Regina’s mayor says city council meetings will no longer open with a prayer in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled against Saguenay, Que. Mayor Jean Tremblay's attempt to hold religious prayers at the start of city council meetings.

On Wednesday, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said the ruling sent a clear signal that local city council meetings should no longer begin with a prayer.

“As I understand it, the prayer in Saguenay is quite rigorous in what it says,” Fougere said. “Our prayer is more, I think, informal but it is a prayer nonetheless.”

The case dates back to 2007, when an atheist resident of Saguenay, Alain Simoneau, complained about the Catholic prayers recited by the mayor and councillors at the beginning of each city council meeting. Simoneau also complained about the crucifix and a Sacred Heart statue in the meeting room.

In February 2011, Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal ordered an end to the prayers, the removal of the crucifix and a $30,000 payment by the cityto Simoneau. At the time, Tremblay was outraged by the ruling, calling it an attack on French-Canadian values. He also used the city’s website to fundraise tens of thousands of dollars for a challenge in Quebec’s Court of Appeal.

In 2013, the highest Quebec court overturned the lower court ruling, deciding that reciting prayer does not violate religious neutrality of a city in its day-to-day operations. However, the court expressed reservations about the presence of religious icons in the assembly chambers.

The city of Saguenay left the Jesus Christ statue up in its council chambers and began meetings with two minutes of silence instead of an actual prayer while the court cases and appeals were ongoing.

With files from and CTV Montreal

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