(No. 227 - August 11, 2011 - 9:15 p.m. ET) John Baird, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, today issued the following statement marking the inaugural National Minorities Day in Pakistan:
"On Pakistan's inaugural National Minorities Day, Canada welcomes efforts by Pakistan to protect human rights, including religious freedoms, and to advocate interfaith tolerance and understanding.
"Freedom of speech and religious assembly are integral elements of democratic societies and key ingredients for prosperity and security. In order for societies to succeed, extremists cannot be allowed to intimidate minorities through violence.
"We are reminded that, tragically, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer, both strong public advocates for tolerance and moderation in Pakistan, were assassinated earlier this year. Canada is hopeful that their legacies will continue to advance the values they championed.
"Canada encourages Pakistan to continue promoting the rights of all minorities, including for individuals belonging to Ahmadiyya and Christian communities."
The Government of Canada has committed to creating an Office of Religious Freedom to help protect and promote religious minorities around the world. Canada will continue to pursue a principled foreign policy to advance freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
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