Québec: A mayor defends the prayer at the municipal council

Source: FSSPX News

The mayor of Saguenay, in Québec, Jean Tremblay, is fighting to preserve the prayer before each session of the municipal council. After being prosecuted by a citizen of his city and by the Secular Movement of Québec, he was sentenced by the Human Rights Tribunal of Québec on February 11th to pay them 30 000 Canadian dollars (22 000 Euros) and above all to say no more prayers. Furthermore, the sentence demands that a statue of the Sacred Heart and the crucifix be removed from rooms where assembly meetings are held in the name of “the obligation of civil authorities to remain neutral” and of “the citizen’s right to liberty of conscience”.

Quite determined to not relinquish a long-standing Québécois tradition, the mayor called for donations on February 16th in order to avoid spending the public funds of his city of 150 000 inhabitants on this judicial affair. “I am sure that my citizens are in favor of our standing up to defend our values,” he declared to Radio Ville-Marie. Since then, it has become a full-scale plebiscite and on March 1st, over 100 000 Canadian dollars (70 000 Euros) have been collected. For the Québécois aedile, prayer is a right: “this is perhaps the first time in the history of the world that a mayor is impeded from saying the prayer and is punished for having recited it.” In front of an ever growing news press, coming from the entire country, he stated that “those who govern Québec are particularly lax in defending whatever constitutes our identity”, and he considers that his position “is in conformity with the wish of the majority of citizens, who are 90% Catholic.” With their support, he intends to fight to the end: “We cannot let those things go on, because it will have repercussions all over Québec. Imagine what would happen if we yielded. Those people will end up dominating everywhere: ‘Take down the crucifix, take down this, change that name’.”

The controversy goes beyond the limits of the city of Saguenay. The judgment of the Human Rights Tribunal could indeed apply to all public institutions in the Belle Province (Beautiful Province), a possibility that provoked reactions on the part of Hugo D’Amours, spokesman for the Premier of Québec, Jean Charest: “Taking down the crucifix in the National Assembly is out of the question.” In any case, that is what he declared to the Québécois daily newspaper Le Soleil, reminding readers that “the Church played an important part in the history of Québec and the crucifix is a symbol of that fact.” He further stated that “the National Assembly will stand firm on its decision made in May 2008, that is the unanimous vote in favour of a government motion stating that the crucifix will remain in place.”

Apparently that opinion is not shared by the Secular Movement of Québec, which expressed through its president, Marie-Michelle Poisson, the belief that the decision of the Tribunal “may have repercussions all the way up to the National Assembly, where the crucifix in its predominant position is much disputed.”

In the same inquiry made by Le Soleil, Deputy Louise Beaudoin, member of the Parti québécois, reacted vigorously, expressing the opinion that “Québec is submerged in the most profound incoherence” on these questions. “Why does the Supreme Court allow the kirpan (a symbolic weapon resembling a dagger, worn by the Orthodox Sikhs) in schools, while the Human Rights Tribunal tells us the prayer may not be recited, and that the crucifix as well as the image of the Sacred Heart must be taken down?” And she insists: “Charest’s government bears the responsibility for this incoherence because it supports a two-speed secularism: piece by piece, and à la carte. We should agree on one common set of rules.” In this case, as the Secular Movement of Québec complained, “there is no written legislation explicitly declaring the neutrality of the state, of the government’s acts, or of its agents regarding religion.”

In order to calm the tension between the different parties, the Union of the Municipalities of Québec suggested that its members substitute a moment of silent recollection for the prayer. That has been the common practice of the majority of the large cities in the country for years. The mayor of Saguenay will not hear of such a proposition, preferring to perpetuate, with a clear voice, “the beautiful values that had built up Québec 450 years before.” (Sources: apic/radio Ville Marie/Le Soleil/canoë.ca – DICI, issue number 231, March 5th, 2011)

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