SAGUENAY, Quebec, February 18, 2011 ( – The major of Saguenay, Quebec, Jean Tremblay, announced this week his intention to appeal the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal decision of last week that banned prayer and religious symbols in the city’s council meetings.


Mayor Tremblay was taken before the Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) last February to fight complaints by Alain Simoneau and the Mouvement laëque québécois (Quebec Secular Movement).  In addition to an order to cease prayer at the beginning of council meetings, they sought $150,000 in damages.  They also wanted religious objects – a statue and a crucifix – to be removed from council chambers.

The HRT, chaired by Michelle Pauzé, ruled last week that the prayer infringes on people’s freedom of conscience.  The municipality was ordered to pay $30,000 to the plaintiff.

“I must be the first and only mayor in the world’s history to be punished for a 20-second prayer. I just don’t get it,” the staunchly Catholic mayor said in a recent interview.

The statue and crucifix, said the mayor in a press conference, have been in the council chambers for many, many years. “They are part of our heritage and our history. Given this situation, we cannot accept the Tribunal’s decision.”

For Mayor Tremblay, who has been fighting this complaint since 2006, his stand is a matter of being true to his Catholic faith.  “This fight, I do it because I love Christ,” he said.  “I want to go to heaven and that is the best fight of my whole life.”

Those who lodged the complaints, said Tremblay, rarely attended the council meetings and were opponents on a number of issues besides prayer.  Tremblay has resisted all efforts to ban prayer and has, so far, vowed to continue saying the prayers that are a part of the town meetings.

Mayor Tremblay announced that he will be raising funds to support the upcoming legal battle when he appeals the HRT decision.  The city of Saguenay has already raised $15,000 as part of the campaign.  Tremblay launched a toll-free hotline, posted on the city’s website, where supporters can donate to the cause.

“We are getting hundreds and hundreds of calls from across Quebec and also from the rest of Canada,” Tremblay said. “This is an issue of national importance. If we bend to this, what is going to be next? We’ll have to change school names or street names bearing a religious connotation?”

Tremblay, who maintains his Catholic faith is more important to him than his political career, has pleaded with Quebecers and all Canadians to fight for Quebec’s religious tradition.  Quebec, he says, has become too “meek” in bowing to religious minorities.

“Quebecers don’t care about their traditions and their values anymore. We need to wake up and to stand up for what we believe in,” Tremblay said. “Yes, we have to be tolerant with others, but we need to start with ourselves. Why would we respect other religions but disrespect that of a majority?”

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