TORONTO, ON October 14, 2014 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) will present arguments today at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in Mouvement Laïque Québécois and Alain Simoneau v. City of Saguenay and Jean Tremblay. At issue in this appeal is whether the City of Saguenay, Quebec and their mayor Jean Tremblay acted in a discriminatory manner against Alain Simoneau, a non-believer, by permitting prayers at city council meetings along with the continued display of previously in place religious symbols on city property. This appeal is also about how to reconcile or balance competing rights under anti-discrimination statutes. The CCRL’s intervention emphasises that multi-faith and non-denominational prayers and religious symbols do not discriminate against non-believers. Presenting on behalf of the CCRL is Ranjan Agarwal, with the participation of Robert Staley, Jack Maslen, and Sheridan Scott, all of Bennett Jones LLP, together with CCRL President Philip Horgan.
The CCRL is intervening jointly with the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec, and the Faith and Freedom Alliance. A total of 7 interventions were approved by the Supreme Court.
The CCRL supports an authentic pluralism, which allows for religion to share the public square with non-believers, and this includes prayer which must not compel obedience and which is not used to proselytize or advance any one faith, or to disparage any other faith or belief, including non-belief. The CCRL argues, in fact, that any exclusion of an inclusive prayer, which is not coercive or a constraint on non-believers, would offend state neutrality because it would amount to a preference for non-belief over belief.
The CCRL favours a true notion of authentic Canadian pluralism which would encourage the participation of multiple prayer options and/or a moment of silence for non-believers or for those with no particular affiliation. Such authentic pluralism allows for public participation of religious believers with others, even if there may be disagreement, and engages in proper respect for and allowance of difference in the public square.
A decision in the appeal is expected by the spring of 2015. For further information on this case, please refer to the case factum.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD