Getting a Handle on the CCH Bilingual Nurse Protest in Cornwall Ontario in Pictures and Video – March 22, 2012

Nurse Protester Christopher Cameron

CFN – As we draw near the two month mark of the Bilingual Nurse Protest of the Cornwall Ontario Community Hospital’s implementation of the French Language Services Act patterns seem to be evolving.

One that a core of nurses have issues over not either being able to be hired as a Unilingual English nurse, and if so not only attaining full time employment status, but being able to gain promotions.   Anecdotal evidence has been presented of individual nurses having worked part time for as long as twenty years without gaining full time status.

What started out with one nurse speaking out led to Dr. Dany Tombler of the Hospital writing a letter to the editor that led to further controversy.    From one nurse the protest peaked at hundreds coming out for a rally.

South Stormont Deputy Mayor reads Dr. Tombler’s Letter at SD&G Counties session.


Politically the City of Cornwall has buried its head saying it’s not the city’s issue to get involved in although Councilor Clement (rumbled to either be the next mayor of Cornwall or getting a judgeship depending on whom you speak with) being the only councilor to attend some of the meetings.


Likewise our MP Guy Lauzon, and MPP, Jim (my handshake is worthless) McDonell are hiding or fuddling on the issue.


South Stormont Council voted to withhold monies to the hospital until some discussion and movement could take place.   They not only have been vilified for taking this action, but their requests for the United Counties of SD&G and City of Cornwall to follow suit were met with timid rejection.    While in private supporting South Stormont, fear of a backlash from Francophone voters in the area have turned them from leaders into the led.


Clarity is something that’s been missing from this debate which has turned into a huge Language battle instead of an issue that should be discussed.

The hospital has failed hugely from its refusal to grant interviews to answering questions so slickly that some people forget what the topic of the question was.


Madame Periard what is 2+2?


Blue, and we at CCH are very proud of the quality of our blue and I personally resent your insinuations that we don’t do our best to make sure our Blue serves the public to the best of our abilities as mandated by the Province of Ontario.


Say what?

I know.  That’s a bit satirical, but here are some video clips from the meetings in South Stormont and at the Counties and you see if you can make sense out of what Ms Periard is spouting?




Mayor McGillis and Nurse Chris Cameron


There are now over 2,000 signatures on petitions regarding this issue and at the two month mark the only real movement by Ms Periard and the Hospital seems to be inspired by Tim Hortons changing the names of the sizes of their cups in that they have said that they will be changing the classifications of  French skills.

Meanwhile the protesters stand their vigil and keep adding signatures hoping that the Province will step in as they did in Ottawa.    The oddest thing about this process has been the silence of the nurses unions and nurses themselves.

The excuse that nurses fear for their jobs is simply running thin and many feel that for this protest to have any impact more will have to step forward.

At the session this week a busload of people from Alexandria decided to show their support.  Mostly seniors.  One woman saw me with my camera and emotionally shared in French that the hospital should not stop serving the public in French.   I did my best with my French to speak with her.  She either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak any English back; her husband came over and it boggled my mind that someone would travel from Alexandria to Cornwall on a school bus to protest over an issue that was never on the table.


Is changing French being an asset instead of a requirement something that unions would really go to arbitration over?   Everyone agrees; at least from the protesters I’ve heard from and talked with that patients should be served in French if they request that, but based on actual requests for such service is it really necessary to suggest as the hospital has that 100% of front line staff should be Highly proficient in the French language?   Does it make sense that it’s only ok to hire or promote unilingual English speakers if a French speaker can’t be found for a position?

Of course it’s not easy to run a hospital.  There are huge challenges with budget cuts, funding needs, unions, crazy demands from MP’s for special service occasionally,and such, but when you’re facing a 2,000 plus signature petition shouldn’t hospital leadership doing more than simply reading off of cue cards after two months?

This not need a language war.  Outside groups and agencies need not make hay in the media over something that should never have grown to what it is today.   Good management gets ahead of an issue and smart management realizes that reasonably happy employees that have some sort of sense of fairness perform better than others.

And that the public; which really wants to support the hospital are being cheated by such arrogant verbiage and over management from the likes of Helen Periard.

I’ll end this piece with some wise words from Dr. Lorne Sharf.    It’s funny, but in Dr. Tombler’s initial letter to the editor he mentions essentially how the board rejected the position of the Doctors on this issue.    Maybe it’s time to listen to our Doctors and Nurses more and less from well coiffed over payed Bureaucrats especially as we the taxpayers have to pay the freight?

