Bill 15 is not a threat to English hospital services, health minister says

Click to play video: 'Bilingual status of hospitals could be revoked under Quebec’s Bill 15 endangering access to English services'
Bilingual status of hospitals could be revoked under Quebec’s Bill 15 endangering access to English services
WATCH: Some Quebecers are concerned they could lose access to English health-care services, if a change to the province's major health-care reform goes through. Health Minister Christian Dubé tabled an amendment to his Bill 15 earlier this week that would give Santé Québec the power to revoke a hospital's bilingual status. Global’s Franca Mignacca explains. – Dec 1, 2023

Health Minister Christian Dubé insists his major health-care reform bill will not have an impact on English health-care services, after a recent amendment he tabled suggested otherwise.

The Bill 15 amendment in question would give the province’s new health-care agency, Santé Québec, the power to revoke a health-care institution’s bilingual status if the numbers no longer warrant it, and following consultations from a regional committee.

“There will be no changes in services for Anglos or in the status of their hospitals,” Dubé told reporters Friday. “I just want to be clear on that.”

The health minister claimed the amendment was meant to be a small administrative detail, and that he had not realized its potential impact before it was debated in front of a legislative committee Tuesday night.

Debate around the article has now been suspended while Dubé awaits further clarification from experts, specifically from the Office québécois de la langue française.

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Dubé says if he determines the article would in fact threaten the bilingual status of hospitals or the possibility of obtaining services in English, he is ready to withdraw it.

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He also pointed to Article 16 of the bill, which states English-speaking Quebecers are “entitled to receive health services and social services in the English language.”

“There are more than 12-hundred articles in this bylaw,” Dubé said. “Do I understand the details of each of them? The opposition is doing a very good job, they asked a question, and I said ‘Okay, I’ll check.'”

But Quebec Liberal Party Health Critic André Fortin finds it alarming the minister did not understand his own amendment before bringing it in front of the committee. He says the amendment would have major repercussions for the English-speaking community.

“When he plays Mr. Nice Guy, and he states ‘Oh it’s not going to change anything for anybody,’ then don’t put it in,” said Fortin. “If you walk into a bilingual institution, you are supposed to have that care in your language. That’s what’s at stake here with this amendment.”

Fortin and Québec Solidaire MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said the amendment is just another reason why they are calling on the minister not to invoke closure to expedite the bill.

“I’m hopeful that this is something that they forgot or didn’t see clearly,” said Cliche-Rivard. “This is another example as to how important it is to finish our job at Bill 15 and to make sure that every single amendment and every single section is processed.”

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Quebec Community Groups Network President Eva Ludvig says she hopes the health minister really is taking the community’s concerns seriously, but she isn’t entirely convinced.

“You’ll forgive me if I’m being a little bit skeptical,” said Ludvig.  “We’ve seen the impact of Bill 96 in spite of all the reassurances and we keep seeing it more and more. Our rights are being eroded.”

With the National Assembly set to adjourn Dec. 8, Ludvig and opposition parties remain concerned the minister will feel pressed for time and invoke closure.

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