Skip to main content

Canada Saguenay mayor says court’s prayer ruling surprised him, but he’ll comply

Jean Tremblay, mayor of Saguenay, Que., is shown in 2012.

JACQUES BOISSINOT/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Quebec mayor who would recite a prayer at the beginning of municipal council meetings says he's surprised by the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the practice must be stopped.

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay said Thursday he will comply with the judgment even though he doesn't agree with it.

"I respect the decision and we will stop the prayer, for sure, but I can't be in agreement with it after having fought for so long," he told a news conference.

Story continues below advertisement

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the reading of a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a "concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs," the judgment said.

"The state must instead remain neutral in this regard."

The ruling ended an eight-year legal battle that pitted atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Tremblay.

The mayor expressed surprise at the judgment, especially as the Quebec Court of Appeal had previously ruled unanimously in his favour.

"We thought the matter was over, considering the appeals court is the highest court in Quebec and especially as the Supreme Court only handles cases of national interest," he said.

"And we thought that in our case, national interest was a bit exaggerated.

Story continues below advertisement

"We were shaken by the ruling. I'll tell you it was a real surprise. Unanimous. That was a surprise."

The judgment had an immediate impact in some cities and towns across the country, with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson suspending prayers at a city council meeting and the mayor of Levis, Que., saying he'll do the same next week.

The Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature said Thursday it's too soon to say if the Supreme Court decision will have an impact on the daily prayer in the legislative assembly.

Legislature staff are studying the ruling and will forward their findings to a committee of the legislature for a decision, said Chris Collins, who added there will be a prayer when the legislature sits again Tuesday.

In Oshawa, Ont., Mayor John Henry said the judgment will not change anything in his city.

"During the preamble prior to the [council] meeting I ask members of the audience if they'd like to join us in a moment of personal reflection or the Lord's Prayer and then we follow up with O Canada and then we call the meeting to order," he said Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

"You can choose to say it, not say it, you can participate or not participate...I start it prior to the meeting so it's not part of formal council process."

"It started long before I became mayor and the practice will still continue. But Canada is one of these countries where you have a number of options, you have freedom of religion or freedom not to practise religion. People from around the world dream of coming to this country to do both."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter