(No. 88 - March 2, 2011 - 4:45 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement expressing his condolences to the government and people of Pakistan following the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, on March 2, 2011:
"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Minister Bhatti and to the Pakistani people. I was moved by Minister Bhatti’s great courage when I met him last month, and it is with great personal sadness that I receive this news. We are appalled by this cowardly attack against a brave individual who had the courage to speak out against extremists in Pakistan.
"Canada strongly condemns this assassination and attempts by extremists to silence human rights defenders in Pakistan.
"We urge Pakistan to protect all those who find the courage to speak out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws and to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime.
"We continue to call on the Government of Pakistan to prevent the abuse of the blasphemy laws, which restrict freedom of religion and expression and have disproportionately targeted religious minorities.
"The Government of Canada will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who defend human rights around the world."
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