The PQ’s proposed charter of values is continuing to stir controversy in the province, this time as an association that represents over 200,000 health professionals has voiced its opposition to the charter.

The Association québécoise d’établissements de santé et des services sociaux (AQESSS), which represents more than 100 health care institutions including hospitals and CLSCs, conducted a survey among its members, and found them to be concerned with the repercussions of potentially banning religious symbols at work.

“There is no problem, absolutely no problem in all the institutions,” said Denis Perras of AQESSS.

More than half of the group’s members completed the survey. While most do not oppose following certain guidelines in regards to religious accommodation, respondents unanimously said they’ve never experienced problems with religious symbols at work.

The association has asked that if the government does move forward with its ban on wearing religious symbols, that health professionals be exempt due to concerns over its potential impact.

“We might lose some people because they will prefer to go somewhere else,” said Perras.

Neurologist Ronald Schondorf has made his position clear – if the charter comes in, he’s out.

“I certainly would leave the province,” he said, adding that an exemption for health care professionals wouldn’t be enough to convince him to stay.

“If I see Muslims mistreated, if I see Sikhs mistreated, if I see people of various minorities now being mistreated using the charter as an excuse, whether or not I'm personally exempt or excluded from my sector, this is not the place for me,” he said.

Quebec Health Minister Rejean Hebert said he was surprised with the association’s reaction, and its claims that religious symbols have never been an issue -- as he says he’s heard otherwise. That said, he said the government has heard the association's concerns.

“I think it is another point of view that we will consider,” he said.