The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has dismissed a complaint against the City of Saskatoon and Coun. Randy Donauer.
The complaint was filed by Ashu Solo, who became well-known in Saskatoon over an earlier complaint about ‘Merry Christmas’ messages on city buses, which was also dismissed by the SHRC.
In March 2013, Solo filed a complaint over a prayer Donauer recited at the opening of a City of Saskatoon volunteer appreciation banquet in April 2012.
The SHRC completed its investigation in August 2014, but delayed a decision until the Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal out of Quebec that had implications for the case.
In a decision released Thursday, Chief Commissioner David Arnot wrote that while Solo holds sincere beliefs about state-endorsed prayer, the prayer recited at the banquet did not prevent him from acting in accordance with those beliefs.
“…any interference with Mr. Solo’s ability to act in accordance with his beliefs was insubstantial and did not cause sufficient harm to breach the Code,” wrote Arnot.
Donauer said he’s happy to see an end to the process that avoided a hearing, as he was worried he would have had to hire a lawyer.
“My disappointment is that three years of taxpayers’ money is wasted on something that they never should have been investigating. But at least they came to the right conclusion in the end,” he said.
Although he dismissed Solo’s complaint, Arnot emphasized the City of Saskatoon must respect multiculturalism and ensure they don’t favour one religion or belief system over others in their activities.
Donauer said he’s fine with that.
“I attend multitudes of events throughout the year from lots of faiths and belief systems where they do pray, and I’m sitting in the crowd and what they’re praying does not reflect my beliefs. But I’m respectful enough of the fact that people have different beliefs than I do that I sit reverently and respect what they’re doing — even though it’s not me. And I get that, that’s what Canada’s about,” he said.
In a news release Friday, Solo said regardless of the decision, he’s glad that filing the case caused the city to stop prayer recitations at civic events.
“Other municipalities should heed the chief commissioner saying that a general practice of prayer recitations is contrary to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code,” Solo wrote in a statement.
“Donauer said that he was just expressing his beliefs. He was abusing his government office to get other people to pray according to his beliefs.”
The chief commissioner also stressed religious practices should not typically form part of the core function of government or social events organized by the city.
The full decision can be viewed here.