09/20/2013 12:34 EDT | Updated 11/20/2013 05:12 EST

Day Of Rest In Saskatchewan Labour Law Ends; Worries Regina's Archbishop


REGINA - The Catholic archbishop of Regina is raising concerns about changes to Saskatchewan's labour law that eliminate a reference to Sunday as a day of rest.

Archbishop Daniel Bohan says the day of rest was a good thing and it recognized that there are working people who have a religious faith and benefit from practising it.

"That's done as a community. It's not totally a private thing, but a community thing, so they need the opportunity to be together with other people to celebrate that faith and benefit from it," Bohan said in an interview Friday with The Canadian Press.

"The Catholic belief would be that a person has a right to that practice of religion and if it's not protected then there are people who will disregard that and not take that into consideration in their employees," he added.

Bohan fears a troubling view could creep in — one of the working person only as an input in economic production.

For example, he says when businesses were first allowed to open on Sundays, workers were assured that their wishes would be honoured if they chose not to work that day. But Bohan says in many instances, such assurances dissolved into nothing.

"There was pressure put on people and usually people who were in no position to argue that," he said.

Bohan says his purpose is not to attack the government, but to look out for people.

The archbishop says the omission of a day of rest can be understandable if it's an attempt to recognize religious diversity. But he says he would rather have seen the law changed to allow for a day of worship for any faith.

"I'm fully aware of the secularization in our society, the need to be open to all people," said Bohan.

"But I believe the best way to do that is not to sort of push peoples' religious beliefs to the sideline, as if they didn't exist in people in the public forum and rather recognize the presence of all of that. I think had they broadened (the law) to include any person who desires to get together with his family of faith or her family of faith on whatever day that they do that, (that) would be respected and promoted."

In a letter sent to all parishes in Regina, Bohan is urging businesses to give workers a day of rest each week that corresponds to the day of worship in their faith.

Saskatchewan Labour Minister Don Morgan says the government can't look at it that way. Morgan says society has changed over time and people don't have the traditional day of rest that they had in the past.

"We are a multi-cultural and a diverse society, people do things differently," said Morgan.

"For us to dictate as a province that you must use this as a day of rest, it would not be appropriate. I mean there are people that are not religious at all.

"I know that we are largely a Judeo-Christian society and most people will use a day of rest to either go to church or something similar, but we're certainly as a government not able to legislate that or include that as part of our legislation."

Legislation on the issue varies between provinces.

The Saskatchewan government says legislation in Yukon, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador states that where possible the day of rest be Sunday.

The western provinces and Ontario do not make the reference to Sunday, it said.

"When we passed the legislation, when we were doing the research for it, the advice that we received was that we can no longer recognize Sunday as being the exclusive Sabbath or the exclusive day of rest and that we have other religions that use Saturday or other days for a day of rest or a day of worship," said Morgan.

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