News for the English-Only Crowd

October 10, 2007

Joey Vento, Hero of the English-Only CrowdTired of having to “press 1 for English” on voice menus? Do signs en Español irritate you? Was Joey Vento of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia your personal hero when he posted a sign in one of his restaurant windows, reading: “This is America. When ordering, speak English.”? The province of Québec has been so kind as to show us where this primrose path leads.

Dentist Mahmoud Raisi, Out of Luck in QuebecConsider the case of Dr. Mahmoud Raisi, an Iranian immigrant and dentist who’s been practicing in Aylmer, PQ for more than four years. He has over 2,000 clients and speaks fluent French, English, Spanish and Persian. But this isn’t good enough for the Quebeckers.

While Canada has two official languages (English and French), Québec’s “Charter of the French Language” requires persons born out-of-province and practicing in 45 professions — including dentists, acupuncturists, engineers, geologists, midwives, social workers and urban planners — to pass both written and oral French language proficiency tests in four or less attempts. While Dr. Raisi scored 95 percent for his oral French, he only scored 50 percent out of a required 60 percent on a written French test. The Québec College of Dentists won’t renew Dr. Raisi’s temporary license, he can’t get malpractice insurance, his patients were reassigned to other dentists, and he’s thinking of leaving the province. Dr. Raisi, who previously practiced in Ontario, told CBC News: “I’m not the first one [and] I won’t be the last one to leave Quebec because of the language…But if that’s the way to…protect the French language, then all the best for them.” Québec suffers from a shortage of health-care professionals.

Jean Faullem, Dr. Raisi’s attorney, was unable to obtain a temporary injunction in Quebec Superior Court last month that would have allowed the dentist to continue practicing. Faullem argued that provisions in the Charter of the French Language which require French fluency testing for some professionals violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it treats people educated in French in Québec differently from other people. One lawyer interviewed by CTV, Brent Tyler, termed the French proficiency tests “hopelessly unconstitutional.”

Philly CheesesteakThe last we heard of Joey Vento, Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations alleged that his English-only ordering policy violated Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, public accommodation and employment. The Commission’s acting executive director, Rachel Lawton, said: “It’s discouraging patronage by non-English speaking customers because of their national origin or ancestry.” Philly cheesesteak, anyone?

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Photo credits: Peter Tobia / Philadelphia Inquirer and

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