As Dr. Sharf pleaded.    “Please let us do our job.”


You can post your comments below.

Cornwall Free News


  1. It strikes me as a bit naive and bigoted to hear this line of argument, that is, that our hospital is ill equipped with quality nurses. That sounds awfully close to saying: ‘we currently have nurses that are french speaking but aren’t qualified to do their jobs’, which would grossly be mistaken given the fact that all nurses are trained according to province’s standards. This is sounding more and more I’m afraid like a language war reflective of an intolerance for diversity and differences, rather than of safety and concern. I do not support this intolerance. I expect Cornwall to step up to the plate and to lead by example.

  2. Author

    Matt who has suggested any of our nurses isn’t a good nurse? That’s a new one???

  3. The person that asked the question regarding the petition list, I wonder if they felt slighted or disrespected by Mrs Periard when she laughed at the question and skirted the issue by combing other issues to justify her decision. This defines a person well paid and already earning a pension.

    She has no need to serve the best interest of everyone but only a directive that will ensure her security.

    You would have to wonder, if French is in any way mandatory for the position, would it not be a mandatory portion in the curriculum for nurses?

    Did colleges and universities fail these people as well?

  4. The hospital hiring policy is in stark contrast with the demographic and linguistic reality on the ground. 75% of Cornwall are anglophones and 95% of Cornwall are functionally bilingual. The demand for French service at the hospital is below 10%. All medical and administrative records are maintained in English. Almost all doctors are unilingual English. Why on earth all nurses have to be high level French, particularly in writing? It just does not make any sense. This nonsense is only aggravating the shortage of nurses and fueling unemployment among local born and raised people with qualifications and experience.

    It’s time to bring sanity to bilingualism nonsense or better yet ditch it altogether.

  5. Hailey, colleges and universities are dealing with the demographics they have, in both instructors and students. It’s a largely unilingual English-speaking province and the country. You cannot bring in a native fluency program to unilingual in another language students.

    French bilingualism is an artificial requirement. All political reasons for it have expired and it’s time to retire it.

  6. After listening MANY times to Ms Helene Preriard’s speech, I attempted to get the answer that Jamie posed and to my dismay she NEVER answered the question at hand. What gives? Wasn’t this the reason for the meeting in the first place? Seems to me that someone did not do her homework properly and should be send directly to the PRINCIPAL’S office.

  7. Even in the English Province of Ontario if you put French people in charge of something they will all want to turn it into something French. They are more comfortable reading, writing and speaking French and therefore consider that everyone should read, write and speak French. Hardliners Periard and her cronies should be thrown out of the hospital and a more liberal board elected. Vive l’Ontario libre!

  8. Why the smirk on several faces of individuals within the audience….and why the skirting of issues by admin. of the CCH? What this issue will come down to is who has more at stake: Past, current and future employees of the CCH who will want to continually ride the gravy train by taking advantage of an unfair hiring practice and those who will seek fairness in hiring. The CCH admin. needs to develop a new hiring grid by assigning points to skillsets (experience, volunteerism, education, community involvement, etc) and not hire just because of a language spoken. But honestly, I don’t think those in charge have the ability to do so otherwise this issue would have been taken care of already. Which leads me to challenge the hospital administration by asking: “Which stance do you take? One of blatant disregard for language rights where you disregard uniligually English speaking nurses with 10+ years of experience and hire the best French speaking candidate for the job or is your administration just totally incompetent? Either reason I believe would justify your Hospital Board’s decision to remove senior administration from their post(s).

  9. Most of the posts so far are expressing common sense views. The best is the one posted by Cory Cameron – it is high time that the Hospital Board acknowledges that the CCH needs to design a new hiring policy. The province awards the hospital extra money for designating itself to fall under the FLSA so, obviously the hospital complied. Why wouldn’t they – more money and, as compliance with the FLSA guidelines favour French-speakers, they’re killing two birds with one stone!!! Win, win – for the French-speakers that is!!! NO body has suggested that French-language services be cut off. All anyone has suggested is that mandatory, high-level French for ALL nurses be replaced by saying that French is an asset and conversational French is fine. How much high-level French do you need to make a patient feel comfortable? The bottom line must be: MERIT has to come before language!!!

