Brampton (February 11, 2015): The World Sikh Organization of Canada supports Brampton City Council 's move to introduce a moment of silence, in place of a prayer, to commence council meetings. The WSO made submissions to Brampton City Council via a letter and by oral submissions today, endorsing the move, which was subsequently approved by council.
In December, council replaced the Lord's Prayer with a non-denominational prayer. Brampton City Council passed this decision last week in a 9-2 vote in favour of ending the practice. The move had proven contentious as some Brampton residents felt the tradition of opening meetings with the Christian prayer should not be altered.
WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh said in his letter to council,
Brampton, and Canada more broadly, is a mosaic of people of diverse cultures, faiths and beliefs. Accordingly, our public institutions must be religiously neutral, while still allowing for individuals to express and practice their religious beliefs freely. The favouring of any particular faith group over another by including a denominational prayer would be inappropriate and in contravention of Canadian law.
While all city council members should be afforded the opportunity to individually offer a prayer or reflect as they so choose, Council should not impose a denominational prayer on all the members present. Therefore, we believe that the decision to cease the recitation of a denominational prayer at the commencement of council meetings is appropriate and in accordance with Canadian law.
The WSO strongly encourages Brampton City Council to not revisit the decision to discontinue the recitation of a denominational prayer at the beginning of meetings. If necessary, other solutions can be considered, which allow members the opportunity to privately observe a moment of prayer but not impose on others present.
The WSO's oral submissions to council were made by Director of Development Jaskaran Singh Sandhu who suggested that council could best resolve the situation by eliminating a collective prayer, whether denominational or non-denominational, and introducing a moment of silence in which all members could reflect or pray as they choose without imposing their prayers or beliefs on others.
The suggestion of introducing a moment of silence was put to a vote and was passed unanimously.
Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, WSO Vice President for Ontario said, "we believe that a moment of silence is a solution which satisfies the needs of all citizens in Brampton. Those who wish to recite a prayer are free to do so, without imposing on others, while others can take a moment to silently reflect before beginning council business. We are glad that we were able to make submissions in support of this solution, which will hopefully put this divisive matter to rest."
The WSO is a non-profit national organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights of all individuals, irrespective or race, gender, ethnicity, religion or nationality.