BC Humanist Association drops legal threats against Parksville after city agrees to end council prayers

BC Humanist Association drops legal threats against Parksville after city agrees to end council prayers
Parksville council is pictured in this file photo.

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA) says it’s dropping its threat of a legal challenge against the City of Parksville after the city agreed to end its practice of an inaugural prayer or “blessing” during its first meetings following municipal elections.

In April, the BCHA sent a letter to the city saying it was in “breach of the duty of religious neutrality” because Parksville includes an “explicitly Christian” prayer at its inaugural meetings each time a new council was voted in.

The association claimed the city did not respond to multiple letters concerning the prayer, until after it threatened legal action.

In an update on April 30, the city said it planned to not include any prayers at its inaugural council meeting after the 2026 municipal election.

“The agenda for (the next) inaugural meeting will be set by the Mayor-elect, and the concerns of the BC Humanist Society will be addressed by the Mayor-elect at that time,” said the city in a statement at the time.

“…Council acknowledges our community is comprised of people with diverse beliefs, abilities, backgrounds, and world views and wishes to expressly state that all opinions and perspectives are welcome and valued.”

On Tuesday, the BCHA said that it was happy to drop its threat of legal challenge, since Parksville agreed to drop its inaugural prayer.

In April, the association said only two municipalities in B.C. – Parksville and Vancouver – continued to have prayers in their council meeting.

Last month, the BCHA said the City of Vancouver acknowledged that “hosting prayers at the City of Vancouver’s November 7, 2022 inauguration ceremony was a breach of the duty of religious neutrality as set out in Mouvement laique Québecois v Saguenay 2015 SCC 16.”

After that, the association dropped its threat of legal action against Vancouver.

“Nine years after the Saguenay ruling, we’re thrilled to be able to declare B.C.’s municipal council meetings prayer-free,” said Ian Bushfield, executive director of the BCHA, in a statement Tuesday.
“We will remain vigilant as we continue playing whac-a-mole with local politicians who privilege religion over nonreligion in the public sphere,” he said.

“We strongly encourage anyone considering bringing prayers back to look closely at the responses we received from municipalities ranging from Belcarra to Vancouver.”

With files from CHEK’s Ethan Morneau

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