Family furious over language spat during emergency
A couple in Vaudreuil is fuming after they say an ambulance technician refused to speak English while their two-year-old daughter was having a seizure on the floor.
Mark Bergeron and Stephanie Hansen said they were terrified watching their young daughter, Ella, convulse over the weekend in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
Panicked, they called an ambulance.
“Her eyes were closed,” said Bergeron. “She was unconscious. She wasn't responding to anything they were doing.”
One of the paramedics began asking Bergeron questions in French. Though he is bilingual, Bergeron told the paramedic he would be more comfortable having a conversation in English, because he was nervous he might not understand technical terms.
The paramedic reportedly refused.
“With a lot of hostility in his voice, he basically said to me, ‘Non, moi je parle francais,’ meaning that I had to address him in the language that he was comfortable with in this situation, which in my opinion was completely unacceptable,” he said.
The couple feels it was the wrong time to make a political statement.
“I was mad. I was mad I didn't know what to do, I'm thinking if he can't understand us then where does this take us? Her life is in jeopardy, this is an emergency situation,” said Hansen, who said a stressful situation was immediately made worse.
“It was more his attitude that scared me and obviously the fact that either he couldn't speak English or he wasn't willing to.”
Immediately after the incident, the parents filed a complaint with the ambulance service. They said they couldn't understand why language was an issue during what they described as a life-and-death situation.
Bergeron said he was told by the ambulance service that there is no law in Quebec that requires paramedics to speak both languages.
“For the good of the child at that point, the best thing was to get the information for the child, to be able to act swiftly,” said Patrick Jasmin of the CETAM ambulance service.
Jasmin said in this case, everyone knew enough of the other language to communicate, and besides, once the critical moment had passed, it became irrelevant.
“We did speak in English once the emergency was controlled, so right now we're making it a language issue when the issue was taking care of the child immediately,” said Jasmin.
An internal investigation is being launched to determine whether politics trumped emergency care.
The girl has made a full recovery.