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Canada Sikh Doctor: Quebec Will Lose Ethnic Physicians If It Goes Ahead With Racist Proposal


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh Doctor Says Quebec Will Lose Ethnic Physicians If It Goes Ahead With Racist Proposal

By Gurtej Singh

Montreal (August 31, 2013): Quebec will lose public employees including doctors if the government insists on banning religious symbols in the workplace, says a physician from Montreal’s Sikh community, reported Canadian Press.

A media report last week published leaked details of the controversial Parti Quebecois proposal — saying it would prohibit people like doctors, teachers and public-daycare workers from donning turbans, kippas, hijabs and visible crucifixes.

The debate also created waves at the federal level Wednesday, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau becoming the first federal politician to weigh in strongly against the plan.

Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, who wears a turban as part of his faith, said Wednesday that the PQ’s controversial “Charter of Quebec Values” would drive people from the Sikh, Jewish and Muslim communities away.

“The sad thing is I don’t know if I’d be able to stay here in Quebec,” said Saluja, an emergency-room doctor with the McGill University Health Centre.

“Even though I love my practice here in Quebec, my faith is something that’s important to me and I don’t feel comfortable giving up that part of my persona and I don’t think a lot of people would be willing to, either.”

Saluja, who was born and raised in Montreal, said this type of legislation could have a significant impact on hospital wait times in Montreal because many resident physicians in the city come from Middle Eastern countries and wear hijabs.

Several Montreal hospitals, he added, rely heavily on residents in many day-to-day functions.

“One of the reasons why we are able to sort of diminish these wait times is because we have these residents who come in and take on patient loads,” said Saluja, who believes young doctors would choose other provinces over Quebec if they didn’t feel welcome here.

Quebec has been bleeding residents to other provinces for decades, with net losses in migration that have diminished the province’s economic and political clout.

Its political weight consisted of 27 per cent of the House of Commons seats in the late 1970s, is 24 per cent today, and will drop to 23 per cent in the next federal election.

“This is not only one group that’s being isolated here,” Saluja said.

“This is an entire section of the Quebec population (so) it’s not going just to be the matter of one doctor, it’s going to be a matter of doctors many doctors leaving.”

A spokeswoman for McGill said training for the Middle Eastern residents is funded by their own governments. She said their Montreal stints usually last from four to six years and the University admits approximately 35-40 trainees per year.

The PQ minority government, lagging behind in popularity, hopes to win votes by championing a “secularism” plan that polls have suggested has considerable support in the province.

The government says it expects to present the charter this fall — although it’s not clear yet that the plan will get support from opposition parties, which hold a majority of seats in the legislature.

Saluja said he doesn’t believe such a policy would ever pass in Quebec because he has never known it to be a closed-minded place.

“I’ve never had a Quebecer come up to me and tell that I don’t belong here,” he said.

“Personally, I’m hurt. I’m very hurt.”


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
There is an internal political scheme going on that is using Sikhs, Muslims, Jews as a pretext for something else. Parti Quebecois is back on the track of self-determination and autonomy from greater Canada. This is a re-run actually from my youth. The politicos do not expect to win legislation banning religious symbols in Toronto, capitol city and site of federal government and legislation. But they are trying to consolidate Qubecois identity votes, particularly in rural areas where few Sikhs are, in order to push forward with their separatist agenda.

We have some recent threads on this point. The impact of course on the morale of religious minorities has to be devastating.


Aug 18, 2010
World citizen!
It's very shortsighted thinking when the rest of the world is slowly amalgamating. Europe consists of separate countries but in many ways is more integrated than before. Many of the countries in S America are working more together. Such separatist agendas surely cannot be economically or socially viable?
Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
PQ bid to ban religious headgear gains traction

August 26, 2013 - 5:56pm The Canadian Press

The Parti Quebecois plan on minority accommodations took a big step toward becoming a reality Monday as the party that likely has the swing vote in the legislature backed major parts of it.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec says it agrees that judges, police officers and elementary- and secondary-school teachers should be restricted from wearing religious symbols like veils, hijabs and turbans.

However, medical professionals and daycare teachers would be exempt under the CAQ proposal. So would public-sector workers who don’t hold a position of authority.

“What we say also is that we should exclude religious signs for employees being in authority, like judges, policemen — and teachers because we think that teachers, they have in front of them children in a vulnerable position. But, that’s it,” Coalition Leader Francois Legault told a news conference.

“We don’t think, like the Parti Quebecois, that we should extend this exclusion to doctors, nurses, all civil servants. We think that they should have the right to continue to wear a religious sign because they are not in an authority position.

“So we think it’s a balanced position, it’s a responsible position and we hope that the Parti Quebecois turns the page as soon as possible because we know that this debate will divide Quebec.”

Legault said that, if a court strikes down the plan, he would not hesitate to use the Constitution’s controversial notwithstanding clause to enforce it.

The CAQ’s votes are key because the PQ has only a minority in the legislature and the other big opposition party, the Liberals, is more hostile to the plan.

The emerging consensus in Quebec is that the issue could be a political winner.

A poll released Monday said 65 per cent of Quebec’s francophones, and 57 per cent of the overall population, agree with the idea.

