2024-06-25: Prayers in Public Spaces, Letter from RPL to Minister Roberge

The original French version of this letter is available on the RPL website and on the LPA website.

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Montreal, 25th June 2024

Monsieur Jean-François Roberge
Minister in charge of Secularism
875, Grande-Allée Est, 3e étage, secteur 500
Québec (Québec), G1R 4Y8

Monsieur le Ministre,

The Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough Council authorized a collective Muslim prayer in a park in its borough on June 16th. The result of this decision was to transform the park into an open-air mosque for hundreds of people, in other words, making it a sacred space reserved only for adherents of that religion. The prayer space was also cordoned off with barriers erected by the city.

This event, as well as collective Muslim prayers organized the same week in the streets of Montreal, have raised concerns about the use of public space for religious events.

The Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL or Alliance for Secularism) denounced the municipal decision in an article published on June 19th in Le Devoir. We emphasize the discriminatory aspect of such an event reserved only for the followers of this particular religion.

In that article, we also highlighted the lack of uniformity in municipal by-laws, some, like that of Saint-Léonard, explicitly prohibiting religious activities in public places, while others, like that of Outremont, not specifying anything on this subject.

This lack of consistency, as well as recent events, demonstrates an active desire on the part of certain religious communities to test the limits of municipal authorities. This illustrates the need for clear legislation to regulate the collective expression of religion and ensure free and non-discriminatory access to public space.

It is our opinion that the State should prohibit religious ceremonies that obstruct public access or require the reservation of public space for adherents of one religion to the exclusion of others. This should apply, among other things, to parks, streets, public squares and government buildings.

Such a measure would ensure free access to public space for all citizens, without discrimination on religious grounds. It would not prevent religious expression, nor limit freedom of expression in public space. On the contrary, it would be a guarantee for all, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.

We are convinced that such legislation would strengthen the secularism of our society while respecting individual rights and freedoms.

We thank you for your attention to this proposal. Please accept, Monsieur le Ministre, our most cordial greetings.

Nadia El-Mabrouk
President, Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL)

Email: RPLQuebec at gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rassemblementlaicite
Twitter: @RPLQuebec

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