07/16/2015 06:00 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT

Montreal man refused service at Verdun Hospital for speaking English

A Montreal man says he never expected his visit to a local hospital to turn into a battle over language.

Praveen Albuquerque went to Verdun Hospital on Wednesday to get a hospital card.

He told CBC that although he's perfectly bilingual, he chose to speak to the administrative clerk in English.

"At that point she said to me in a very unpleasant manner, 'En francais s'il vous plaît.' I speak French perfectly but when it comes to medical things, I prefer to speak in English so that everything is clear," Albuquerque  said.

He told the clerk he would continue to address her in English.

"She kind of got very agitated, and she said, 'No, this is Quebec and you will speak to me in French.'"

Patients' rights advocate Paul Brunet said that, legally, all Quebecers are entitled to emergency medical services in English and French — but there's a grey zone when it comes to non-emergencies or administrative issues.

"It depends on the availability of personnel or willingness of the administration," said Brunet, head of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients.

Albuquerque, who ultimately got his hospital card, said he would like the government to guarantee access to health-care services in English at all times.

"I do believe very strongly that anglophones should not be some sort of second-class status... Whether I'm an immigrant, whether I was born here, if my language is English, that is my right."

A spokesperson for the hospital told CBC that any patient is entitled to be served in English, and if patients encounter a language issue, they should file a complaint.