Has bilingualism gone too far in Canada? I believe that it has. Just as many other past inequalities have been over-corrected, the Trudeau-idea of bilingualism has gone from a good idea to blatant discrimination. The comments by Dr. Dany Tombler made last week about bilingual hiring practices at the Cornwall Community Hospital and the subsequent reaction within the community prove, without a doubt, that bilingualism has gone too far.
The idea of bilingualism comes in two forms. First, that service providers such as businesses or government should provide customer service in both English and French so that no one is excluded. The second form is that a population is bilingual enough to be able to work comfortably in either French or English.
Take the 2006 Statistics Canada numbers for the area of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the City of Cornwall. Residents who only spoke English accounted for 58 per cent of the population, 40 per cent were bilingual and only two per cent could only speak French. French as a mother-tongue or primary language accounted for 13 per cent of that total.
Residents of this region can function quite well in English and French, with only a very small minority being unable to speak any English. If the population is functionally bilingual with 98 per cent of the residents able to speak English, why are we making a push for agencies and businesses to offer fully-bilingual service? Why did the Cornwall Community Hospital voluntarily ask to be regulated under the French Language Services Act in 2007?
By going this route, the hospital cuts itself off from hiring staff based on merit and skill, which is a dangerous slope to go down. Weâ€™ve already seen this over-correction in Ottawa where people working in the public service are limited in job opportunities based on their language. There have been many reports of positions where English-only candidates have been passed over for a candidate who is bilingual, even where it was not a requirement to be bilingual. This is something that many, including this writer, has experienced in the past.
It is not my suggestion that we kick out the French nor should we take an axe to all French services, but letâ€™s be reasonable and come up with better, more practical solutions to providing service. In the case of the Cornwall Community Hospital, why not have designated staff that as part of their job description can provide translation services? This way, the hospital could hire English-only speaking staff, or French-only speaking staff and it would be based on merit and qualifications, not the language they speak. The point has been made recently in many media outlets that if you are sick and need help, the language one gets service in is less relevant than getting treatment. I agree wholeheartedly.
The fact that the hospital voluntarily entered into compliance with the French Languages Services Act, they were not forced into it, is very disturbing to this writer. The hospital Board chose to voluntarily discriminate against those who do not speak French, and for that reason alone I support the actions of the Mayor of South Stormont and their Township Council in withholding their annual contributions to the hospital until this has been resolved. I will go as far as to call for the Mayors and Councils of the other five townships in SD&G to take that same view. Cornwall City Council should also go this route, but won’t because that would mean it would have to admit failure of itâ€™s own bilingualism policy, something that will never be admitted to.
Had the Province or the Federal Government stepped in and mandated or forced the hospital to comply with the French Language Services act, then at that point, you look at the blame falling on those levels of government, but the hospital chose to go down this discriminatory path, and now it will need to deal with those consequences.
No one should be discriminated against, either by race, religion or the language they speak.