exercise one’s belief through faith and religious gathering together, or through no faith and no decisions to gather together. These are fundamental human rights and the oppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt is of deep concern to Canadians.

I want to ask the hon. minister about the other religious groups that are being abused, such as the Baha’i in Iran and the Tibetan monks who are increasingly turning to the desperate tactic of self-immolation. In the context of this debate, what can Canada do, other than creating an office?

I must say that I am skeptical about creating an office. All of our diplomacy should be directed toward human rights, not segmented into one small office.

Hon. Julian Fantino: Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for her bigger picture of the very serious issue of the infringement of human rights.

At the first meeting of the newly structured office with respect to religious freedoms and so forth, which we spoke about earlier, some 100 various religions were represented at the meeting. There is significant engagement of the broader religious minorities in this new office structure that I believe will be very effective in dealing with these issues on a more international level.

The hon. member’s point is well taken. There are many disenfranchised, discriminated religions and minorities worldwide. I think this particular office is an effective way to begin to make those kinds of inroads on a united front.