An elderly Sikh man had his beard cut off by a nurse in a care facility. The family states that he was so upset by having his beard shorn that he stopped eating and died. The Fraser Health Authority has apologized for the incident and promises that there will be cultural education.
In my opinion, the Fraser Health Authority is acting in a ‘Canadian’ way. Words about understanding different religious and cultural issues are in the forefront. Contrast this reaction with the proposed legislation in Quebec that I blogged about yesterday. I wonder what is at the root of this different reaction.
I think the fact that it is a woman in Quebec and men in BC is a salient point. It would seem that people accept the religious expression of men more readily than the same expression by women. If a man makes a decision to be a conservative Sikh and not cut any bodily hair his decision is respected at face value. Women wearing the niqab or the burka are not respected in the same manner. It is assumed that these women did not come to this decision on their own as there is a belief that no woman would want to cover themselves in that way. Many feminists believe that these women are being forced into these garments. While that may be the case for some reasons we still must respect the beliefs of women.
As It Happens had an update tonight on the story last night. They interviewed a niqab wearing woman who, in spite of her religious beliefs has an earned a degree. She had plans to go back to school but now she was not sure. She described what happens when someone needed to confirm her identity. If it was not possible to have a woman do it, she had no problem allowing a man to confirm her identity. She further indicated that other women would behave similarly. She mad an interesting point comparing the Quebec government to oppressive regimes that deny women access to education. Denial of education is what will happen, in the province of Quebec, if this legislation is passed.