THUNDER BAY – For some, the nativity scene on display across from the Waverley Public Library symbolizes the true meaning behind Christmas. For one Thunder Bay man, however, the crèche represents a violation of the clear line that should exist between religion and government.
In a deputation to Thunder Bay’s city council earlier this week, resident Vic Germaniuk argued the municipality was overstepping that line by allowing the triangular patch of city-owned land between Waverley Street and Red River Road to host the display.
“We're supposed to be a secular community,” he said. “When the city crosses the line and endorses one religious belief over another, that’s called exclusivity, it’s called bias, it’s called supremacy… This is not democracy.”
City manager Norm Gale told councillors the city had long allowed the Knights of Columbus to put up the nativity during the Christmas season.
A representative for the group declined comment for this article, but said it had been displayed at the same location across from St. Andrew's Church for 65 years.
“I wish to assure council we’re reviewing the situation through both a legal and human rights perspective,” Gale said. “When and if necessary, we will report back to council.”
The city has not received any other complaints about the display, Gale told Tbnewswatch. The municipality is not involved in setting up or maintaining the scene, simply allowing the Knights of Columbus to use the space.
Germaniuk told councillors that aside from the principle that government should remain neutral on questions of religion, he worried featuring the nativity on public land could send a message of exclusion to minorities, particularly newcomers to Canada.
“At this time of year, we don’t want to show our newly arrived citizens that they are not adherents, outsiders, not full members of this community,” he said.
If the city were to continue allowing the display, he argued, it would be equally obligated to grant requests from other creeds in the future.
“If city council does not rescind this parochial display, then in all fairness, the city and its parks must give way to other religious orders, such as the satanic temple, a Muslim display, a Buddhist shrine… or shut the whole thing down and remain neutral.”
Germaniuk’s deputation was for information, and does not require any action from city council.