Is International Religious Freedom Policy Becoming Respectable?
Some 15 years after the establishment of the US Office of International Religious Freedom and the position of US ambassador at large, the government of Canada has become the first country to follow suit. In 2012, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper created the Office of Religious Freedom in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and in February 2013 appointed its first ambassador, Andrew Bennett. Meanwhile, a (sometimes controversial) mainstay of the US international religious freedom policy is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose job is to sharpen and improve the policy implemented by the State Department. To what extent has the commission been successful? Can the American experience of success and failure help inform Canada's new policy? What can the United States learn from its neighbor to the north?
Andrew Bennett, Canadian ambassador for religious freedom, and Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, examined these questions. They also discussed whether the two North American democracies encourage others to increase attention to international religious freedom. Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project, moderated the discussion.