Can we help you with Christmas?

Position:Ask a Law Librarian

For many of us, this time of year is a time for personal reflection, and pondering what the next year will bring. The theme of "The Law and Christmas" brings to mind the debate around the appropriateness of Christmas in the public sphere within a multicultural society --a debate that we mostly hear coming from the U.S. news commentators, sometimes referred to as the "War on Christmas". But this year, with Quebec's proposed Charter of Values, this debate about religion in the public sphere becomes more prominent here in Canada, as well. Any legal debate that considers competing values and protected rights will necessarily raise Charter issues, and understanding the ongoing debate will be helped by a thorough understanding of the approach our courts have taken in deciding these issues.

This article published shortly after the Charter of Values was released asked nine legal experts to comment on whether Quebec's proposal was constitutional and demonstrates that there is much to debate on this topic. For those who would like to know more about the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms, there are several excellent resources. This Guide, published by the Ministry of Canadian Heritage explains each section, and provides examples of what these values and rights look like in our society. There is also a Charter decision digest, which provides a crucial foundation to understanding future Charter decisions. It is available on CanLII and provides excellent summaries of case law developing and interpreting each section of the Charter. Also, at the heart of this debate is the question of what secularism means and what a secular society looks like. This guide explains French secularism or "Lai'cite", and includes some additional reading recommendations at the end. This debate asks us all to reflect on both our personal values, and on what we want Canadian...

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