Urgences Santé promotes safety for all on French only website, Twitter

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For quite some time I have been pushing the issue of language on signs, websites and social media within the public safety departments and agencies in the Quebec government as well as in the City of Montreal.
Recently, I noticed that Urgences Santé (the provincially mandated Montreal and Laval ambulance service, where I worked as an ambulance technician for 18 years) launched a new website and has taken to Tweeting. This is terrific and to be commended.
A major problem that I’ve discovered though, is that their new site doesn’t have a word of English. Rien de tout. Quite incredible for a major emergency operation serving over a million people, many of whom are English-speaking.
Furthermore, Urgences Santé policy, similar to the Quebec Police Force (SQ), is to tweet in French only, unless they consider the situation to be an emergency. There is a fundamental problem with this misguided policy when they consider an emergency situation message as being appropriate to be conveyed in both languages however messages promoting public safety (and not an immediate emergency) cannot be in English. This is plain wrong. It is dangerous.
In responding to my request for them to tweet in English Urgences Santé cites Bill 101. However, the Charter of the French Language, Section 22, allows for use of another language when it comes to “health and public safety”.
Therefore, once again, this public body, whose mandate is indeed health and public safety, refuses to communicate in a language other than French, for the purpose of educating the public in matters of health and safety. This makes no sense. It is a dangerous practice and a narrow view of the language law.
Of course, the reach of the Charter into social and digital media is in and of itself questionable as to jurisdiction but we’ll leave that argument aside for now.
Emergency medical services and public safety matters are very important to me. So too is the notion of the Quebec Government showing respect to the English-speaking population.
In the last months I have communicated with the communication policy at Urgences Santé, Transports Quebec, Hydro Quebec and the Quebec Police Force. All these agencies hide behind a very narrow interpretation of the French language charter. This must change. I have called upon D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum to help in these matters and appreciate whatever assistance he will bring to these issues with the goal of attaining more effective safety-related communications for Quebecers of both language groups.

Birnbaum to look into SQ tweet language issue

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Suburban Newspaper | Oct. 1, 2014 | Click to enlarge

Suburban Newspaper | Oct. 1, 2014 | Click to enlarge

Thank you to our MNA David Birnbaum for taking an interest in this issue. David has taken up the cause of a few emergency services issues very quickly in his mandate out of concern for our residents. His keen interest and quick action is appreciated.

Contrary to what the SQ has stated, Bill 101 does not prohibit English when it comes to public safety as the Montreal Police Department has correctly determined, in large part, in its use of social media. Indeed, there is some question as to whether or not Bill 101 has any jurisdiction at all over the use of Internet communications. Nevertheless, the provincial police has a mandate and duty to communicate, and logically to be understood, by residents of Quebec and visitors to our province. Tweeting in French only is a misinterpretation of their requirements to communicate effectively.

I will follow this dossier closely and next will encourage David to investigate why Transport Quebec is using the same narrow rulebook to exclude any English public safety messages from its enormous digital billboards on autoroutes across Quebec.

Letter: No one should blame police for the unfortunate death of man at centre of standoff

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Re: “Côte-St-Luc man, 71, arrested in standoff dies” (Gazette, Aug. 20)

It is very unfortunate that Isidore Havis, the man at the centre of the Côte-St-Luc standoff, has passed away, but the police should not be chastised or held accountable for the unfortunate ending.

The authorities did everything in their power and under the circumstances to try get the man to surrender peacefully and without harm, all to no avail. Such a standoff should have taken no more than a few hours to be resolved, yet they waited patiently for nearly 20 hours.

The police may not be perfect, yet every day they put themselves in harm’s way to protect honest, law-abiding citizens and suffer casualties to themselves and their property. They, too, are human and should be given more credit than condemnation. They tried their best to resolve the standoff in order to avert loss of life.

Daniel Evans


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

In my opinion:

As I wrote on my blog a few weeks ago I believe the police did a superb job in this case, acting with calm, cool professionalism seeking to bring about a peaceful resolution. They were focused on public safety, on securing the neighbourhood, on ensuring the well-being of those in the immediate vicinity – police officers and residents alike – and presumably on the safety of the suspect as well.

I am well aware that our local PDQ9 Commander Bissonnette was on scene throughout the incident and his concern for the community is of primary importance.

Thank you to the Montreal and Quebec Provincial Police departments for their work and to their officers for putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe.

Please see my letter to the Montreal Gazette concerning the need for gun control.  I received many hateful and despicable responses to my letter from those who supposedly and erroneously proclaim a right to bear arms, presumably to defend the right to speak freely which they would seek to deny me. Fortunately, all of the feedback from Cote Saint-Lucers was most positive and supportive.

It is very unfortunate that Mr, Havis has died.  I extend my condolences to his family.

Aftermath of the standoff in CSL

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I was interviewed by CBC Radio One this afternoon about the 20 hour standoff between police and the armed 72 year old resident of Guelph Road near Blossom Ave. Listen at the link below:

Read and see full details