The Sagueany Project

The Saguenay Project is the BC Humanist Association's research-driven advocacy campaign for secularism in municipal council meetings.

The Project promotes compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada's 2015 decision in MLQ v Saguenay, which found that prayers in municipal council meetings violated the state's duty of religious neutrality.

By auditing their practices, the BCHA is encouraging local governments to make their meetings more accessible and welcoming to people of all beliefs and none.

Each report follows a similar model and methodology but explores issues specific to the practice relating to ongoing municipal prayer in those jurisdictions.

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Reports

The following table lists our reports on prayers in each province. The denominators show the total number of municipalities reviewed in each study, which was sometimes restricted to those with a population over 1000 (Ontario and Alberta) or for every municipality for which we could find data (BC and Manitoba).

Report Province Date Regular prayers Inaugural prayers
Duty of Neutrality Beyond Saguenay BC Nov 2020 0/162 23*/162
In Open Defiance MB Mar 2022 4/101 6/101
Open for Unconstitutional Business ON Dec 2022 9/360 156/328
We Yelled at Them Until They Stopped BC Nov 2023 0/161 7/148
The Last Municipality Standing AB May 2024 6/177 6/172

*We identified three more prayers at BC's 2018 inaugural meetings in We Yelled At Them Until We Stopped, bringing the total to 26.

While these studies are ongoing, several emerging trends can be identified:

  1. The number of municipalities including prayer in their meetings (regular or inaugural) has declined since Saguenay. Some municipalities responded to the ruling by changing their practices: sometimes abolishing the practice altogether, other times altering or adjusting their procedures.
  2. Despite this reduction, prayer continues to be included in some municipal council meetings, particularly inaugural meetings, across the country.
  3. These prayers are disproportionately delivered by Christian men.

Volunteer

The Saguenay Project is powered by volunteers. Our supporters have helped identify municipalities violating the duty of religious neutrality, transcribed prayers and are even involved in the writing of our reports.

Volunteer

Achievements

Following the release of Duty of Neutrality Beyond Saguenay, the BCHA began writing to municipalities that included prayers in their 2018 inaugural meetings. Following this advocacy, only seven included prayers in their 2022 inaugural meetings.

The BCHA sought commitments from these final seven communities and, following threats of legal action, was able to declare British Columbia municipal councils 'prayer-free' in July 2024.

Latest news


BC municipalities 'prayer-free' as Parksville commits to religious neutrality in future meetings

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA) is declaring the end of municipal prayers in British Columbia (BC) following a commitment from the City of Parksville that there will not be prayers in the City's next inaugural council meeting.

Vancouver concedes 2022 prayers breached duty of neutrality

The City of Vancouver has said that prayers at its most recent inauguration ceremony were "a breach of the duty of religious neutrality." A lawyer for the City made the concession in response to the threat of legal action from the BC Humanist Association (BCHA).

Prayers end in MD of Bonnyville following BCHA advocacy

Council meetings in the Municipal District of Bonnyville, Alberta, no longer open with a prayer. This follows the BC Humanist Association releasing a report that identified it as one of eight Alberta municipalities that violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Eight Alberta municipalities include unconstitutional prayers at council meetings

In its fifth report on prayer in municipal council meetings across Canada, the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) has identified eight municipalities in Alberta that included prayer in their council meetings.

BCHA set to sue Vancouver over inaugural prayer

Yesterday, lawyers for the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) asked the City of Vancouver for a public commitment to respect the constitutional duty of religious neutrality. The City was warned that the BCHA is preparing to commence legal proceedings.

Launching legal action against the City of Parksville's council prayer

In a letter sent yesterday, counsel for the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) advised the City of Parksville that the BCHA will be commencing legal proceedings against the City for its breach of the duty of religious neutrality.

Write your mayor asking them to end prayers in inaugural council meetings

We're ramping up the pressure on the three municipalities that haven't committed to end prayers in future inaugural council meetings.

Three more municipalities commit to review Saguenay decision by 2026

West Kelowna, Colwood and Tumbler Ridge have all now responded to the BCHA's calls to end prayers in future inaugural council meetings.

Belcarra council agrees to end prayers in special meeting

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.

See more municipal prayers posts.



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