New MPP seeks meditation room for Queen’s Park

By 
  • April 17, 2007
TORONTO - It’s unlikely that the Oct. 10 Ontario election will be fought over the issue of prayer and meditation at Queen’s Park. It’s equally unlikely members of the provincial legislature and their staffs will have a room set aside for contemplation and related inactivities before election day.
Newly minted MPP and United Church minister Cheri DiNovo proposed to the provincial Parliament that a board room in the Pink Palace be transformed into a “Place for All People.” This was not to be merely a prayer room, explained the NDP MPP’s staff, lest the idea of prayer be interpreted as official preference for a deity. It is to be a room set aside for people of all beliefs and none for prayer and meditation.

DiNovo tabled her notion of a motion March 19 in hopes that Speaker Mike Brown would rule on the matter.

Though Brown is ultimately the Queen’s landlord for the legislature building, he’s not actually in a position to make the ruling just yet. Staff at the Speaker’s office claim to know nothing of any silent takeover of Boardroom 163.

The MPP’s motion to designate a room for meditation was recorded in Hansard and filed with the clerk’s office. But nothing can happen with the motion until DiNovo is afforded a “private member’s public business” slot in the legislature schedule. These are Thursday afternoon slots for private members (two per Thursday) to have their non-government bills and motions debated.

DiNovo had her turn in early December, and won’t have another before the house rises in June. Whether she would use her slot for meditative affairs is an interesting question.

She did call a press conference before tabling the meditation motion, and managed to attract a fair representation of the press corps. The story made most of the daily newspapers.

The speaker does begin each day’s sitting at 1:30 p.m. by leading MPPs in the Lord’s Prayer. Not many follow his lead, but it’s a tradition.

The  Lord’s Prayer is accompanied by a non-denominational prayer.

Archdiocese of Toronto ecumenical and interfaith affairs officer Fr. Damian MacPherson thinks a room where legislators and their staff could pray, contemplate or meditate is actually a pretty good idea.

“For the vast majority of us, prayer is part of our life,” MacPherson said. “Having a place to do it is a great advantage.”

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