Improvements to Veterans Independence Program
December 27, 2012 - Today, Parliamentary Secretary Adams announced that improvements to the Veterans Independence Program, which will put money in the hands of veterans faster, will come into force on January 1, 2013.
The Government of Canada has enormous respect for the men and women who have sacrificed in the service of Canada. Our Government is committed to cutting cumbersome red tape for veterans and improving the way we provide them with support.
Veterans who receive housekeeping and grounds maintenance services will no longer have to submit receipts and then wait to be reimbursed by Veterans Affairs Canada. Instead, they will receive upfront payments.
These changes are a part of the Veterans Transition Action Plan, launched recently by Minister Blaney. The changes will help over 100,000 veterans who receive housekeeping and grounds maintenance services.
Our Government will always stand up for our veterans, and together with all Canadians, we will never forget their service and sacrifice.
For more information, please visit: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/services/veterans-independence-program.
Opposing the Palestinian Resolution
November 29, 2012 -- Today at the United Nations General Assembly, Minister Baird, on behalf of Canada, opposed the Palestinian bid for non-member observer State status.
The Government of Canada is committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side-by-side in peace and security. Any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both states.
This Resolution undermines the core foundations of a decades’ long commitment by the international community and the parties themselves to a two-state solution, arrived at through direct negotiations. Canada cannot support an initiative that undermines the objective of reaching a comprehensive, lasting and just settlement for both sides.
It is for these reasons that the Federal Government voted against this resolution. As a result of this body’s utterly regrettable decision to abandon policy and principle, the Government will be considering all available next steps.
The Government of Canada calls on both sides to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Canada will be there to offer its good offices and support.
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity
March 21, 2013 – MP David Sweet welcomed the new federal budget - Economic Action Plan 2013 – and its continued focus on job creation, economic growth, and long-term prosperity, as good news.
The Plan, (available here online) which will see Canada return to balanced budgets in 2015, keeps federal taxes at their lowest level in 50 years.
“While Canada has the best job creation record among all G-7 countries since the worst of the global recession with over 950,000 net new jobs, we recognize that the global economy remains very challenging,” said Sweet. “In Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government of Canada remains squarely focused on the number one priority of Canadians, with a forward-looking plan to help create jobs and grow the economy in Ontario and across Canada.”
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, in his speech in the House of Commons, outlined that Economic Action Plan 2013 includes key measures to strengthen Canada’s economy, including:
- Increased skills and training support, including the new $15,000 Canada Job Grant, to help more Canadians find high-quality, well-paying jobs;
- Tax breaks for manufacturers who buy new machinery and equipment to stay competitive, and an extended ‘hiring credit’ for small businesses who create jobs;
- A record $70 billion federal investment in infrastructure across Canada, including roads, bridges, subways, rail lines, and ports;
- Major investments in research and technology;
- New tax relief for Canadians who give to charity, adopt a child, or rely on homecare services;
- Elimination of ‘import tax’ tariffs on everyday items Canadian families buy, like baby clothing, sports gear, and exercise equipment;
- And much more.
Economic Action Plan 2013 also confirmed the Government of Canada continued all-time record support for hospitals, schools, and other important health and social services in Ontario. The Government of Canada is protecting and growing transfers to help support the services that Ontario families depend on.
The full Economic Action Plan 2013 can be found here.
Office of Religious Freedom
February 19, 2013 -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
This office will be dedicated to promoting freedom of religion or belief around the world. He also announced the appointment of Dr. Andrew Bennett as Ambassador to the Office. The Prime Minister was joined by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation.
“Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing,” said the Prime Minister. “Dr Bennett is a man of principle and deep convictions and he will encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world so all can practice their faith without fear of violence and repression.”
Under Ambassador Bennett’s leadership, the Office – which is now operational – will promote freedom of religion or belief as a Canadian foreign policy priority. The Office will be an important vehicle through which Canada can advance fundamental Canadian values including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.
“Our Government is dedicated to promoting the freedom and prosperity of the people it serves,” added the Prime Minister. We will work with other countries and all people of goodwill, to promote the principles we share.“
Specifically, the Office will focus on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming relating to: protecting and advocating on behalf of religious minorities under threat; opposing religious hatred and intolerance; and, promoting Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance abroad. Activities will be centred on countries or situations where there is evidence of egregious violations of the right to freedom of religion, violations that could include violence, hatred and systemic discrimination.
Background -- Canada's Office of Religious Freedom
In 2011’s Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to promoting religious freedom and speaking out on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities abroad. To this end, on February 19, 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and announced the appointment of Dr. Andrew Bennett as Ambassador to the Office.
The Office of Religious Freedom will promote freedom of religion and belief, consistent with core Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The Office – which is now operational – will build on Canada’s proud tradition of defending fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and promoting respect for religious pluralism as an inextricable cornerstone of democratic development. It will focus on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming relating to: protecting and advocating on behalf of religious minorities under threat; opposing religious hatred and intolerance; and, promoting Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance abroad.
The Office – which will be operated by a team of five full-time employees, including Ambassador Bennett – will have an annual budget of $5 million. It will support programming aimed at raising greater awareness of threats to religious freedom and by promoting pluralism.
In addition to leading the Office of Religious Freedom, the Ambassador will undertake broad outreach, speaking publicly both domestically and abroad, to raise awareness of religious freedom and call attention to its violations.
The establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom was a commitment in the Speech from the Throne from June 3, 2011.
Canada’s Efforts to Defend Religious Freedom Abroad
Canada has been a strong and committed supporter of the individual’s right to freedom of religion and conscience. The Government of Canada has taken measures to defend these rights around the world, and will continue to work with its international partners to this end.
Some of Canada’s efforts include:
- Rallying support for religious freedom among leaders of the G-8 and the Commonwealth;
- Successfully pushing for the inclusion of a reference to the right of worship in safety and security in the G-8 Deauville Summit declaration;
- Providing a refuge in Canada to approximately 20,000 Iraqi refugees, many of whom are Chaldea Catholics, driven from their homeland under threat of death;
- Consistently condemning attacks on people in religious places, including the shocking attacks on Muslim worshippers in the Nigerian village of Dogo Dawa, the killing and injuring of those worshipping Eid al-Adha in a mosque in northern Afghanistan, and the attack outside two mosques in Hangu, Pakistan, this month which killed at least 20 while injuring several more;
- Speaking out against the discrimination by the Burmese regime towards Buddhists and Muslims;
- Co-sponsoring the European Union-led United Nations Human Rights Council and United Nations General Assembly resolutions on the elimination of religious intolerance;
- Co-sponsoring a high level event entitled “Freedom of Religion or Belief: an Individual’s Choice” with the foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Senegal, on the margins of the September 2012 United Nations General Assembly;
- The Canadian High Commission in London co-hosting, in December 2012, a meeting with the United Kingdom and the Wilton Park organization which examined best practices in combating intolerance and promoting freedom of religion;
- Creating an award, the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award, to recognize individuals or groups who show exceptional courage and leadership in defending human rights and freedom;
- Collaborating with our network of missions abroad and with key partners to deliver programming to further our efforts to promote freedom of religion;
- The participation by Minister Baird in an international meeting on freedom of religion or belief in London on January 22, 2013.