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.