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Conservative MP introduces bill to declare December 'Christian Heritage Month'

A Conservative Member of Parliament has introduced a bill to declare December Christian heritage month.  (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)
A Conservative Member of Parliament has introduced a bill to declare December Christian heritage month. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)

A Conservative member of Parliament is introducing a private member's bill that would designate December as "Christian Heritage Month."

Marilyn Gladu, the MP for the Ontario riding of Sarnia–Lambton, introduced Bill C-369, the Christian Heritage Month Act, to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The bill lands as the Conservatives press a petition campaign against a Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) paper that described statutory holidays marking Christian religious dates as discriminatory.

"Canada is a country that celebrates all faiths," Gladu told the House. "It's only fair and right that we would have a Christian heritage month since there's [19.3] million Christians in Canada, according to the last census. And what better month to pick than December?"

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu: 'What better month to pick than December?' (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Gladu noted that members of other faiths in Canada, including Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews, have their own heritage months.

Gladu used her spot in the Commons lottery for private members' bills for Bill C-228, a pensions protection bill. That means C-369 is unlikely to be called for debate or come up for a vote.

Gladu's comments form part of the political reaction to a discussion paper published by the CHRC in October that described statutory holidays marking Christian religious dates as "systemic religious discrimination."

"Discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is grounded in Canada's history of colonialism," the paper says. "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."

The paper says that because non-Christians need to make special requests to get time off to mark their religious events, recognizing Christian holidays is discriminatory.

While 53.3 per cent of Canadians identified as Christian in the 2021 census, that number has dropped from the 77.1 per cent recorded in 2001. The number of people reporting no religious affiliation has increased from 16.5 per cent in 2001 to 34.6 per cent in 2021.

Between 2001 and 2021, the number of Muslims increased from 2.0 per cent of the Canadian population to 4.9 per cent, the number of Hindus grew from 1.0 per cent to 2.3 per cent and the number of Sikhs rose from 0.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent, according to the census.

'Is Christmas racist?'

Gladu's bill feeds into her party's "Don't cancel Christmas!" campaign that asks Canadians to sign a petition condemning the CHRC's discussion paper.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet brought the issue up in the House last week, asking a question that raised the ire of Speaker Greg Fergus.

"According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, celebrating Christmas with trees, family, music and gifts, that's systemic racism," Blanchet said. "I wonder whether Santa Claus is racist. I wonder whether snow has become racist. According to the prime minister, is Christmas racist?"

When challenged by the Speaker over whether his question should go "to the government administration," Blanchet said the CHRC falls under the government's purview and called on the prime minister answer his question.

"I'm very pleased to stand up and try to answer a totally ridiculous question," Trudeau said.

"Obviously, Christmas is not racist. This is a country of diversity, a country that celebrates not just our personal individual beliefs but we share and celebrate the events of our neighbours too.

"The Bloc is always looking for ridiculous ways to pick fights. I can't get over it."

After the exchange, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre stood and wished everyone in the House of Commons a Merry Christmas and a Joyeux Noël, to applause from members of his party.

Trudeau followed Poilievre, saying that the Conservative leader's "climate denialism" would put future white Christmases in peril. He declared that MPs on his side of the House "stand for Christmas."

Earlier this month, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, a former candidate for the federal Conservative leadership, posted a video on X (formerly Twitter) declaring that his city is already celebrating December as "Christian heritage month."

In the video, Brown said his government is a strong supporter of religious freedom and opposes Quebec's Bill 21, which bans a range of public servants in roles of authority, including teachers, from wearing visible religious symbols.

"We will continue to be unabashed supporters of religious freedom in the city of Brampton," Brown said in the video, wishing Christians a happy month ahead.