'Christmas isn't racist': Trudeau, Canadian lawmakers respond to paper calling Christian holidays 'systemic discrimination'

Reuters/Chris Wattie
Reuters/Chris Wattie

Lawmakers in Canada are denouncing a recent report by a Canadian government human rights panel that described Christmas and Easter holidays as examples of “systemic religious discrimination.”

In a motion unanimously adopted Nov. 30, the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the Canadian Parliament, voted in favor of condemning a paper from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) that cited Christianity’s two biggest holy days as examples of “present-day systemic religious discrimination” because they are statutory holidays in Canada.

The motion included language which called on all the House to “denounce all attempts to polarize events that have been part of Quebec and Canadian heritage for generations” and “invite all Quebecers and Canadians to unite as we approach the Christmas season,” according to Canada’s Global News.

Lawmakers adopted the motion just one day after a tense exchange between Bloc Quebecois House Leader Alain Therrien, who introduced the motion, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


“I wonder whether Santa Claus is racist? I wonder whether snow has become racist, Mr. Speaker? According to the prime minister, is Christmas racist?" Therrien asked.

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

“This is a country of diversity. A country that celebrates not just our personal individual beliefs, but we share and celebrate the events of our neighbors, too. That's what makes this country so rich. We share our celebrations, it makes us a more rich and diverse country and we will keep doing that. The Bloc is always looking for ridiculous ways to pick fights, I can’t get over it.”

Published on Oct. 23, the CHRC paper warned that Canadian non-Christians might be adversely impacted because Christmas and Easter are the only two religious statutory holidays in Canada.

According to the “Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance” paper, “discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism,” which, the paper states, finds its most “obvious example” in Canadian statutory holidays “related to Christianity.”

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

The report also lists what it describes as “everyday manifestations of religious tolerance,” including “microaggressions” that can range from the verbal to the “behavioral.” Some examples listed in the report include “scheduling team meetings on Jewish or Muslim holy days” and “assuming that a Muslim person is new to Canada.”

In order to combat religious intolerance, the paper recommends Canadians familiarize themselves with “diverse religious days or cultural days of significance that go beyond those linked to statutory holidays,” such as Christmas or Easter.

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