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Cablegate: Canada - 2003 Religious Freedom Report

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001480

SIPDIS

FOR DRL/CRA, DRL/IRF, DRL/PHD, WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF CA
SUBJECT: CANADA - 2003 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT

REF: A. OTTAWA 02 1429

1. Sensitive but Unclassified - please protect accordingly.

2. 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
dominations 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

Paragraph 3 that begins, "The Constitution and...," revise 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. Decisions in these cases are expected sometime this year.

A standing committee on justice and human rights organized by
the Parliament of Canada is currently conducting a series of
public hearings 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
Freedom.

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, tension continues to exist between the Jewish and
Islamic communities in Canada, perhaps reflecting the
continued conflict in the Middle East. The number of
anti-Semitic incidents in Canada increased again during this
period, and there have been expressions of anti-Muslim
feeling as well.

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 is 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
crime.

Expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment continued in Canada
during this period, according to the Canadian chapter of the
Council on American Islamic Relations. In a survey released
in September 2002, 60 percent of Canadian Muslims said they
had experienced bias or discrimination in the period
following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The build-up to the
war in Iraq stirred up some anti-Muslim feeling in Canada,
but also resulted in some expressions of compassion and
support towards Muslims. The main forms of prejudice
experienced by Muslims were verbal abuse, religious or ethnic
profiling, and discrimination in the workplace. Some Muslims
believe the government of Canada has been indifferent to
anti-Muslim attitudes and discrimination.

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 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.
KELLY

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