Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

The Kanata Santa Claus Parade in the west end of Ottawa is making its comeback this year, but one group will not be participating because of its secularism policy.

Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley said he reached out to several community groups to let them know the parade was returning and to invite them to participate, but the local Girl Guides replied to say they would not be coming.

“We got a response from the Girl Guides that Girl Guides of Canada does not allow them to be part of a Christmas parade,” he told CTV News Ottawa.

It’s part of Girl Guides of Canada’s (GGC) wider diversity, equity and inclusion policy.

“GGC is a secular organization, which means that Guiding is not affiliated with, nor privileges any religion or faith-based beliefs, behaviours and traditions,” the Girl Guides of Canada’s Guiding is for Everyone handbook says.

“As a secular organization, we welcome girls and women from all and no religious affiliations. Being a secular organization signals Guiding’s belief in providing a safe space and sense of belonging for all girls.”

The handbook goes on to say that participating in or “promoting religious practices may be unintentionally turning away future members who don’t share those beliefs.”

So, it says, the organization tries to avoid events that “have their roots in religion,” such as a Christmas parade.

Girl Guides Canada was not available for an interview with CTV News Ottawa on Monday, but repeated its commitment to secularism in a statement from CEO Shannon Benner.

“GGC has been working diligently to ensure that all activities offered by the organization are of a secular nature so that we are providing an inclusive space for all who choose to be members of Girl Guides of Canada,” Benner said.

“As a result, participating in activities that have a connection to a specific religious celebration are not part of the program offering at GGC. The Girl Guides program platform offers suggestion for Guiders and members looking to create inclusive and fun unit experiences.”

Several local Girl Guide leaders confirmed that they would not be participating in the parade because of the policy.

Hubley said he was disappointed to hear the Girl Guides would not be participating.

“I couldn’t believe it at first. I said please check. Apparently, there is something being sent out to all the groups to tell them that they can’t do that,” he said.

Hubley also said Scouts will still be able to participate.

“In my case, I have to tell my two granddaughters that they can’t be in the parade but their brother can, because he’s in the Scouts,” said Hubley.

The 2023 Kanata Santa Claus Parade is taking place Saturday, Nov. 25, starting at 10 a.m. The parade starts at Holy Redeemer Church, goes down Rothesay, across Glamorgan to Castlefrank, up Castlefrank to Abbeyhill, up Abbeyhill to end at Hazeldean Mall.

Hubley says he hopes to see Girl Guides at the parade.

“We just want everyone who can to be part of the parade because it’s all about celebrating the caring and giving and kindness of the season,” he said.

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