The successful surgery took place in Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, much to the consternation of language nationalists who bear a special disdain for the Anglo hospital's attraction to Quebec's rich and famous, francophones included.
The hospital which was built back in the 1930's with funds provided by the city's Jewish community was never meant to serve Jews exclusively, but rather to provide an environment where patients who were Jewish, could have their dietary and religious beliefs respected. It has evolved over the years into an integrated public hospital that serves more non-Jews than Jews. That being said, the Jewish community continues to shower the hospital with millions of dollars in annual donations, money that funds research and an ongoing building and improvement campaign.
The hospital is perhaps the very best example of a bilingual institution that serves patients in both English and French, something that sits poorly with language militants.
Today the hospital is Jewish in tradition only and while it still serves kosher food and respects the Jewish Sabbath and holidays, it's clientèle is as varied as the local community. The staff, medical, professional and support is the most diverse of any hospital in Quebec, perhaps even Canada and believe it or not, there aren't many religious or language conflicts to speak of.
The halls are filled with the sounds of English, French, Greek, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Italian, Arabic, Tagalog, and a multitude of other languages.
Rabbis rub shoulders in the halls with Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox priests as they all minister to the spiritual needs of patients.
The hospital is filled with volunteers, a cadre of Jewish, Francophone and English retirees who act as patient and visitor support staff as well as working in the various volunteer snack and coffee shops.
"Eat something!" "Avec plaiser, Monsieur!" "Could I help you with that form" "Suivez-moi Madame!"
It isn't rare to be confronted by a boy/girl team in clown makeup, patrolling the halls and offering cookies to anyone who needs a lift.
The multicultural nature of the hospital and the success it enjoys is what makes it such a threat to language nationalists who see it as the antithesis of what they hold as the Quebec model.
For them, all this is somehow obscene, an affront to Quebec's 'secular' and French language nature. There are demands that the hospital's Jewish and English connection be severed and that the Star of David be removed both physically and figuratively.
But when you're sick, you're sick and for most people, background, language and political affiliation takes a backseat in deciding where one can get the very best care.
When Jacques Parizeau chose to be treated at the JGH a while back, eyebrows were raised and many couldn't resist making snide reference to his "Ethnic" remarks of the past. Perhaps Parizeau was taking heed to an old Quebec adage which tells of a patient "being so sick that he had to go to a Jewish doctor!"
|Dr. Marc Afilalo, Dr. Hartley Stern Dr. Jeff Golan|
When Jean Chretien was feeling poorly last Thursday and he was advised to go to the hospital, he chose to make the two hour drive from Shawinigan to the Jewish General Hospital, a decision akin to Danny William's decision to get heart surgery outside Newfoundland.
At the press conference describing the the surgery, the young anglo surgeon who performed the procedure, Dr. Jeff Golan, answered questions from the media in English and excellent French, switching effortlessly between the two.
And so, language militants hate the Jewish General hospital for its success. They don't want to hear about smart, urbane, anglo and ethnic nurses, doctors and technicians who offer service in English and French and don't think much about it.
Of course they'll offer up some isolated or made up story about a language snafu to prove that anglo contempt for francophones is institutionalized. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
With a little effort everyone gets by at the JGH and that includes elderly immigrant patients who speak no English or French.
"Hey, I need somebody who speaks Chinese. Hello, can somebody help me!" shouts out a nurse.
And you know what?...... Somebody invariably does.
For language nationalists, that's not the way its supposed to work, but for the rest of us, if it ain't broke.....
By the way, here is a video on the Jewish General Hospital, It's interesting because it presents a vision of a working environment that every single language extremist is trying to destroy.
For everyone who says bilingualism can't work or that that French and English communities can't live and work together, please watch the video. It's an edited version with subtitles.
For the full version go HERE.