Canadian Human Rights Commission claims Christmas is rooted in ‘identity as a settler colonial state’

Image  Libby Emmons

“Discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism.”

A Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance just out from the Canadian Human Rights Commission claims that Christianity in practice in Canada is essentially a form of discrimination. “Only through better understanding of how religious intolerance takes place in Canada can our legislation, policies and programs be crafted to address the causes and consequences of this intolerance,” the paper reads.

The commission claims that “Discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism.” In the discussion, however, the practicing of the religion itself is conflated with discrimination against other religions. In fact, the paper reads, while religion can be grounds for discrimination, “religion is not defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

“This history manifests itself in present-day systemic religious discrimination,” the paper continues, taking aim at Christianity as the primary discriminator against others in Canada. It focuses on Christian holidays as problematic simply by the fact of their existence on the calendar of statutory holidays.

“An obvious example is statutory holidays in Canada,” the paper reads. “Statutory holidays related to Christianity, including Christmas and Easter, are the only Canadian statutory holidays linked to religious holy days,” the paper states.

The way the commission defines it as discriminatory is because those who are not Christian don’t celebrate them, and do celebrate holidays that are not on the calendar. “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.

And what is at fault? For the commission, this issue with holidays is evidence of religious intolerance and that intolerance is a function of being a “settler colonial state.”

“Canada’s history with religious intolerance is deeply rooted in our identity as a settler colonial state,” the paper reads. “A key example, of which we still see the effects today, was the systematic effort to delegitimize and eradicate Indigenous spirituality and ways of life through the use of residential schools.”

These schools, ever a thorn in Canada’s side, were prevalent in the 1900s. They sought to assimilate Indigenous children, and the government, along with the church, has been heavily criticised for it. However, a recent “revelation” of “mass graves” of Indigenous children found at Kamloops, British Columbia, was revealed to be a hoax. No human remains were found at all.

This paper comes as criticism of the celebrated Christian holiday has manifested over the past several years. Christians have been accused of having “Christian privilege” during the holiday seaon, and others have called for Christmas celebrations to be more inclusive of other reglions. Part of that privilege is that Christian holidays have placement on statutory holiday calendars.

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