Lack of English social services driving Laval residents ‘over the bridge’

Huge opportunity to deliver mother-tongue services locally

By Lisa Baum
www.thesuburban.com

“Traditionally speaking, we have a tendency to go across the bridge into Montreal to get social services in English,” lamented Luigi Morabito, “but it’s a shame, when there are [such] great services in Laval.”

Morabito has been networking for years on behalf of the Youth and Parents AGAPE Association a charity that began looking out for the needs of Laval’s non-francophones in 1976. Since 2011, he has championed better access to those same services in Laval by joining forces with other organizations throughout Quebec.

On behalf of AGAPE, he organized a series of community round-table discussions that let the various organizations share their experience and find common ground on which to collaborate.

“The first forums helped to identify what individuals needed and establish what the priorities were,” Morabito told The Suburban in an interview. “We looked at everything from health care to access to social services.”

The forums culminated with the publication of a community portrait, earlier this year.

What they uncovered was a wellspring of failure to provide sufficient services in English in Laval.

So many people now travel to Montreal to get health and social services in English that local authorities in Laval have inadvertently concluded that there is little or no demand for English service here.

That might be why there are only 3.9 English-speaking health care professionals per 1,000 Laval residents, according to 2011 figures—compared with more than double that number—nearly nine per 1,000, in Montreal.

Now let’s do something about it

The last Laval round-table meeting wrapped up in September 2012 and now, as Morabito puts it, “the homework is done.”

The community portrait that it revealed portrays systemic communication barriers that can “reduce recourse to preventative services, increase consultation time, including the number of tests, and also lead to possible diagnostic and treatment errors.”

The study showed that the most egregious injustices are borne by Laval’s most vulnerable residents: One of the first abilities English-speaking dementia victims often lose is the ability to express themselves in French, for example—even if they once could speak French fluently.

Likewise, the deliberations revealed that Laval’s English-speaking special-needs youth are particularly at-risk. The report pointed out that this group has to deal with learning another language, even though learning difficulties are what they’re struggling with. Besides increasing the youngsters’ vulnerability, it can unnecessarily delay their development and socialization, the report declared.

Armed with their findings, the next step will be to bring the message to Laval and provincial health care authorities.

“These working groups will now be able to move forward productively to implement recommendations for improvements,” Morabito concluded, “so we can increase service to the English-speaking community.”

More round-table meetings are planned during the next six months.

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