Experts and GTA residents say it’s time for a national discussion on religious freedom as Quebec prepares to consider its “charter of values.”
Dr. Gurjit Bajwa, an emergency room physician at Etobicoke General Hospital, wishes everyone could see past his turban to who he truly is: a Canadian, born and raised, who happens to be Sikh.
Sitting in the quiet cafeteria at Etobicoke General Hospital, Dr. Gurjit Bajwa doesn’t give off the impression of a man who just pulled a near 10-hour shift the previous day in the ER, where he was so busy he barely had time to go to the bathroom.
He’s animated, articulate and mostly in a good mood. But he’s frustrated.
His arms crossed, Bajwa, born and raised in Etobicoke, says he wants everyone to see past a part of his attire as crucial as his stethoscope: his turban. He wants them to see him for who he is: a human being, a Canadian who is also a Sikh.
Part of his frustration stems from the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, set to be presented on Monday. If passed, it would prohibit public-sector workers in that province from wearing what Bajwa has on his head every day, along with other religious symbols such as hijabs, yarmulkes and visible crucifixes.
The proposal highlights the need for a wider national discussion on religious accommodation and multiculturalism, Bajwa says.
“The issue has definitely not been settled in Canada. It keeps coming up again and again,” said the 42-year-old father of three, who, during his decade at the hospital, has been asked almost weekly by a patient where he’s from and how he’s enjoying Canada. (…)