Quebec announced its plan for the holiday season on Thursday. While many Quebecers likely rejoiced at the news that they'll be able to celebrate Christmas with loved ones this year, the plan — centred around December 24, 25, 26 and 27 — does not account for religious and ethnic minorities in the province.

Quebec's Jewish community will be celebrating Hanukkah from December 10 to December 18.

Kwanzaa, the annual celebration of African-American culture, takes place from December 26 to January 1.

Up until this point, holidays — including Passover, Eid and Diwali — have not resulted in changes to existing COVID-19 regulations.

This has Quebecers raising eyebrows.

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Quebec's Plan For The Holidays

Gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted during a four-day period from December 24 to 27.

The government is asking everyone to isolate as much as possible one week before and one week after any gatherings. 

Eight Lonely Nights

"We request that the government takes the needs of minority communities, including the Jewish community, into consideration," said Harvey Levine, director of B'nai Brith in Quebec.

"There really can't be favouritism. The premier is the premier of all Quebecers."   

Rabbi Lisa Grushcow of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Westmount told MTL Blog that her issue with Quebec's plan is two-fold.

On one hand, she said, "there's a level of unfairness with this being scheduled so that people can celebrate Christmas whereas Diwali or Hanukkah or Eid or all of these other religious holidays we haven't been able to gather."

She continued, "The premier spoke about family being at the heart of our society and there's something really beautiful about that. I would just ask for the acknowledgement that that's true, not just for those who celebrate Christmas."

On the other hand, she said she wouldn't actually want permission to gather on Hanukkah. Ideally, she said either no gatherings would take place or there would be "much stricter parameters."

"As someone who officiated a tremendous number of funerals in the first wave and has seen the impact directly of this illness on congregants [...] it's devastating," she said. 

"So it seems to me we have to pull through this final stretch until we get to a vaccine." 

A Secular State

Rabbi Grushcow also said this plan "rubs salt in the wounds" of Quebec's controversial secularism law also known as Bill 21, which bans religious symbols from the public sphere.

"You can't both insist you're secular and organize your society and your choices [...] around Christmas," she explained. 

Twitter users have also pointed out the apparent contradiction.

"Quebec is such a secular state that all planning is aimed at making sure that Christmas is saved. Jewish gatherings? Canceled. Diwali celebration at the Sikh temple? Busted. Makes you think... maybe this province was never actually about secularism?" tweeted Montreal-based consultant Anamjit Sivia.

Premier Legault Responds

In a press conference on November 19, a reporter asked Legault about Hanukkah: "What are we saying to Quebecers that [...] do not celebrate Christmas?"

Legault replied by saying the "critical situation" means the government can only permit four days of gatherings. He explained how his team came to choose those specific days. 

"So where do we put those four days? I know that some people prefer to celebrate the New Year than celebrating Christmas but [...] we think in Quebec that most of the people would be happy with those four days."

When asked if there could be provisions for people who don't celebrate at the same time if they quarantine a week before and after their holidays, Legault said no.

"We have to concentrate those meetings within the same four days because of what we propose[d] regarding schools [...] [and] work," said Legault.

"It's very important that we set four days and a week before and a week after as many people as possible in Quebec be confined." 

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