City of Parksville scraps prayers at next inaugural council meeting following lawsuit

City of Parksville scraps prayers at next inaugural council meeting following lawsuit
File photo.

Parksville says it’s passing on prayers at its next inaugural council meeting, as the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) pursues legal action against the city.

On Tuesday, the city said it does not intend to include prayers at the next meeting, which will follow the municipal election in 2026. This comes after the BCHA announced its intention to sue following such “blessings” at meetings in 2018 and 2022.

The society said earlier this month that it would be commencing legal proceedings due to Parksville’s “breach of the duty of religious neutrality.” Its meeting on Nov. 7, 2022, for example, included an “explicitly Christian” prayer, according to the BCHA.

“In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada found that prayers at municipal council meetings were unconstitutional as they violated the state’s duty of religious neutrality. Since 2020, the BCHA has been auditing compliance with the decision among municipalities in BC and across the country,” it said.

The BCHA sent a letter to the city earlier this month advising staff of the legal action, with executive director Ian Bushfield saying the lawsuit looks to “ensure Parksville observes its constitutional duty.” It’s also pursuing similar actions against the City of Vancouver.

Bushfield said the society wrote to Parksville in 2020, again following the 2022 elections and twice at the end of 2023, but received “no formal response” as of April 12.

In an update, the city says its lawyers recently responded to the BCHA. 

“In the letter, the City also confirmed it is committed to acting in accordance with all applicable laws, and to support the fundamental rights and freedoms afforded to citizens under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” it said Tuesday.

“The City has confirmed at this time, there is no intention of including prayers at its inaugural meeting after the next municipal election in 2026.”

An inaugural meeting includes ceremonial activities, welcoming a new mayor and council to take their oath of office, and appointing members to committees and boards.

“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,” the city added.

“…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.

“Diversity and inclusiveness make our community stronger and more vibrant.”

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!