Cranbrook council will no longer begin meetings with an invocation from one of the many religious and spiritual groups around town.
Recently the Supreme Court ruled that the Quebec town of Saguenay can’t open its council meetings with a Catholic prayer. The court ruled that reciting a prayer infringes on freedoms of religion and conscience.
In that case the mayor led the prayer at the beginning of the meeting.
While the invocations that start the Cranbrook meetings of council were given by various spiritual and religious leaders from the region — and not the mayor — the city is listening to the top court’s decision.
“Based on the recent Supreme Court ruling, which effectively banned prayers at council meetings, the city will no longer be opening council meetings with an invocation,” Chris Zettel, the city’s corporate communications officer, explained.
“Some municipalities across the country are discussing the ruling and determining if they will continue with a meeting invocation, however, the city has decided to remain consistent with the decision of the high court and abandon opening council meetings with a prayer.”
It’s not clear when the practice of a opening invocation began in Cranbrook. The city looked back on through previous council records and Zettel said the recordings of whether or not there was an invocation in the minutes is “sporadic at best”.
“As an example, we found two recorded notations of invocations from a couple of council meetings in mid 1984, then nothing for months,” he said. “Perhaps they didn’t have invocations at those meetings, or they were never actually recorded. We have no way of telling.”
The city said that there is nothing in the Community Charter or the Local Government Act that requires municipalities to open public council meetings with an invocation.
Zettel noted that the practice is not very common.
“I think you would be hard pressed to find many municipalities in B.C. that still open their meetings with invocations,” he said.