The War on Easter as waged by Whole Foods in Ottawa

crazy-easter-bunnyI’m not a big fan of Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheque).  It has, quite reasonably, been called a “Temple of Pseudoscience“, for its consistent peddling of all kinds of woo.  They sell you everything you need to get the bad stuff out (with their assortment of intestinal cleanses), and then tell you which superfoods you should put in instead.  They sell various special waters with unique chemical properties that make them soooo much better than what comes out of the tap, not to be confused with the special waters that are turned into tablets and tinctures to be peddled as homeopathic “medicines”.

But this past Friday, the new Whole Foods store in downtown Ottawa defied the Retail Business Holidays Act by opening on a statutory holiday (and also stated that they intended to open Easter Sunday).  I do strongly support the right of workers  to get a reasonable amount of time off – this applies especially to retail workers who tend to be lower paid and work long and often irregular hours.  I’ll also accept the fact that our designated statutory holidays have a religious origin, as long as nobody is required to actually perform any religious rituals in order to have the day off.  So, I’m a bit conflicted about whose rights are being threatened by the Friday opening.

But looking at this further through the lens of secularism, I noticed something odd:  The province of Ontario requires retail businesses to close on nine specified days each year (except for designated “tourist regions”).

  • New Year’s Day (Jan. 1);
  • Family Day (the third Monday of February);
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday);
  • Easter Sunday;
  • Victoria Day (the last Monday before or on May 24);
  • Canada Day (July 1);
  • Labour Day (first Monday in September);
  • Thanksgiving Day (the second Monday in October);
  • Christmas Day (Dec. 25)

The two Easter holidays stand out first because they are explicitly defined by religion.  Unlike all the others (including Christmas) which have a calendar-based definition, either a date or day+date algorithm, the date for Easter Sunday is defined by the Christian church, and (since 1583) has been designated as the “Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon falling on or after the 21st day of March”, and “Good Friday” is the Friday before that Sunday.

So here’s a question (fun to ask at Passover time): Why is Easter Sunday different from all other Sundays?  Some of us remember back to the last millennium when most stores in Ontario were closed on Sundays, but then, almost 30 years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the Lord’s Day Act on the grounds that it contravened freedoms of religion and conscience guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But it seems that of all the Sundays in the year, somehow Easter Sunday is still allowed to violate freedoms of religion and conscience.  And Whole Foods is closed today.

4 thoughts on “The War on Easter as waged by Whole Foods in Ottawa

  1. The Peterborough Garden Show 2015 was held this weekend and was open from 10-5 on Friday April 3 (Good Friday). The line up of people waiting to get into the show extended a whole blog and the two parking lots were full. From this evidence, I conclude there are a lot of non-Christians/non-religious in Peterborough, Ontario.

  2. “the date for Easter Sunday is defined by the Christian church”

    You make it sound like they just pick a date each year, and that’s not the case. It’s defined by an algorithm, just like Family Day, but more complex. One company I used to work for built accounting software, and this was one thing I worked on, so I know this in a lot more detail than I care to.

    Regardless, Good Friday and Easter are exactly as religious as Christmas. Thanksgiving is pretty borderline too. No Canadian should be forced to take these days off work. No Canadian should be denied service on these days.

    “Why is Easter Sunday different from all other Sundays?” Because Ontario says it is, following the lead of Canada with Good Friday and Easter Monday. This is a province that sees no problem in getting all taxpayers to fund Catholic schools, so why not, eh? The question is why is Christmas or Good Friday different from any Sunday? And what makes them different from Greater Eid, for example?

    I would cut the number of statutory holidays in half by eliminating the religious ones, and require that employers permit employees to take an equivalent number of days (or more, but that’s a separate issue) as personal days, no questions asked, no loss of pay or benefits or responsibilities, etc.

    • Actually, regardless of the reason, I think statutory holidays are important. They represent days when everyone has a right to a break and given the bloated amount of part-time employment over full-time employment, they represent for many the only time they get. By connecting them to something, it prevents businesses and companies from arguing that “personal” days impinge upon profit margins, which would absolutely happen. Besides, most people want Christmas off, whether they are religious or not. It is a culturally relevant holiday even if not a specifically religious one.

  3. I agree the holidays are important but why not just permanently phase out statuatory holidays and have the federal government mandate 10 extra days off per year, which gives people the freedom to choose their vacation time and not be forced into it.

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