A Quebec couple has lodged a complaint with the province’s ambulance service after they say a paramedic refused to speak to them in English as their daughter suffered a seizure.

Last weekend, Mark Bergeron and Stephanie Hansen of Vaudreuil, just outside Montreal, called an ambulance for their two-year-old daughter Ella, who was convulsing and unresponsive with a febrile seizure. Children can have these types of seizures when they develop a fever and their body temperature rises quickly.

“Her eyes were closed, she was unconscious,” Bergeron told CTV Montreal. “She wasn’t responding to anything (the paramedics) were doing.”

Bergeron is bilingual, but began having trouble understanding medical terms the paramedics were using in French, and so asked if they could all switch to English.

“With a lot of hostility in his voice he basically said to me, ‘No, moi je parle francais,’ meaning that I had to address him in the language that he was comfortable with in this situation, which in my opinion was absolutely unacceptable,” Bergeron said.

Hansen said the exchange made a difficult situation worse.

“I was mad. I as mad, I didn’t know what to do,” Hansen said. “If he can’t understand us, then where does this take us? Her life is in jeopardy, this is an emergency situation.”

Hansen said the she was also frightened by the fact that either the paramedic could not speak English, or was not willing to speak English.

“Honestly, I hope he’s fired,” she said.

CETAM, the ambulance service, has opened an internal investigation into the matter.

Bergeron said he was told that the province does not have a law requiring paramedics to be bilingual.

CETAM spokesperson Patrick Jasmin said in this case, all parties knew enough of both languages to effectively communicate about Ella’s condition. And once the child was stabilized and en route to the hospital, the parents and the paramedics all spoke in English, he said.

“So right now, we’re making it a language issue when the issue was taking care of the child immediately,” Jasmin said.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Aphrodite Salas