Conservatives to unveil long-delayed religious freedom office next week

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The Harper government is planning to announce its long-awaited Office of Religious Freedom in an event at a Toronto-area mosque next Tuesday.

The announcement — which the government refuses to discuss — comes 22 months after the Tories first promised to create a modest, religious freedom branch within the Foreign Affairs Department.

The pledge was unveiled in the Conservative campaign platform during the last federal election, but Foreign Affairs has been unable to find a commissioner to take job.

Human rights groups and opposition critics have said the office is a misguided attempt to inject religion into foreign policy.

They also question what exactly the new office can accomplish with a modest $5 million budget.

However, a spokesman for a major Jewish organization that has been invited to Tuesday's event says the fact that the Harper government is holding it at a mosque shows its commitment to persecuted religious minorities the world over.