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Could right to English services be lost under Quebec's new health care reform?

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A proposed amendment to Bill 15, the health care reform bill tabled by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), would give a new government-appointment corporation the power to revoke the bilingual status of a health care agency.

A detailed study of the massive 300-page bill is underway, with opposition parties in the National Assembly voicing concerns about whether or not English-speaking Quebecers would still be able to receive treatment in their mother tongue.

Currently, the right to receive services in English falls under the Quebec Health Act.

However, under Bill 15, a new Crown corporation, Santé Québec, would be created to manage the entire health care system.

Thursday, Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) official opposition group critic for health André Fortin and Health Minister Christian Dubé debated whether Santé Québec should be allowed to decide or recommend changing the bilingual status of a regional health care institute without regard to the real needs of the local population.

Previously, it would have been up to the local board to decide if English services were necessary.

Should the bill pass into law, that power would be transferred to Santé Québec.

However, in a new amendment, Dubé insists the regional committees would be allowed to provide local input, such as in an area where the anglophone population is below 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, the PLQ says it is worried the Crown corporation would pressure local officials to go all-French.

The amendment has some, including the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), wondering why Bill 15 has a point allowing the corporation to revoke bilingual status at all.

The government had previously insisted that English-speaking Quebecers would have no problem receiving services in their language.

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