Prominent Ottawans are blasting the Quebec government’s proposed bill banning government employees from displaying “conspicuous” religious symbols — which would affect residents across the river in Gatineau.
“Canada is supposed to be an open society where we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, so banning something which is part of somebody’s life is totally against my thinking,” said Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization founder Nazira Tareen.
Her husband passed away last December and was at the Ottawa Hospital’s civic campus for 10 days.
His doctor and nurse were Muslim women wearing head coverings, said Tareen.
“How does it affect anybody? It’s their head they’re covering, not your head,” she said.
Led by Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, the province is looking to bar public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols on the job.
That means no large crucifixes, yarmulkes, hijabs, burkas, niqabs or turbans for people in professions such as policing, medicine and teachers in public schools and daycares.
Separatists are creating a divide and “it’s very sad what they’re doing,” said retired federal public servant Dr. Harpal Buttar, a Sikh.
“Why my turban should bother anybody?”
A professor at the University of Ottawa’s school of medicine and retired Health Canada senior research scientist, Buttar immigrated 50 years ago “and if this was the case (then) I would not have survived,” he said.
Canada is “a country of immigrants where everybody should be welcome,” said Buttar.
The Charter of Quebec Values violates human rights and freedom of choice in a democratic country, he continued.
“Canada is my adopted homeland, and I have the right to wear my turban.”
Federal public servants working in Gatineau will be exempted from the ban.
Nonetheless, as Buttar once told a prospective employer, “it is not what is on my head, it is what is in my head that you’ll be hiring me for.”
Tareen agrees large symbols should be nixed, “but to ask a Jewish religious man to remove his head covering or to ask a Sikh to remove his turban, that’s not — I don’t think it’s fair at all.”
Ottawa-Gatineau is home to 4%, or more than 235,300 of Canada’s foreign-born population, representing 19% of the total population in the National Capital Region according to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey.
Arabs are the second largest visible minority group, after Black and before Chinese.