Friday, March 20, 2009

McGill Waits Out Medical School Flap

,Ever since the first language attack on McGill University by Quebec nationalists over forty years ago, the administrators of the school have adopted the defensive strategy of hunkering down, whenever these ugly attacks rear their head.

It's proven to be a successful strategy, as the controversies usually pass within a few weeks, with the school emerging unscathed to return to it's role as the finest English academic institution in Canada.

The latest flap, is the campaign mounted against McGill University's medical school, by the French daily newspaper, Le Journal de Montreal. The sensationalist tabloid has a history of using attacks on the English community to sell papers. In fact, when things are too quiet on the language front, the rag has no qualms about manufacturing anglo-bashing controversies on it's own.

Their last campaign was an expose on how Francophones cannot get served in the French language, in certain downtown stores. Now, when an editor sends out a reporter to get a story based on a pre-conceived notion, what results can you expect? The paper gleefully recounted instances of language discrimination, but never told us how many stores they had to visit before finding these offenders.
A classic case of yellow journalism that panders to it's low brow audience.

It's too bad that McGill isn't reacting to the latest attack, the one created the Journal's resident separatist, anglo-basher, Joseph Facal.
In an on-going attack, in a number of articles, Mr. Facal lambastes McGill because of the fact that 52% of graduating doctors from McGill, leave Quebec to practice elsewhere, while only 10% of Francophone doctors do the same.

On the surface it seems a pretty damning statistic and Mr. Facal's story has sprouted legs. English papers like The Toronto Star have also picked up the story and have repeated the statistic, without context or further explanation.

In fact, when Mr. Facal first leveled his charge online, a comment by a reader completely devastated his argument. You can read the article and the rebuttal in a previous post of mine here.

Mr. Facal is either dishonest or ignorant. He knows that the statistic he cites, without context, conveys a false picture of reality.

At the center of the controversy is the different route that Quebec Anglophone and Francophone doctors take in their pursuit of a medical degree.

On the French side, most students applying to medical school are young, coming out of junior college(CEGEP) pre-medical programs. They usually have poor or non-existent English language skills and to apply to a medical school in, say Cincinnati, is not an option.
Similarly, anglophones from Canada and the USA don't apply to Quebec francophone schools for a similar reason, lack of French skills.
The result is that Quebec Francophone medical schools are filled, almost exclusively with local unilingual Francophones. Foreign students make up a very tiny proportion of the class and few local anglophones, even bilingual ones, don't apply, because as you can guess, Francophones are favoured.

On the Anglo side, the system doesn't work like that at all. English students, whether they be in Des Moines or Montreal apply to medical schools across North America, hoping to win a coveted spot anywhere. Typically, students apply to up to twenty different schools. The result is that Anglo students from Montreal get medical training not only at McGill, but in medical schools in Miami, Atlanta, Toronto and Calgary, to name just a few.
Now McGill, as do all the other medical schools across North America (except Quebec francophone schools) accepts a large minority of out-of-province, out-of-state and out-of-country students to balance things out.

When medical school is over, most of the graduates of Francophone medical schools remain in Quebec, (prisoners of language and culture.)
On the McGill side, it is natural that a large proportion of graduates leave, as do graduates of all English medical schools. They either go home or pursue opportunities elsewhere. This is not strange, but normal and universal.

The real question is not how many graduates leave Quebec, but rather, how many graduates from other programs come to Quebec, to pursue their careers.

This is the statistic that is conveniently ignored.

It's a fact that there are doctors coming to Quebec who have received medical training outside the province. These doctors should actually be counted as a mitigating factor in the 52% statistic, but nationalists either don't understand how the system works or choose to ignore the fact.

Certainly, there are not enough doctors coming here, but this can be attributed to the fact that they are unwanted by the Quebec College of Physicians, who put up too many roadblocks, including the one that demands that they be perfectly bilingual before practising in Quebec and the requirement that they work in the boonies, instead of Montreal. The poor pay and poor working conditions, play a role, but secondary. Quebec and particularly Montreal, remains an attractive and exciting place to work and live for both local and foreign Anglophone doctors. The lower pay is mitigated by the much lower cost of living and cheaper housing. The real issue is the discrimination that they face.

It's unfortunate, but perhaps wise, that McGill chooses silence in the face of these unwarranted attacks. The university understands full well that they will always be a target. For nationalists, the fact that an English university remains far and away Quebec's finest academic institution is galling and humiliating.
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