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Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP votes to end daily prayer in the House of Commons

The motion to end the daily prayer was brought forward by a Bloc Quebecois MP
A Canadian flag hangs from a lamp post along the road in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Photo: The Canadian Press - Adrian Wyld)

A motion to end the House of Common’s daily prayer reading was defeated May 11.

Sponsored by Martin Champoux, Bloc Québécois MP for Drummond, the motion sought to replace the current prayer with a moment of reflection.

The motion received only 56 votes in favour compared to 266 nays.

Taylor Bachrach, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP, voted for the motion.

“I have no trouble whatsoever with the concept of prayer,” Bachrach said on May 11. “And in fact, several constituents over the years have said that they pray for me and I welcome their prayers in the spirit they’re intended. I voted for the motion because I believe that Parliament is a place that belongs to all Canadians and should be neutral when it comes to religion.”

During a debate of the motion on May 10, some MPs argued that whether or not to maintain a daily prayer should not be brought forward as an opposition motion when there are more pressing matters impacting Canadians.

Bachrach agreed that issues such as the affordability crisis, the housing crisis, and reconciliation are more urgent.

“That’s certainly where my focus is,” he said. “But at the same time, we have a responsibility to deal with matters that parties like the Bloc Québécois bring forward.”

During opposition motions, other parties are able to propose amendments. The NDP tried to add an amendment to the motion to include a land acknowledgement at the beginning of a sitting of the House of Commons but it was declined, Bachrach said.

Reading the prayer before every sitting of the House of Commons, before even the public are allowed into Chambers, has been part of Parliament’s daily procedures since 1877.

The issue of whether prayer belongs in a government setting was addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015 at the municipal level.

In that case, the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the City of Saguenay to recite a prayer during municipal council meetings because it violated the right to freedom of conscience and religion.

That decision now applies to municipalities across the country.

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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