National News

Liberals call for security infrastructure funding for Coptic Christian churches that may be at risk

(January 7, 2011)

OTTAWA – In the wake of high alert warnings from the RCMP that Coptic Christian churches are at risk here in Canada, Liberals called upon the government to offer funding for security cameras, alarm systems and other necessary security equipment and hardware.

“Coptic Christian churches across this country are facing grave threats, yet Minister Toews has not explained to the Church leadership about what this government could do to ensure these places of worship have the security services and equipment they need to protect their congregations,” said Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland.

“There is funding available through the Security Infrastructure Program specifically allocated to provide the equipment, services and training so everyone who enters these churches can be assured of the very best in safety and security technology.

“His silence and inaction are surprising, given that this community has reached out to the government and asked for help to ensure the safety of their churches,” concluded Mr. Holland.

Mr. Holland was referring to the threats the churches received prior to Christmas, when a website affiliated with Al-Qaida posted a list of Canadian Coptic Christians whom they were targeting for attacks.

Risks for Coptic Christian communities here in Canada and around the world also increased after the New Year's Eve bombing of the al-Qidiseen Church in Alexandria, Egypt. 23 people were reported dead in the incident, attributed to a suicide bomber linked to radical Islamism. The RCMP informed the churches here in Canada they were on ‘high alert.’

The funding program mentioned was initially launched as a pilot initiative in 2007 to support communities at risk of hate-motivated crime. In 2010 the Security Infrastructure Program was extended with additional funding and resources to provide up to $100,000 in matching funds for not-for-profit organizations and places of worship.

“Either the Minister has completely forgotten this program exists or he simply does not believe it is his job to inform the churches that this money is available to them,” said Liberal Multiculturalism Critic Rob Oliphant.

“The Security Infrastructure Program was designed specifically for situations such as this when a community needs it the most,” he added.

“There is no question this government could be doing far more to provide adequate security measures,” said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, who has one of Canada’s oldest Coptic Christian churches in his constituency – St. Mark’s – and has been working with Church leaders for many years. “I have tried communicating directly with the office of Minister Toews to confirm they are co-ordinating their efforts with the local police and the RCMP at the very least. I have yet to get a straight answer from them,” added Mr. Karygiannis.

“Canadians look to their government for leadership, not just press releases and platitudes. There is so much more this government needs to do,” said Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie, who has Ontario’s largest congregation within her constituency, the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius.

“The Liberal Caucus is proposing immediate funding be provided through the Security Infrastructure Program to Coptic Christian churches across the country while this threat continues,” concluded Mrs. Crombie.

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