Yukon Legislative Assembly prayers to continue

A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling will not affect the ability of Yukon Legislative Assembly to say a prayer at the beginning of each sitting day, according to the assembly’s clerk.

A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling will not affect the ability of Yukon Legislative Assembly to say a prayer at the beginning of each sitting day, according to the assembly’s clerk.

Earlier this week the country’s highest court banned prayer from a municipal council chamber in Saguenay, Quebec.

It found the practice to infringe on freedom of conscience and religion, and to be discriminatory against non-believers.

Here in the Yukon, a prayer is said at the beginning of each legislative sitting.

The Speaker rotates between four prayers that have been collected by various speakers over the years, one for each day of the week that members typically sit, said clerk Floyd McCormick.

The Supreme Court decision will not likely have any effect on that practice, because of the rules of parliamentary privilege that apply to legislative assemblies but not city councils, he said.

Parliamentary privilege exempts members of legislatures and the House of Commons from legal responsibility for certain things, including words that are said while the assembly is in session.

At least one past attempt to challenge prayer in a legislative assembly has been unsuccessful, said McCormick.

“The court just threw it out, saying they didn’t have jurisdiction because the legislative assembly is the master of its own proceedings.”

For now, the legislative assembly’s prayer tradition is here to stay, he said.

“The standing orders – the rules – still call on the speaker to do a prayer every day. I mean, who knows what will happen in the long run, but as for right now there’s no consideration here about changing anything with regard to the prayer.”