Saguenay mayor Jean Tremblay says he’s not happy with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to hear a complaint against his city council’s daily prayer and religious symbols on display in its council chambers, including a crucifix.
“I thought it was finished,” he told Shawn Apel, guest host of CBC Montreal’s Radio Noon.
Tremblay was referring to a 2013 decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal that ruled prayers at city hall do not infringe on a person’s freedom of religion.
Tremblay said the one bright spot is the fact a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in his favour would set a precedent for all Canadian provinces.
“Canada is a free country, we are free to pray if we want to,” he said.
However, a ruling against his city council’s prayer and Christian symbols would be a blow to personal freedoms, he said, and he worries the consensus is against him.
“I know the people who don’t believe in God, they have the sympathy of the government and the sympathy of everybody and they’re working to see all religious things put in the garbage,” he said.
Doing so, he said, amounts to the destruction of Quebec’s culture and heritage, which Tremblay believes cannot be separated from its Christian roots.
“Today we’re being told to put [Quebec’s Christian heritage] away and I don’t agree with that,” he said.
“We’re forgetting our history — when Jacques Cartier arrived, he planted a cross. Our flag has a Christian cross… but we feel that all that was done by our ancestors is bad,” Tremblay said.
Tremblay says he’ll now have to scramble to find the funds to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada challenge by the Quebec Secular Movement, which took up the case from Saguenay resident Alain Simoneau after he lost the Quebec Court of Appeal's decision.
That decision overturned a 2008 decision by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that ruled prayer goes against the city's obligation to remain neutral on religion.
The Tribunal ordered the mayor of Saguenay to remove the religious symbols from city hall and to stop praying before council meetings. It also awarded Simoneau $30,000 in damages.
Tremblay said his court costs to date have amounted to more than $200,000, an amount that was covered in large part by more than $180,000 in private donations.
“Now I have to start again,” he said.