When In Rome: How Our Tolerance Of The Intolerant Is Killing Canadian Culture

Rome Umbrellas

It’s a simple concept, really. When in Rome do as the Romans do.

It’s about being polite. It’s about respecting traditions. It’s about going with the flow when visiting another city, country or culture.


The same applies when you move to another country, city or culture. So why is it that we, as Canadians, insist on altering our traditions and cultures for new Canadians?

Two Calgary area schools are banning gory and scary Halloween costumes on Monday. Instead of the traditional spooky stuff, the children are being asked to dress in caring and community friendly attire.

At first, it seems a little ridiculous. Then you read deeper into the story and the “a ha” moment comes and you see the motive behind the headline.

Michelle Speight, who serves as principal for both inner city schools, said the move is designed to accommodate all children, including those with cultural backgrounds that don’t celebrate Halloween. [source]

In other words, a centuries old tradition is being altered to accomodate a cultural minority. A cultural minority, that I would guess, didn’t even ask for the sanitization.

The debate is just getting started. 2 months from today will be Christmas Day. The Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays and Best of the Season wishes will start flowing as nobody dare say Christmas at the risk of offending the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu among us.

Give me a break.

diwali india nightI’m willing to wish you Happy Hannukah, Happy Diwali or Gung Hei Fat Choy. If that’s what you celebrate, good for you. Bring your culture here and let’s have yet another reason to feast and party in the city.

I’ll even retweet your fabulous post of what India looks like at night during Diwali. It’s a great way to learn more about each other’s beliefs, cultures and have a greater understanding and appreciation of each other.

We learn how different cultures live when they are expressed to their fullest. Canada prides itself on being a cultural mosaic. Each group brings a different colour to the fabric of the country that should be celebrated. The original Canadian culture needs a spot in that mosaic too.

So when the traditional North American holidays roll around, don’t expect me to sanitize them. You don’t dial down Hannukah thinking I’d find it offensive. You don’t skip Eid because I don’t celebrate it. You don’t demand that my wife wear a hijab.

So why are we acknowledging and accepting, in our tolerance of a multicultural society, the intolerance that some may bring with those cultures? Perhaps those cultures don’t even bring intolerance, but in our role as playing the perfect host, we are bending over backwards to make sure conflicting cultures don’t feel uncomfortable.

It’s time to stand up for Canadian traditions and celebrate them without fear.

In Canada, we celebrate Halloween with scary pumpkins, costumes and candy from neighbours. In Canada, we celebrate Christmas with songs, and gifts, and a big red guy in a suit. Not all of it is religious, and that’s the part that actually makes it more inclusive.

When in Rome, people. When in Rome.

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