The Lord’s Prayer, recited by the Speaker at the beginning of each Ontario legislative session, doesn’t reflect the province’s diversity, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday as he called for a new approach to begin daily proceedings.
Premier McGuinty said it was time to “move beyond” the Lord’s Prayer to a more inclusive custom that better reflects Ontario’s multiculturalism.
In a letter to opposition leaders, the premier called for an all-party legislative committee that would seek input from citizens and religious groups before making recommendations to the legislature.
According to the 2006 census, one-third of Ontario’s population was born outside Canada.
In the Toronto region, more than half the population was born in another country.
Premier McGuinty said the province has not changed its daily recitation since 1969, while other jurisdictions have moved to adjust their customs to better reflect changing times.
The premier denied the changes were proposed to smooth tensions left over from election rhetoric that saw faith-based school funding hotly debated.
“No, like the modernization of the house itself, I think it’s a reflection of the times,” Premier McGuinty said. “We’re much more than just Protestants and Catholics today. We have all the world’s faiths represented here. If they’re represented outside the legislature, I think we ought to find a way to ensure that their diversity is reflected inside the legislature as well.”
Earlier this week, the Liberals proposed to start daily proceedings in the upcoming session at 9:30 a.m. instead of the current 1:30 p.m., while eliminating evening sittings to make the legislature more family friendly.
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said his party was open to looking at new morning customs but Premier McGuinty’s letter implied the Lord’s Prayer would be replaced altogether.
“That is completely unacceptable to us,” John Tory said. “Part of respecting the tradition of the legislature is keeping the Lord’s Prayer. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be open to other prayers being added.”
New Democratic House Leader Peter Kormos said the NDP would also take part in the discussions, but warned the premier might see a movement to remove any reference to religion.
“The premier is trying to show how pluralistic he’s prepared to be when it comes to faith communities,” Peter Kormos said. “But I think he’d better be careful because there are going to be folks from the humanist perspective who are going to argue well, if you open that box, then let’s not have any prayer at all.”
A federal all-party committee agreed on the wording for a new nonsectarian prayer for the House of Commons in 1994.
It was first used in 2004 while the Senate formalized rules around prayer in 1991.
Newfoundland and Labrador has no daily prayer while Québec has a daily moment of reflection.
Alberta uses a selection of non-denominational prayers and on certain occasions uses special prayers.
In British Columbia the practice is to rotate among members who can use a set list of non-denominational prayers.
Saskatchewan has used the same prayer, which was established by an all-party committee in 1931, while Manitoba also has a daily prayer that was established years ago.
The Speaker of the Nova Scotia assembly recites a prayer written in 1972 followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
In New Brunswick’s legislature the same prayer has been recited since 1801 by a chaplain or the Speaker, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is also recited in P.E.I.’s legislature before doors are open to the public. Prayers are also offered for the Queen and members of the legislative assembly.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a February 14, 2008 article by Jordana Huber in The National Post