From the outset, the struggle to save the Hôpital Montfort takes a particular turn. There are, of course, the many Francophone organizations in Ottawa and the rest of Ontario who openly stand behind Montfort. But when support starts rolling in from other parts of the country, the full measure of what is happening becomes clear.
Against all odds, and against the advice of his own advisers, Quebec’s Premier Lucien Bouchard states that the closure of Montfort would cause “irreparable harm” to the Franco-Ontarian community. Jean Chrétien, Liberal Prime Minister of Canada, turns around and publicly expresses his support for Franco-Ontarians struggling to keep their hospital after first ordering his troops not to interfere in this provincial issue. Sheila Copps, Marcel Massé and other federal ministers also express their support. Claude Ryan, former leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, and Claude Castonguay, father of Quebec’s health insurance system, then do likewise. Even hockey player Guy Lafleur signs the S.O.S. Montfort petition.
A few weeks after the big March 22 rally, in the midst of a federal election campaign, Toronto’s influential daily The Globe and Mail publishes a hard-hitting editorial, calling upon the Restructuring Commission to reverse its decision.
The judgment is a clear one. The benefits to be gained, in terms of the well-being of francophone patients anxious about limited bilingual service, the protection of minority rights, the French-language education and training of doctors and support staff, and the peace of mind on the national-unity scene now that Quebec politicians have weighed in on the Montfort question, far outweigh the costs.1
Obviously, the Montfort issue is no longer limited to Ottawa, the National Capital Region or even Ontario. It has taken on a pan-Canadian dimension.
1 “French-language hospital is worth preserving,” The Globe and Mail, May 26, 1997, A16.