They all rose and applauded simultaneously, just as they always do, much like when then-Speaker Rota introduced former Nazi Yaroslav Hunka to the House of Commons on September 22. It’s a reflex, but one that can be resisted.
Rising to clap after the leader gives a spirited retort seems natural for front and backbenchers alike. The fact that it wasn’t even a good retort, just a spirited one, has me half-convinced MPs do it even when they didn’t hear what was said. But this automatic response can be perilous, as their ovation for Hunka showed.
When government MPs rose this past week to cheer for their leader, the prime minister had just declared his government to be the defender of white Christmas. I’m unsure as to whether the country has ever had another Christmas-defending prime minister, but it fits Justin Trudeau, born on Christmas.
Christmas has been under attack in our culture and it needs defending at times. Some people see the incessant focus on the commercial side of Christmas as threatening the spirit of the season. Also this week, a “discussion paper” by the Canadian Human Rights Commission presented Christmas and Easter as examples of systemic discrimination with the usual ideological pap of a freshman student in diversity studies:
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 [sic] their religion requires them to abstain from work.
Indeed, there are no national statutory holidays in Canada for Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Wiccan or other religions. But does that translate into automatic discrimination, or are human rights bureaucrats seeing discrimination where they want to see discrimination?
In the portrayal of Canada depicted by the Commission’s paper, individuals seeking leave for religious holidays beyond Easter and Christmas face humiliation and discrimination. However, that may be more a product of federal government workers’ experience around human rights commissions, than what the workforce experiences in the real world.
You’ve probably noticed how non-Christians arrange for particular days off when they start a new job. The size of the company and the employee’s role can affect this process, but it’s usually manageable. Canadian employers tend to be incredibly accommodating to staff with diverse faiths with the help of existing human rights codes and labour legislation.
There are even times in which workers who profess other religions might receive paid leave for their religious holidays, on top of the statutory holidays that are generally recognized. While it’s not a universal occurrence, it happens. Surprisingly, the Human Rights Commission hasn’t commented on these circumstances.
The critique suggests three distinct possibilities non-Christians experience regarding work holidays in a country founded on Judeo-Christian traditions. Firstly, the existence of state religious holidays might be considered intolerant by those who are not religious at all. Secondly, the observance of statutory Christian religious holidays only could be viewed as intolerant towards non-Christian faiths. Lastly, it implies that the country is intolerant because it does not observe statutory religious holidays that honour every religious tradition existing within Canada.
This flawed reasoning appears to undermine the religious significance of Christmas, and, as some interpret it, indirectly to challenge the holiday itself. All of this is predetermined by the prevalent thinking among woke intellectuals and bureaucrats these days, who, embracing critical race theory, queer theory, and postcolonial theory, have convinced themselves that “Canada’s history with religious intolerance is deeply rooted in our identity as a settler colonial state.” The question is decided ahead of time.
But none of this lived experience of actual Canadians is the reason the prime minister declared his party the defenders of Christmas.
The Prime Minister’s fervent defence of Christmas emerged as a new enhancement to the repeated accusation placed on the Conservative Opposition, who are held without a “climate plan.” This claim is an exaggerated political statement, often thrown around by party members who happily infuse lots of drama on each policy detail, whether significant or trivial. It appears that when you work for someone as intrinsically drawn to drama as a drama teacher, you tend to engage in theatrical behaviour to please your boss.
Here is what the prime minister said: Pierre Poilievre threw the first punch at Trudeau when he said that all Trudeau had to offer Canadians for Christmas was a “carbon tax lump of coal.” The comment seems to have struck a nerve. Quite agitated, the prime minister rose and retorted in his trademark panting: “I’m pleased to point out that we’re the Government that’s phasing out coal! The climate denialism of the Conservative Party of Canada is putting future white Christmases at risk. And that’s why on this side of the House, we stand for Christmas.”
It was at this point that the Liberal bench rose in thunderous applause. And so the Christmas defenders are born.
I would say that the first part of Trudeau’s retort referring to cancelling coal was good but the rest fell short. It’s a ridiculous claim to say that the Government stands for Christmas at any time, but especially in light of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission has said. It is not rare, it is true, that one branch of government often says one thing and another says something else so perhaps one should not make too much hay out of that.
But there is no indication that the Conservative Party is anti-Christmas as the prime minister suggested. Nor was it the kind of brilliant retort deserving of a standing ovation. It could well be that the PM wanted to sound like the Quebec National Assembly’s defence of Christmas (Not to be outdone by Quebec City, the House too later passed a unanimous motion denouncing the Human Rights Commission introduced by a Bloc member).
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