‘Basic rights for all’

by Aaron Wherry

Foreign Affairs has posted the text of John Baird’s speech in Washington yesterday on the topic of religious freedom.

Canada has a tradition that some in our country seemed to forget during the latter half of the last century: a tradition of standing for freedom and fundamental rights, a tradition of standing against oppression. We did so in the earliest days of World War II … And yet, after the Second World War, some decision makers lost sight of our proud tradition to do what is right and just. Some decided it would be better to paint Canada as a so-called honest broker. I call it being afraid to take a clear position… even when that’s what’s needed.

So I’m proud to say Canada no longer simply “goes along to get along” in the conduct of its foreign policy. We will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient. We do so as part of our commitment to basic rights for all.

Laura Payton notes that the event was sponsored by a church that opposes same-sex marriage and “homosexual practices.” Four months ago, Mr. Baird championed gay rights in a speech in London.

However much the ideas of religious freedom and gay rights are actually in conflict, here is how Hillary Clinton reconciled the two in a speech last December.

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition.But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. Itwas not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep inmind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a commonsource. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. Andcaring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that humanrights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The full text of Ms. Clinton’s speech is here.




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‘Basic rights for all’

  1. ‘Freedom of religion’ has no connection to the willingness to go to war. In fact, Jesus opposed war….so Baird is confusing his political ideology with religion.

    Our former position as ‘honest broker’ was closer to christianity than Baird’s view of things.

    Mind you, why he was even speaking at an event sponsored by a group opposed to ‘homosexual practices’ is also a mystery.

    • Try clicking on the link Aaron provided and see if you can even find the phrase “homosexual practices”. Makes you wonder why he put it in quotes like he did. I thought journalists knew better than that.

      EDIT: They actually do use that exact phrase in a different document, so the quotes are legit and I withdraw that objection.

      • ???

        It says ‘ However, it is very clear that God’s Word does not countenance a homosexual lifestyle’, and several other phrases that are summed up by ‘homosexual practices’

      • I think you read better than that, john g. The “homosexual practices” follows directly from the link to the church’s article about same sex unions, and as Emily points out below, the term “homosexual lifestyle: is used in the linked article. Perhaps you believe Aaronshould have used the same exact words, however paraphrasing is acceptable and by putting it into quotation marks next to the link, he is simply showing where it came from and providing the credit. If that’s the worst you can pick on this article, why bother?

        • Dude, you are like sooooo blind to clear bias in the mainstream media.

  2. Hearing a right winger talk about human rights is one of the most terrifying things in our modern north american society. usually it’s because it’s a prelude to war (the 21st century version of guarding against the yellow peril or taking up the white man’s burden”), or because worse treatment of others abroad is being used as an excuse to continue human rights abuses here.

  3. Yes, our decision makers just screwed up royally all the time, clearly they had zero principles:
    - Bill of Rights
    - Official bilingualism
    - Charter of Rights
    - Getting government out of the bedrooms of the nation
    - Leadership against apartheid
    - Landmines treaty
    - Right to protect (R2P)
    - Leadership in setting up the ICC
    Good thing we have a truly principled government now, ensuring non-partisan religious groups have no funding to support work of Israel-based human rights NGO’s, ensuring its own democracy-promoting organization is crippled by ideology before finally shutting it down altogether, and turning CIDA into a support organization for Canadian mining companies in the third-world.

  4. I don’t think that there are many people who are opposed to freedom of religion (though there are some True Believers™ who would oppose other religions being practiced at all), but the troublesome part that many see is that “Freedom of Religion” is being used to argue to have public bodies discriminate against others both domestically and abroad. That’s not freedom of religion. Full-stop.

  5. So Aaron…in the esteemed wisdom of yourself and Laura Payton, what should Baird have done? Refuse to speak at the event? Slam them for not endorsing gay marriage when the topic is religious freedom? Does gay rights have to be a topic at every speech, no matter the subject, if the Conservatives are to have any street cred on the topic?

    Also, a hypothetical question…if Baird, Kenney, etc. are invited to speak at a public event sponsored by a Muslim organization that espouses views like this, what would you and Laura Payton suggest they do?

    If they refuse out of the principle you seem to suggest they uphold here, will you brand them as a champion of gay rights, or as anti-Islamic racists?

    As if I need to ask…

    • Well who started the new dept of religion anyway? We never needed one before.

      Religious freedom is a guaranteed right in Canada

      And now it’s just turning out to be another way to promote war.

      PS You don’t have to speak at every event you’re invited to

  6. basic right may come in everyone’s life if we aware for our rights and this may come only by education which is not an easy task especially for third word countries where bread and butter is prime issue …………….All Indian Rights Organization(AIRO) http://www.airo.org.in

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