Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital is right: the Quebec government’s proposed Charter of Values is patently discriminatory. Earlier this week its director, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, said that the Parti Québécois’s bill is contrary to both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights. It is. He also said that, should the bill become law, his hospital will not be applying for a temporary exemption to its application. The Jewish General will, it seems, simply ignore the law, and dare the province to take it to court. Right again.
Dr. Rosenberg has said that the hospital does not get complaints about staff wearing religious symbols, and that, if the bill is passed, it would be “extremely difficult” for the hospital to do its work. It’s a multicultural institution in a multicultural province. Stripped of that character, many of its physicians and staff would surely seek to build their lives outside of Quebec.
Le Devoir columnist Francine Pelletier wrote on Wednesday that the JGH is remarkably “agreeable” for a hospital, “more luminous and convivial” than others in Montreal. She guessed that roughly one-third of its employees are wearing kippas, turbans, hijabs or other “conspicuous” religious symbols, which, as she humorously put it, would be the highest rate of “ostentationism” per square inch for a public entity in Quebec.
“The Jewish” has been around since 1934, and has grown into one of Montreal’s leading hospitals. For decades, it has successfully offered medical excellence to patients of all faiths and none, along with some facilities making allowance for religious Jews – such as kosher food. There is no good reason for it to turn itself into something different.
The PQ’s cynical Values Charter is clearly unconstitutional, solves no real-world problem, and is designed only to curry favour with xenophobic voters. It directly targets one of anglophone Montreal’s most important institutions, and all of the province’s religious and ethnic minorities. The Jewish General Hospital is an outstanding example of freedom of religion co-existing with excellent, non-discriminatory health care for all Quebeckers – which appears to be precisely why the PQ has it in its sights.