I’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.