Religious minorities say Quebec’s Christmas gathering plan shows a double standard

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MONTREAL - Members of religious minority groups in Quebec are decrying the provincial government’s plan to allow Christmas-time gatherings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the move a sign of a double standard.

The condemnations came days after Premier Francois Legault offered Quebecers what he dubbed a “moral contract” through an offer to raise gathering limits over a four-day period starting on Christmas Eve.

“It’s disappointing,” said Yusuf Faqiri, a representative of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “The Muslim community, the Jewish community, the Sikh community, when we had our respective holidays, we were not able to gather.”

Legault announced the terms of the Christmas repreive on Thursday, saying groups of up to 10 could gather between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27. The short-term move marks a sharp reversal from rules currently in place in much of the province, where all indoor gatherings are banned in regions classified as red zones under the province’s pandemic response plan.

Faqiri said his objections to the move aren’t rooted solely in the pandemic. His organization is one of several that is currently challenging Quebec’s secularism law in court. That law bans some public servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols while working, on the grounds that the state must be religiously neutral.

He said it’s “a contradiction” to defend that bill while allowing Christmas gatherings.

“All Quebecers, from all faith groups, from all respective traditions, we’re all proud participants in the society,” he said. “But in order for us to do that, we should all be treated the same and that’s where the fundamental issue lies.”

Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal, said Jewish people have been left out.