Quebec political parties vote unanimously to defend Christmas

By The Canadian Press

The National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion Wednesday to defend Christmas.

Quebec’s elected officials condemned the position of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which judged the holiday to be systemic religious discrimination. Its Quebec counterpart, however, had already expressed an opinion on the discriminatory effect of these festivities.

“Honestly, we’ll continue to celebrate Christmas, and we won’t apologize for celebrating Christmas in Quebec,” Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told a press scrum.

In its “Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance”, the Commission maintains that “discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is rooted in the history of colonialism in Canada. This history manifests itself today in systemic religious discrimination. An obvious example is that of statutory holidays in Canada”.

The Minister responsible for Combating Racism, Christopher Skeete, tabled a motion to protest these assertions, jointly with the Liberal opposition, the Parti québécois and the two independent MNAs, but without Québec solidaire.

The 109 elected members present in the Salon Bleu after question period voted in favor of the motion, without abstentions.

The wording “denounces the remarks of the Canadian Human Rights Commission”.

The motion rejects “any polarization around unifying events that have been part of Quebec’s heritage for generations”.

Finally, it invites “all Quebecers to unite as the Christmas season approaches”.

A round of applause greeted the adoption of the motion.

Deputy Government House Leader Mathieu Lévesque then asked that a copy of the motion be forwarded to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the federal government, the House of Commons and “to Santa Claus, to the North Pole,” he concluded.

“It’s a holiday that’s shared,” Jolin-Barrette said afterwards in a press scrum.

“People come from all over Quebec, we’re a welcoming land and I think it’s important to say that it’s part of Quebec culture and to invite everyone to celebrate Christmas if they wish,” he continued.

“Honestly, to be told by the Canadian Rights Commission that Christmas is discriminatory, there are limits.”

The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec (CDPDJ) has already used arguments similar to those of its federal counterpart, on the issue of reasonable accommodation.

It ruled that “the civic calendar is akin to common operating standards that are neutral in appearance, but can nevertheless have a discriminatory effect on an individual or on certain categories of individuals”, as stated in the Virtual Guide to Processing a Request for Accommodation.

The calendar based on Catholic holidays “will potentially have a detrimental effect on people belonging to minority religious groups, since the observance of their own religious holidays is not provided for”, it concludes.

“The CDPDJ does not associate itself with the Canadian Commission’s comments as reported in the media,” said spokesperson Geneviève Dorais-Beauregard in an e-mail on Wednesday.

“This passage in the guide is intended to explain that, in an employment context, the employer may have to accommodate an employee so that he or she can have time off for a religious holiday of his or her own religion. We refer to this as a potentially discriminatory effect, which is different from saying that the calendar or holidays are discriminatory. We have qualified the potential effect in the context of accommodation. We did not qualify the holiday or the calendar.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first reported in French on Nov. 29, 2023.

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