WASHINGTON – A Canadian official says his attempt to discuss human rights with a foreign government prompted it to throw Quebec’s controversial values charter back at him.
Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom says the issue came up as he was discussing minority rights in Turkey with a representative of the government there.
Andrew Bennett says that’s the only time it’s arisen in his first year in the position.
Because his mandate does not involve domestic issues, Bennett says he can’t offer a personal opinion of the Quebec legislation that would bar people who wear hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes and large crucifixes from working in the public sector.
But he does reject any attempt to compare the persecution of minorities abroad with what’s happening in Quebec.
He says Canada has an office of religious freedom because it enjoys that freedom at home — which includes constitutional protections, backed up by politicians who will fight for minorities and a legal system where people can seek redress.
The values charter could soon become an issue in a Quebec election, expected as early as this spring.
Bennett is currently in Washington, D.C., where he’s met the Dalai Lama, think-tanks, and American counterparts.