[lg policy] MONTREAL =?windows-1252?Q?=97_?=Health care used as an instrument of language policy in Quebec?
hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 7 13:40:11 UTC 2012
Macpherson: Health care latest weapon in Quebec's language wars
By Don Macpherson, Postmedia News April 6, 2012
MONTREAL — Health care used as an instrument of language policy in Quebec?
Your medicare card used as a language-identification card?
Restrictions on access to English health care similar to those on
access to English schools? Denying immigrants the help of interpreters
in the health system to describe their symptoms — or those of their
children, their parents or other loved ones — so they have to learn
All these ideas have been raised recently, not by cellar pamphleteers,
but by members of mainstream French Quebec society.
And before you laugh them off, remember that some language proposals
originally dismissed as ridiculous — such as banning English from
commercial signs — went on to become law in this province. The
medicare-card proposal was made last week by independent provincial
legislature member Pierre Curzi in his “new Bill 101,” which also
proposed to extend to preschool, as well as to colleges, the
restrictions on admission to English schools.
The bill was warmly received by Curzi’s former colleagues in the Parti
Quebecois, which is currently poised to form the next government, as a
potential source of new ideas. Section 32 of Curzi’s bill would
require an applicant for a new or renewed medicare card to give his or
her mother tongue.
This information would be recorded on the card, and used to determine
whether a health or social-services establishment officially
recognized as bilingual, such as the McGill University Health Centre
hospitals, would keep that status. If a majority of the people served
by the establishment did not have English as their mother tongue, the
government could, after consulting “the citizens concerned,” withdraw
If it did, then the establishment would no longer be allowed to use
English in internal communications and its staff would have to write
to each other in French. It’s not hard to imagine additional ways that
nationalists might like to use the “Curzi card.”
Section 15 of Quebec’s health and social services act says that all
“English-speaking persons” are entitled to receive those services in
English. Nationalists complain that this undermines Bill 101 by
encouraging immigrants not to learn French.
Writing in Le Devoir on Tuesday, a University of Ottawa expert on
language law, Andre Braen, proposed that the act be amended to
restrict entitlement to English health and social services to “an
English-speaking Canadian citizen.” The medicare card, which all
Quebecers over one year old are required to have, is already used as
all-purpose identification. The Curzi card could be used to restrict
access to English health and social services to only people who have
English as their mother tongue, those whom nationalists consider
In fact, the card could be used to restrict access to all public
services in English, which nationalists complain are too readily
available. Braen wrote that all public bodies, except for those
officially recognized as bilingual, should offer services in French
only, except for health and social services. It was another former PQ
member of the provincial legislature, Joseph Facal, who complained
about a growing use of translators for immigrants in the Quebec health
In a column in February in the Journal de Montreal, the province’s
most-read daily, Facal said this is one reason immigrants don’t bother
to learn French. He wrote that it should be up to immigrants to adapt
to Quebec, not the other way around. He did allow that it is “easier”
to treat a patient if you understand what he or she is feeling.
Not only that, it’s better for the patient’s health. It’s hard enough
for someone who is sick, in pain or worried to express him or herself,
let alone in a second language. But Facal’s priority was the health of
French, not the health of immigrants. “When you go to the hospital,
and you’re in pain, you may need a blood test, but you certainly don’t
need a language test,” Lucien Bouchard once said, as his former speech
writer, Jean-Francois Lisee, recently reminded readers of The Gazette.
Bouchard was PQ premier of Quebec at the time and his parliamentary
secretary was none other than Joseph Facal.
But that was back in 1996. Clearly Facal’s thinking, and that of other
nationalists, has “evolved” since then.
dmacpherson at montrealgazette.com
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Macpherson+Health+care+latest+weapon+Quebec+language+wars/6422648/story.html#ixzz1rMTpPGew
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