April 15, 2015 - 1:00 PM
KELOWNA - A ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada about conducting prayers at public meetings has prompted the City of Kelowna to review its own council procedures bylaw.
While there are no prayers given at regular council meetings, deputy city clerk Karen Needham says a prayer is offered at the public hearings held every two weeks in council chambers.
“It’s a standing item on the Tuesday evening agenda,” Needham says. “It is part of the council procedures bylaw that sets out how the meetings are run.”
Needham says the city is aware of the Supreme Court ruling but said pulling the prayer from the agenda would be premature.
“As the ruling was just made today we will, similar to all Supreme Court rulings we have to review the entire ruling, follow any appeals should there be any and of course determine appropriate action,” Needham adds.
The Supreme Court ruled that a municipal council in Saguenay, Quebec can no longer open its public meetings with a prayer, citing its infringement on freedom of conscience and religion.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran also says the city will be reviewing the ruling but adds it has already taken steps toward making the prayer neutral.
"Council is cognizant of the (fact we) have many faiths in our community,” Basran says. “Council took the step this year to make the the prayer non-denominational and make it more of a spiritual blessing as opposed to a prayer. However, in light of this ruling we may need to reassess that.”
The District of Lake Country, District of West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional District do not offer prayers before meetings. The District of West Kelowna did not respond before deadline.
City councils in Vernon, Penticton and Kamloops also conduct public meetings without prayers.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015