Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, September 02, 2016

Quebec's Eternal Language Wars

"I want to practise here. I love this country. I'm attached to Montreal."
"My wife is Quebecois and francophone ... but I am not good enough according to the Office [Office Quebecois de la langue francaise/OQLF]."
Amer Omar, 37, Egyptian-born ophthalmologist/Canadian citizen

"How do you expect him [Amer Omar] to truly treat his patients properly without knowing how and when you use an accent circonflexe?"
"Tell him to move to northern New Brunswick ... oh wait ... no, they only accept French-speaking medical staff here, too."
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"It seems to me a little bit draconian that they [OQLF] would go to suspension."
"It would be too bad to lose such a [medical] talent to another province."
James Shea, president, Quebec Community Groups Network
Greg Henkenhaf/Postmedia News

"But there's also a reasonable [sized] English population in Montreal who need to see psychiatrists. I definitely didn't have a shortage of patients, or have any difficulty serving the population that came to the hospital." 
"To me it almost didn't seem worth the effort. The amount of work I would have had to put in to pass would have interfered with my ability to do my job [as a medical practitioner in Quebec]."
Dr. James Ross, Toronto psychiatrist
Dr. Ross meant to practise psychiatry in Quebec. He had attended McGill, worked at an anxiety disorder clinic at a hospital in Montreal, because he did his residency in psychiatry at McGill though he was originally a Toronto native. But to qualify to practise in Quebec medical practitioners require not only a provincial medical license recognizing their professional qualifications, but they also must pass a stringent language test to demonstrate their proficiency in the French language.

Dr. Ross wrote that exam on two occasions and on two occasions he failed the test. He passed the comprehension element but, he pointed out, his examiners appeared obsessed with grammar -- gender agreements, correct noun tenses, and other finicky little details. That he was fully capable of producing good medical assessments in French, and treated many of his patients using his French language skills failed to impress the OQLF examiners.

And he, in turn failed to be impressed with their priorities. After having made the attempt to qualify for the French test, he simply felt it wasn't worth time and effort to keep working at it to satisfy those examiners' entitled sense of judging on a thin thread of language bias that the province could do without the professional expertise of Dr. Ross. So he returned the compliment, moving back to Ontario in 2012 to take up work as a staff psychiatrist at Victoria Hospital in London.

The braub-constricted, mean-prioritized little minds are at it again. And this time really more than ever doing all they can to deprive Quebecers of an impeccable source of invaluable expertise. The sole specialist in hereditary retinal disease practising in Quebec has failed to satisfy the petty language demands of a resentful-of-English bureaucracy. Dr. Amer Omar's temporary permit enabling him to practise in Quebec has been revoked.

The permit was granted the 37-year-old doctor who has been a citizen of Canada for 15 years, on condition that he pass the French test. That temporary permit is now expired. And so, without a doubt, must be Dr. Omar's patience. This is a highly respected health professional, co-author of important scientific studies such as one titled "novel insights into the molecular pathogenesis of CYP4V2-associated Bietti's retinal dystrophy".

The examiners are decidedly not moved by this man's medical-scientific credentials; they are fixated on the unforgivable fact that in his French test he was guilty of too many errors in syntax. Moreover, asked to compose and write 200 words on a topic, he managed to write a mere 190. This man's first language is Arabic, but he is fully bilingual; Arabic/English with a "professional working proficiency" in French. He performed creditably on the oral portion of the test.

The writing segment of the test is what failed him time and again. In fact, fully one dozen times he failed to pass the writing section. His last effort gave him a sobering score of 36 percent. A three-month period must elapse before he will be permitted to try the test again, in hopes of passing, at which point "he can obtain a regular permit to practise", according to a spokeswoman for Quebec's College of Physicians.

The good doctor himself is amazed at the power vested in the language agency, enabling them to overrule those of the licensing college for physicians. And he is rather upset at leaving his patients "orphaned" of his ongoing medical care. This leaves a credentialed medical specialist who is a consultant ophthalmologist at the Montreal Retina Institute specializing in retinal and macular degeneration without the capacity to share his expertise with those who need it most.

This is so typical of the picayune-minded pathology of Quebec's defense of the French language in its cultural definition as a sacred trust, leading it repeatedly to embark on absurd missions to ensure that English or any other upstart language does not creep into public discourse, that the province and its watchdogs never fail to metaphorically and realistically shoot themselves in their language-bunioned feet.

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