Faith groups seek quiet room at City Hall

By 
  • September 28, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - Toronto City Hall bustles with big city business and big city egos clashing over big money decisions. The Toronto Area Interfaith Council believes all that sound and fury should be leavened with a little silence.

The council of Toronto faith leaders has proposed a quiet room at City Hall which would be available to all faith communities and to individuals. The initial city response has been positive.

“The bottom line is that we are a multi-religious community,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc. “Different communities at different times, for different reasons, want or need a special place within City Hall were they can pray, meditate, be quiet, sing religious songs, what have you. We don't have that, and I think that's a real weakness.”

Setting a room aside for the spiritual side of the city faces a couple of hurdles. First, there's no room at an overcrowded City Hall. As things stand now, some people who work for Mayor David Miller have their desks in the hallway. Second, a decision to create a quiet room would have to be made by the politicians on city council.

It's not a terribly controversial decision, but on a deeply divided council it would still require a little political craft to pass a motion for the religious use of city property.

“We have to mould the right partnerships on council so that it is understood by council that it is a multifaith initiative,” said Mihevc. “And also pull together the programatic pieces, like what would it be used for? Who would actually run it?”

The city would likely look to the TAIC to provide furnishings and artwork which reflect the wide range of religions practised in Toronto, said Mihevc. The faith communities may also be called upon to provide a co-ordinator who arranges appropriate activities and liturgies.

The City Hall quiet room proposal comes on the heals of a similar effort at Queen's Park. In March NDP MPP Cheri Di Novo, a United Church minister, asked the government to establish a multifaith prayer and meditation room at the provincial legislature. She proposed that the room be called “A Place for All People.” No decision has yet been made on the Queen's Park room.

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