Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Quebec Court of Appeal: "Prayers OK before city council"

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay
So there's a whole lot of news here in Quebec about secularism and reasonable accommodation of religious groups, who seem to be mostly minority groups.

For a blogging addict like me, it's like being in a candy store! 

The problem is I've been rather busy with important fixes to the newly purchased house and catching up with things at work. So I'm like a kid in a candy store with just a nickel. You just can't buy squat anymore with a nickel!

I'll be blogging more about this during the next few days. But for now, here's the latest on secularism in Quebec government. The flames of conflict are burning again in La Belle Province so expect more!

Prayers OK before city council meetings, Quebec court rules

If you read this blog, you may remember Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay. He's the guy who made this little gem of a comment:
“What shocks me, is to see us, the gentle French-Canadians, being told how to behave by someone from Algeria whose name we can’t even pronounce,” ... 
“They are quietly, and with nice language, eating away (at our traditions),”  ... “They quietly start by removing the prayer in city hall, then they’ll remove our religious objects, then they’ll take away the crosses in cities and after that they’ll go into the schools ...   
“They’ll do away with our religion and culture everywhere, and you won’t notice.”
The Algerian THEM Tremblay was referring to was PQ candidate Djemila Benhabib, who has been described by Quebec press as a militante laïque (militant secularist) and athée (atheist). In other words, someone like me. Wikipedia describes her as a Canadian opponent of Muslim fundamentalism. Apparently she's been a Canadian citizen for 15 years but that wasn't good enough for Tremblay.

At the time, she was promoting the upcoming (and somewhat flawed) Secular Charter, which was supposed to be tabled this spring but was delayed until the fall.

Tremblay took aim at her, probably, because a human rights tribunal ruled against prayer in his city council and in favour of the Quebec Secular Movement.
In 2011, Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of local resident Alain Simoneau and the group Quebec Secular Movement, concluding the prayers said before council meetings and the crucifix hanging in the council chambers were discriminatory.
Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay, an outspoken Catholic, refused to comply and appealed the decision.
Well, the decision has been appealed and it looks like the good Mayor got his wish. Back to the current article.
Today, the province’s highest court ruled Tremblay is allowed to maintain his religious observances, saying the prayers don’t come into conflict with the moral convictions of residents who aren’t religious.
In other words, "shut up and listen to this prayer before the government does its business."  It is indeed a public service announcement from the government informing all the non-believers in the room of just where they really stand in these proceedings. It seems pretty obvious to me, but the court didn't see it that way.

However, the court did say that Tremblay "used his position as mayor of Saguenay to promote his religious views." I guess they couldn't get away with not at least admitting that. But they offered no practical consequences for this action at all - they just slapped him on the wrist and told him he was naughty. I wonder if he did all of this on the state's dime?

Oh if only we had a true separation of church and state!  Some of the top comments on the page are encouraging though. Maybe the increasingly secular public in Quebec is waking up:

Perhaps what Quebec needs is more cases like this.

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