Ottawa sets up prayer rooms for its public servants


(Ottawa) If the Legault government seeks to ban prayer rooms in schools in Quebec, the Trudeau government is taking the opposite path.

Posted at 1:30 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

What there is to know

  • The federal government has set up around 50 prayer rooms since 2015 in buildings where civil servants work.
  • Prayer rooms will also be set up in the new military installations adjoining the hangars that will house the new F-35 fighter jets in Bagotville, Quebec, and Cold Lake, Alberta.
  • Quebec wants to ban prayer rooms in public schools.

Since 2015, Ottawa has set up about 50 multi-faith rooms in 46 federal buildings across the country, learned The Press. Six of these rooms have been set up in Quebec, more specifically in federal buildings located in Gatineau, in the federal capital region, the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said.

The Ministry of Defense also plans to set up prayer rooms in the new facilities that will be built near the hangars that are to be used to house the new F-35 fighter jets in Bagotville and Cold Lake, according to our information.


The Bagotville military base, whose new facilities will include a prayer room

“As a service provider to other government departments, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) knows that, since 2015, more or less 52 multi-faith rooms have been set up in 46 federal buildings across the country,” said Alexandre Baillairgé-Charbonneau, ministry spokesperson, in an email to The Press.

He specified that it is up to the various ministries to finance the development of these rooms.

Last month, Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville announced that a directive had been adopted by the Council of Ministers that no place in a public school should be used for praying. The aim of this directive, according to him, is to preserve the secular nature of schools. But this measure is challenged in court by a coalition of Muslim associations, which argues that it contravenes other government laws, in addition to violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The lobbies have worked well”

Asked about federal steps since 2015, Thursday, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, argued that Ottawa and Quebec are more than ever at odds on the issue of the secularism of the state.


Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet

“Not content with contesting, with our own taxes, the secular value of state space inherited from the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, Ottawa is creating a religious space in its facilities. The lobbies have worked well. It’s like Justin Trudeau saying, “Do you have a little 15 minutes? So go pray a little…!” Amazing ! “said the Bloc leader.


At Treasury Board, it was pointed out that the obligation to respect the religious practices of public service employees has been added to collective agreements in recent years.

The federal government must therefore ensure that prayer rooms are set up in the buildings it owns or rents in order to allow civil servants to take a prayer break if they wish.

“Many collective agreements contain clauses relating to religious practices and provisions protecting against discrimination based on religious affiliation. Prayer breaks, accommodations regarding the wearing of religious attire, or the use of leave entitlements to fulfill religious obligations are all examples of accommodations that accommodate religious obligations,” explained Martin Potvin. , responsible for media relations at the Treasury Board Secretariat.

A culture of “inclusion”

Result: each department must take the necessary steps to accommodate employees who want to take time off to practice their religion, unless the accommodation “would impose an undue hardship”.

The Government of Canada is committed to creating a representative, diverse and barrier-free public service, and to fostering a culture that values ​​inclusion, fosters a strong sense of belonging and values ​​difference as a source of strength.

Martin Potvin, spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat

He pointed out that the Canadian Human Rights Act requires the federal government, as an employer, to “identify and remove” barriers that negatively impact employees. This law prohibits any discriminatory practice in employment and the provision of services based on 13 grounds, including religion.

At the Ministry of Defense, it was specified that the new facilities for future fighters include headquarters and state-of-the-art equipment for security, information, maintenance and training. Prayer rooms will be located in headquarters.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence, Andrée-Anne Poulin, also recalled that the practice of a religion of one’s choice is a right protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“The CAF [Forces armées canadiennes] aim to have an inclusive workforce that is representative of Canada’s cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic makeup, as well as its regional diversity, and adheres to the principles of equality for all and human dignity and worth of all human beings,” she said in an email.

“In this context, CAF facilities across the country are equipped with multi-faith rooms (or prayer rooms) that are available to members who wish to gather or pray in a quiet and isolated place. »

With the collaboration of William Leclerc, The Press



PREV “Luxury is bound to remain one of the French economic flagships”
NEXT The elevator is very small | The Press