Sometimes all it takes is driving a family member to the hospital to be reminded that our healthcare system is reflective of the best our society has to offer. What a person experiences during their time at the hospital reflects people, across all lines of difference, working toward a common goal: caring for people until they get better.
When I was at the Ottawa Hospital a few weeks ago, I was sitting bedside to a family member who was in critical condition. Some of the nurses and doctors looked like me; others did not. There was one young female doctor I was speaking to who also happened to wear a hijab. That interaction was nothing new to me, I grew up around and interacting with boys and girls from all walks of life, but it reminded me of something: Quebec’s Bill 21.
For those that are unfamiliar with Quebec’s Bill 21, it is a religious symbols law that attempts to promote a secularist society. Since much of Quebec’s 400-year existence is intertwined with Roman Catholicism, elements of that religion were not limited or prohibited by the new law in ways that religious practices of Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and other minorities were. The law prohibits public sector employees, including elementary and high school teachers from wearing religious symbols.
When it comes to public services like healthcare, the law mandates that they must be delivered with the face uncovered. Although headwear might be banned for educators it appears to be allowed for healthcare workers as long as they do not cover their face. The distinction between educators and healthcare workers that was created by the policy makers who tabled this legislation makes little sense.
Returning to the hospital scenario, if we reflect on the workings of the hospital’s delivery of care model, you quickly realize that nobody pays attention to the superficial differences that policy makers want us to believe are a major point of contention. That young female doctor that I was speaking to, who also happened to wear a hijab, was evidence that our society is better off when it empowers individuals like her to believe that they can become a doctor and for the subsequent contributions individuals like her will make to the common good. This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately it is not.
The problem with Quebec’s Bill C21 is that it gives rise to the wrong ideas, and we know just how dangerous wrong ideas can be. The specific idea upon which Bill C21 tries convincing Canadians, specifically Quebecoise, is that individuals with visible differences could never possess the cognitive abilities or shared values to serve in public sector roles. These types of ‘laws’ are rampant in ‘countries’ around the world, which repress ideas that threaten their power, religion, ideologies, and re-election chances. However, the only thing that the act of repressing other peoples’ expression of self will ever be is a sign of human weakness and an intolerance of ideas.