Twitter erupts in anger as Victoria eyes Christmas decoration cutbacks
Reaction online was swift and severe after Victoria city council voted to review its Christmas decorations – and whether those decorations should be secular.
The city spends about $64,000 a year on seasonal decorations, including lights and other adornments around winter holidays.
But Coun. Ben Isitt recently suggested the city shouldn't be doing things like lighting up a tree in Centennial Square as it is too religious.
Some Victorians instantly got their backs up at the prospect, tagging Isitt in a stream of upset tweets.
@Ben_Isitt It’s sad that Christmas lights blind you to the milti cultural/religious celebrations of Victoria in the winter season. As someone from immigrant parents I can tell you we embrace and enjoy all manner of different celebration and are not offended by poinsettias.— Ellery March (@AnnabelMarch) December 8, 2018
Not everyone was against the idea, with one person tweeting their support and saying Christian symbols don't represent everyone in the community.
Christian-specific symbols aren’t inclusive of other cultural/religious traditions & they do not reflect the division between church & state. @laurel_bc thanks for bringing that up in today’s council meeting. I also really enjoyed your comments on this @Ben_Isitt— Gaëlle Nicolussi (@FunUniverse_) December 7, 2018
Coun. Laurel Collins, who seconded the motion, says it's just to have staff take a look at how they're decorating for the holiday.
"It's really just asking staff to report back on what are our options for secularization or increasing the cultural diversity," said Collins.
She said that could mean things like changing Christmas lights to snowflakes, but it could also mean taking away some decorations.
Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe had a measured response, saying she like the idea of being more inclusive, but it doesn't have to affect current Christmas displays.
"Being inclusive doesn't mean that then we have to take some things away," she said. "I think that there are many people such as myself who may not practice Christianity, who celebrate Christmas every year."
She said she'd like to see how the city could add in more for all cultural celebrations.
From a business point of view, the investment in decorations could be worth it, with some tourists coming in December for lights and decorations.
"The spirit of Christmas is huge in Victoria," one shopper told CTV News. "Coming up here and shopping and seeing all the decorations and bundling up and going out and feeling that energy is priceless to me."
Councillors say much of the lighting comes from a partnership with the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
The DVBA said it did not have enough details on the new motion to comment.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she was happy with the downtown lights display, saying it feels "vibrant and alive" for the holidays.
"I think that we've got a great seasonal display downtown, we've got great lights, I don't think we should spend too much time fussing about it," she said. "In my opinion, we've got bigger things to worry about it."
Isitt's Twitter account appeared to have been deactivated for most of the day Monday after he made his comments on decorations. It wasn't clear if that was a result of the bombardment of criticism directed toward him. His account looked to be reinstated as of Monday evening.