Thursday, November 14, 2013


From one extreme to the other.
In the past, the Roman Catholic Church oppressed non-Catholics in Quebec, prevented Jews from learning French by attending French schools and forced Catholics to pay taxes to the church by a law called "fabrique."
Now the Separatist Parti Quebecois threatens all religious freedom in Quebec.
Phyllis Carter
On Wednesday, the Jewish General Hospital — which has a staff of almost 5,000 people — released a terse statement saying that will not comply with the proposed legislation which would essentially ban all public employees from wearing religious symbols.

Here's the statement in full:

The Jewish General Hospital (JGH) strongly opposes Bill 60, on the grounds that the plan by the current Government of Quebec to ban overt religious symbols in the clothing of healthcare employees is discriminatory and deeply insulting to public-sector workers.

Contrary to statements in the bill, the JGH believes that neutrality in the delivery of healthcare services is not compromised by religious symbols in the clothing of employees. As long as services are delivered with professional competence, courtesy and respect, no legislation should be allowed to override the freedoms of religion or expression that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

"This bill is flawed and contrary to Quebec's spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance," says Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, JGH Executive Director. "Since the bill is inherently prejudicial, there is no point in taking advantage of any clause that would grant us temporary, short-term relief. If approved, this offensive legislation would make it extremely difficult for the JGH to function as an exemplary member of Quebec's public healthcare system." Dr. Rosenberg's statement is endorsed by the JGH Board of Directors.

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. JGH patients continue to come to this hospital in ever-increasing numbers with only one thought in mind: to receive treatment and care of the highest quality. This is what matters most to residents of the hospital's Côte-des-Neiges area, which is widely regarded as one of the most ethnically, racially, culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse neighbourhoods in Canada. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the JGH receives no complaints about the religious or cultural apparel of its staff.

The hospital's release comes amid continuing debate in Quebec about the charter; it has become a very divisive and sometimes heated issue.

There are weekly protests against the charter taking place in Montreal.

One of the organizers of the protests, Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal,  says the hospital's statement shows that Quebecers of all faiths are uniting together for this cause.

"I think this is a very good position," Elmenyawi told Yahoo Canada News.

"There are actually lots of Muslim nurses working at the Jewish General Hospital.  So, it helps everybody. We're standing together to protect our rights."

He also said that, while they'll continue their weekend rallies, they're also involved in an outreach program.

Elmenyawi says that they have opened the doors to their mosques to allow people of other faiths to come and learn about their religion. He's inviting synagogues and churches to do the same.

"Our main point is learning about your neighbour and learning about the faiths so they understand our position," he said.

Meanwhile, debate also continues inside the national assembly.

In the province's legislature on Wednesday, Liberal house leader Jean-Marc Fournier was accused of comparing the Parti Quebecois to the Nazi regime after he shared a story he heard at an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, where Nazis launched attacks against Jews in Germany and Austria.

See how the Jewish Community of Montreal responds to bigotry.

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