Montreal Jewish Hospital Says It Will Defy Religious Symbol Ban

Quebec bill would ban all 'conspicuous' and 'overt' religious symbols in the public sector, including hijabs, kippahs and turbans.

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Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital says it plans to defy Quebec’s controversial Charter of Secular Values.

The proposed law, known as Bill 60, is “patently discriminatory,” the hospital said in a statement Nov. 13.

The bill, proposed by the governing Parti Quebecois to establish what it has called religious neutrality and gender equality, would ban all “conspicuous” and “overt” religious symbols in the public sector.

That would include hijabs, kippahs and turbans worn by civil servants, daycare workers, doctors, nurses, police officers and others.

The proposed law is “deeply insulting” to public-sector workers, the hospital said.

“This bill is flawed and contrary to Quebec’s spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance,” said the hospital’s new executive director, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg.

“For nearly 80 years, the JGH has prided itself on the fact that its staff, representing a wide diversity of faiths, with many employees wearing conspicuous items of clothing with religious symbols, has provided care of superior quality to Quebecers of all backgrounds.”

The hospital, founded in 1934 partly in response to prejudice Jews faced getting treatment and entering medical professions in Christian institutions, will not ask for an exemption under the bill.

“Since the bill is inherently prejudicial, there is no point in taking advantage of any clause that would grant us temporary, short-term relief,” Rosenberg added.

If passed, “this offensive legislation would make it extremely difficult for the JGH to function as an exemplary member of Quebec’s public healthcare system.”

The hospital said its position will be submitted to Quebec’s legislature at a later date.

Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.Credit: Google Street View

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