The paramedic situation today is frustrating in lots of ways but more so , it is down right dangerous. It seems surreal that we have ambulances shut down in areas of the province, to hear stories about ambulances too late on arriving and to hear about accusations where people had died waiting too long for ambulance service.
For anyone in the English speaking community it’s frustrating because we know that language is playing a negative part in this. We know that the percentage of Francophones in the English areas of the province are very low and yet we hear that ambulances are parked because there is no one available who speaks French. The ambulances have access to a translation process but due to a court ruling it is deemed illegal to use. So let’s look at how these laws and policies came about and why government is paralyzed to do anything about it despite the danger to the public.
First, understand that the judicial system is a very flawed system. Judges are supposed to be balanced in their approach to law but judges are human. They have their own experiences and biases which can easily seep into their rulings.
Language laws hold a very emotional connection to Francophones. They have lobbied and maneuvered hard over the past 50 years to steadily strengthen these laws and build them up to where they are today. Most language cases today are heard by French judges. There are a number of reasons for that. Generally the plaintiff is French speaking in these language cases and English speaking judges are eliminated. So there is always the possibility of an unprovable bias.
One of the landmark cases in language law for us in Canada is in R verses Beaulac. This was the case of a man who demanded to have a trial by judge and jury who understood both French and English. This ended up before the Supreme Court. One of the judges involved was M. Bastarache, a New Brunswick Francophone. He heard this case and his ruling has been deemed to be the ultimate view on language law. Here is what his ruling dictates about language:
* Any judge ruling on a language question must interpret the case in such a way as to favour the minority
“ Interpretation of a Charter
language provision should
ideally be guided by that
which will most effectively
encourage the flourishing and
preservation of the French
language minority in the
* Any ruling in the future should take into consideration any past injustice to the minority
“ Rulings should be remedial,
in recognition of previous
injustices that have gone
So what has occurred in the court over the past number of decades is that a “built in”positive bias toward Francophones has been designed on matters pertaining to language.
The court is making language law decisions , not just based on the merit of the case but under the weight of a predetermined attitude that they are hearing from someone that has suffered injustice at the hands of Anglos.
All language cases now and in the foreseeable future are handled in this way. A stacked deck for sure.
Back to the translation devices. The basis for this restriction on the use of translation devices is from a court case “Doucett verses Canada”. The judge in this case was E . Blanchard , a Francophone who was a former minister in the McKenna government. In this case Blanchard’s primary task was to rule on separate matter and in his ruling he commented on the use of mobile telephones for translating. His statement was simply an aside to say that the use of telephones would not meet the intent of the constitution. No explanation, nothing but that has become the corner stone of “ no translation devices”.
The Francophone activists are in the midst of a strong push to modify the Canadian Official Languages Act which will tighten the noose a little tighter around the collective necks of the apathetic Anglo community. Part of the initiative is to legislate that all Supreme Court judges must be bilingual.
Another advantage that has been offered to our friends of the Francophone community and that is a government program called the Court Challenges Program, a multi million dollar funding program for NB Francophones (and not available to NB Anglophones) that funds their court costs.
So, I’m sorry to point out such a negative picture of where we are. It’s necessary for us to face the reality of an present situation. For most Anglophones, it is really like having cancer before the symptoms start. The majority of Anglophones have no idea the extent of the excrement they are standing in.
Not all is gloom and doom though. We have made big strides in the political arena where we do have the advantage of numbers but that depends on smart informed voting. Anglos are very fearful of speaking out for a number of reasons today but give them the safety of the voting booth and there will be change.