The City of Parksville’s planned “blessings” at its Nov. 7 inaugural council meeting is drawing criticism from the BC Humanist Association (BCHA).
According to the council agenda, the meeting will include blessings before the new mayor and council members take their oath of office.
In 2018, blessings were delivered by Dr. Paul Hawkes, lead pastor at the Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church.
“The prayer delivered in 2018 was blatantly sectarian and clearly in violation of the Saguenay ruling,” said BCHA executive director Ian Bushfield, in a news release. “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.”
There will be two blessings at the Nov. 7 meeting, according to the city. One will be a First Nation blessing by the chief of the Qualicum First Nation and the second by a youth pastor with 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 B.C. 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 release read. “The City’s Deputy Corporate Officer simply replied to say ‘Your email has been received and the information will be taken into consideration.’”
The BCHA said it wrote again two weeks ago but did not receive a reply.
The BCHA is asking the city to remove the planned blessings from its inaugural council meeting agenda.
— NEWS Staff, submitted