Surrey voters, straining to decide who to vote for this fall, will have a Pastafarian in the pot.
The Leader has learned that Surrey’s own ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is running for city council this fall.
Wearing a white dress shirt, tie and formal colander (he wears the metal strainer for fancy occasions), Obi Canuel, 36, talks about what he hopes to undertake as he runs for Surrey council.
The former philosophy student at SFU has no election platform and no agenda, he says, other than to draw attention to the notion of council members being able to address social issues while making what he considers to be a handsome salary.
Councillors make just over $60,000 per year.
“What concerns me, is that when you earn that much money – the average Surrey salary is $32,000 – that puts you in a place where you are unable to represent the people that you are governing.”
Canuel’s plan, if elected, is to accept a $20,000 annual salary and donate the rest to worthwhile not-for-profits.
He plans to make issues important to the average wage-earner his prime concern.
Canuel made headlines recently when he lost his right to wear a colander on his head – which he says is part of his religion – for his B.C. driver’s licence photo.
In August, he said he believed he would be able to wear the noodle strainer when he renewed his licence last fall, because ICBC allows the right to religious expression.
But in a letter the insurer told him “there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander for the purpose of taking the photo to appear on your driver’s license (sic).”
ICBC said its religious head-covering policy strives to strike a balance between respect for the driver’s religious beliefs and a need to preserve the integrity of the licensing system.
The company told Canuel it would not issue him a new driver’s licence with a photo of him wearing the colander, but he was able to obtain interim paper licences in the meantime while the dispute continued to simmer.
Last Friday, he was told that avenue had come to an end and he would need to submit to a colander-less photo.
“We will always try to accommodate customers with head coverings where their faith prohibits them from removing it,” ICBC told CTV News Vancouver in a statement.
“Mr. Canuel was not able to provide us with any evidence that he cannot remove his head covering for his photo.”
Canuel said he gets “the spiritual inkling to wear the colander” and doesn’t believe ICBC should be able to make decisions about what kind of religious headgear is appropriate or not, adding he will meditate on what to do next.
“I know I’ve been accused of wasting taxpayers’ time and resources, and I know there are starchy people out there that don’t agree with His Noodliness (the Flying Spaghetti Monster). I don’t want to annoy anyone further.”
Now that Canuel has lost his licence, he said he will use public transit, which he believes puts him in a prime position to speak to transportation issues on Surrey council.
How, he asked, can councillors who rely on their car all the time speak intelligently about transit issues?
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – or Pastafarianism – was created nine years ago by a U.S. man to satirize certain aspects of creationism. It follows a belief that a flying pasta creature created the universe after “drinking heavily.”
The Flying Spaghetti Monster has become a symbol against the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in the public education system.
Canuel was scheduled to submit his nomination papers to the elections registrar at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Canuel has documented his struggles with ICBC in a YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pux7jummtfA