Christian college dean to head religious freedom office

Andrew Bennett, a Christian college dean and former civil servant, has been named ambassador for Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today.

“Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing,” Harper said in a speech at the Ahmadiyya Muslim community centre and mosque in Maple, Ont., north of Toronto.

“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 practise their faith without fear of violence and repression.”

Harper first promised the new branch of the Foreign Affairs Department during the last federal election campaign.

Bennett, a Catholic, is dean of Augustine College, a Christian liberal arts college in Ottawa that graduates about 16 students a year. He has a PhD in politics from the University of Edinburgh and a master of arts in history from McGill University in Montreal.

Paul Bramadat of the University of Victoria told CBC Radio’s Louise Elliott that Augustine College has a unique position on education — to basically return education to a time before “the acid of modernity,” as it says on the college’s website. Bramadat also noted that the college’s purpose seems to be to prepare students to enter a secular world perceived as hostile.

The college’s website says, “Augustine College accepts the model of education that reigned for millennia, until the modern age began to dismantle that tradition.”

Before his appointment at Augustine College, Bennett was a government bureaucrat, working for the deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs. He later worked at the Export Development Corporation, and at the Privy Council Office.

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