OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 7, 2013) - Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney concluded a productive visit to Baghdad, Iraq, part of an international trip focusing on bilateral relations and religious freedom. He is the first Canadian Minister to visit Iraq since 1976.
"This official visit to Iraq was an historic opportunity to help strengthen ties between Canada and Iraq," Minister Kenney said. "As Iraq continues its transition to a democracy, it is important that Canada work with the government to ensure protection for minority rights and help establish stable and enduring democratic institutions."
Minister Kenney attended the enthronement of Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako as the new Patriarch of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church, the largest Christian community in Iraq. The ceremony was held at St Joseph's Chaldean church in downtown Baghdad. Christians in Iraq have been among the victims of sectarian violence in recent years, a fact highlighted at the Minister's visit to Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral, where 52 worshippers were killed by extremists in 2010.
As Prime Minister Harper recently said, "There is a crucial and historical link between respect for religious pluralism and the development of democracy itself. That is why we shall continue to champion freedom of conscience and freedom of religion throughout the world."
Minister Kenney met Iraqi Vice President Kudhair Al-Khuzaie, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Minister of Displacement and Migration Dindar Najman Duski, and Minister of the Environment Sargon Lazon Sliwah, and other senior officials. Discussions included bilateral trade issues, migration management, political developments in Iraq, the situation in Syria, and minority rights.
He also met with members of civil society and religious leaders to further discuss the protection of minorities and aid to those affected by terrorism and extremism in the country.
Following the initiation of military conflict in 2003, Canada was among the first countries to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq. Canada is home to an increasing number of Iraqi refugees who have sought protection from targeted sectarian violence. Through Canada's refugee resettlement efforts, particularly the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program, over 12,000 Iraqis have been resettled over the past five years. Canada remains committed to its pledge to resettle up to 20,000 displaced Iraqis in need of protection.
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Photos of Minister Kenney available at: www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/photos/high-res/index.asp.
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