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Montreal Jewish hospital to defy charter banning religious symbols

MONTREAL (JTA) — Jewish General Hospital in Montreal said it plans to defy Quebec’s controversial Charter of Secular Values.

The proposed law, known as Bill 60, is “patently discriminatory,” the hospital said in a statement Nov. 13.

The bill, proposed by the governing Parti Quebecois to establish what it has called religious neutrality and gender equality, would ban all “conspicuous” and “overt” religious symbols in the public sector.

That would include hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans worn by civil servants, day-care workers, doctors, nurses, police officers and others.

The proposed law is “deeply insulting” to public-sector workers, the hospital said.

“This bill is flawed and contrary to Quebec’s spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance,” said the hospital’s new executive director, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg. “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.”

The hospital, founded in 1934 partly in response to prejudice faced by Jews at Christian institutions in receiving treatment and entering medical professions, will not ask for an exemption under the bill.

“Since the bill is inherently prejudicial, there is no point in taking advantage of any clause that would grant us temporary, short-term relief,” Rosenberg said.

If passed, “this offensive legislation would make it extremely difficult for the JGH to function as an exemplary member of Quebec’s public healthcare system.”

The hospital said its position will be submitted to Quebec’s legislature at a later date.

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