I read yet another tedious story by a blogger complaining that his mother was subjected to an unacceptable ENGLISH assault while lying dying in the Montreal General Hospital. To make matters worse, her medical records were in English! HORRORS!
Another complained that his doctor in a Dollard des Ormeaux clinic refused to speak to him in French as well. All these stories have a common thread running through them, one that portrays Anglo doctors as not only unable or unwilling to communicate in French, but acting arrogantly and rudely in the process. Its amazing how entrenched this urban myth has become.
The stories are all fit neatly into a fantasy created by language militants whose agenda is to cast Anglophones into that neatly preconceived notion of 'oppressors.' Most of them wish to recreate the good old days of English domination and continue to invoke the name of Lord Durham at every chance to characterize modern Anglophone attitudes.
The stories are of course impossible to prove or disprove, like the infamous story of sales clerks in the old Eaton's department store who abused Francophones by telling them to speak English. The poem "SPEAK WHITE" entrenched the idea of English language oppression and has given birth to a whole genre of creative writing based on this dubious urban legend.
This has led to many cases of French language crusaders 'looking' for fights by trolling through Anglo districts hoping to find that English only sign or that English speaking employee, so that they can ramp up their infernal complaint meter.
Years ago my wife was berated by a train ticket agent who informed her that there was no such place as "TWO MOUNTAINS" and told her to refer to the town by its proper name- "DEUX MONTAGNES."
Language lessons from a ticket agent? I bet he didn't finish high school. I wonder when he sells a ticket to Boston whether he refers to the country south of Montreal as the "ETATS UNIS" or the "UNITED STATES." As they say in French "Deux poids, deux mesures" (a double standard.)
I take these "SPEAK WHITE" stories with a grain of salt. One of the most hilarious fabrications that I read this year was that of a man who confronted a Hasid (ultra-religious Jew) in Outremont over the former's request for directions in English. According to the story, the Hasid launched into a verbal attack and even told the intrepid French language defender to "Fuck Off!" Anybody who has the slightest of knowledge of Hasids knows that the story could never have happened. A Hasid seeking a confrontation over language is just about the most ridiculous thing I've heard of. A Hasid seeking directions from a stranger? Never, that's what cell phones are for. A Hasid swearing, not a chance. But it's an entertaining story anyways. LINK
One of our readers,"Mitch" sent me a Montreal Gazette article entitled "French exam keeps doctor out of Pierrefonds clinic" detailing the story of a GP kept from practicing because he failed his mandatory French exam.
All members of professionals orders in Quebec are required by law to speak French before being licensed. Foreigners are required to pass a written and oral test. (Anglos who graduated high school in Quebec are not required to undergo testing, the assumption being that after eleven years of French classes, they are bilingual.)
Another story, this time in the McGill Tribune details the plight of a newly minted dentist, an American who graduated from McGill and wished to practice in Montreal. Because of another failed French exam, she was refused a permit and is forced to work in Plattsburgh, New York... Another win/win situation for Quebec.
A lot of doctors taking the test, complain that the written portion is completely unfair. One said that the test required him to write a business letter, terminating someone's employment in French, something completely unrelated to their profession. Given the average pass/rate fail in Quebec French universities for the written French exam is only 50%, is it any wonder that the doctors do so poorly?
Keeping doctors from practicing, especially desperately needed family doctors, is the height of folly.
Surely the government could find a compromise. I'd suggest that a doctor unable to pass the French test be given a provisionary license which would provide for mandatory weekly French classes. If after a year the doctor is still unable to pass, then perhaps he or she could be subject to a sliding deduction of salary with continuing classes mandatory.
Doctors are certainly not dumb. They have studied thousands of hours to get their diplomas and are high achievers. If they need a little time to learn French on the job they should be provided the opportunity without penalizing patients desperately seeking a family doctor.
Since the government cannot provide enough French speaking doctors, patients who have no family doctor should be afforded the option to choose between having a doctor who speaks French poorly or having no doctor at all.
Sometimes compromising your ideals is necessary to survive, but it seems that language militants prefer to have no doctor, rather than an English-speaking doctor.
After all principles are principles!