Montreal

Jean Tremblay, Saguenay mayor, agrees to disagree with Supreme Court prayer ruling

Jean Tremblay, the mayor of Saguenay, Que., says he is greatly disappointed by Canada's top court decision that pre-meeting prayers are unconstitutional.

Mayor Jean Tremblay argued pre-meeting prayer respects Quebec heritage, but Supreme Court disagreed

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay expressed his dislike for the Supreme Court's ruling on religious prayer at city council meetings, but said he would obey the law. (CBC)

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay says he'll obey the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling to stop prayers at city council meetings — but he certainly doesn't like it.

Tremblay was on the defensive at a news conference to discuss his point of view, a day after the top court handed down its decision.

"It's far from being over. We have no doubt this will continue, but what we hope is that it's not Saguenay this time. It's not up to the town of Saguenay to take on the interests of Canada as a whole," Tremblay said.

He invoked the memory of Quebec's religious founders, and said we are all children of these people. He referenced Quebec's motto, as well — "Je me souviens," or "I remember."

"Until what point is it important for a nation to remember? Tremblay said.

"We have to stand up for our customs, for our traditions."

Road to the Supreme Court

Canada's top court unanimously concluded that reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The ruling puts an end to an eight-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Tremblay.

Tremblay, a devout Catholic, was ordered to cease the practice. He instead appealed the decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal, which ruled in his favour in 2011.

Simoneau bumped the case up to the Supreme Court, which agreed last year to hear it.

Tremblay argued that reciting a 20-second prayer before city council meetings respects Quebec's Catholic heritage.

The Supreme Court ordered the City of Saguenay and the mayor to stop the prayers. It also ordered the city and Tremblay to pay Simoneau a total of $33,200 in compensatory damages, punitive damages and costs.

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