With Ottawa Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn in attendance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper opened the 41st Canadian Parliament by pledging to bring down the deficit, protect Aboriginal communities and creating a federal Office of Religious Freedom to “help protect religious minorities and to promote the pluralism that is essential to the development of free and democratic societies.”
Delivered by newly-installed Governor Gen. David Johnston, the Harper-written throne speech followed the Conservative leader’s overwhelming victory at the polls last spring.
Mendelsohn, who directs Chabad of Centrepointe, attended the ceremony as a representative of the Canadian Federation of Chabad-Lubavitch.
Since taking office in 2006, Harper has regularly shown his appreciation for the work of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Canada and beyond. A year after the Mumbai, India, terror attacks in 2008, Harper visited the city and toured the Nariman House where gunmen murdered Chabad House directors Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg and their four guests. He also hosts an annual public Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony in his Ottawa office, and last year, became the first prime minister to host a Chanukah celebration at his official residence.