To discriminate, or not to discriminate, that is the ultimate question. Some entities have silent policies of discrimination, and racial inequality. It is as much a known fact as the sky is blue. It’s just not quite as obvious.
Governmental discrimination is something Native people have dealt with for far too many years.
Pamela Stacey, a Mohawk from Kahnawake, is in the midst of fighting the government for her right to be recognized as a registered nurse.
Stacey currently works at the Montreal Children’s hospital, taking care of the workload of a fully accredited nurse, yet she doesn’t get paid nearly what she’s worth.
She graduated from John Abbott’s nursing program in 2002, and was immediately hired when she applied to the Children’s. She then went on to write the provincial nursing exam after having supplied all necessary documentation, as well as paying all required fees.
Upon receiving the letter that she had passed, she was also informed in the same letter that her high school French from Kahnawake Survival School was not good enough.
This meant that she would not be a registered nurse, despite all her hard work, and the completion of every required course.
Her only course of action was to either write the French exam, or apply for a restricted license. Applying for a restrictive license meant that all her hard work, and years of sacrifice would have meant nothing.
For Pamela Stacey, this was not an option.
“With that (restricted license) I’d be underpaid, and I’d be restricted to the reserve, where the experience is really limited. At the Children’s, I’m in the trauma surgical unit where I’m always learning something new everyday.”
Writing the French exam was not an option either. Having completed Level 1 Cegep French, Stacey felt that the French courses she took at Kahnawake survival school should not have been an issue.
But according to government officials, she should not have been allowed to take the nursing exam in the first place because she didn’t have the required French credits.
There are certain criteria that makes one exempt from taking the exam. If your mother tongue is French, or if you went to French immersion, or if you graduated after 1986 at a high school in Quebec, you’re exempt.
Since she graduated 12 years after 1986, she should be exempt no matter what the government thinks about her French language skills.
Stacey contacted the ombudsman in Quebec, Claude Belanger. Belanger is looking into what can be done about this particular case. At this point, getting Stacey’s college French accredited over and above her high school French should be enough to get her certification.
An answer from Quebec should be forthcoming, hopefully soon.
Stacey has also been in touch with the Mohawk council of Kahnawake, who is still looking into her case.
“The government always emphasizes the fact that we need to go ahead and make something of ourselves, and get an education, well I did that and now they’re telling me it’s not good enough.”