The Quebec government pulled the plug on a prayer event at the Centre des Congrés du Québec after reports it was an anti-abortion gathering. Photo from TripAdvisor

False reports derail Quebec prayer event

  • June 22, 2023

Christian and pro-life groups have postponed their three-day prayer meeting in Quebec City after the provincial government ripped up a rental contract because of false reports the event was an anti-abortion gathering.

Art Lucier, pastor of Kelowna Harvest Church in British Columbia, says he learned from the CBC that his group had been kicked out of the Centre des Congrés du Québec, where it intended to hold a spiritual “Battle for Canada” later this month. The June 2 shredding of the signed agreement for use of the state-owned space left too little time to find an alternative venue, Lucier said.

Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx told Radio-Canada the last-minute cancelation was because the government understood organizers would be calling for an end to abortion in Canada.

“Our government is resolutely pro-choice, and it is a subject that has a broad consensus in Quebec,” she said in a written statement. Radio Canada had also labelled the event an anti-abortion meeting.

But Lucier said in a June 16 Facebook Live message that though he believes “life should be protected in the womb,” the self-styled Gospel revival was about praising God.

“(It) was about reconciliation, worship, and fellowship,” Lucier says. “This is about our right to gather and worship the Lord.”

For Phil Horgan, a prominent Toronto lawyer and president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, the cancellation is one more example of “an increasing authoritarianism to deny those maintaining legitimate views in the public square.”

Horgan sees clear parallels with the “Battle for Canada” cancellation, restrictions placed in 2018 on the federally funded Canada Summer Jobs program and the federal government’s recent openness to legislate against so-called residential school denialism.

“Governments are now moving to an outright totalitarian impulse to deny the provision of services to citizens who maintain respect for life in all of its stages. The federal government denies pro-life organizations funding for summer student grants. The Liberal government denies any pro-life person from seeking the (party’s) nomination for federal office,” Horgan told The Catholic Register.

He noted that late last week, the government’s rapporteur on Indigenous issues claimed there’s a need to enact residential school “denialism” legislation, which federal Justice Minister David Lametti equated with laws against Holocaust denial in Germany and other European countries. Lametti has said he is prepared to consider such legal restrictions in Canada.

Pointing to a significant number of Indigenous people who have “acknowledged and praised their residential school experiences,” Horgan said such limits on free speech “are invalid and contrary to our shared values. Canadians should not accept such restrictions.”

Lucier insists he and his team “are not looking for trouble” and a “remnant” will gather for prayer in Quebec City on June 22 at “a small location, not announced publicly.” But he also said an attempt to find another location in Quebec City was hampered by the provincial government putting “pressure on hotels in the area” to refuse their request for accommodation.

Campaign Life Coalition has subsequently launched a Citizen Go petition calling for Premier Francois Legault and Minister of Women’s Affairs Martine Biron and Proulx to reinstate the prayer event.

The petition says the Quebec government is “ordering the cancellation of events that convey opinions it does not like, based on criteria that are vague and arbitrary.”

As of June 19, the petition had close to 8,000 signatories.

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