A group of McGill University professionals specializing in mental health have come out against Quebec’s proposed charter of values, calling it unhealthy.
In a letter printed in Tuesday’s Montreal Gazette, the group of professors, psychiatrists and researchers slam the charter, which would see public employees banned from wearing overtly religious symbols.
They call the charter "profoundly misguided" and write they are “deeply concerned” about the charter and the negative effects it could have on “mental health, well-being and social integration.”
They plead for tolerance and acceptance, instead of the stereotyping and social exclusion they say would be created by the ban.
'A veil for discrimination'
“Neutrality as a veil for discrimination: Under the banner of secularism and neutrality, the proposed Charter launches an attack on minorities and on the very idea of diversity in society,” the letter states.
One of the signatures on the letter belonged to Laurence J. Kirmayer, the director of McGill’s division of social and transcultural psychiatry.
He spoke with CBC’s Mike Finnerty on Daybreak this morning, and said the charter is a direct attack on the the need to recognize, respect and include cultural communities.
“Part of cultural safety is having adequate representation of cultural minorities in the health-care system, in positions of power and authority,” he said.
Kirmayer said the charter would only create an illusion of neutrality by hiding peoples' cultural backgrounds.
Letter to the editor: Charter would protect women from male domination
Another letter, also published on Tuesday, in the French-language newspaper Le Journal, comes out in support of the proposed charter.
It was written by Montreal francophone author, radio and TV personality Janette Bertrand, and signed by a group of supporters — influential Quebec women calling themselves "the Janettes."
In the letter, Bertrand writes that throughout history, men have used religion to dominate women.
She writes that by enforcing secularism, the charter will help level the playing field between men and women.
Bernard Drainville, the architect of the charter of Quebec values, said today that he was happy women were coming out in support of the charter.
"I'm happy that women of a certain credibility — ones that I have a lot of respect for and even admiration — are taking a position on the debate," Drainville said.
"It's a fact that there has been a regression on gender equality because of the unreasonable accommodations that were made in the past few years," he continued.
Michelle Blanc, a Montreal author and blogger, also signed Bertrand's letter.
Blanc, who identifies as transgender and is an LGBT advocate, said there are neighbourhoods of Montreal where she feels unsafe because of her gender orientation. She says a secular society would show religious minorities that homophobia is not OK.
“Minorities unfortunately tend to be very homophobic because they come from religious backgrounds that say that [homosexuality] is an abomination," Blanc told CBC’s Daybreak.
“When there are religious signs, this homophobic reaction tends to increase quite a bit," she said.