On April 15, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the City of Saguenay (Quebec) must stop reciting a prayer at the start of its City Council meetings. CFI Canada welcomes and supports this decision and applauds the initiatives of the many individuals and organizations who have contributed to achievement of this historic decision. Of particular note is Mouvement laique Quebecois, the organization that led this case.
CFIC encourages municipal Councils, administrators and politicians to immediately undertake compliance with this decision.
CFIC further calls on Canada’s Federal parliamentarians to show respect and leadership in regard to this decision by ending prayers at sessions and meetings in the House of Commons.
Key Features of This Decision
- Non-belief is recognized as requiring the same protection as any specific religious belief
- Freedom From Religion is validated in Canadian law
- This ruling applies in all parts of Canada
- The House of Commons may be exempt from this ruling based on Parliamentary Privilege.
CFI Canada began offering the Prayers in Public Spaces educational seminar as part of its Secular Seminars Series in 2014; this seminar features an examination of the prayers in public meetings and spaces in an unbiased and interactive format featuring readings of key documents, video presentations and discussion. Participants are also encouraged to contribute to the growing database of information.
In October of 2014, CFIC sent a letter to the Mayors of Mississauga and Brampton (Ontario) offering to provide this seminar to the Mayors and City Councils to inform local debate on this contentious issue. We did not receive a reply.
It is CFIC’s perspective that the Supreme Court decision provides a clear and strong secular direction on the matter of prayers in public spaces. Individuals and groups interested to be involved in their community may wish to consider the following:
- engaging in dialogue about prayer alternatives or options weakens a strong decision – politicians should be encouraged to follow the established law
- protection of all people begins with favouring none – any action by any government which excludes a part of the community must be rejected
- local individuals and groups may be provided training and access to the CFIC Secular Seminar Series to provide education to local communities
- City Councils should be advised to begin the business with a Call to Order
- re-writing any existing public prayer cannot comply with this decision as any prayer will exclude part of Canadian society
- administrators and politicians should be reminded that it is not in the community’s best interests to spend public monies (through legal fees and costs) with the purpose of continuing religious privilege
- this decision does not prevent private citizens from praying at a time of their choosing – it is targeted to government officials leading prayers as a part of government business
Communities where the issue of prayers has recently been a concern include:
- St. Thomas
- Cape Breton Regional Municipality
Following is text from a press release provided by Secular Ontario Concerning a court ruling in the Case of Abbass vs. City of Peterborough:
Peterborough Ontario Resident Wins Prayer Case against City of Peterborough
Secular Ontario, a non-profit corporation formed to promote and defend the secular and civil nature of Ontario society, is pleased to announce that the legal proceedings between Peterborough resident Veronica Abbass and the City of Peterborough have been successfully resolved in Ms. Abbass’s favour.
On May 29, 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued the following order:
The Respondent (Corporation of the City of Peterborough) is prohibited from reciting the Lord’s Prayer or any other prayer at its council or committee meetings.
Ms Abbass is pleased with the result. “The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has reinforced the message that the rule of law applies to mayors and municipal councillors,” she said.