(A complete article published originally in the WFP, May '63)
Opposition to Winnipeg's Sunday sports bill in the legislature Thursday night has cast doubt on the bill's chances of passing. The bill received second reading, which means approval in principle, but only because MLAs wanted to adjourn proceedings so that they could attend a meeting of the law amendments committee.
The bill, which will permit Sunday sports and movies, won't become law until it passes the law amendments committee and returns to the house for third and final reading. Although it survived second reading, a number of MLAs, including several cabinet ministers, indicated they will have something to say about the bill before it is passed.
Mayor Stephen Juba, appearing before the legislature's law amendments committee Friday, said, "The voters made a decision and we must honor it."
He said the onus was still on Winnipeg to decide what sports would be allowed on Sunday and the city asked its citizens to voice their opinion.
"On other major issues." he said, "they would liked to have made a decision but this was not granted." This was an oblique reference to the "fact there was no referendum on Metro.
Half a dozen delegations are also scheduled to appear before the committee Friday to discuss various aspects of the bill. However, it isn't known whether they're opponents of Sunday sports or whether they wish to make representations on the 27 other amendments which the City of Winnipeg wants to make to its charter.
The consensus is still that the bill will eventually pass, although it will likely take two or three days before all the delegations and members have been heard.
At Thursday night's session, a government backbencher, who is a former United Church minister, strongly denounced Winnipeg's application for Sunday sports and movies.
In a loud speech which at times sounded like a sermon from the pulpit. W. G. Martin (PC-St. Matthews) said the "sovereignty of the Lord's Day should not be molested."
"I have not got a holler than thou attitude." said Mr. Martin. "But I believe we should not lose sight of spiritual values."
He said it appeared to him as though "the octopus of passion for material gain is spreading its tentacles around us" when an application is made to make Sunday "Just another day of the week."
"Give them just this (movies and sports) now." he said in a loud voice, "and soon the door will be wide open for everything - beer parlors, stores and even pool rooms."
During his 15-mlnute speech, he scolded Winnipeg city council for holding a referendum on Sunday sports during the last civic elections.
He said that while the city had held the referendum among the people, of which a majority voted n favor of Sunday sports, the city had left the final decision to the provincial government. What he city council should have done, he said, was not hold a referendum, but apply to the government for an amendment to the Lord's Day Act.
Larry Desjardins (L-St. Boniface) said Mr. Martin's speech was little more than "exaggeration."
"You can't force people to worship." said Mr. Desjardins. "And being a good Christian doesn't mean that you have to be In bed or down on your knees all day Sunday. Christianity must be practised every day of the week."
Mr. Desjardins couldn't see anything wrong with "sane recreation" on Sunday. He said it would keep "drugstore cowboys" off the street and give the average man the recreation opportunity that he is demanding.
Morris Gray (NDP-Inkster), speaking on the whole bill which contains 27 other amendments to the Winnipeg charter besides the Sunday sports, said the city council was "wasting the legislature's time with its petty problems."
He said the city council had the power to implement most of the amendments contained in the bill without having to refer them to the legislature.