Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt has asked city staff to formally review the city’s seasonal decorations.
Isitt told city council last week that he doesn’t think Victoria should be decking public property with boughs of holly and lighting up Christmas trees.
“I think there are many symbols of Christian symbolism that are paid for by tax payer dollars,” Isitt said, “and that doesn’t reflect a clear division between church and state.”
Isitt is advocating for more cultural diversification when it comes to seasonal decorations. The city spends $64,000 a year as part of a seasonal animation program that includes the installation of decorations and banners. The decorations are part of a partnership with the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
“It’s the Christmas trees, it’s the hollies that sort ruffle my sensibilities when it comes to my thoughts on use of tax dollars,” Isitt said.
“I don’t want a poinsettia on my desk. It’s a symbol for the Christian faith.”
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Isitt is suggesting secular humanists and the members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths get together to determine whether publicly-funded decorations are as inclusive as possible.
But city councillor Sharmarke Dubow, the only Muslim on council, says he isn’t worried about the Christmas saturation.
“I am personally not offended. Any Christmas or any other holiday decoration and I love the lighting,” Dubow said.
Those in the Christmas spirit, however, have panned the idea. Most people question whether it’s worth the expense to review a policy that brings brightness and cheer to the community.
“I love the lights. It’s dark at night and the lights are cheerful,” remarked one passerby, whose name was not offered. “I think inclusivity is great, but I don’t see how lights are exclusive. Everyone enjoys lights.”
But Isitt does have support for the idea of expanding the festive decorations to other religions.
“I don’t see any problem with the decorations we have,” one man said. “But there are other holidays to celebrate as well.”