Skip to main content

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Quebec's proposed Values Charter in Montreal on Saturday Sept. 14, 2013.Ryan Remiorz

A Richmond Hill, Ont., politician is calling out to Quebec doctors looking to relocate due to the province's proposed ban on religious clothing and symbols for public-sector workers.

Councillor Carmine Perrelli has mailed out 200 letters to Sikh, Muslim, Jewish or Catholic doctors who might consider moving out of province after the Parti Québécois revealed its charter of values which, if adopted, would ban turbans, head scarves, face veils, kippas and large crosses. Small crosses or other small religious symbols in the form of jewellery are fine, according to a graphic released by the government Tuesday.

"I can't see the reason for making someone choose between their religion and their occupation," Mr. Perrelli said in an interview. "Richmond Hill is an inclusive community and we'd be happy to have them here."

His team searched through lists of doctors in various Quebec hospitals, identifying the ones that appeared to have Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or possibly Catholic Italian names. The letters he sent include contact information for Richmond Hill's economic development department and an offer to assist in the doctors' transition to the city, which is located north of Toronto. Enclosed is a return card that recipients can fill out to receive more information.

Mr. Perrelli said the department was on board with the plan to provide information to possible migrants.

"I know we can always use more doctors," Mr. Perrelli said. He said he often hears complaints from constituents about lengthy wait times and difficulty finding family doctors.

"I see it as an opportunity for Richmond Hill and the GTA area," he said.

The idea came to Mr. Perrelli after he watched a television news interview with a Sikh doctor contemplating moving outside of Quebec because of the proposed legislation.

"I don't see that as very fair," Mr. Perrelli said. He said Muslims taking breaks to pray or Jewish surgeons wearing skullcaps don't affect anybody and should be accommodated.

Though he is currently only targeting doctors, Mr. Perrelli said he would love to expand and include all public employees based on how the campaign fares. He has set up a website for those who did not receive his letter.

"Our door is open and we're here to help," he said. "If you have to make that choice, we want you."

Other Canadian cities are also seizing the opportunity presented by Quebec's charter.

Lakeridge Health, a hospital in Oshawa, Ont., recently published a recruitment ad in a McGill University newspaper featuring a woman wearing a pink head scarf and the tagline: "We don't care what's on your head. We care what's in it."

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi also welcomed anyone feeling excluded in Quebec.