A Common-Pause Day Will Be Missed One Day

October 1 st 1991

It is sad to see society dispense with valuable traditions without a second thought. The July 1 editorial, "Ban Ontario's ban on Sunday shopping," laughs at the idea of a common-pause day in Ontario. I am no supporter of Bob Rae, and a common-pause day may very well be unconstitutional and even impossible in today's competitive environment, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.

The common-rest day (we dare not call it the Sabbath!) is definitely a vestige of the past, at a time when a mainly agricultural workforce didn't have to be told that after six days of heavy manual labor from dawn to dusk a day of rest was a good idea. Although the nature of work has changed dramatically, the family still needs a common day of rest. (A day of rest won't do the family unit much good if most people don't take it on the same day of the week.) As the restrictions on what people could engage in on Sundays have been dropped over the last several decades, we have seen a steady increase in stress-related illness.

It is naive to suggest that a law stating that a person doesn't have to work on Sundays is a solution. In a short period of time a worker who exercises his/her right not to work Sundays will be considered a less serious, less "committed" employee, not in the running for career advancement. Society will restructure itself, making it very difficult for an ever increasing number of people to refuse to work Sundays. The situation will be analogous to women going out to work: 25 years ago it was. supposed to be an option; women could go out to work if they wanted to, but they didn't have to. Guess what? Now they have to.

Fifty years from now, when Sunday is a rat race just like any other day, society will look back and wonder how it happened, what was so bad about the idea of a common-rest day anyway? Like a lot of things, Ontario's common-rest day won't be fully appreciated until it is gone.

(Reprinted with permission from the Financial Times of Canada, July 29, 1991, p.7.)


Peter Gray