[lg policy] Ontario: Protesters rally over hospital's language hiring policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 4 19:38:43 UTC 2012

Protesters rally over hospital's language hiring policy
By KATHRYN BURNHAM kburnham at standard-freeholder.com
Posted 17 hours ago

CORNWALL — The language debate at Cornwall Community Hospital saw
nursing students, community members, and supporters from as far afield
as Nova Scotia, join nurses and local politicians in picketing at the
hospital Saturday afternoon. “I think this is awesome. All Canadians
should stand up against things like this,” said Christopher Cameron,
the local nurse who brought the language issue to the sidewalk outside
the hospital.

The controversial issue was raised recently when the hospital
advertised job openings for nurses, requiring applicants to be
Cameron began picketing alone two weeks ago, but was quickly joined by
other community members connected to the nursing profession in the
following days. Saturday’s protest seemed to garner the support of
many drivers passing by.

This issue resonated also with Kevin Berry, who brought his daughter
out to Saturday’s protest wearing a sign saying “Nurse graduate of
2032. What language would you like me to speak?” “I’d like to see her
have equal rights and equal opportunity in the community, he said. He
is English-speaking, but his family is bilingual.

“I like to have the same opportunity everyone else has. If you are
anywhere else in the province, do you need to be bilingual or do you
have to know 10 different languages because of multiculturalism?”
Cameron was joined by more than 50 others Saturday, including
representatives from Canadians for Language Fairness.

The group has joined the cause as an issue of discrimination and
democracy. Spokesperson Beth Trudeau called attention to the placement
of French above English on signs along highways in Eastern Ontario.
“That illusion creates that feeling that I am in the minority and I
should not speak up,” she said.  Representatives from the Language
Fairness group called attention to what they called the discrimination
of the majority in favour of a small French minority.

Others from Ottawa and further afield said they, too, have felt
discriminated against by policies that favour French-speakers. “I
think this is an historic day for Canadians,” said South Stormont
mayor Bryan McGillis. “Making a stance against unfair hiring practices
is overdue.”
McGillis said he has heard from many constituents, as well as people
across the province, in support of the South Stormont council’s stance
to withhold donations to the hospital until their hiring practices are

“It’s about them doing the right thing and hiring people that have the
skill and quality to do the job.” South Stormont is the first area
community to take up Dr. Dany Tombler’s initial suggestion to withhold
donations to the hospital in opposition to their hiring practices.
Dr. Tombler drew attention to the issue of French as a requirement, as
opposed to an asset, on nursing employment ads at the Cornwall
Community Hospital in a January letter-to-the-editor published in the

He suggested that as a result, unilingual English-speaking residents
would be the biggest losers as the city struggled to attract top-end
nurses and other young professionals. He argued the focus should be on
nurses’ abilities and not on their language spoken, a message echoed
by many of the signs at the protest, such as “Hire us for our skills,
not our language.”

Although standing by his initial concerns on the language issue,
Tombler did later retract his call for people to stop making donations
to the hospital. The Cornwall Community Hospital’s board president
Helene Periard said the hospital is mandated by the French Language
Services Act to ensure services are provided in French. McGillis said
the United Counties will be meeting with the hospital board March 19
to discuss their hiring practices and try to resolve the issue.

McGillis said the province has handed this issue back to the hospital
to deal with, but Cameron is still looking for action, and said
Toronto is the only place where it can be done.  He collected over
1,300 signatures for his petition at Saturday’s rally. Cameron has
felt the sting of being passed over for promotion in his area of
specialization in favour of a French-speaking nurse who was retrained
for the job.

“The FLSA is not equality for all,” he said. “The French minority gets
full representation.” “I think this (discussion) will be better for
the community in the long run,” said Cameron.  Many nurses at the
hospital, who declined to give their names for fear of pressure from
hospital management, said they are easily able to serve
French-speaking patients by asking colleagues for help, and are more
concerned about Mohawk patients who often speak little to no English.

“We haven’t had trouble meeting the needs of French patients,” one
said. With a nursing shortage hitting hospitals across the province,
she worried that the hospital’s language stance would deter people
from considering Cornwall. “The issue is that we want this community
to grow and we want to have the best quality of health care.”


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