SASKATOON, SK October 2, 2013 – The City of Saskatoon is seeking a compromise in its ongoing response to a human rights complaint against a prayer being said at a volunteer appreciation event last year. The city’s solicitor recently presented three possible policy changes in response to the complaint: forego prayer at all civic functions; have a moment of silence instead; or create a general and inclusive statement for the purpose that will incorporate spirituality but not name a particular deity. Council voted for the third option.
“While the League has traditionally favoured civic opening exercises that rotate among various faith groups in a community, including options such as a moment of silence to include those of no established belief, the option of one verse that includes all is an interesting one that should be explored,” said League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “The alternative of banning all prayer from the public events merely helps exclude religion from the public square, which denies the role that faith continues to play in the lives of the majority of people. We need to find ways to reflect our growing religious diversity as a society and this option may prove to be one of them.”
The prayer policy in Saskatoon is one of a number of controversies that have arisen around the matter. Last December, the city briefly drew national attention for refusing to remove “Merry Christmas” greetings from city buses, a decision that spurred Ashu Solo, who filed the original complaint about the prayer at a volunteer breakfast, to file another one about the buses. The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast — a long-running tradition in Saskatoon — has also been renamed the Prayer Breakfast.
Municipalities including Bancroft and Peterborough in Ontario have successfully fought challenges to ban councillors from saying a prayer before council meetings. In May, the Quebec Human Rights Commission allowed Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay to say a 20 second prayer before council meetings, after he lost a previous challenge before the provincial human rights tribunal.
Also in May, the Ontario town of Penetanguishene was ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to stop saying a Christian prayer before council meetings.
In the Ontario legislature, an all-party committee in 2008 recommended keeping the Lord’s Prayer in opening exercises, but adding a rotation of additional prayers from another religion, or a moment of silence. The League believes this is an effective way to reflect the province’s diversity.
Catholic Civil Rights League (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. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information:
Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org