Christmas Discriminatory? CHRC’s Controversial Stance Examined

Written by on January 22, 2024 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Holidays - glittery-snowflakes-festive-background


Is Christmas a discriminatory holiday? This startling question is at the heart of a recent discussion paper released by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

With a bold claim that casts Christmas celebrations in a dubious light, the CHRC has ignited a fiery debate. Critics are questioning the CHRC’s stance, labelling it as an overreach into the festivities that many Canadians hold dear.

The CHRC’s Position: A Misstep?

The CHRC’s paper puts forth a perspective that Christmas, as a traditional Christian holiday, could be seen as a vehicle for religious intolerance. At the same time, the CHRC discussion paper brings to light the challenges within Employment Law, especially in accommodating non-Christian religious observances. It reminds us that “employers are legally required to accommodate religious practices to the point of undue hardship,” a mandate stemming from the Canadian Human Rights Act and provincial/territorial human rights codes. However, this begs the question of whether the CHRC’s viewpoint is not only misguided but also dismissive of the inclusive nature that Christmas has come to embody in a multicultural society like Canada.

The Cultural Facet of Christmas

The paper suggests that by celebrating Christmas, an implicit form of discrimination may be at play, overshadowing other religious observances. However, this perspective is challenged by the fact that Christmas in Canada has largely transcended its religious origins, becoming a mosaic of various cultural expressions. Findings from an Angus Reid Institute poll, suggest that Christmas is increasingly seen not just as a religious holiday but as a “cultural event—a time for communal festivities, shared goodwill, and an inclusive spirit.”

An Evolved Holiday in a Multicultural Society

In Canada, Christmas has evolved from its religious roots to embrace a wider spectrum of cultural traditions, reflecting the country’s diversity. The CHRC’s failure to recognize this evolution is striking and, instead, addresses the broader historical context of discrimination, “particularly against Indigenous spiritual practices,” and highlights the continuing issue of “intolerance entwined with racial prejudice.”

The True Meaning of Inclusion

The moral and legal obligation to accommodate religious practices in employment is indeed a cornerstone of Canadian values. Yet, the CHRC’s focus on Christmas as potentially exclusionary is at odds with the lived experiences of many Canadians who see the holiday season as a time of universal goodwill and inclusivity.

Addressing True Concerns

While the CHRC’s intentions in promoting dialogue on religious tolerance are commendable, their approach of religious tolerance is most certainly overly broad and should be re-examined and re-stated so that it aligns with Canadian religious and cultural expressions.

Concluding Thoughts

Christmas, discriminatory? The assertions made by the CHRC stand on shaky ground, as they fail to account for the contemporary Canadian ethos where Christmas has become a symbol of inclusivity, not intolerance. The CHRC’s discussion paper, while aiming to promote a dialogue on tolerance, may have inadvertently stirred a pot that was already well and beautifully mixed with the spices of diversity and respect. It is essential to maintain a balanced perspective and recognize the holiday season for what it truly is—a time everyone of all faiths and cultural backgrounds can enjoy some rest, relaxation and family/friend time together.

If you’re seeking to navigate the intricacies of accommodating employees with different religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds to ensure your workplace aligns with the most recent employment laws, Minken Employment Lawyers can guide you through this evolving landscape. Our team is poised to provide strategic advice and practical solutions tailored to your workplace. Contact us today at 905-477-7011 or email us at contact@minken.com to ensure that your workplace reflects your values of inclusivity and religious and cultural respect.

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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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