British Columbia

Group lobbies to scrap Legislative Assembly daily prayer

The B.C. Humanist Association says the daily prayer in the B.C. Legislature is antiquated and discriminatory and should be eliminated altogether.

B.C. Humanist Assoc. calls the practice of starting every day with a prayer 'antiquated and discriminatory'

The British Columbia Legislature is reflected in the waters of Victoria harbour in 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The B.C. Humanist Association says the daily prayer in the B.C. Legislature is antiquated and discriminatory and should be eliminated altogether.

To that end, the group is launching a letter writing campaign asking supporters to call upon their MLA to end the practice.

"We think [the prayer] is irrelevant to the work that MLAs do," said Ranil Prasad, BCHA campaign manager. "If any other workplace in B.C. started the day with a prayer, it would be awkward."

According to legislative norms, an interdenominational prayer is delivered by a volunteer MLA at the start of each day.

The daily prayer is not recorded in Hansard, but Prasad said research by the BCHA shows the majority are Christian in nature.

"We don't think that's representing B.C. very well," he said. "In most surveys and poll results and on the census, B.C. is 40 to 50 per cent irreligious — people who don't identify with any religion. And to have prayers that lean overwhelmingly Christian is problematic for us."

In a 2015 Saguenay, Que., case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that public political institutions should remain religiously neutral and "neither favour nor hinder any particular belief."

However, legislative assemblies like B.C.s are protected by parliamentary privilege and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the courts.

According to its website, The B.C. Humanist Association is a registered charity that provides community and a voice for humanists, atheists, agnostics and the non-religious of Metro Vancouver and British Columbia.

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