Winnipeg man wants prayer removed from city council meetings
Published Wednesday, September 28, 2016 1:53PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:37PM CST
A Winnipeg man wants to silence a routine procedure at Winnipeg City Council meetings.
Tony Governo, an atheist, said the city is excluding him and others like him, because of the prayer that begins every council get together.
He is asking Speaker Devi Sharma and Mayor Brian Bowman to put a stop to the practice.
“It's not my sentiment, I don't believe in any deity, so what city council says in council should represent all of Winnipeg,” he added.
Governo said he has legal grounds to back his position – last year the Supreme Court of Canada banned prayers at municipal meetings. The top court ruled the town of Saguenay, Quebec could not open its meetings with Catholic prayer, because it infringed on freedom of conscience and religion.
“The state cannot compel me to act in a way that I don't want to act,” Governo explained.
However, city officials said after that decision they received a legal opinion that City Hall can continue with prayers because the practice is nondenominational. They said councillors, who take turns delivering them, are allowed to use a prayer from any faith, site non-religious addresses, even singing or dancing is allowed.
"We want to ensure that we're doing what we can do to make sure City Hall is inclusive as possible and that also means being inclusive of those that choose to express themselves through a religious lens,” Mayor Brian Bowman said.
As for Governo, he is filing a human rights complaint, because he said he should not have to stand and bow his head when he enters the council chamber.