At least that's the view from the vigile.net crowd who regard defense of English rights an attack on French as if it is a zero-sum game.
So be it, I wear the label with pride because it is true that I am a ferocious defender of these rights, but like most labels, it doesn't really define me.
I do in fact spend most of my time describing the English and Ethnic condition in Quebec because after all, that is what this blog is about.
That being said, I do call out and report on ALL language based intolerance that I see, be it here in Quebec or anywhere in Canada.
And so it is incumbent upon me to report upon what I can only condemn as the small-minded language intolerance of a not inconsequential group of Cornwall residents in regards to the bilingual status of a local hospital, one that has decided in accordance with Ontario law to make certain positions in the hospital open to bilingual staff only.
Before continuing, it is important to note that the area serviced by the hospital is about 30% Franco-Ontarian.
Now the bilingual designation has some locals furious because it means that monolingual but otherwise qualified candidates won't be considered for certain jobs in the hospital and that fact just doesn't sit well with those in the community who see the issue as discrimination against unilingual Anglo-Ontarians.
Up to now I haven't seen one English newspaper or online report on the demonstration that took place last Saturday by about one hundred people, protesting the issue, so I'm going to translate portions of two French reports from Radio-Canada;
"The Cornwall Hospital in Eastern Ontario, is at the center of a controversy ever since it changed its hiring criteria to encourage the use of bilingual workers.
Since January, the hospital is complying with the Act on French-language services in Ontario, but the English-speaking community in the region, as well as the Mayor of the Municipality of South Stormont, Bryan McGillis, oppose it.
In protest, the mayor canceled the payment of its annual funding of $30,000 for the expansion of the institution, with the approval of the council. "I get calls from people who support me, not only in the region but across Canada," he said in English.
Dr. Danny Tombler is the origin of this debate. In an open letter published in a regional newspaper , he was outraged over this new policy and called for a boycott of the fundraising campaign of the Hospital.
"The vast majority of Ontarians are unilingual anglophones, while this bilingualism policy is discriminatory. A clear message would suspend all grants made to the fundraising campaign of the hospital, until the establishment changes its hiring criteria. "- Dr. Danny TomblerThis new hiring criterion does not, however, supersede skills, said the Hospital. "It is important to specify that bilingualism does not trump competence," said Fernand Hamelin, member of the Board of Directors of the Cornwall Hospital.
The Board of Directors of the Hospital is worried that the controversy will undermine its budget, which threatens the purchase of medical equipment and the hiring of a dozen doctors..."
Full credit for the story to Catherine Lanthier of Radio-Canada. You can read the original story in French HERE
On Saturday a demonstration was held to protest the issue.
"More than a hundred residents of Cornwall, in eastern Ontario, demonstrated Saturday afternoon against the policy of hiring bilingual personnel for their community hospital. A group of protesters gathered near the hospital. The administration of the Cornwall Hospital has stirred up a controversy when it decided to change hiring criteria to promote the use of bilingual workers in certain occupations. Since January, the facility is complying with the Law concerning French-language services in Ontario.Full credit for the story to Catherine Lanthier of Radio-Canada. You can read the original story in French HERE
Demonstrators called for the abolition of this policy. According to them, the new hiring criteria discriminates against unilingual Anglophones and may even require the hiring of outside workers from Quebec. They took the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs of Ontario, Madeleine Meilleur to task because she supports the hospital's efforts. Nearly 3,000 signatures were collected on a petition seeking a review of full government services to Franco-Ontarians. At the event, the Mayor of South Stormont, Tammy Hart, said she hopes to see the abolition of the Ministry of Francophone Affairs....
The French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, François Boileau, was disappointed to see so much bitterness towards bilingualism in the province. He added that the Act that services French in Ontario, adopted unanimously by the Legislature 25 years ago, has a dual purpose. First, it protects the Francophone minority. Then it ensures progress towards equality of status of French and English in Ontario. Cornwall is nearly 30% Francophone.
"When you look at such events, we realize we still have some work to do to educate the general population. "- François Boileau, French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario.
This story demonstrates that language intolerance knows no bounds and that no linguistic group is immune to selfish and immoral behavior.
I am particularly amused by the sign at the top of the page demanding "EQUALITY FOR ALL"
If an employer can demand a high school certificate, a college degree or specialized training, why can't bilingualism be a criterion when appropriate?
Certainly bilingual employees in a hospital that serves two language groups is appropriate.
It is the same argument put forward in Quebec by French language militants who complain that bilingual job descriptions discriminate against monolingual francophones.....Ya think?
Does "EQUALITY FOR ALL" mean that it is unfair for a pizzeria to demand that it's delivery drivers or waiters be bilingual if 30% of its clientele is French?
I may be called to task for this next observation but the whole affair reminds me of the argument made by Southern States in defense of slavery, in the U.S. Civil War. That is, that the freeing of the slaves would ruin the Southern economy, regardless whether slavery was moral or not.
Clearly this language brouhaha in Cornwall is an economic issue, not language.
People just don't want to be cast aside from employment consideration because of their monolingualism, regardless of whether bilingual employees is what the hospital requires.
The question is simple, should a hospital whose patients are 30% French provide service in French and should it hire the appropriate personnel to provide that service?
It's a no-brainer.