Human rights commission orders Saguenay to stop council prayer
Quebec's human rights commission has asked the city of Saguenay to stop praying before council meetings.
The commission says the prayer goes against the city's obligation as a public entity to remain neutral on questions of religion, and violates religious freedom.
The advisory follows a 2006 ruling involving Laval, Que., that found such prayers infringe individual rights.
The commission says in a news release that it won't push the case to a costly tribunal because of the clear precedent set in 2006 with the Laval case.
Two Saguenay residents complained to the commission about the prayer.
The city's mayor, Jean Tremblay, has been an outspoken defender of Quebec's Roman Catholic roots, and said he has no intention of cancelling the prayer.
According to him, the commission's ruling is not binding, but rather a recommendation from a certain perspective.
"I know they prefer me to stop, but I won't do that," he told CBC News. "For me, God is much more important than the commission. When I arrive on the other side, maybe in 10 years, 20 years, I don't know, they won't ask me if I follow the commission, they will ask me if I follow God.
"And I follow God."
The 30-second prayer addresses all religions, and keeping it is a matter of respect, Tremblay said.
Saguenay is one of a handful of Quebec municipalities that have such prayers at the start of meetings.
With files from the Canadian Press