August 31, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
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.”
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