  10. Watching the videos, I cannot believe how unprofessional Madam Periaird behaved: rolling her eyes, smirk on her face, talking gibberish instead of answering questions. She exhibited contempt for the people. As one of the leaders of the community, she failed. We should demand her replacement.

  11. I am an anglophone from Quebec, and I find it disturbing that opponents of bilingualism in Cornwall are referring to the situation in Quebec to justify their position.

    While some things could be better in Quebec, overall the situation for French-language health care in some parts of Ontario seems to be not only much worse than the situation for Quebec anglophones, but far below the minimum that Quebec anglophones would consider tolerable.

    I support the right of Franco-Ontarians to health care in their language of equal quality to that received by anglophones.

    It is also extremely hypocritical for the demonstrators to claim to be fighting in the name of “equality.” What they want will in fact only further the inequality between English and French.

    They claim to be fighting for “language rights,” but anglophone patients can already be served in English by 100% of the nurses at the hospital. It is francophones (24.4% of the population in the Cornwall census agglomeration) who must deal with nurses who don’t speak their language. Fewer bilingual hires will inevitably lead to lower quality service in French, which is probably already the case.

    You can’t provide equal quality service to anglophones and francophones without a high proportion of bilingual employees. For a nurse, being able to serve patients in the main two languages of the community is an essential component of merit. You could have the best nurse in the world, but if she only spoke Chinese, it wouldn’t make a whit of difference in Cornwall. That’s why English and French matter.

    Here in Montreal, the nursing staff at health care facilities for anglophones are all bilingual. This is not considered “discrimination” – it is respect for our language rights, namely the right to quality health care in English. An inevitable consequence of this is that some people who are great nurses in other respects don’t get hired. But nobody complains, because the need for health services for the anglophone minority is widely accepted in society.

    I think that on one side of the debate, the demand for French-language service is constantly being underestimated. If 24% of the population is francophone, since the hospital is the main health care facility, about 24% of patients can be expected to prefer service in French. If fewer request it, that is almost certainly a reflection of the fact that they don’t always expect to get it, or not without some difficulty or delay, and they’re afraid that complaining is going to get in the way of their care. You don’t want to upset the nurse or doctor you’re relying on for your care, and you may not want to wait for when the next bilingual nurse is available if that’s a long time. Francophones in Ontario seem to be very accommodating in this way, and it’s unfortunate that this is being taken advantage of by one side to claim that they don’t actually want service in French.

  12. I.Hall, you say: “I support the right of Franco-Ontarians to health care in their language of equal quality to that received by anglophones.”

    Francophones do receive health care of equal quality. 95% of them are fluently bilingual. Madam Periard is the proof. She speaks English even without an accent. All Ontario hospitals are now bilingual, unnecessarily I might add. As for the Cornwall hospital, 35% of its employees are francophones, which is much more than their proportion of the Cornwall population (24%). To demand all nurses bilingual is another unnecessary excess, which is unfair to local English nurses who cannot get full time positions because of that. You are demanding UNNEEDED right that is blocking the right of other people to earn a living in their profession .

    By the way, I am a francophone from Ontario.

  13. Way to go Val!!! Periard’s mouth said a whole lot of nothing, but her smerk said it all. You should not be in that position lady……get off your highhorse and let somebody else lead the way that is fair for all languages.

  14. Val, you seem to be saying that francophones can receive care of equal quality if they’re willing to receive it in English. Obviously, this is not what I’m talking about.

    While I don’t know in particular about the percentage of francophone nurses at Cornwall hospital, only a quarter of the nurses they hired last year met the bilingualism standard, and they say they’re trying to make up a deficit, so I’m surprised that 35% are bilingual, let alone francophone. Are you making the assumption that all the bilingual nurses are francophone?

    In any case, throughout southeast Ontario (SD&G and Prescott-Russell), the population is 41% francophone, while only 31% of nurses are francophone.


    In my opinion, if English Ontarian nurses are not becoming bilingual in sufficient numbers, while French ones are, that’s a credit to the francophones, and it makes them more qualified to do their job. What’s important is not whether your mother tongue is English, French or something else, but being able to serve the population in the main languages they speak. If fewer anglophones meet this qualification, that’s not something that can justify providing service of lesser quality to francophones.

    You’ve said that you’re francophone but don’t support francophones’ right to quality health care in their own language, which is a right English-speakers unquestionably enjoy. Let’s see what Franco-Ontarians have to say about that.

