A gap that no bridge can span

Laval lacks services in English for surging non-francophone population

By Geneviève April

Laval residents still have to cross bridges to get services in English, especially when it comes to health services.

Despite reaching for nearly 40 per cent of Laval’s population in the 2011 census, non-francophones don’t have access to all the services and activities in English that they have a legal right to expect. Health and respite services, leisure groups, senior activities and municipal services are routinely offered in French without any English counterpart.

Consequently, the immediate future looks a little grim on that front. During the autumn municipal electoral campaign, the lack of English services in Laval was rarely discussed. When The Suburban asked several newly elected councilors what they would do to improve service in English, they replied that they were unaware that the problem existed.

With the Société St..Jean Baptiste crying wolf over what it calls “francophobia” in Quebec, one can’t help but wonder if it won’t have a negative side effect, derailing what few efforts the city and the Parti québécois governments have made to develop new programs and services in English.

Credit must go where it is due: A small ray of light and hope can be glimpsed in some of the constructive action that Laval’s regional health and social services authority (ASSS) has tried to initiate to provide for its underserved English-speaking. ASSS has introduced telephone services, front-line care and outreach in English. Its efforts to get to know the English community’s specific needs are among of few initiatives that have been put in place to offer English-speaking patients the full care that they are entitled to—in their own city.

The Laval Alzheimer Society also launched an English workshop for caregivers this year, a much needed support for those who often have a hard time communicating effectively in French, hence find the struggle to get vital information from healthcare personnel highly stressful.

Unfortunately, don’t expect to see municipal leisure activities, public library workshops, publicly funded senior groups or municipal web services fully translated and available in English in Laval tomorrow. Nonetheless, hard work and perseverance in at raising officials’ awareness ought to help: reminding them that Laval residents still have to go to Montreal to get essential services. It ought also to reduce considerable needless wear and tear on Quebec’s crumbling bridge and highway infrastructure!

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