Correspondence with the Hon. Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

RE: Persecution of atheists around the world

Dear Minister Dion:

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Thank you for accepting all the challenges and responsibilities that come with that appointment.

Secular Connexion Séculière (SCS) speaks for non-believing Canadians who are concerned about basic human rights including the right to freedom from religion for Canadians and for atheists around the world

Even though Canada has been identified as a nation that systemically discriminates against atheists, we realize that other nations treat atheists far more egregiously than Canada.

Bangladesh officials have looked the other way as five atheists bloggers have been hacked to death. Their names were on a list of eighty-four atheists targeted by religious vigilantes. As a member of the British Commonwealth, Bangladesh bases its atrocious anti-blasphemy laws on the same British law we continue to hold in section 296 of our Criminal Code.

Saudi Arabia executes approximately100 people per year. Many of those executed in Saudi Arabia are accused of apostasy, or abandoning Islam. Saudi Arabia has passed a law that automatically names all atheists as terrorists.

Currently, Raif Badawi is in Saudi prison, sentenced to 1,000 lashes (a punishment far more severe than justified even in the Quran) just for publishing blogs supporting freedom of speech. Two other poets are now in Saudi jails, sentenced to public beheading because they are apostates.

Yet, Saudi Arabia wishes to head the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Please speak out strongly against these two governments and others that persecute religious minorities and atheists.

I look forward to discussing the concerns of Canadian secular humanists further with you.

Sincerely,

Doug Thomas, President
Secular Connexion Séculière

[Reply of the Honourable Minister]

Mr. [Thomas],

Thank you for your letter received December 10, 2015 in which you congratulate me on my appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It is an honour for me to have been appointed to the post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I will work tirelessly to ensure that our country plays the role that our people expect of him on the international scene. I also agree strongly to promote on a global scale, universal values of human rights, justice, democracy and sustainable development.

Regarding Bangladesh, the Canadian Ambassador for freedom of religion, Andrew Bennett, has condemned the killing of atheist blogger Ananta Bijoy Das, and also defenders of freedom of expression,  Avijit Ry and Washiqur Rahman, and urged the authorities to protect the rights and lives of all Bangladeshis. Canada maintains a dialogue with representatives of civil and political society through its High Commission in Bangladesh and continues to encourage efforts of the Bangladesh government and all parties to protect the right of all individuals to join in peace and security with their beliefs.

Concerning the record of Saudi Arabia in terms of human rights, I addressed the concerns of Canada, including the case of Mr. Raif Badawi, with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia during his recent visit to Ottawa. I reported that the government hoped for clemency in this case. Although Mr. Badawi is not a canadian citizen, we follow the situation closely and continue to make our views on the case known publicly and through diplomatic channels.

I appreciate the work of organizations such as Secular Connexion Séculière to promote Canadian values of peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity. As recently stated by Prime Minister Trudeau, “Canada has learned to be strong not in spite of our differences, but thanks to them.”

I thank you again for your congratulations and please accept, sir, my expressed best wishes.

[Signed] Stéphane Dion
The Honourable Stéphane Dion, P.C., MP