    According to the 2006 census, in southeast Ontario (pop. 187,325), the French-speaking minority is 77,440, or 41.3% of the population. Of these, 14,195 speak only French, or 18% of francophones. Presumably, these unilingual people find health care in their own language very important, and, though I haven’t done the research, it’s safe to assume these people are more concentrated in the older population, which is more in need of health care. The remaining 82% of francophones are bilingual, but cannot all be “fluently bilingual”, as you put it.

    Now here is the really interesting fact. Of those francophones in southeast Ontario who *are bilingual*, 76% consider it “very important” or “important” to obtain health care services in their language (the other choices being “moderately important”, “slightly important” and “not important”).


    So although you do not feel these rights are important, the overwhelming majority of bilingual francophones in southeast Ontario would appear to disagree with you, not to mention the unilingual ones.

    I believe it is true there is a significant minority of Franco-Ontarians who have made English their main language. But many Franco-Ontarians remain committed to maintaining the vitality of their communities, and being able to use French widely in the public sphere is essential to this. Here is another statistic from the same study as above. 56% of francophone Ontarians consider it “very important”, and 30% consider it “important”, that government services be offered in French.

    Finally, 87% of francophones outside Quebec and New Brunswick consider it “very important” or “important” that linguistic rights be respected in their province. The French Language Services Act enshrines those rights in Ontario.

  15. Who paid for the bus load of seniors from Alexandria?

    The French Language Services Act is under a new scutinity as we are hearing more about it being put into law.

    “How many residents of Ontario are aware of the manner in which the Ontario French Language Services Act was passed? It would appear, very few, and no wonder! I would suggest that anyone in Cornwall who is not familiar with the details, that they check the Hansard Report, under the date of November 18th, 1986, and find out for themselves. It should be available at your local library. The sole purpose of a Hansard is so that the electorate can be informed as to what has gone on in their Legislature.

    The French Language Services Act, also known as Bill 8, was passed by only 55 members of the 125-member Ontario Legislature, not even one-half of the members in attendance, which certainly cannot be considered as being “passed unanimously” by the full Legislature. The 70 members who absented themselves presumably did so to indicate their disapproval. They would represent a huge majority of residents of Ontario who had absolutely NO say in the passing of this Bill. It was passed almost entirely in the French language for the approximately 95% English-speaking residents of Ontario, and there was no recorded vote.”

  16. This thread is shameful for the most part and totally misses the point, is edge close to being discriminatory but I’ve already stated this. Eric, my impression is that you haven’t much a clue what you’re arguing against except for some piecemeal approach to show how English is in, and French is out, and how saving money should become the primary motivator before language and culture – is this what you think Canada is reverting to, has Harper gotten the better of you too? 😉 Sing me a song why don’t you. This is not solidarity, this is disrespect which can quickly lead to segregation. This is definitely not the way to welcome diversity. I’m very disappointed but enough with me!

  17. I.Hall, preserve the vitality of your communities as much as you wish on your own and at your own price, not at Anglos expense.

  18. Val,

    Sorry, are you saying Ontario francophones don’t pay taxes?

    As I understand it, they do, and their taxes already go to support many organizations that operate and provide service in English. In return, it’s only fair they should expect the government to take their communities’ interests into account, in particular their language rights.

    And they’re not “my” communities. I’m an anglophone who supports bilingualism. By the way, I’m not the only one. When asked in 2006, “Are you personally in favour of bilingualism for your province?”, 66% of Ontarians said yes and 30% no. I think it’s safe to assume some in the yes total are anglophone!


    I don’t think these message boards are truly representative of public opinion. Instead, I think they tend to draw more extreme views.

  19. Matt, I am not disrespecting anyone. There is a concerted effort to increase French over the last couple of years, follow the Ministry of Francophone affairs website and links. The Assembly du Francophone Ontarian took in 1.4 million in 2010/2011. 1. 2 million of that was from provincial & federal governments plus many taxpayer funded agencies and institutions. Take a look at how Fed Dev and others are putting money into one of the 20 plus tax supported French language associations, how the 217 plus Ontario institutions are trading more tax dollars to push this French increase. Take a look at how Russell Township is spending tax dollars to force business into having bilingual only signs even though 70% of the business establishments already did on their own.

    We are now serving bilingual instead of the few French only who need it. 42 cents of every tax dollar is going to health care. I object to having less money available because of pushing French into areas that do not require it. We have 25 designated language zones that cover 85% of Ontario’s geography by the way.

