There is still anger and confusion from local residents over a Lachute hospital’s decision to remove English-language signage from its facility.
Locals say the move shows a lack of respect and will only help to create divisions within the community.
“It seems they’re trying to start a problem where none exists,” Scott Pearce, mayor of the Township of Gore, told Global News on Wednesday.
“It’s just not appropriate that some kind of language-driven policy, outside agency, comes in with a formal position that is not to do with the well-being of the patient,” said Carolynn Roberts of the Quebec Committee for Anglophone Access to Health and Social Services.
Hospital authorities say they are just following the law. Administrators made the change after meeting with representatives from the Office Québécoise de la Langue Française (OQLF).
According to Article 29.1 of the Quebec Language Charter, institutions like hospitals can only have signs in another language “where it provides services to persons who, in the majority, speak a language other than French.”
But some, like Gregory Kelley, Quebec’s opposition critic on the Relations with English-speaking Quebecers file, point out that there are exceptions.
“There’s no doubt that there are parts of Bill 101 that do allow for English signage in hospitals,” Kelley said.
Article 22 of the charter states that French-language signs must be used in institutions “except where reasons of health or public safety require the use of another language as well.”
The OQLF agrees that the hospital could, therefore, choose to make an exception. But hospital representatives say there were other factors in their decision to remove English-language signage.
Quebec Premier François Legault said on Thursday that he supports the hospital’s decision and that it will continue to provide services in English.
“I don’t see the need for bilingual signs,” Legault said.
Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to the premier for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, said in a statement Friday that the provincial government is “committed to respecting existing language legislation as well as guaranteeing access to health services for all Quebecers, including English-speaking Quebecers.”
Kelly thinks the local community should have been consulted.
“There are people in the community who are experts, also, on the charter, and everyone wants to respect the law,” he said.
English rights groups are still hoping the hospital management will reverse the decision.
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