By Andrew Bailey
Language controversy in Canada is often associated with Québec, with the French stereotypically turning their noses up at anything English. This malaise is, however, a two-way street: Cornwall is a town of 46,000 in the East of Ontatrio, 120km Southwest of Montréal and 400km Northwest of Toronto. Since January, its Community Hospital has conformed to legislation that favours the hiring of bilingual workers (English and French) over those who only speak English. Considering that 27% of Cornwall’s residents are Francophone, and in theory deserve the same access to healthcare as Anglophones enjoy, one would expect this move to be welcomed.
However, this has not been the case. The mayor of South Stormont (the municipality within which the hospital lies), Bryan McGillis, has withheld his annual donation of $30,000 to the hospital, joining public outrage instigated by Doctor Danny Tombler. Dr. Tombler published a letter in The Standard Freeholder (a local newspaper) criticising the move, stating that Anglophone jobs were being lost at the expense of pandering towards a minority.
MP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry (Cornwall’s electoral district), Jim McDonell has distanced himself from the issue, stating that he would “keep tabs” on the situation, admitting that said situation was proving to be difficult to handle.
This unravelling situation raises the larger question at play: to what lengths should minorities be catered for? Considering that Eastern Ontario has a sizeable Francophone population, I would judge the move a justifiable one: Québec makes numerous provisions for its Anglophone residents. However the situation turns out, the polémique highlights the social and political problems that arise in a region where languages and cultures cross over.