Quebec Health Minister promises solutions for anglophone community

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says he and his officials are working with anglophone groups to address the community's concerns over his massive health reform. He says a solution is imminent to relieve their worries.

Gaétan Barrette says he’s aware anglophone-rights groups fear loss of service, control over hospitals

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette tabled Bill 10 in September as a measure to cut down on bureaucracy and save the province roughly $220M a year. (CBC)

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says he and his officials are working with anglophone groups to address the community's concerns over his massive health reform. He says a solution is imminent to relieve their worries.

Since the day the Barrette introduced his overhaul of the health care system, anglophone-rights groups decried the lack of protection for English-speakers and their health institutions, including hospitals, in the bill.

"I had meetings with them during the weekend with their representatives and things are going well. I would say that, I believe this week, we will have a final text to propose," Barrette said as he entered the committee room at the National Assembly.

The Health and Social Services Committee is reviewing and debating his controversial bill article by article.

Amendments proposed

So far, Barrette has proposed six amendments to Bill 10 to protect the bilingual status of health institutions and anglophone input on the new regional health boards. But organizations like the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) say the amendments do not go far enough.

On Friday, the QCGN Director-General said she still has concerns with the bill, despite the amendments tabled by the Minister of Health. Sylvia Martin-Laforge believes they do not go far enough to protect anglophone health institutions.

"Since (December) representatives from our community have been speaking to the minister's office about changes to these amendments. And the back and forth around the amendments hasn't given us confidence that our basic concerns can be taken care of," she said.

Martin-Laforge said concerns include anglophone communities maintaining management and control over their health institutions and upholding access to services for the English-speaking community.

Lack of anglophone influence?

Barrette also addressed the accusation that his bill is an example of how the English-speaking community has little influence in government, a notion echoed by Martin-Laforge and by the federal Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser.

“Bill 10 is not an example at all. I wouldn't say so. This is local administration. This is not government in and of itself to make this correlation to me is excessive,” Barrette said.

Bill may be delayed: Health Minister

Barrette hoped to have the bill in effect for April 1, but he now says that is too optimistic, given all the work still to be done. Barrette also accuses the opposition Parti Québécois of stalling the passage of the bill in committee.

PQ Health Critic Diane Lamarre denies that.

"The minister talks about making efforts, but in reality, we do not have answers to our questions," she said.


Ryan Hicks is in his final year as a law student at McGill University and is a former Quebec political correspondent for the CBC. In 2018, he won the Amnesty International Media Award for his reporting from Guatemala about the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.


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