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McGill Reporter
March 11, 2004 - Volume 36 Number 12
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Letter

In your February 19, 2004, issue, you had published a letter entitled "The broken promise" received by Dr. J. Archibald, director of McGill Translation Studies, from Mr. M.D. Gomez, an Argentinian engineer who is not allowed to work in his profession in Quebec because his French is inadequate after 200 hours of instruction. In the Quebec Government Office in Buenos Aires, he had been promised 1,000 hours. I wonder whether he had been given that promise in writing?

Mr. Gomez is not the first nor, I suspect, the last immigrant to Canada to have been misled by grandiloquent provincial or federal immigration officials. An aunt of mine had been a dentist in Poland. After the War she found herself a political refugee in Belgium. She spoke very good French but no English. She thought of emigrating to the French-speaking part of Canada called Quebec.

"Profession?" she was asked by the (federal) immigration officer in Brussels. Dentist. "Oh, Madame! Soyez la bienvenue! Nous avons besoin de dentistes au Canada!"

My aunt was very happy to hear that. When she arrived, however, she was told that to validate her foreign degree she would have to take a course in dentistry at a Canadian university and a qualifying exam. This is the standard requirement in most countries. Fine. She would enroll at l'Université de Montréal. At l'Université de Montréal she was told, however, that, yes, the courses would be given in French, but she would have to know enough English to use English-language textbooks. At a certain age it is very difficult to learn a new language.

My aunt went to see a lawyer. "Did the immigration officer in Brussels give you a promise in writing that you would be permitted to practice dentistry in Canada?"

"No, he just said so."

"Sorry, Madame. I can do nothing for you. If he had given it to you in writing you could have sued Immigration Canada for giving you false information."

Jan Weryho
Islamic Studies Cataloguing Librarian (retired)

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