BC Humanist Association poised to sue the City of Parksville over prayer

BC Humanist Association poised to sue the City of Parksville over prayer

The BC Humanist Association says it’s about to sue the City of Parksville over its prayers.

The city includes a religious prayer at it’s first meeting following an election when councillors are first sworn into their positions.

The Humanist Association says it needs to stop, that it’s not-inclusive and that the law is on its side.

“The 2015 decision by the Supreme Court in Saguenay, (QC), prohibits municipal councils from including prayer in their meetings and in the last two inaugural meetings, in 2018 and 2022, Parksville has included prayers, overtly religious prayers, in their inaugural meetings and that’s a violation of the constitution,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the research coordinator with the BC Humanist Association.

The group has sent the City of Parksville a letter that outlines their attempts to discuss the matter with the city in the past. It says it’s unlikely the city could defend itself in court.

“At this point there’s only two municipalities in British Columbia that are still refusing to uphold their duty of religious neutrality and those are Parksville and Vancouver. All the other municipalities have change their practices,” said Phelps Bondaroff.

The City of Parksville and Parksville’s mayor declined comment on Thursday and said that they’d be referring the matter to city lawyers.

If you watch municipal or provincial news conferences it’s fairly common to hear a First Nation blessing at its start, like a recent one in front of Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Tuesday.

“The increase in Indigenous content is a good sign. It shows that municipalities are stepping up and, at least symbolically, embracing reconciliation and this is also a category of action that falls outside the Supreme Court ruling in Saguenay,” said Phelps Bondaroff.

At B.C.’s legislature, members are able to say a prayer of their religious choice or give a non-religious reflection. This practice is also in the crosshairs of the BC Humanist Association.

“The prayers in the B.C. legislature, I would also say, are unconstitutional but they haven’t been tested in the courts and they may or may not be protected by parliamentary privilege. I have my opinions on that. That’s for the courts to decide,” said Phelps Bondaroff.

The BC Humanists say they will start legal proceedings seeking all available relief and costs against the City of Parksville without further notice.

The BC Humanist news release can be found here.

The last inaugural meeting and prayer in Parksville was Nov. 7, 2022 and can be viewed here.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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