Ontario’s newly elected Liberal majority, already under scrutiny by pro-lifers, who fear the province will move to sanction and expand abortion clinics, may also bring wide-open Sunday shopping to the province.
The former Liberal minority voted to uphold current business closing laws in December, 1986, after the Supreme Court ruled that the legislation is constitutional. It had been challenged by some retailers who claimed it infringes on freedom of religion.
Indications are, however, that a majority of Liberal backbenchers will vote for expanded Sunday shopping if it comes before the legislature.
The move would meet quite a bit of opposition. On religious grounds, Sunday is the only day of worship for nearly all Canadians, and though the pro-shopping lobby always says no one would be forced to work on Sundays, the provision would be very difficult to enforce.
Sunday is the only day that people can rely on to spend time with family and friends. To make it another workday would seriously erode family and community ties.
As a Toronto mother of three puts it, “Sunday is the one day I know friends will be home; if it got so that some were working and others were out shopping, I doubt we’d ever get together.”
The effect on communities themselves also has to be considered. Ontario is unique – and admired – in having middle class, single-family housing in downtown areas. Many of these neighborhoods about popular shopping districts.
Over the long term, these neighborhoods would go downhill under the strain of noise and traffic congestion seven days a week. It would be one more thing that makes peaceful family life difficult.
Many believe wide-open shopping would help working parents, especially single women who don’t have time to shop during the week. However, the move would probably hurt as many as it would help, since studies show that more women than men would end up working Sundays.
Others claim that people should be able to choose to shop whenever they want to, and that Sunday restrictions amount to imposing one religious discipline on everyone. The argument sums up in a nutshell what the pro-shopping pressure is really about; it’s an effort to secularize society entirely by eliminating laws of religious origin.
Those who believe that society does not need such broadly based religious principles as a common day of rest should not assume that last December’s decision was final. The push for Sunday shopping is almost certain to come up in the legislature in the new session.