The Quebec government’s proposed reform of the health system would “jeopardize” access to medical services in English, charges a new petition tabled in the National Assembly on Friday by Westmount—Saint-Louis MNA Jennifer Maccarone.
With the Coalition Avenir Québec government likely next month to invoke closure in the National Assembly to get the legislative reform known as Bill 15 adopted, the petition is urging the government instead to hold more public consultations.
The online petition states that “Bill 15 would centralize management of health and social services under the new Santé Québec agency to which all 30 heads of the regional authorities would report, abolishing the boards of all local institutions and removing any management role from patients, volunteers and communities.”
What’s more, the petition adds, “Bill 15 would jeopardize access programs guaranteeing adequate health and social services in English and jeopardize the status of bilingual institutions.”
“I am very worried about the (Bill 15’s) impact on a riding like Westmount—Saint-Louis because we do have a regional specification, we do have a high number of anglophones and allophones,” Maccarone told the Montreal Gazette.
Maccarone and other local leaders will attend a town hall at Dawson College on Nov. 29 to discuss Bill 15 and listen to the concerns of citizens.
Eva Ludvig, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, expressed consternation about the further erosion of minority language rights in the province under Bill 15.
“Whether in education or in health care, the government has demonstrated a penchant for centralizing power and control,” Ludvig said in a statement. “We urge Quebecers to pay attention and speak out before this steamroller of a bill becomes law.”
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The petition, which has a Dec. 3 deadline, is the second the Quebec Liberal opposition has tabled in the National Assembly in the last two weeks. On Nov. 3, Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy tabled a petition urging the CAQ government to reverse plans to double tuition fees for out-of-province students — a move that anglo leaders say would hurt McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s universities.
As for Bill 15, the QCGN noted the potential harm of the reform to so-called access programs that ensure health care in English not only in Montreal but in regions all over the province.
“Greater centralization (under Bill 15) will also negatively affect the management of minority-language access to services … as local committees in charge of English-language access programs will be replaced by a central body, far removed from individual communities,” the QCGN explained in a news release.
“The fact that the specificity that we received from our (local health authority or CIUSSS) will no longer exist or the impact that it’s going to have on users … is of great concern to many of my citizens,” Maccarone said.
The Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) was the first to sound the alarm last June that Bill 15 would weaken English-language access programs. At present, these programs are maintained and updated with input from the anglophone community, pointed out Jennifer Johnson, executive director of the CHSSN.
But Bill 15 would deprive the community of that input and let Santé Québec decide solely what’s good for anglophones, Johnson said.
Bill 15 has also been condemned by patient-rights groups, unions and in a rare sortie, by six former Quebec premiers in an open letter they penned last month.
Antoine de la Durantaye, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé’s press attaché, disputed the assertions in the petition.
“We disagree with what is stated in the petition,” he said. “In our view, Bill 15 represents the status quo compared to the current situation.”
Dubé has previously defended Bill 15 as an overhaul to make Quebec’s $59-billion-a-year health system more efficient, and he said the government has amended the bill to address the worries of patient-rights representatives.
The Bill 15 petition can be found on the National Assembly’s website.