Former MP joins religious freedom advisory board at Cardus think tank

"The Cardus Religious Freedom Institute exists to foster emerging scholarship, facilitate public discussion, and to engage our country’s democratic institutions on the nature of citizenship and the public square," states the Cardus website.

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A former Conservative MP from Saskatchewan who has long been a champion of religious freedom, and a theologian from B.C., who has worked to build bridges between Christian and Muslim communities, were recently appointed to the advisory council of the Religious Freedom Institute at the Ontario-based religious think tank Cardus.

In an interview with the Catholic Register in 2019 David Anderson, who represented the Saskatchewan riding of Cypress Hills-Grasslands since 2000 but who announced he was retiring from politics before last year’s federal election, said he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and did not know exactly what the future would hold for him after politics. “We don’t have anything specific. Nobody’s come to us with any great offers and opportunities, but we’re trusting God will give us some direction when the time comes,” the he told the Catholic Register at the time.

The appointment to Cardus’ Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI) board gives Anderson another forum to continue to address issues that have been dear to his heart for years.

“Religious freedom matters to every Canadian, whether they are religious or not,” said Anderson in a Sept. 2 Cardus press release announcing his appointment.

“I know that in working with the CRFI, I’ll be able to help more Canadians understand just how fundamental religious freedom is to the other constitutionally protected freedoms we enjoy,” said Anderson, who was a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Canadian Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Also appointed to the volunteer advisory board is Chris Stackaruk, who Cardus describes as “a social entrepreneur and theologian based in Victoria, B.C.”

“While in seminary, he co-founded Neighborly Faith, a charity that introduces Muslims and Evangelical Christians to one another on college campuses across North America,” according to Cardus, adding he “is completing his PhD in theological studies at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto where he writes on the history of Vatican II.”

“An important part of my work has been to build bridges with the Muslim community in Canada and to speak out against anti-Muslim attitudes,” said Stackaruk.

“We can’t have religious freedom in Canada unless we genuinely respect our differences,” he added.

CRFI director Rev. Dr. Andrew P.W. Bennett, an ordained deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in the Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada and who served as the head of the since disbanded Canadian government Office of Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016, said both men will bring “unique gifts” to the CRFI’s advisory board.

“I have worked with my friend David Anderson for many years in the field of religious freedom and look forward to the wise counsel and powerful voice he will bring to our work,” Bennett said.

“And (Stackaruk) represents for me a new generation of champions of religious freedom,” he said. “His passion in publicly engaging different communities of faith in dialogue is a model to be followed.”