Bilingual Nurse Protest Need Not Turn into a Language War – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – March 9, 2012

Bilingual Nurse Protest Need Not Turn into a Language War – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – March 9, 2012

CFN – Growing up in Montreal during the 70’s exposed me first hand to language silliness.     As an open minded young person I understood and even supported the desire of the French majority in Quebec.

The tools in my schools for learning French were near nil and my neighborhoods were mostly pure Anglophone.

My mom spoke perfect French; my dad spoke French that people understood, but he’d learned it on the streets.  It was almost never spoken in the house.

After all, business, and most things in life could be done without it; especially to a level of high proficiency.   We like millions of others, English and French left Quebec, but I returned as an adult.

When I worked in sports in the early 90’s there was a running gag among my clients.    I would jam at them in my brutal French and they’d go so frustrated some would pay me to speak in English as I’d refuse to stop speaking to them in the best French I could.  It was funny for no other reason than they knew I was doing my best to respect them.   To me business dictates issues.   If  a large part of my clients speak French it’s insane if you can’t service them; and of course vice versa.

Now when I finally gave up on Quebec society and left for the last time there was no malice on my part. I grew tired of many factors that will never change there.  No anger or hurt here as it truly doesn’t make sense for a majority to go beyond a certain point to accommodate a minority.

So living here in Cornwall Ontario and seeing this Bilingual nurse issued at our community hospital evolve to the nasty mess it’s becoming is for me personally very sad.

I’ve seen nasty and ignorant things said from almost all sides.  I’ve also seen outside forces enter the debate and that’s rarely a good thing.  The weirdest argument being that because Quebec has banana republic language laws we should treat our minority Francophone citizens the same.  That’s nuts.

The protest was simple enough and just.   The majority non-bilingual staff wanted better access to jobs and promotion without having to be of high proficiency in French; especially for non public jobs essentially because the working language of the hospital is English.

Not one member of the protesters I ever spoke to suggested that bilingual service not be offered to patients that requested to speak in French.

No brainer right?   Nope.    Zealots jumped in because that’s what zealots do.   We had benign comments about other languages and serving the public based on population which while making some sense really isn’t part of this protest or discussion.

The reality is that there are two Official languages in Canada; English and French.  Of course English far outnumber French in Canada; but it’s a principle that we as a society have embraced.

The Richelieu club show of force at City Council in Canada and now the Assembleé de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) will surely turn what was a legitimate protest and request for dialog and communication into something that will raise tempers and divide the community.  Likewise people from outside of Ontario jumping into the fray attacking the French language also will fan the flames of intolerance and anger.

Some of the media in Cornwall have even fueled this potential language war by obfuscation of the truth and misreporting what’s been said or not said.

It’s time for the Hospital to step up and communicate; not simply spin because it plays into the language war.    If the Hospital wants to force Bilingualism on its staff they should simply state as such and then it’s up to the public to force the system to make sure our younger people come out of school with the proficiency in language they need to gain local employment.

This protest has always been about fairness; about retaining our youth, and having a stronger community.

Instead of turning this into a language war and tarring and feathering anyone that opposes certain positions as racists or bigots perhaps it’s time to have an honest discussion about what the people of this area, who have given so much to the hospital, really want?

And one day the leaders that sit around our council table and mayor  will have to answer some questions for why they hid and didn’t represent their citizens.

Speaking of which you can post what you think below.

Cornwall Free News

 

Leave a Reply

19 Comments on "Bilingual Nurse Protest Need Not Turn into a Language War – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – March 9, 2012"

Notify of
avatar
400
Wyatt Walsh
Guest
This situation is simple to you because you have common sense. The problem that people with common sense have is dealing with people that don’t have it. The hospital has turned into a hostile work environment because of these unnecessary made up rules. With these artificial requirements for the french language causing staff disruptions that will lead to patient endangerment, what can this board be thinking? Does french come before qualifications? My wife has been there for 12 years and works a full work schedule and still will never be given a full time position. Do you think this makes… Read more »
Emily M
Guest

I don’t have your “common sense” as you say, Wyatt.
Your “common” may be vulgar; inferior; low-class; …
Oxford Dictionary

Tammie Grant
Guest
THANK YOU, THANK YOU , THANK YOU for writing a honest and open article. I am one of the protesters that participated in the peaceful protest. My mother is from Montreal Quebec and as Chris Cameron and the rest of the protesters said, this isn’t about the french against the english. Its about people like my 15 year old daughter being able to have a chance at getting a job in our beloved city when she graduates from University. We shouldnt have to be driven out of our own city. We are just asking for fair, thats all, plain and… Read more »
Laura Lee
Guest

The concept of “common sense” is alien to vulgar members of low class “distinct society”. Nothing new here.

