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July 22, 2014  |  About the Berkley Center  |  Directions to the Center  |  Subscribe
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Canada is an overwhelmingly Christian country, though the role of religion in public life has waned in recent decades. French settlement beginning in the 17th century established a Roman Catholic francophone population in Lower Canada, now Quebec, followed by English settlement that brought...

Religious Freedom in Canada

Recent events in Canada have featured the prorogation of Parliament during the escalation of the Canadian Afghan detainee issue, as well as the arrest of an Islamic terrorist cell. Allegations surfaced in 2007 that Canadian forces had handed over Afghan detainees to the Afghan Army and the Afghan National Directorate of Security with knowledge that these groups would use torture - a war crime under the Third Geneva Convention. After Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly delayed granting parliamentary requests for classified documents on the issue, Governor General Michaëlle Jean prorogued Parliament in December 2009 until March 2010 on Harper’s advice. Harper’s move was widely perceived as an undemocratic attempt to muzzle Parliament on the detainee affair, leading to mass anti-prorogation protests. In July 2010, two special committees began to review government documents in an effort to reveal if the government did in fact possess knowledge that the detainees were tortured. Opposition to a continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan increased in early 2010 during these events and was particularly strong within Canada’s Muslim community, which represents about 2 percent of the population. In August 2010 the Canadian government arrested four Muslims on charges of plotting a series of terrorist attacks across the country, and in May 2012, the government forced the closure of an anti-Semitic Islamic Sunday school. These two incidents have garnered concern within the Canadian Muslim community, while other Canadian citizens have expressed concern that the government has combated homegrown extremism sufficiently. In July 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the Quebec province, leading authorities to estimate that sixty people were killed or have gone missing as a result of the accident. Quebec’s elections held in April 2014 led to the defeat of both Controversial Bill 60, which proposed excluding people with hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes and large crucifixes from working in the public sector, and sponsoring Parti Québécois.