Following a letter from the BC Humanist Association (BCHA), the Village of Belcarra Council voted last night to remove prayers from all future council meetings.
In mid-November, the BCHA released a report identifying Belcarra as one of seven municipalities in British Columbia that included a prayer in its 2022 inaugural council meeting. The BCHA followed up last week with letters to each community asking for confirmation that future meetings would be secular. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prayer in municipal council meetings was unconstitutional as it violated the state's duty of religious neutrality.
"The Village of Belcarra has taken a commendable step towards inclusivity and respect for diverse beliefs by passing a resolution that commits to excluding prayer from future council meetings," said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, BCHA Research Coordinator and co-author of We Yelled at Them Until They Stopped. "This measure will ensure that all are welcome in Belcarra council meetings, regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof."
Belcarra is the first of the seven communities to make the commitment and did so at a special closed council meeting on December 4, 2023. The Council adopted the following resolution:
That prayers, religious invocations, or any religious observance will not be included in future regular or inaugural meetings of the Village of Belcarra Council.
The meeting was closed to the public so the council could consider labour relations, potential litigation and legal advice. This means that the discussion was held in private, and the vote is confidential.
"We're very grateful to Belcarra for taking these concerns seriously and responding quickly and favourably to our request," said BCHA Executive Director Ian Bushfield. "We look forward to Colwood, Delta, Parksville, Tumbler Ridge, Vancouver and West Kelowna following this example and responding in kind."
Help us keep up the pressure: Support the BCHA's 2022 Year End Fundraiser
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