Friday, 06 November 2015
News of the changes prompted anger among Gaspé’s anglophone community. Margo Adams, who lives in the town of Gaspé and is a nurse at Hotel-Dieu, signed an online petition Thursday calling for the Office to be eliminated.
“All the signs are bilingual. It’s bigger in French,” she said. “But in the town of Gaspé, there are a lot of people who speak English. As far as I’m concerned, with the Office de la langue française, enough is enough.”
She said older anglophones who have not learned French will be affected by the signs’ removal. They are being told to seek out English-speaking staff, distinguishable by a yellow strip on their identification cards.
“Yes we have a yellow strip on our cards, but most of us have it in our pockets,” Adams said. “How are they supposed to know?” She said the message to anglophones is that they are not welcome.
“Get out. That’s the message I’m getting,” she said. “If you don’t want to live in Quebec and speak French, just get out of the province.”
Jean-Pierre Le Blanc, a spokesman for the Office, said he could not disclose whether the order stemmed from a public complaint or a routine hospital visit by inspectors.
He said anglophone patients are still entitled to be treated in English, once they find their way to their doctor. But the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101, leaves no leeway for bilingual signs pointing the way unless a majority of a hospital’s users speak a language other than French. “The Charter says that health services have to post signs in French, except all the signs concerning health and safety,” he said.
Eric Maldoff, chairman of the Quebec Community Groups Network’s health and social services committee, accused the Office of needlessly provoking linguistic friction.
“This is a public establishment trying to accommodate its clientele, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do,” he said. “Not only is it a public establishment, it’s a public health and social services establishment where 15% of the population is English speaking.
“This is tiresome, petty stuff coming from a bureaucracy that clearly doesn’t have anything to do.”
He said if the Office cannot use common sense, the provincial government should regulate “to make it clear that access to service means access to information too, and signs happen to be a way that people get information rather than running around trying to find people wearing yellow badges.”
Philip Proulx, an aide to Hélène David, the minister responsible for the language law, said the Liberal government is satisfied with the Office’s performance. “Certain rules apply, and they have to respect those rules.”
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