Donna Marie Sevilla
Quebec’s move to ban religious articles and clothing from the workplace is creating ripples of reaction in Ontario, which stands ready to receive health professionals and others from its neighbouring province.
The Charter of Values is a proposal by the Parti Quebecois which includes forbiding all public sector workers from wearing religious articles ranging from hijabs and kippas to crosses of smaller or larger sizes.
Marion Zych, a spokesperson for the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said the association is unable to comment on the legalities of the proposed legislation in Quebec, but it’s potentially an unfortunate situation.
“We already have a shortage of nurses in the profession and you don’t want to scare them off,” said Zych.
She said that if medical professionals from Quebec wish to look for job opportunities in Ontario, there is always a need for more nurses.
As a result of the charter, Toronto councilor Carmine Perelli sent letters to 200 doctors in Quebec City and Montreal inviting them to move to Richmond Hill.
Pamela Adams, the fourth-year coordinator for the Bachelor of Nursing Program, said that there are many opportune places for graduating nurses to go.
Adams noted that clinical practices have started for practical nursing and bachelor of nursing programs and those students are being sent off to hospitals both in and outside of Ontario, although switching job locations from Quebec to Ontario is a lengthy progress.
“What we’re looking at is how do we balance the risks and how to accommodate people’s religious rights,” said Adams.
Adams said that if there were obstacles in the workplace due to religion, the staff would find a way to work around it so that the nurse-patient relationship wouldn’t be affected and treatment would be provided as best as possible.
Second-year Practical Nursing student Bikramjit Chahal, 28, said that he feels privileged to work in an environment that’s free of religious restrictions.
He said that religion doesn’t play a role in the workplace because the nurses are paying attention to providing care to patients regardless of religion, also adding the charter interferes with people’s freedom of expression.
“Everyone can come here and there’s no way we can refuse anyone. It’s not good, discrimination between the people before providing care because it’s their right,” said Chahal.
Some expert observers have opined that the Quebec proposal infringes on the 1982 Canadian constitution which states that everyone in Canada has the same fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience and religious rights.
However, Quebec had only signed the British North America Act of 1867 before it was amended into the Canadian Constitution in 1982, which Quebec had not signed.
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