MEPs debate Bloc motion to scrap reading of daily prayer before House of Commons sits

MPs will debate and then vote on a motion calling for the immediate removal of the reading of the prayer that takes place every day before the House of Commons meets.

Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux is sponsoring the binding motion in the House, which will be discussed by MPs on Tuesday.

The motion will be voted on on Wednesday, said a spokesman for the cabinet of the head of government. If successful, it would replace prayer with a moment of reflection before the start of the day.

The motion says the prayer should be dropped because the House “respects the beliefs and non-beliefs of all parliamentarians and of the general public and is committed to the principle of the separation of religion and the state, diversity of views and freedom.” conscience, while upholding the secularism and religious neutrality of the state and out of a desire for inclusiveness.”

The Speaker of the House of Commons reads the prayer every morning before the cameras in the room are turned on, or members of the public or the media are allowed access to the House.

Parliament’s website states that the Speaker, MPs and table officials must stand during prayer, which is followed by a moment of silence.

Though the prayer was mostly behind closed doors, it was televised on October 23, 2014 — the day after the shootings at the National War Memorial and in the Center Block of Parliament.

The prayer reads:

“Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings that Canada and its citizens have received, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the good of all and to make good laws and wise decisions Amen.

VIEW | Speaker Andrew Scheer reads prayer in House:

Speaker Andrew Scheer reads prayer in House

The traditional prayer for business in the House of Commons is usually private, but was public on Oct. 23, 2014, after the Ottawa shooting.

Prayer has been part of the daily work of the House since 1877 and was enshrined in a statute in 1927.

In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that a city council in the Quebec city of Saguenay could not continue to open its meetings with a prayer. According to the unanimous decision, saying a Catholic prayer during council meetings was an infringement of freedom of conscience and religion.

After the decision, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson replaced prayer at the beginning of city council meetings with a moment of reflection, but parliament is protected by parliamentary privilege and can make its own rules.

Liberals cold to cancel prayer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sounded cold at the idea when he attended a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday morning.

“As I’ve talked to Quebecers and people across the country, they’re focused on mobility, they’re focused on housing, they’re focused on the war in Ukraine,” Trudeau said. “That’s what we’re going to focus on and, frankly, that’s what most of the conversations in the House are about.”

House of Representatives leader Mark Holland said the House of Commons has a debate on the House Rules of Procedure every June and that it would have been a better time for the Bloc to raise the issue.

“I find it strange that the Bloc would choose one of their three days of opposition – they only get three a year – to deal with this, when we have already set aside a day for handling standing orders,” he said. .

Holland said the House should deal with more pressing issues, such as the pandemic, housing and the war in Ukraine.

VIEW | Trudeau says Canadians have bigger concerns than stopping prayer in House:

Trudeau Says Canadians Have Bigger Concerns Than Stopping Praying at House

As the Bloc Québécois prepare a motion to abolish prayer at the opening of the House of Commons meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians are focused on housing and the war in Ukraine.

New Democrat MP Daniel Blaikie said an opposition day motion announced just 24 hours in advance is not the best way to “promote proper dialogue” about ending prayer, which he said would broaden the horizon. should be intentional.

“I know that new Democrats have often felt that if we’re going to talk about changing the Parliament opening ceremony, we should have a country recognition as part of that opening ceremony,” he said.

Blaikie said it’s worth it, and it’s good to think critically about how sessions are opened and whether a prayer of faith can be part of that, but, he added, there’s more than one way to start that discussion. to feed.

“They proposed one, they proposed it at very short notice and not much consultation up front, and I personally wonder if that’s the right way to go about it,” he said.

NDP caucus chair Jenny Kwan said the caucus would discuss the motion and she didn’t want to hurt the caucus decision by suggesting how the party could vote.

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