Is Christmas ‘racist’? Why the question came up on Parliament Hill

The holiday season is fast approaching, and a question from Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet nearly landed him on Speaker Greg Fergus’ naughty list — but was ultimately allowed to proceed.

“Mr. Speaker, according to the prime minister, is Christmas racist?” Blanchet asked in question period on Wednesday.

“I’m very pleased to stand up and try to answer a totally ridiculous question. Obviously, Christmas is not racist,” Trudeau replied.

This question from Blanchet did not come out of nowhere. It comes after an Oct. 23, 2023 discussion paper published by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) on religious intolerance.

In a section looking at examples of religious discrimination in Canada, the CHRC says that “discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism.”

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For an example, the paper points out that Christmas and Easter, both Christian holidays, are the only two religious statutory holidays in Canada.

“As a result, non-Christians may need to request special accommodations to observe their holy days and other times of the year where their religion requires them to abstain from work,” the paper reads.

In an emailed response, the CHRC says Christmas is an important tradition for millions of Canadians, both Christians and non-Christians alike. The organization says that the paper is not about Christmas or any other religious tradition, but a discussion on how to ensure all Canadians can equally observe their religious holidays.

“When the Commission’s academic discussion paper mentions Christmas it is in the context of statutory holidays. It explains that based on current Canadian law, providing a statutory holiday for one religion, and not providing reasonable accommodation for other religions may be discrimination,” the CHRC statement reads.

“Put another way, if you observe a non-Christian religious holiday in Canada, you might have to take the day off work — assuming your employer will give you permission to do so,” the CHRC said.

”This has a real effect on people’s lives that may not be visible to those who already get the day off to observe their traditions.”

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This paper drew condemnation from Quebec’s National Assembly Wednesday, too. A motion to denounce the above comments received unanimous support from the 109 MNAs, saying that “the assembly denounces any attempt at polarization toward unifying events, which have been part of Quebec’s heritage for several generations.”

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In his response to Blanchet’s question, Trudeau described Canada’s multi-culturalism as a strength, saying that all holidays and festivals that take place this time of year are worth celebrating and recognizing.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also weighed in, standing in question period to first wish Canadians a Merry Christmas before saying all Trudeau has to offer Canadians in the lead-up to the holiday is a “carbon tax lump of coal.”

Trudeau responded by attacking the Conservatives’ position on climate change, saying they oppose the Liberal government plan to phase out coal-fired electricity.

“The climate denialism of the Conservative Party of Canada is putting future white Christmases at risk. And that’s why on this side of the House, we stand for Christmas,” Trudeau exclaimed.

— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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