Students returning to class in Alberta, Saskatchewan & New Brunswick may still hear prayers in school

Despite an increasingly secular population, the school acts and regulations in five provinces still permit religious exercises in Canada according to a new analysis from the BC Humanist Association.

Court cases in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia have deemed the practice illegal but the school acts of three prairie provinces still allow prayers in schools and regulations in New Brunswick permit teachers to read scriptures or deliver the Lord's Prayer. Additionally, Newfound and Labrador's Education Act allows parents to request a 'religious observance' in schools.

Author of Religion in Public Schools and BCHA Executive Director Ian Bushfield says the association still finds reports about prayers in schools as recently as 2022.

While its an increasingly rare practice, there are still public schools in rural communities across the prairies that open with the Lord's Prayer. This discriminates against every non-Christian family in the district and exemptions only serve to ostracize and other those students.

The report notes that five jurisdictions, the three prairie provinces as well as Ontario and the Northwest Territories, permit religious instruction in the classroom. The latter two require the programs be inclusive, however.

The BC Humanist Association is calling on the provinces they've identified to repeal provisions that permit sectarian religious exercises and instruction and instead enshrine the secular nature of public schools in their school acts, as British Columbia has done.

Read the report

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