“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
— The Bible, Exodus 20:8-11
Following the introduction in 1982 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court of Canada eventually ruled that the Lord’s Day Act violated Canadians’ freedom of religion.
The Lord’s Day Act, it was determined, prevented non-Christians from performing legal activities on Sundays.
In Manitoba, Sunday shopping was introduced in 1993 — but with heavy restrictions. Why only retail shopping was restricted on Sundays has always been puzzling to many. After all, several other professions and forms of service providers were allowed to operate freely on Sundays. Even the Bible doesn’t specifically mention shopping be banned on the Sabbath — “Thou shalt not do any work,” it says — or if that day is indeed Sunday, not Saturday.
So much for the Lord’s Day Act. And so much, soon, for shopping-free Sunday mornings.
In fact, cash registers will soon be ringing up sales on the mornings of Louis Riel Day, Victoria Day and Thanksgiving Day, as well, thanks to Manitoba’s NDP government.
The province yesterday introduced legislation that will enable municipalities to allow retailers to open their doors as early as 9 a.m. on Sundays and some holidays. Closing time would still be 6 p.m.
The bill is the result of a report from a Labour Management Review Committee equally representing business and labour — no specific religious groups were mentioned — which has left retail lobbyists with mixed feelings. Many would like to see wide-open shopping on Sundays to help retailers compete with cross-border and online shopping.
Workers would also be better protected under the new legislation — retail employees have the right to refuse Sunday work — and there is strengthened enforcement to back up employees who decline Sunday work.
The labour-management committee recommended stores always be closed on New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day.
The Winnipeg Free Press reported the committee noted a number of municipalities in Manitoba have never passed a Sunday-shopping bylaw, which is needed under the provincial legislation.
The committee recommended Sunday shopping continue to be prohibited in those communities unless they pass a bylaw.
And we would expect Brandon City Council to adopt a new bylaw that allows for continued Sunday shopping for the full time allowed under the expanded law.
Some medium and small retailers hold that relaxed opening hours makes it harder on them as they can’t compete.
We suggest they’re already competing by offering specialty goods or a high quality of personal service that their customers can’t find at larger stores. And that won’t change simply because shopping is allowed Sunday mornings.
We also really don’t expect church pews to be emptied on Sunday mornings as folks flock to shop till they drop.
But for those who don’t go to church, they now have more convenient times to worship at the altar of the retail gods.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 24, 2012