Jesus Christ is depicted in the Risen Lord, a contemporary painting by Chinese Christian artist He Qi.

CNS PHOTO | COURTESY OF HE QI

Jesus Christ is depicted in the Risen Lord, a contemporary painting by Chinese Christian artist He Qi.

April 18, 2011
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA — Canada's Catholic bishops have asked Elections Canada to accommodate workers who want to attend religious services on Good Friday, the first day advance polls are open for the May 2 election.

But the chief electoral officer says those who accept employment know in advance the days and hours for the polls.

"With respect to other employees, we have encouraged them to inform their supervisors, should they wish to modify their work schedules so that appropriate arrangements can be made," Marc Mayrand said in a letter to Bishop Pierre Morissette, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

Morissette said bishops have received calls of concern from Elections Canada staff and volunteers who may be required to prepare or staff polling stations on Holy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday.

"We would ask that Elections Canada ensure accommodations are readily provided for any staff or volunteers wishing to participate in prayer and worship on those days."

"Elections Canada is aware that advance polls for the 41st general election coincide with several days of significant religious observance for the Christian and Jewish communities," Mayrand replied.

"The chief electoral officer does not determine the dates for advance polls, as these flow from legislative requirements. The Canada Elections Act provides that advance polls will occur on the 10th, ninth and seventh days before election day."

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, vice president of the CCCB, said he found the advance poll dates a surprise. "I guess my first thought was for the workers."

"Advance polls are going to require a lot of people I would think to look after them throughout the hours they are open. These are the highest holy days in the Christian calendar," Smith said. "People will want to give first priority to worship."