Cablegate: International Religious Freedom Report for Canada

Published: Mon 28 Jul 2003 06:06 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
- 2003 (REVISED)
REF: A. STATE 194330 B. OTTAWA 01480
1. Sensitive but Unclassified - please protect accordingly.
2. (SBU) The following constitutes Ottawa's submission for
the 2003 International Religious Freedom Report.
Introduction and Overview -- No changes.
Section I: Religious Demography
Paragraph that begins "There is no state or dominant
religion..." - revise as follows:
While there is no state or dominant religion, an estimated
74.6 percent of the Canadian population belongs to Christian
denominations or claims Christianity as their religion. Roman
Catholics (43 percent of the population) constitute the
largest single religious denomination, followed by Protestant
denominations (29 percent). United Church, Anglican,
Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, and Pentecostal are the
largest Protestant denominations in Canada. 1.1 percent of
the Canadian population is Jewish. According to a recent
government census, the percentage of the population who are
members of the Muslim faith has increased to 2 percent of the
population; the number of Muslims in Canada has doubled in
the 10-year period since the last census. Other religious
groups in Canada include Buddhists (approximately 1 percent
of the population); Hindus (1 percent); and Sikhs (1
percent). The number of persons professing other religions,
such as Scientology, Baha'i, Shinto, Taoism, aboriginal
spirituality, and pagan religions, constitutes 0.2 percent of
the population. The census also reflected that the percentage
of Canadians claiming no religious affiliation is 16 percent
of the total population, an increase from 12 percent in the
last census.
A 2002 poll on religious attitudes by the Pew Research Center
indicated that approximately 21 percent of Canadians attend
church on a weekly basis. 30 percent of Canadians, according
to the survey, said that religion is very important to them.
Section II: Status of Religious Freedom
Add the following as paragraph 2 (new): Some religious
holidays are national holidays, specifically, Christmas Day,
Good Friday, and Easter Monday. These holidays do not have a
negative impact on any religious group.
Paragraph 3 that begins, "The Constitution and..." -- this is
now paragraph 4 and should be revised as follows:
The Constitution of Canada and the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms protect the rights or privileges possessed by
denominational schools at the time of national union in 1867.
In practice this protection has meant that some provinces
have funded and continue to fund Catholic school education,
and some provinces (such as Quebec) have funded some
Protestant education. In recent years, the Quebec provincial
government took steps to abolish Catholic and Protestant
status for public schools; public schools in Quebec are no
longer faith-based and are open to all. And, the Ontario
provincial government, which previously had allowed tax
credits only for tuition paid to Roman Catholic private
schools, began allowing tax credits for tuition paid to all
private schools, provided such schools satisfy certain
educational standards.
There is no official government council for interfaith
dialogue, but the government of Canada provides funding for
individual ecumenical projects on a case-by-case basis.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally
free practice of religion.
Remainder of paragraph beginning "(H)owever, in May 2001...",
and paragraph beginning "(I)n July 2001..." - delete.
Replace with the following:
The Supreme Court of Canada recently agreed to hear cases
brought by groups in Quebec that claim their religious rights
have been unduly restricted by condominium contracts, and
municipal bylaws. One case involves a group of Orthodox
Jewish families living in a Montreal condominium complex, who
were barred by the condominium association from constructing
temporary huts on their balconies to celebrate the fall
festival of Sukkot. The second case involves a group of
Jehovah's Witnesses who are seeking the rezoning of a tract
of land they own, so that a church hall can be built on the
land. The municipality where the land is located refused to
rezone the land, because the land would no longer be subject
to property taxes if a place of worship was built on it.
A standing committee on justice and human rights organized by
the Parliament of Canada is currently conducting public
hearings around Canada on the issue of whether homosexual
couples have the right to marry. The hearings were organized
after an Ontario court ruled that the legal definition of
marriage as a union of one man and one woman violated the
equality rights of homosexuals. Some of the hearings have
resulted in spirited debates between gay rights advocates and
representatives of religious faiths, who assert that marriage
is a religious and not a political matter, and that religious
denominations should not be forced into ordaining same-sex
marriages. The committee is expected to bring its
recommendations on the issue to Parliament later this year.
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.
Forced Religious Conversion
No changes to this paragraph.
Improved and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious
Delete sentence beginning "In September 2001..."
Section III. Societal Attitudes
The generally amicable relationship among the religions in
society contributes to religious freedom in Canada. (After
this sentence, delete remainder of first paragraph, and the
second, third and fourth paragraphs of this section. Replace
with the following:)
However, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada
increased again during this period, and there are continuing
expressions of anti-Muslim feeling as well. There appeared to
be a correlation between this increase, and the continuing
violence in the Middle East.
The B'nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 459
reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2002, an increase of 173
incidents from 2001. Incidents included general harassment of
Jews (282 or 61 percent of the reported incidents), vandalism
of property (148 or 32 percent), and violence (29 or 6
percent). In an incident in Montreal on September 9, 2002,
pro-Palestinian demonstrators assaulted a number of Jews
during a riot on the Concordia University campus, where
former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was
scheduled to give a speech. In Toronto, there was
controversy following the July 2002 murder of an orthodox
Jew. The accused murderer was a young skinhead, and many
members of the Jewish community believed the victim had been
killed because of his religion, thus making the murder a hate
Expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment continued in Canada
during this period, according to the Canadian chapter of
CAIR. The build-up to the war in Iraq stirred up some
anti-Muslim feeling, but also resulted in some expressions of
compassion toward Muslims. The main forms of prejudice
experienced by Muslims were verbal abuse, religious or ethnic
profiling, and discrimination in the workplace. Mixed
feelings arose when a Christian evangelical group sent
humanitarian aid to Iraq. Some Muslims believe the government
of Canada is indifferent to anti-Muslim attitudes and
In November 2002, an information center in Quebec run by the
Raelian religion was vandalized. Damage to the center, known
as "UFO Land," amounted to more than C$100,000. The Raelian
Church of Canada is an officially recognized religion in
Quebec. The religion, which is based on the idea that
extraterrestrials created humanity as part of a lab
experiment, had recently targeted Quebec high schools as part
of its ongoing campaign to persuade Roman Catholics to
renounce their faith.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with
the Government of Canada in the context of its overall
dialogue and policy of promoting human rights.
Add the following: There are no persons imprisoned or
detained in Canada as a result of their religious beliefs.
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