Recitation of the Lord’s Prayer ceases at Busby, Dunstable and Pembina North Community Schools

In Alberta, a school board may direct that the Lord’s Prayer be recited as part of a school’s opening exercises. This constitutional right dates back to 1901.

The tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer was questioned by some parents in 2015. After consulting with the school communities of Busby, Dunstable and Pembina North in the fall and winter of 2015 to meet the legal requirements and respect community wishes, the PHPS Board of Trustees made the decision to direct the recitation at these schools.

Following the decisions, a complaint was filed against Pembina Hills Public Schools under the Alberta Human Rights Act about the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at a division school. Attempts to negotiate a resolution were unsuccessful and the matter was scheduled to proceed to a hearing before a Tribunal of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The board believes that the constitutional and legislative framework in Alberta permits the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in schools under certain conditions. If we were to proceed with the Tribunal, we would be faced with hiring lawyers for a very complex legal case that involves founding legislation, including the 1867 constitution, potentially resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. The Board of Trustees believes these dollars should be invested in supports for teaching and learning in Pembina Hills Public Schools’ classrooms, rather than in courtrooms.

Therefore, the board has made the decision to stop the practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at Busby, Dunstable and Pembina North Community Schools effective May 26, 2017. As a result of the board's decision, the complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal is being withdrawn. We will continue to focus on providing an excellent education to our students.

If you require further information please contact Jennifer Tuininga, Board Chair at 780.674.8500.

Published May 25, 2017