Following the shootings on Parliament Hill in 2014, Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer was seen in the House of Commons on national television (HOC) reciting the standard prayer as part of Parliament’s Compendium of Procedure:
“Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.”
This might come as a shock to many, but praying is a long-standing practice in Canadian government, ranging from our local MP’s to the House of Commons. Before proceeding with any business in the House, a daily prayer is read, followed by a moment of “reflection and meditation.”
Is this really embodying the true essence of Canadian society? Arguably not.
Prayer is not only a way to uphold tradition, but countless politicians from varying levels of government reportedly have their own public rituals of praise. Of those politicians researched by the BC Humanist Association, 93 per cent identify with Christianity.
Some of the prayers are bizarre, including asking God for assistance with various business contracts, political negotiations, and even praising the beef industry in B.C.
The BCHA report found that a majority of the prayers were religious instead of non-denominational or spiritual in nature, and said that “not only are disproportionately religious in nature (71.2%), but of those prayers where the religion could be positively identified, the vast majority were identified as Christian.”
And even though some provinces do have non-denominational prayers, B.C. usually does not, and allowing prayer of a single religious practice to dominate that space does not provide an inclusive environment for Canadians in government.
Canada presents itself as the land of multiculturalism and equity. For government to overrepresent one religion, a dominantly Eurocentric one at that, we are automatically shunning the practices we are so quick to preach.
There is simply no way of devising a prayer that embraces all of the regions that embody Canada’s multi-faith culture, so why pray at all? Many politicians argue that a simple moment of reflection is the way to go, giving all present the opportunity to give thanks to their devotion of choice. Historically, some politicians have been resistant to getting rid of the ritualistic prayer, though some are less opposed to it, at least publicly.
But come on, Canada! It is 2019, a time of rapid social change in North America. That is not to say there are no hindrances in the process to this idyllic vision of a world of freedom and acceptance. There are many. Injustices take place every day.
Perhaps one step in the right direction could be to extinguish the outdated practice of Christian prayer in government.