'Merry Christmas' to stay on Saskatoon buses despite complaint



REGINA -- Saskatoon city councillors voted Monday to keep flashing "Merry Christmas" on transit buses after receiving a complaint from a city man who said he was offended by the holiday message.

"It's regular operations - Merry Christmas will stay on the buses - I don't think you will see that change in any years to come," Coun. Darren Hill said. "But, we have also asked for our cultural diversity and race relations committee to review it and see if there is the need for a policy or some change in operations."

Ashu M.G. Solo, who filed the complaint with the city last week, said he was disappointed in the latest decision.

"This isn't a Christian city or a Christian country, it's a secular, multireligious city in a secular, multireligious country with people from numerous religions as well as spiritual people, agnostics, atheists - we need to respect everybody," Solo said. "We need to protect the rights of the minority from the misdirected will of the majority in constitutional democracy like Canada."

Solo said the Christmas message violates the separation of state and religion, imposes religious beliefs on others and gives preferential treatment to one religion.

But Hill said they embrace all religions and beliefs.

"We are a multicultural society," he said. "I think if you start to limit one or another, you are going to have problems.

"Simply having 'Merry Christmas' on a bus does not restrict us from recognizing other holiday celebrations and other faith-based celebrations."

Hill said he has received hundreds of calls and e-mails on the issue and all but one person supported Christmas messages.

Solo said he will make a civil rights complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission sometime in the new year, hoping to ban religious messages by government organizations throughout the province.

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