How dare these linguistic wreckers think they can subvert the official language laws by speaking another language to each other?
Two Montreal hospital workers of Haitian origin who sometimes speak to each other in Creole — and not exclusively in French — have raised the ire of the Office québécois de la langue française.
On Dec. 3, the OQLF warned the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, an 88-bed psychiatric facility, to take action after an employee of the hospital complained to the French-language watchdog about the two workers.
The hospital was given until Dec. 20 to respond or face an investigation by an OQLF inspector and a fine of as much as $20,000. The two employees in question do speak French, and there appears to be no evidence that they refused to speak to patients or co-workers in French. But on occasion, they engaged in private conversations in Creole while on lunch or during some shifts in the presence of colleagues and patients.
On Dec. 10, the east-end hospital held a meeting of all the employees in the department where the two Creole-speaking workers are assigned, and reminded everyone that French is the official language of the workplace in Quebec, not Creole.
The Charter of the French Language, adopted in 1977, states that French is the sole official language of Quebec. What’s more, the charter enshrines the right of every Quebecer to be served in French, and that “workers have a right to carry on their activities in French.”
However, the law does not prohibit workers in the public sector from engaging in a private conversation other than French while on the job.
Even if a conversation between two public-sector employees “is related to work,” they can still speak in another language as long as their exchange does not involve colleagues who don’t understand what they’re saying, Le Blanc explained.
Gagnon, who is also the hospital’s liaison with the OQLF, said the government agency did not provide her with the precise circumstances of the complaint.
“We’re in a very difficult position,” she added. “It’s a very particular situation, because we don’t know the name of the person who made the complaint, we don’t know the circumstances, we don’t know the moment that the employees spoke to each other in Creole, but we have an obligation to act because we received a (letter) from the Office.