No more prayers at Edmonton city council meetings

Edmonton City Council.
Edmonton City Council. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

EDMONTON – Edmonton city council has suspended a practice in existence for nearly 40 years. On Tuesday, council didn’t have a prayer to start a meeting for the first time since 1978.

Prior to Tuesday, Edmonton council meetings had begun with either a prayer or a reflection from another religion.

Despite opposition from some councillors, the move was made following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Quebec where a man challenged the prayer.

Earlier in April, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer. In a unanimous decision, the country’s top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules prayers can’t continue at Quebec council meeting 

The Supreme Court decision applies only to the Quebec charter, but the issue has been debated across Canada regarding possible implications to the Canadian charter.

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Regina city council has also suspended the practice of opening its meetings with a prayer.

READ MORE: Prayer at Regina city council meetings suspended following Supreme Court ruling 

Several Edmonton councillors had hoped the prayer practice would continue, but the prayer line was omitted from the agenda when it was officially released last week. Instead of a prayer, council had a moment of reflection Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: Should prayer be part of Edmonton city council meetings?

A Global News poll shows 67 per cent of voters believe council should stop opening meetings with a prayer or religious reflection. The poll had 4,000 votes.

The issue remains on the table as it’s studied by city administration. A report is scheduled to be finalized later this year.

With files from Global News’ Vinesh Pratap