Based on information released by the government on September 10 about its proposed Charter of Quebec Values, the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) is reaffirming its belief that any individual is entitled to employment in a hospital setting, regardless of whether or not his or her clothing includes an overt religious symbol.
In the opinion of the JGH, the freedom of choice to wear conspicuous religious symbols does not impede the ability of its employees to deliver proper and timely services to the public. Similarly, as long as those services are offered with professional competence, courtesy and respect, the recipients’ perceptions should not override the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression of hospital employees.
The Jewish General Hospital supports this position even if the JGH and certain other institutions are granted an exemption, should the proposed Charter become law. To cite just one of many reasons, staff members who hold clinical or academic cross-appointments at multiple institutions would have to conform to varying standards of dress, depending on the institution where they happen to be working.
The appropriate nature of the JGH’s stance is confirmed by the hospital’s own history. 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. Patients of the JGH continue to come to this hospital in ever-increasing numbers with only one thought in mind: to receive treatment and care of the highest quality. This is what matters most to residents of the hospital’s Côte-des-Neiges area, which is widely regarded as one of the most ethnically, racially, culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse neighbourhoods in Canada. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the JGH receives no complaints about the religious or cultural apparel of its staff.
It should also be noted that the JGH has had a formal policy of non-discrimination ever since plans for the hospital’s construction were prepared in the mid-1920s. In fact, one of the key reasons for founding the JGH was to provide employment to healthcare professionals and treatment to individuals whose backgrounds precluded them from finding jobs or receiving care elsewhere in Montreal. To this day, the hospital’s values include a pledge to treat patients and employees with dignity and respect for their religious beliefs.
A brief outlining the position of the Jewish General Hospital may be submitted to the National Assembly at a later date.