God remains part of county inaugural ceremony

By Chad Ingram

God will stay part of the inaugural ceremony for new Haliburton County councils.

At least for now.

As councillors on the county’s finance and correspondence committee reviewed the municipality’s procedural bylaw during a June 10 meeting Algonquin Highlands Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen said she took some issue with the fact the county inaugural – a ceremony to swear in the new council at the beginning of each term – still includes an invocation from a local minister.

“There’s a religious connotation” Danielsen said.

“If you don’t like it I guess you don’t have to be in the room” replied Dysart et al Reeve and county warden Murray Fearrey admitting that he is “old school.”

Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin agreed with Fearrey the invocation should remain part of the ceremony but noted that councils across Canada are increasingly secularizing their proceedings.

“That’s an evolving landscape across the country” Devolin said.

Peterborough city council for example recently removed a prayer from the beginning of its council meetings. There was some public backlash against the change.

While neither Haliburton County council nor the councils of the municipality’s lower tiers include a prayer in their regular meetings there is a religious element to most of their inaugural ceremonies at the beginning of a term.

Devolin said that at some point municipalities may be instructed by the province to discontinue the practice but that in the meantime he supported keeping the invocation as part of the ceremony.

Danielsen also took issue with the county purchasing alcohol. It has traditionally provided wine for the inaugural reception.

“It’s a discussion we should have at some point” Danielsen said.

“It happens every four years” said Fearrey.

An updated procedural bylaw – there are a number of small changes recommended including moving the inaugural ceremony from evening to afternoon – will come forward before full council for approval.