How the Quebec National Assembly & Canadian House of Commons saved Christmas!

“It was a historic moment when federal and provincial politicians found the courage to push aside the strikes paralyzing our schools and hospitals, our overflowing ERs and a national housing and cost-of-living crisis so they could bravely unite to strike the final blow in the relentless war against Christmas.”

Gather around, kids. Let me tell you about the time when both Quebec’s National Assembly and the Canadian House of Commons saved Christmas. 

It was a historic moment when both federal and provincial politicians found the courage to push aside province-wide strikes paralyzing our schools and hospitals, our overflowing ERs and a national housing and cost-of-living crisis so they could bravely unite and strike the final blow in the relentless war against Christmas. Because, make no mistake, Santa Claus is coming to town, even if the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) found Papa Noël problematic.  

For those unfamiliar with the controversy, let me offer up a brief timeline. 

On Oct. 23, the CHRC published a discussion paper on religious intolerance. At the time, few people noticed because most folks barely have the patience to read through a two-minute article, let alone a 12-page government report on anti-racism work and human rights. It’s not exactly what we’d call a page turner.

On Nov. 23, however, the “Everything I Don’t Like or Understand Is Woke” brigade caught wind of it. “Christmas is colonial!” warned Journal de Montréal pundit Richard Martineau, in a column where he expressed displeasure with the paper’s acknowledgment that Christmas is given priority over all other faith-based holidays while simultaneously mocking McGill University for recognizing that non-Christian students also exist and having the willingness to accommodate them by implementing policies that allow said students the simple opportunity to celebrate their holidays, too. The nerve!

Meaningless motions 

Immediately, the usual suspects grabbed on to the controversy to make political hay out of it. Folks who had never read (and most likely will never read) the paper were suddenly outraged that a bunch of bureaucrats had dared malign a beloved holiday most of us associate with happy childhood memories, boatloads of food, eggnog, family bonding and maxed out credit cards. 

Our politicians, always at the service of the people when minimum effort and meaningless motions are involved, leapt up to defend Christmas.

In Quebec, the Minister responsible for the Fight against Racism, Christopher Skeete, tabled a motion to protest the paper’s conclusions. The man is almost nowhere to be found when real racism rears its head, but threaten Santa and, oh boy, he’s coming for you. 

“We will not apologize for celebrating Christmas,” Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette solemnly declared after the motion was voted unanimously by everyone in attendance, when absolutely — and I mean absolutely — no one requested an apology.

Mathieu Bock-Côté, who’s never met a hyperbole he didn’t love, also chimed in at the 11th hour with a column proclaiming, “The war against Christmas has never stopped.” To which most people with even a modicum of observational skills took one look around them at the Christmas decorations, the Christmas trees, the Christmas lights, the non-stop Christmas movies and Christmas jingles playing since Halloween, and replied, “When precisely did the war begin?” 

And then it was the House of Commons’ turn. 

“Mr. Speaker, according to the prime minister, is Christmas racist?” Bloc Québécois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet asked in question period, forcing Justin Trudeau to, in turn, reply. “I’m very pleased to stand up and try to answer a totally ridiculous question. Obviously, Christmas is not racist.”

As the CHRC clearly explained afterwards, the discussion paper never explicitly said “Christmas is racist” and was merely about promoting equity and inclusion. The CHRC is a human rights watchdog independent of the federal government and Trudeau’s administration, not some malicious instrument of federalism and multiculturalism. But that’s beside the point for those not remotely interested in the point. 

The House of Commons, too, would unanimously adopt a Bloc Québécois motion denouncing the paper’s conclusions, because who in the world is going to vote against Christmas? What’s next on the agenda, a parliamentary motion declaring the Easter bunny adorable? Of course, it’s adorable! It’s a bunny wearing clothes! 

Misunderstood discussion paper

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Fox News-type reporting and American-style paranoia about a “woke” war on Christmas would make its way to this side of the border. 

The paper merely examines religious intolerance as a form of discrimination in Canada and the mechanisms that perpetuate it. 

“Many societies, including our own, have been constructed in a way that places value on certain traits or identities to the exclusion of others — for example, white, male, Christian, English-speaking, thin/fit, not having a disability, heterosexual, gender conforming.” 

Those are facts. 

“Discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism. This history manifests itself in present-day systemic religious discrimination. An obvious example is statutory holidays in Canada. Statutory holidays related to Christianity, including Christmas and Easter, are the only Canadian statutory holidays linked to religious holy days. 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.” 

Again, facts. 

Nowhere does the paper say that “Christmas is offensive,” or that “Christians need to apologize” or that “Christmas is racist.” Those insisting it does, are a) either arguing in bad faith, or b) didn’t read the paper. 

As columnist Yves Boisvert points out, the paper carries no legal weight and doesn’t ask anyone to cancel the holiday. The report merely (and accurately) points to Christmas and Easter as having a favoured status in our society due to historic reasons. 

To discriminate means to “treat differently.” Because of Christianity’s historic presence in our country’s colonial past, it continues to enjoy a favoured position today as the majority religion. This is why the only two religious statutory holidays in Canada are Christian holidays and the only ones associated with school breaks and paid days off. Christians don’t require religious accommodation to celebrate Christmas. Not so for other religions. 

As I pointed out in 2020 during the pandemic, when Premier Legault allowed gatherings during Christmas, while denying gatherings during other religious holidays, “the fact the school break centres around the Christmas holiday is not a coincidence. The fact that Christmas is the ‘default’ holiday for most of us here demonstrates the pervasive power of Catholicism in today’s Quebec and why Catho-laïcité has become such a huge component of the province’s so-called selective secularism.” 

That’s not an accusation, that’s just a fact.

Although, I will say that the irony of both motions to save Christmas’s reputation being introduced by two parties who adamantly support Bill 21 in the name of so-called state secularism was not lost on me.

Now that we’ve established everyone is (and always has been) free to enjoy a guilt-free Christmas, let me take a moment to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a Happy New Year, and anything else you may wish to celebrate. 

Most importantly, and to borrow from Christmas, “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.” It’s what we desperately need the most right now. ■

This article was originally published in the December issue of Cult MTL.

Read more weekly editorial columns by Toula Drimonis.