In Canada, the senior citizens who visit the country from Punjab, India, under the Family Reunite Programme, are facing difficulties in availing emergency services. Due to them not knowing how to speak in English, the emergency service 911 operators are unable to send the required aid on time. As per a report issued by Statistic Canada, in the British Columbia province, out of the 3418 people who called on the 911 emergency service for the interpreter service, 923 people asked for an operator who speaks Punjabi.
As compared to 2020, this number is 2021 was 105% more. Last year, 67, 141 immigrants reached British Columbia, out of whom 20% were Punjabis. The British Columbia Government, in this matter, has said that when many non-English speaking senior citizens call on 911, they go silent, the operator keeps on asking for the problem, but does not receive a reply. Hence, the operator is unable to understand what help the caller needs. Even if the callers inform the operators about their location in English, help can be served.
Many cases wherein people, rather than calling on 011 in order to talk to somebody in New Delhi, the callers mistakenly dial 911, and when the operators trace their location and reach it, they simply say that they wanted to talk to somebody in New Delhi, and dialed 911 by mistake.
In the wake of this situation, the emergency services managers have appealed to the Punjabi families that they should teach their elders to speak words like ‘police’, ‘fire’, and ‘ambulance’ in English, along with teaching them words like the city’s name in English. And if they require help in Punjabi, they should at least say the word ‘Punjabi’, so that they can be quickly connected with a Punjabi-speaking operator.