November 24, 2011 ( – The Canadian Press revealed today that through an access to information request it has obtained a talking points brief by Conservative Government bureaucrats to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, advising the minister about how to approach the issue of religious freedom in a meeting with a Vatican official.

During his October 10, 2011 meeting with the Vatican’s Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, Baird was to raise the Conservative initiative to create an office of religious freedom. 

The memo warned Baird to avoid the topic of a controversial and mandatory Quebec school course forcing children to be taught relativistic religion from which parents are unable to exempt their children. The course mandates that all religions be taught to children as if they were of equal value without preference to any specific religion. The course is mandated to be taught not only in public schools but also in private religious schools as well.


The matter of parents’ freedom to withdraw their children from the course is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada in a case being watched closely by the Vatican.

The Canadian Press reports that the brief outlined “Key Messages to Convey,” advising Baird that should the topic of the course be raised, to distance the issue from the federal government, saying, “Education policy is set at the provincial level.”

“The Holy See speaks out against the marginalization of religion in countries ‘that accord importance to tolerance and pluralism.’ It has for example objected to Quebec’s obligatory Ethics and Religious Culture course,” the brief states.  “The Holy See is following the appeal to the Supreme Court by parents in Drummondville to overturn the compulsory nature of the province-imposed course.”

The brief also noted that the previous Vatican representative (nuncio) in Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, and a high-ranking Canadian cardinal in Rome, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, “have publicly criticized this course as contrary to the UN guaranteed right of parents to make decisions about the education of their children.”

The case was heard in May and a ruling is expected in the matter within a few months. One of the principal lawyers in the case, Jean-Yves Cote, refused comment on the matter as it is before the courts.