Whether it’s kirpans in a Montreal schoolyard, turbans on a Milton job site, polygamists in a B.C. town, or lesbians in a Winnipeg doctor’s waiting room, opposing cultural and religious rights are giving a rough ride to Canada’s cherished multiculturalism.

“The groups are clashing like never before,” said Robert Mundle, chaplain at Toronto’s Rehabilitation Centre.

Mundle, an expert on the ethics of religion in medicine, says Canada can expect to see many more faith-based confrontations in the coming years.

The latest involves a lesbian couple in Winnipeg who complained to the Human Rights Commission there and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manitoba that family doctor Karmeila Elias refused to accept them as patients because of their sexual orientation.

“It was like a kick in the stomach,” said Andrea Markowski, who recently moved to the city from the Northwest Territories with her spouse of 18 years, Ginette. “I have a really hard time understanding how her religion affects her ability to care for me as a human being.”

Thor Hansell, lawyer for Egyptian-born Elias, denies she refused care, saying Elias felt she had a responsibility to explain her “personal religious views” so the couple could decide for themselves whether to become her patient.