The Parti Québécois government says officials at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital should take time to reflect on Bill 60, and speak at upcoming public hearings.
“In all respect for the Jewish hospital, I invite them to tell us what they think,” said Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the Quebec charter of secular values.
If Bill 60 were to become law, it would ban all public employees from wearing overt religious symbols.
In a statement released Wednesday, the hospital's executive director Lawrence Rosenberg called the Bill “patently discriminatory” -- and deeply insulting to its staff.
Some staff members say if this charter does become law, they’ll defy it -- saying they believe the government can’t stop them.
“I would like to see that -- I would like to see me hauled away in chains because I come to work in a kippa. I think lawyers would be lining up around the block to defend me,” Dr. Ronald Schondorf said.
Drainville called the reaction premature, and said there will be plenty of time for hospital officials to voice their opinions during upcoming hearings into the Bill - which start on Jan. 14
PQ cabinet minister Jean-François Lisée agreed, and said the hospital's criticism is confusing.
“If there's one institution that we had in mind all through this process, it's the Jewish General hospital,” said Lisée, the minister responsible for the Montreal region.
Lisée said that a special clause — which would exempt some hospitals from the ban — was aimed squarely at the Jewish General.
“We believe that when people go to other hospitals in Quebec, with maybe a couple of exceptions, they go to a public hospital. When they go to the Jewish, they know they’re going to the Jewish,” he said.
Members of the opposition says the PQ is missing the point.
“The message here is the same as we are putting forward: we don't want to trade in our rights and our freedoms. This is a free society in Quebec,” said Liberal French Language Charter Critic Marc Tanguay.
Public hearings into Bill 60 that start in mid-January are expected to last several weeks.