'In Quebec, we celebrate Christmas': National Assembly rejects notion that Christmas is racist

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The Quebec National Assembly has rejected the assertion that Christmas is an example of discrimination against religious minorities.

Christopher Skeete, a member of the provincial legislature representing a district in Laval, Que., moved the motion. Skeete, part of the governing Coalition Avenir Québec, is also the minister responsible for fighting racism in the francophone province.

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“Au Québec, on célèbre Noël, on célèbre notre patrimoine,” Skeete tweeted Wednesday. In English, the post reads “In Quebec, we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate our heritage.”

The motion comes in response to a discussion paper on religious intolerance from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The paper, published in late October, says that discrimination “against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada’s history of colonialism.”

As an example of modern-day systemic religious discrimination, the paper points out that the only statutory holidays in Canada linked to religious faith are Christian ones — Christmas and Easter.

“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 says.

The motion in the National Assembly, adopted unanimously, rejected this.

“(The motion) denounces all attempt to polarize unifying events that have been part of Quebec’s heritage for many generations,” the text reads. “Finally, it invites all Quebecers to come together during the upcoming Christmas period.”

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More than half of all Quebecers say they are Catholics. It’s the only province in the country where Catholics form a religious majority.

The province also has a rich history of traditionalist Catholic nationalism. Cleric and historian Lionel Groulx wrote that Quebec is “the paramount spiritual entity in North America because of their Catholicism.”

Louis-Francois-Richer Lafleche, an influential Catholic bishop and missionary who died in 1898, argued that Quebec must become “a great Catholic nation,” and that “our mission as a people has an essentially religious character.”

“Our national salvation depends just as much as our eternal salvation on our adherence to the faith of our fathers,” he wrote in 1866.

In recent years, the National Assembly passed legislation that prohibited the wearing of religious symbols by some public institution employees. It was part of a push towards secularism. But this ran up against Quebec’s Catholic history — and those who cared about it.

The government resisted removing a cross that hung on the wall of the National Assembly. Some, such as historian Frédéric Bastien, argued that displaying the crucifix did not contract Quebec’s secularist agenda in the same way that turbans and kippahs do.

“Secularism is not about erasing all signs of our Christian or Catholic past — that would be absurd,” Bastien told the Montreal Gazette in 2019.

Skeete did not respond to National Post’s request for an interview.

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