OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says his department's new Office of Religious Freedom won't become a vehicle for playing domestic politics in Canada's immigrant communities.

Baird is dismissing criticism the new office could lead to an uncomfortable mix of religion and politics.

The Tories announced the creation of the office in their election platform last spring, but have yet to roll out details of the new entity, to be housed within Foreign Affairs.

The government is expected to formally announce the new office early this year.

Baird has high hopes for the new office, even though it will come with a modest $5-million price tag, including a relatively minuscule $500,000 budget for operations.

Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, says that while religious persecution "is a serious human rights concern right around the world," he's not confident about the government's approach to the new office.