Just 25 per cent of anglophone respondents said they agree. The Leger Marketing poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted over the weekend and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Whether the plan wins votes could be another story.

A poll published during last year’s election placed the minority accommodation issue as No. 15 on Quebec voters’ list of priorities — far behind economic and social issues.

The potential social impact is equally difficult to gauge.

Several medical professionals and daycare workers were featured in news reports last week saying that they would leave Quebec, quit their job, or refuse to comply if ordered to change their clothing.

The province already suffers long wait times for hospital care and daycare spots. Under Legault’s proposal, the plan would not apply to medical and daycare workers.

The PQ campaigned last year on a plan to restrict religious clothing and included it in its inaugural speech in the legislature.

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Quebec's symbol of shame

By: Rocky Kravetsky - Winnipeg Free Press

Posted: 09/4/2013 1:00 AM

The Government of Quebec has so far managed to persuade everyone that its proposed "charter of values" is all about religious symbols. That's a bit of clever political spin that masks the real effect of the proposed law, which is to discriminate against individuals and deprive Quebecers of the best-qualified civil servants. All on the basis of some murky notion of what is and is not a "religious symbol."

The people who label religiously mandated attire as "symbols" either don't understand, or don't want, their listeners to understand they are not talking about symbols at all. They are talking about basic rules of dress and appearance religious adherence mandate.

Maybe everyone in the Quebec government thinks every identifiable garment worn because of religion is worn as a "symbol." This might well apply to the Christian crucifix, which is not a required item of attire but a voluntary symbol of one's faith. It's a bit like a human bumper sticker. Just the exercise of a bit of freedom of expression, now to be illegal in Quebec.

But the other so-called symbols that have been mentioned in the same breath as the crucifix are not that at all. Observant Muslim women, Hutterite women, Orthodox Jewish men and women and Sikh men wear head coverings because they consider they have to, not because they want to. In each case, the choice of attire is not to advertise their religion but to comply with it. The effect of telling them they can't wear the required head covering at work is to tell them they can't have the job. It is discrimination on the basis of religious observance -- plain and simple.

But it gets more ridiculous than that. Who, pray tell, will decide when a particular garment is a religious "symbol"? A yarmulke is just a beanie worn by a Jewish man. A hijab is just a scarf worn by a Muslim woman. When the scarf is worn by a Jewish woman it's a tichel. When it's worn by anyone else it's -- well -- a scarf.

Turbans may be required of Sikh men but they are not at all exclusive to or designed by Sikhs. When a Jewish woman wears a wig, it's a sheitel. For a woman with alopecia, it's worn to mitigate the effects of her condition.

Many religious women, Jewish, Christian, Muslim -- probably others -- wear long skirts rather than short ones. So at what length does a skirt become a religious symbol? Just how much leg does a woman have to show before her skirt isn't a religious symbol?

What about beards? A Sikh man grows his because he considers he has to. Some guys have beards because they are just too lazy to shave.
Who is to decide if the woman in this picture could work in the public service in Quebec?

Will the government appoint an inquisitor to determine if the scarf is being worn for religious (bad) purposes or because or it's sexually alluring (good)?

The 12th-century Egyptian-born scholar, known in Arabic as Abu Imran Musa bin Maimun bin Ubaidallah al-Qurtabi, wore a turban, three centuries before Sikhism even began. He was not a Muslim, either. He was quite a scientist and medical practitioner in his day, but among Jews, he is known for his masterful writings on Jewish religious law and philosophy. They know him as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (or Ramban), and in every image of him, he is wearing a turban. So what exactly does the turban symbolize again?

Under the proposed new Quebec charter denying the rights to freedom of expression and religion, could he be hired as public servant or not?

Imagine this: Five women apply for the same job working for the Government of Quebec. Each has completed the same course of training for the job. Four show up for the interview wearing scarves on their heads. One is a Jew and wears the scarf as a tichel, one is Muslim and wears hers as a hijab, one is a Catholic but wears her scarf because she is going bald and she is self-conscious about it and the fourth is an atheist who wears the scarf because she thinks it makes her look cute. The fifth is fervently Baptist but wears no head covering. Who gets the job?

Assume of the 50 people who took the training course the first two women ranked first and second and the others ranked 48th, 49th and 50th. Who gets the job? The Baptist because she wears no "religious symbol"? The atheist because she has no religion? What if her scarf has a message slogan printed on it promoting atheism? Is the Catholic woman disqualified because she wears the "religious symbol" but for non-religious purposes? Who gets the job? Clearly, once the Quebec Religious Symbols Inquisitor is done, it won't be the most qualified applicant.

Not only is Quebec proposing to stifle freedom of speech, it is proposing to make religious discrimination in its hiring practices the rule of law. As discrimination inevitably does, this is going to move less-qualified people up the ladder over more-qualified ones rejected for reasons irrelevant to the job. This will surely deprive the people served by the government of the best-qualified workers.

Recruiters and bosses are going to have to ask some awfully irrelevant questions every time they see a beanie, turban, beard, head scarf, wig or long skirt. These proposed rules are not just shameful, pandering to the worst human instincts, they are based on ignorance and are just plain stupid. They have no place in a free and democratic society.

Rocky Kravetsky is a Winnipeg lawyer.


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