How the Grinch stole Chanukah: secularism is not a veil for systemic racism

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The same week an elementary school teacher was taken from her class in Quebec for wearing a hijab, the Legault government announced it would ease the rules for indoor gatherings just in time for Christmas.

I hate being a Grinch, but in this multi-faith home as we put away the menorah and put out the Christmas lights, I wonder when Quebec will stop pretending to be a secular society.

What a coincidence that around the same time last year, the CAQ also considered allowing larger gatherings for Christmas, just after the holidays of other denominations, such as Hanukkah and Diwali.

The Legault government preaches the separation between Church and State, promulgates Bill 21 prohibiting civil servants (teachers, police officers, judges, etc.) from wearing religious symbols and insists that systemic racism does not is not a problem in Quebec; Yet the relaxation of public health measures on Dec. 23 is expected to be state-tied, not church-related.

Quebec is not a religiously neutral society; it is a Catholic society. Its institutions close for Christmas and Easter; countless streets, towns, hospitals and schools are named after saints; and the crucifix which featured prominently in the National Assembly for decades was only recently withdrawn, following much debate and rejection.

Even Bill 21, a law on state secularism, accommodates those who practice the Catholic faith, since wearing a cross around the neck can be concealed, unlike a hijab, turban or kippah worn on the head. .

While this questionable bill hinders the lives of marginalized Quebecers, the CAQ government once again dares to attempt pandemic fate in the name of Christmas.

Tying the new rules for private gatherings to a specific holiday will of course never be publicly declared. Instead, it is conveniently suggested that the timing is due to a stabilization in the number of hospitalizations, the fact that the Omicron variant does not circulate widely in the province, that children over the age of five are now vaccinated.

This pandemic has brought to light many issues, including the value of critical thinking. A lot of information is credible when taken at face value, but even evidence-based facts, like statistics, can be misleading when twisted the right way.

It cannot be denied that Quebec has done well in its vaccination and public health efforts, but while the world is grappling with the mutations of a virus that aims to outsmart us, must we naively believe that this province will be spared because it’s Christmas?

Making progress in stopping a global pandemic is hardly an excuse to relax the rules, which miraculously coincides with the birth of Jesus.

If we really want to understand secularism, watch out for COVID-19, which makes no distinction for any faith in its path of destruction. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus… a multicultural society fighting together against this virus.

As the candles go out on Chanukah and the Christmas trees light up, let us remember that a secular society does not cater to any faith. Secularism, Mr. Legault, is not a veil for systemic racism.

Susan mintzberg is a doctoral candidate in social work at McGill University. His research focuses on the role of family caregivers in mental health care.


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