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The Canadian Press

A Green Party politician who opposes mandatory Christian prayers in the New Brunswick legislature is suggesting it shift to periods of silence as practised in Quebec.

Kevin Arseneau said Monday that when the house returns in May he’ll bring in a motion calling for an exploration of practices other than the speaking Christian prayers for the Queen, the legislature and the Lord’s Prayer before legislature business commences.

“I find it’s exclusive. It’s not inclusive enough. In New Brunswick we have many people, practising many religions. And there’s also the separation of state and religion,” said the member for Kent North.

“A moment of silence would generate the inclusivity and give everyone a chance to reflect in their own manner.”

However, the push for change by Arseneau – who has declined to take his turn speaking the prayer in the assembly – has been swiftly shut down by Tory Premier Blaine Higgs.

Higgs said last week he finds it sad that some are attempting to “pick away” at historical traditions in the province.

A spokeswoman for Kris Austin, the leader of the People’s Alliance Party of New Brunswick, said her leader is on the record opposing Arseneau’s motion. The People’s Alliance has been providing support to the minority Tory government.

“He (Austin) is opposed to removing prayer from the legislature because it is tradition. He has stated he would vote against the motion,” wrote spokeswoman Laverne Stewart.

However, Arseneau said using the argument of tradition is a “logical fallacy.”

“If we would only think about tradition, Catholics wouldn’t be allowed to vote in New Brunswick, and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote.”

He said he’ll carry on his push to have a system of silence similar to that practised in some provincial and municipal jurisdictions in Canada.

“I prefer the moment of silence. It’s the most inclusive, even to those that don’t have any religious affiliations. It could also be a moment to reflect on the day coming up in the legislature and have things done with respect,” he said.

“That’s the way I prefer.”

The neighbouring provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia both continue to have Christian prayers said before the legislature opens to the public, while there is no prayer in Newfoundland and Labrador.

David Coon, the leader of the Green Party and a practising Christian, has said he prefers the example of Ontario, where prayers from diverse faiths are spoken in the legislature, along with the Lord’s Prayer.

Arseneau said he respects that position, and would hope the legislature’s procedures committee would hear it alongside other proposals in a wide-ranging discussion.

“What I wish is that we can have a civilized discussion about this and put many options on the table and have a real, in-depth, civil discussion about it,” he said.

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