Left to right: Canadian Goan Christian group members Dr. Colin Saldanha, Rudy Fernandes and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion Register file photo

Lord's Prayer will still open Mississauga council meetings

By 
  • December 18, 2014

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - "Our Father" still has a place at Mississauga city council.

On Dec. 17, council voted to keep the tradition of reciting the Lord's Prayer to open council meetings.

The tradition that was started about 35 years ago by former Mayor Hazel McCallion, an Anglican, was put up for debate when local citizen Derek Gray, 36, filed a complaint with the city. He argued the Lord's Prayer showed favour to Christianity over other religions and its recitation violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Gray, who believes in the separation of church and state, is supported by the Canadian Secular Alliance.

About five days before Gray would argue his case before council, Rudy Fernandes learned the Christian prayer was on the chopping block. He felt compelled to act quickly.
Fernandes, a Catholic, is a member of the Canadian Goan Christian Group (CGCG), which promotes the evangelization of society. He's lived in Mississauga for about as long as the Lord's Prayer has been recited at city hall and almost as long as McCallion, who didn't seek re-election this year, served as mayor.

"When we came to know that this spokesman of the CSA was going to be pushing his atheist agenda on Mississauga council we immediately contacted the mayor's office and were able to get us included on the agenda, literally at the last minute," he said.

Fernandes, with help from local Catholics, mobilized 500 signatures in support of keeping the prayer. With Catholic Dr. Colin Saldanha, a Mississauga physician and CGCG member, Fernandes addressed city council and argued to keep the recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

They argued that the Lord's Prayer, directed at God, is acceptable to multiple faiths because it does not refer to Jesus.

"We argued that it was a prayer that was all-embracing, a prayer that could receive the participation of everybody… It might have its origin in one particular faith, but it was an open-ended, broad-based, engaging prayer that reflected the aspirations of individuals of connecting with a higher being," said Saldanha. "God is God… People of all faiths subscribe to the concept of their allegiance to a higher being."
Fernandes added, "When Jesus said the Lord's Prayer, He was a Jew."

The CGCG members also "talked about our founding fathers, the wisdom of our founding fathers having the need to incorporate God in our constitution, in the language, in our institutions," said Saldanha.
The opposing side, Fernandes said, argued that to recite the Lord's Prayer, everyone in Mississauga would have to subscribe to the beliefs behind it and that it is unfair to immigrants whose religious background is not Christian.

"I only came to Canada 42 years ago. We came here because of the values, Christian values the country stands for," said Fernandes.

A majority of councillors present voted in favour of keeping the Lord's Prayer.

"We expected that we would win, but didn't realize we'd win that well, that much, that high," said Fernandes.

"This was a good exercise for us in living our faith and championing our faith in the public square. It was an excellent exercise in terms of mobilizing people on short notice, lobbying the councillors, getting the petitions, and we're both very busy people," said Saldanha. "It should be the beginning of many more such initiatives of standing up. And I think the Catholic community and the Goan community are beginning to realize that we have been too dormant too long."

Comments (2)

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"The Goan community are beginning to realise that we have been dormant too long" is true. Goans have placed much in the multicultural concept and suppressed the contribution and character of it's community. Goan belief in "the last shall be...

"The Goan community are beginning to realise that we have been dormant too long" is true. Goans have placed much in the multicultural concept and suppressed the contribution and character of it's community. Goan belief in "the last shall be first" has not served, will not serve well in Canada.

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Today, in a historic first, Mississauga City Council opened it meeting without the recitation of The Lord's Prayer. After having been chastised by the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling against opening of Municipal proceedings with a...

Today, in a historic first, Mississauga City Council opened it meeting without the recitation of The Lord's Prayer. After having been chastised by the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling against opening of Municipal proceedings with a denominational prayer, Mayor Crombie relented.

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