Parksville warned over planned "blessings" in inaugural council meeting

The City of Parksville's planned "blessings" at its upcoming inaugural council meeting is drawing criticism from the BC Humanist Association.

On Monday, November 7, 2022 at 1pm, the City of Parksville will hold its inaugural council meeting following the recent municipal elections. As part of that agenda, the City is including "blessings." In 2018, those were delivered by Dr Paul Hawkes, Lead Pastor at the Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prayers at municipal council meetings were unconstitutional as they violated the state's duty of religious neutrality. In 2020, the BCHA identified Parksville as one of 23 municipalities in BC that began its 2018 inaugural council meeting with a prayer or invocation.

Twice in advance of the release of our report, we wrote to Parksville asking the prayers be abolished in future meetings. The City's Deputy Corporate Officer simply replied to say "Your email has been received and the information will be taken into consideration."

We wrote again two weeks ago but also received no answer.

"The prayer delivered in 2018 was blatantly sectarian and clearly in violation of the Saguenay ruling," said BCHA Executive Director Ian Bushfield. "If they go ahead with another overtly Christian prayer, it will have the effect of excluding the non-religious majority of Parksville from their municipal government."

The BCHA is again asking the City to remove the planned blessings from its inaugural council meeting agenda.

According to the latest census data, the majority (51.9%) of Parksville's residents have no religion.

Transcript of the "ceremonial blessing" delivered by Pastor Dr Paul Hawkes, Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church at the 2018 Parksville Inaugural Council Meeting:

“Let’s pray. Sovereign God, thank you for your concern for those who live in Parksville, evident today by your provision of this leadership for our community. We do pray now for those you have placed in authority over us. For Mayor Mayne and Councillors Fras, Greir, O'Brien, Patterson, Wilson. That you will give each of them wisdom and understanding in regards to the many issues that will come across their desks and patience for the many people that will come to them with ideas and concerns. When they make decisions, may they make them with equity, and fairness, and rightness.

"Father, give them insight into the social and environmental of our community. Give them financial clarity, and an ability to make wise decisions in regards to the issue facing our community not just on matters of immediate concern but on matters that reach years into the future. I pray that this council will be known for its cooperative spirit and its cohesiveness as a team. That their individual experience and gifts and opinions would lead them to better clarity on the things that they will face and the solutions that they will need to find together. Make each of them good listeners of those that they serve. And we also pray for your [inaudible] your staff that will work alongside them, that their health and expertise on various matters would be welcomed, and then when decisions are made by this council that they would be given the resources and ability to carry them out in an expeditious manner.

"I pray these things so that we, all the residents of Parksville, from the youngest to the oldest, might live peaceably and quiet lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

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