Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada will continue to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East, despite the ongoing violence targeted at Western embassies in the region.

As outrage continues over an anti-Islamic video that surfaced in the United States, Baird told reporters in Montreal on Friday that the protesters are trying to exploit the situation.

Pointing to the violence in Libya, where a U.S. ambassador was killed after a mob attacked the embassy in Benghazi, Baird said Canada believes strongly in Libya’s future.

“Whenever a diplomat is a target and a victim, it’s a terrible day,” Baird said. “We will continue to be actively engaged in the future of Libya politically, to promote good governance and civil society.”

The minister was speaking at a luncheon held by the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.

During the event, Baird said a key aspect in the development of a civil society is upholding the rights of women.

“We must have more women involved in peace and security in these democratically developing countries,” said Baird. “Not just in the government, but in civil society.”

In the wide-ranging speech, Baird outlined Canada’s foreign policy priorities going forward. He discussed Ottawa’s desire to promote freedom and democracy around the world, to promote prosperity as a means of fighting extremism, and to fight against the forced marriage of young girls around the world.

However, Baird added that Canada cannot impose its values onto other countries.

“Change must come from within,” he said. “When they’re ready for freedom Canada will support anyone who’s supporting a free and proper society.”

Baird said he believes other countries can look at Canada as a model for democratic rights and freedoms.

Baird added that he is also working with allies such as the EU and the United States to decriminalize homosexuality in countries around the world, and to make Canada a welcoming haven to those who are persecuted for their sexual orientations in countries such as Iran.

“We believe what’s right is right. And what’s wrong is wrong. And it is in defence of those beliefs that we act. These are not partisan issues, they transcend politics,” Baird said.