Susan
Guest
I enjoyed your article and thank you for writing it. I loved the line….”This protest has always been about fairness; about retaining our youth, and having a stronger community.” I 100% agree. My husband is an english speaking man, born and raised in Cornwall, attended french Catholic school to ensure his opportunities would be open if he lived in this area. After college he met me and we traveled around North America for about 12 years getting amazing nursing experiences, however, never once did my husband have the opportunity to use his french language skills. One year ago we decided… Read more »
Wow!
Guest

Emily, Rachel should be ashamed of you. Tammy invite Jamie to next New Years party.

Wow!
Guest

@Admin

I’ve know Tammy for 30 years. I’m serious about her having Jamie at the party. And any of my boycott comments are jokes. Jokes. son. Lighten up everybody. Even in turbulent times there must be some levity.

Eric
Guest

I am starting to think it is the people who need to step up and direct our politicans to present suitable, respectable, cost efficient and fair choices for the provincial citizens to decide on.

I. Hall
Guest
Unlike Mr. Gilcig, I’m an anglophone that hasn’t left Montreal. Despite anglophones’ minority status here, we have several hospitals and other health-care facilities that not only serve patients in both languages, but operate in English. That’s in addition to the fact that most francophone hospitals also serve patients in English. I’ve read that Cornwall is 30% francophone – more than the anglophone population of Montreal in relative terms. With so much demand for services in French, it’s understandable that the need for bilingual nurses will be high. Apparently, it’s even higher in their external hiring at the moment because they… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Mr. Gilcig, what you describe is quite unlike my experience of the health care system here in Montreal. My mother, who is elderly and doesn’t speak French well, has had her share of headaches with the health care system, but never a single one related to an inability to get service in English. It may be that less attention is paid to the language abilities of non-medical staff like orderlies, security guards and food service workers, which in the vast majority of circumstances (though not all, as you describe) are less important than those of nurses and doctors. Even so,… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Of course, I’ve also had the experience of not receiving service in English in private businesses in Quebec. It depends whether you’re in an area with a lot of anglophones, and even if you are, it’s not guaranteed. Nonetheless, in areas with many anglophones, even francophone employees are able to serve you in English most of the time. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that a francophone speaking to a random anglophone cashier in eastern Ontario will be able to say “Bonjour” and usually get service in English. My impression is that more often than not… Read more »
Laura Lee
Guest

@ I.Hall: “So if you get a doctor who doesn’t speak your language (French), you have to put up with it (English)”.

Oh poor you, humiliated to speak the language of maudit Anglos. How about immigrants who don’t speak neither language feel when they need to see a doctor or are hospitalized with an illness? Do you think their lives are cheaper than the precious yours?

Count your blessings that you speak English.

Laura Lee
Guest

I.Hall aka it’s ain’t perfect but it’s ours aka Lulu is going in circles in his fruitless attempts to distort the reality. As someone said, there is lies, damned lies and statistics.

Eric
Guest
Not sure why you added Prescott & Russell to SD&G, but south east Ontario using Our Francophone map goes all the way to Kingston. SD&G numbers from the 2006 census give a very different picture. Total – 108585 English only – 62,400 French only – 2,325 Niether French or English – 205 We seem to be expanding services to bilingual, if we were not spending 42 cents of every tax dollar on Ontario health programs already, it may be different, but we should just try to help the French only that need the help. That way the few who feel… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Eric, Why are you talking about the number of people who speak only French? First of all, people may be able to have a conversation in English but be uncomfortable receiving health care in that language. But more importantly, what you seem to be implying is that because francophones in Ontario have mostly made the effort to learn English, they’ve forfeited the right to be served in their language. (Or that anglophones should have more rights because many of them haven’t bothered to learn French.) In other words, the more you do to accommodate the other group, the fewer rights… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Laura Lee, I think you may have misunderstood. I’m not francophone. I’m anglophone, and I believe in a bilingual Canada. I live in Quebec, where most people speak French, and I care very much about my rights as a member of the English-speaking minority. I also feel that French-speakers in Ontario should have the same rights that I have here. Here in Quebec, there are also people who speak Italian, Spanish, Chinese and many other languages. But only the English-speaking minority has schools, hospitals and universities that operate and provide service in its language. That is because as one of… Read more »
wpDiscuz