Thanks to a little directive from the Conservative government, federal employees’ right to be festive has been officially sanctioned for the second year in a row.
As The Canadian Press reported yesterday, the government was slated to issue a statement reminding federal employees of their right to festoon.
“Our government will not allow the Christmas spirit to be grinched,” said Treasury Board President Tony Clement. “I see nothing wrong in the workplace at this time of the year ... to have the tinsel or the Christmas cards or even a little mini nativity scene or a Menorah.
“This is an inclusive time of year. We have people of all faiths, we have people of no faith. If people with faiths wish to demonstrate that in some way, (and) that it’s within the rules that are set out throughout the year, then we have no issue with that.”
Neither do we, though there are folks out there who do.
It’s rather odd how this became an issue. Last year, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley issued a similar directive after a government manager in Quebec banished Christmas decorations from front-line Service Canada offices in that province. Employees were allowed to hang holiday decorations in their personal spaces, but not areas in public view.
It was the politically correct thing to do, perhaps, but my how incorrect it was, as Canadians and opposition parties joyfully lambasted the government for killing the holiday spirit.
In an ideal world, we should be able to celebrate our differences. Why should a Canadian who follows the Muslim or Hindu faith find a Christmas tree, a bit of tinsel or a Menorah offensive? And for Christians, there’s nothing wrong with respecting the month of Ramadan or the Jewish Passover.
But this is hardly an ideal world, and it seems that all too often folks are so easily offended over the most inane and innocuous things.
Like folks who are upset that someone uses Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. If that’s the worst of our troubles, we should all be very thankful indeed.
Just because a store owner or a government worker put up a few decorations it doesn’t mean we have to follow their faiths — or any faith at all if that is our choice. But we live in a country where Canadians have a right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion. It’s enshrined in our Charter.
The Supreme Court of Canada has also ruled that workplaces have a duty to accommodate religious observance under human rights legislation.
While we don’t believe that governments should be extolling the virtues of any particular faith, or enacting policy based on the religious values of our political ministers, government employees are human like the rest of us.
The fact that Ottawa has refused to come down heavy handed on religious ornamentation is a good thing.
But as we have noted previously on this page, the federal Conservatives have not always played the “inclusive” card.
Earlier this year, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews decided to end federal government contracts nationwide with minority-faith chaplains who had been working part-time in Canada’s federal prisons.
The part-time advisors, who were both Christian and non-Christan, were given their walking papers, full-time almost exclusively Christian chaplains are expected to provide spiritual guidance to inmates of all faiths.
At the time, Toews office issued a comment that was decidedly restrictive to non-mainstream faith.
“The government isn’t convinced that paying the salary of a witchcraft practitioner is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” read the statement, which was issued after Toews cancelled a Corrections Canada contract for a Wiccan priest in a B.C. prison.
A little consistency would be nice.