'Historic English community:' Montrealers aren't certain they'll receive services in their language

MONTREAL - After the minister responsible for the French language warned earlier this week that all Quebecers, except the historic anglophone minority, had to receive government services in French, confusion reigned.

Who, specifically, was Simon-Jolin Barette referring to? Liberal MNA Carlos Leitao questioned how such people would be identified: would there be a secret password? A handshake? He asked.

Premier Francois Legault clarified on Tuesday: only those eligible to attend English school under Bill 101 would be allowed to receive government services -- including things like electricity bills-- in English.

Still, many anglophones and allophones are confused, and many are frustrated. They're unsure what language they'll have to use the next time they go to a hospital, or fill out a government form.

Helen Bashalani is bilingual. She went to a French school, and according to the government's proposed language rules, that would mean government employees would serve her in French.

She's worried about others in her situation who don't have as strong language skills in French and English.

"Those who are not bilingual will be at a disadvantage because getting services in a language they don't understand will handicap them in decisions they want to make," she said.

At a government office on Wednesday, several Montrealers said they were frustrated by the CAQ's rhetoric on language.

"My mother tongue is English, but in French, we have it hard a little bit. I don't want to lie to you," said one man..

"French and English live here, so it overspills like that, so why change?" said a woman.

The CAQ's announcement comes at a time when English-speakers feel like their services are being taken away. At the McGill University Health Centre, the number of complaints from patients unable to get assistance in English has spiked.

Wojchiech Kulcyzk has lived in the province for more than 40 years. Now, he said he's worried he might have English services denied.

"I don't know how it's going to affect me," he said. "I'm worried they're going to deny it. I'm going to go to hospitals, and they're going to tell me all the papers have to be in French.  

With files from CTV Montreal's Rob Lurie