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The President of the Canadian Bishops would abolish prayer in the Commons

Michel Saba, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Bloc Québécois can count on significant support in its crusade to abolish the reading of the prayer in the House of Commons and replace it with a moment of reflection: the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is himself “Totally agree.

“Praying to God and voting is a little annoying, it doesn’t seem logical,” summed up Bishop Raymond Poisson in an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday.

Being in the place of elected officials, “I would vote for a moment of reflection leaving room for everyone to be able to express their religious or non-religious reference in their internal strength”, he said.

The issue of secularism came back to the fore this week when the Bloc Québécois forced elected officials to vote on a motion to end the custom that takes place at the start of each sitting, but the Conservatives and almost all liberals opposed it.

The Bloc Québécois proposed that the prayer, which begins with “Almighty God” and ends with “Amen”, be replaced by a moment of reflection.

Society has evolved, acknowledges Bishop Poisson. “In 2022, we are in a very multicultural, and multi-religious, multi-religious society, and even there are people who have religious references and others who do not”.

A period of reflection would allow believing MPs to seek “the help of God or its religious reference for the decisions it (the House of Commons) is going to take”, but also to offer others the opportunity to reflect.

The Roman Catholic bishop notes that this would settle the issue that “when you take a moment of prayer, of course, you have to use words”.

But beware of the idea of ​​evacuating “symbols of history” such as the religious references contained in the Constitution of Canada or the national anthem, he warned, reacting to the idea of ​​​​bringing other adjustments.

“A national anthem is a rallying anthem, but it is not there just to say today. He is there to say what we were, what we are and what we will become.

“We will not return to the charge”

At the Bloc Québécois, the critic for secularism, Martin Champoux, who tabled the motion, barely concealed his joy after learning the opinion of Bishop Poisson, being both “surprised” and “delighted”, even “flattered”.

A prayer has been recited at the beginning of each session since 1877, but has only been included in the rules since 1927.

This is not the Bloc Québécois’ first attempt to put an end to it. The formation had failed to obtain the consent of the House in 2019.

After the recent defeat on Wednesday, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet has not ruled out that his party will return to the charge during discussions scheduled for June during meetings of the committee which looks at the rules of the House.

However, Mr. Champoux dismissed the idea on Friday, preferring to return the ball to the court of the “government and the other parties” to propose themselves to initiate the discussion in the light of the comments of the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops. from Canada.

“We gave the deputies and the House and the parties the opportunity to debate it, to vote on the question, which we did on Wednesday, with the result that 266 deputies preferred to maintain the prayer, he said. he argued. We will not come back to the charge with another debate on it, another motion on it.”

According to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, before each sitting, the Speaker takes his place in the chair and recites the prayer partly in French and in English. Members must remain standing during this time.

Work must begin two minutes after the reading. It was then that the doors were opened and the televising of the proceedings began.