Canada is known, throughout the world, as a place of freedom and opportunity. This reputation has been created because of generations of men and women who have shaped our nation into the country it is today. The ability to live free and build a better life still attracts people from around the world to Canada every year.
One of these key rights that makes Canada so special is the right to religious freedom. The ability to practice a religion freely is not just something that Canadians individually value, but it is protected under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For both these reasons, it is a right that needs to be supported and protected.
I am proud to be part of a government that takes the right to religious freedom seriously. We were the first province to provide specific protection for the conscientious rights of medical professionals and others who do not wish to participate in a medically assisted death. As Minister of Health, I was honoured to work to ensure that faith-based health institutions are protected as well from having to perform procedures outside of their faith principles.
Manitoba has also been one of the few provinces to speak clearly against Quebec legislation that would prohibit the wearing of religious symbols, such as Christian crosses, by public servants. While this law is specific to Quebec, the erosion of these types of freedoms should be opposed regardless of where they happen in Canada.
While freedom of religion was one of the freedoms that attracted early settlers to Canada and to southeast Manitoba, there were others that they held as important as well. Many early settlers, including Mennonites, felt strongly that they should have both options and input into the education of their children. As a result, in Manitoba today, parents have the right to enroll their children in a public school, an independent school or to have them homeschooled. These are freedoms I strongly support and believe should be protected and enhanced.
Recently, I was privileged to be invited to Ottawa to speak with representatives from over 60 different countries about the important role these freedoms play in Canada and Manitoba. In addition, I was joined by Provencher MP Ted Falk and other Members of Parliament. I was honoured to be able to emphasize just how important and valued freedoms related to religion and education are to all Canadians, no matter how long they have called Canada home. Many of those representing other countries spoke of how these freedoms are important to them as well.
I will continue to work to support and protect these freedoms as I know they are foundational to what makes our country the best place to live in the world and that they are important to residents of our region.