Montreal hospital orders employees to not speak English
Published Thursday, January 29, 2015 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 29, 2015 7:20PM EST
A letter ordering Sacre Coeur Hospital workers to only speak French at work is incorrect, according to a Montreal lawyer who specializes in Quebec's Bill 101 language law.
The Sacre Coeur hospital has sent a letter to employees suggesting that it will enforce Bill 101, Quebec's language charter and ordered its health-care workers to speak French on most of the premises.
The letter said that the language law permits employees to speak English only in the emergency room and the trauma wing. Any other language is banned.
But Eric Maldoff, a lawyer and expert on Bill 101, said that there's no such provision in the law.
"With respect to oral communications between two English speaking people Bill 101 says absolutely nothing. In the absence of saying anything, two people have a right to speak to each other in English," Maldoff told CTV Montreal Thursday.
Sacre Coeur pharmacy technician Laura Page said that she speaks English or French depending on the situation and plans to continue doing so.
“If I’m talking to a colleague, I’m not going to speak French to the person knowing that they’re English, it’s just way too weird,” she said.
The letter to personnel and doctors was sent out “following several complaints" about posters and research articles in English at the hospital.
They used these complaints to remind employees that according to the law, French must be “prioritized” when it comes to oral communication at health-care institutions.
Any written communication must be in French only, said spokesperson for Sacre-Coeur Josee-Michelle Simard. According to the law, she explained, they can’t even post bilingual information in the hospital.
The letter also informed staff that communication in a language other than French has to be approved by management on a case-by-case basis, said Simard in Monday’s message.
Simard conceded that the language law creates “tension” but stressed that these are laws, and not hospital rules.
Lawyer Maldoff notes that Bill 101 is primarily directed at written communications.
"This is about two English-speaking people speaking to each other and the institution has no right or power to impose any sanctions for that," said Maldoff. "We still live in a free and democratic society and two English speaking people have the right to speak to each other in their language."
A hospital employee forwarded the letter to CTV News: