Published in the Toronto Star, February 18, 2013
Despite the recent papal drama in Rome, the Catholic Church isn’t the only religion-focused body with prominent personnel troubles. In Ottawa, the Harper government has spent the last year dealing with a leadership vacuum of its own as it struggled to find a suitable ambassador to lead its long-promised Office of Religious Freedom.
Virtually no one would quibble with the notion that a right to freedom of religion is part of a larger set of human rights to freedom of conscience, assembly and expression. As critics have persuasively argued, however, religion is too multi-faceted in its forms and contested in its practice to be championed impartially by any government office. A selective focus on the persecutions of certain religious groups in certain places won’t (and shouldn’t) be acceptable to the Canadian public.
But if these conceptual arguments aren’t convincing enough, let’s take a look at the situation from a different angle — as a human resources issue. The Harper government, which is expected to announce the office’s first ambassador on Tuesday, spent well over a year under intense public scrutiny looking to fill a job with a fancy title and handsome perks. It reported that two or three prospective candidates were approached but turned the job down. Why was the search so difficult?
The answer may have something to do with the job description. After all, a suitable ambassador for this office will have to fill four essential criteria….
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