    The issue of hiring and language testing at the Cornwall hospital is just a sympton of this constant push to have work for only strong bilingual people. English or French only need not apply, and that is just wrong! But then again. I don’t have much of a clue.

    Segreation is going on in Alexandria, The French schools changed busing and school break times so they do have to mix with those English people, even though they live, work and get along just fine, untill the government gets involved…….

  20. Sorry it should read
    Segreation is going on in Alexandria, The French schools changed busing and school break times so they don’t have to mix with those English people, even though they live, work and get along just fine, untill the government gets involved…….

  21. Whats really going on here?

    Wake up people; you have no idea what these racist, bigoted francophonys are up to. They have been bragging about it for decades.

    “My roll as Secretary of State of Canada is first and foremost to ensure that my French compatriots in Canada feel with deep conviction, as I do, that this is their country and that it reflects their image”. “I too had some difficult years as a politician; I’m still having them, in fact, because everything we undertake and everything we are doing to make Canada a French state is part of a venture I have shared for many years with a number of people”. “You know the idea, the challenge, the ambition of making Canada a French country both inside and outside Quebec — an idea some people consider a bit crazy, is something a little beyond the ordinary imagination”. – Serge Joyal, Secretary of State – Page 2 ‘ENOUGH’ by J.V. Andrew. – Serge Joyal – Now in the Senate.

    This is THE biggest scam, the biggest fraud and lie ever forced upon the Canadian public. People have no idea what this man Trudeau did to this country.

    “Quebec can make French the only official language in spite of the Constitution”. Pierre Trudeau, .

    “There is no way two ethnic groups in one country can be made equal before the law….and to say it is possible is to sow the seeds of destruction”. Pierre Trudeau,

    .” ….Given these facts, should French-speaking people concentrate their efforts on Quebec or take the whole of Canada as their base? In my opinion, they should do both; and for the purpose they could find no better instrument than federalism”, Pierre Trudeau,.

    “I cannot swear it but I think we were thinking to ourselves,… we are a small group, Trudeau, Pelletier, Marchand, Lalonde, Chrétien, myself and a few people in the civil service, say 50 all told…we were bringing off a revolution. We held the key posts. We were making the civil service bilingual (French), kicking and screaming all the time”. Jean-Luc Pepin, Minister of Industry, 1970.

    50 years of spin, lies…thats what we have got. They are changing the names of towns, streets, counties, bodies of water, riding names…and I’m not taking about kebec any longer. It’s now going on all over the country; it’s a mess in Ottawa where they name things after anti-English language bigots and racists all the time. They are slowly wiping out our English, Scottish, Irish, United empire loyalists history. Just like they’ve been doing in Quebec for the last 5 decades (bills 22, 178, 101…)…This is one of the main reasons we are not teaching any history from 1760 to 1982 in our schools any longer. These racist people control government, the curriculum, our money…we get a daily dose of spin, lies and propaganda.

    Remember one thing folks – The liberals brought in a lot of this expensive nonsense, bilingualism (forced french, only outside Quebec), multiculturalism, the charter, rights this, rights that…but the Conservatives have done nothing to repeal any of this crap federally or provincially. ???

    The Conservatives have allowed all of these expensive, divisive liberal polices, and departments to remain??? How come?

    What would you eliminate Conservatives, well tell us! What fees will you reduce and eliminate, what departments will you cut, will you bring down hydro rates…how will you pay off debt…will you bring in a government hiring freeze, a salary cap…?

    Until bill 8 (French language service act) in Ontario is repealed the french will continue to take more government (hospitals, policing, law…) jobs, and wipe out more of our real BNA, UEL history, and also bankrupt the province in the process. They have been bragging about it for decades and the Conservatives have allowed all of this to happen. Liberal, Tory same old story.

  22. Bilingualism is a pain in the ass
    If you want to speak French then go to Quebec

  23. I just don’t understand , where is the Ontario flag in cornwall ?
    hardly see it anywhere . french language in Ontario is forced on us and we don’t even know it , But I will never give up hope because someone with guts will do something and speak out for the English people of Ontario !! .

  24. You cannot find neither Ontario nor Canadian flag anywhere on the city website. The city logo is in the colours of Franco-Ontarien flag. Maybe Cornwall separated Ontario and joined Quebec?

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