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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Canada guide dog in language row
A guide dog being trained
At issue is whether a guide dog can be taught another language
A blind Canadian student barred from English classes because his guide dog only responds to commands in French has now been allowed to attend the course.

Francophone Yvan Tessier said he was "thrilled" the University of New Brunswick decided to let him attend the course with his black Labrador, Pavot.

"I look forward to joining my classmates," Mr Tessier, 39, said.

He said earlier that it would be too confusing to retrain the dog to respond to "stay" instead of "reste".

The University of New Brunswick has always insisted English must be the only language spoken during its five-week summer programme.

I knew that I'd have to speak English to people, but I thought I could speak French to my guide dog
Yvan Tessier
But it had to reverse its previous ban on Mr Tessier's attendance after coming under strong public pressure over the extremely sensitive issue in the country which is officially bilingual.

Mr Tessier - who lives in Quebec - also warned earlier he would bring a claim for discrimination against the university.

Language minefield

He said he was entirely dependent on his dog and was worried that trying to teach him English commands could be confusing and even dangerous.

"My dog is my eyes, my autonomy, and my independence," he told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

"He represents everything to me. I knew that I'd have to speak English to people. But I thought I could speak French to my guide dog."

Commentators say Pavot's ability to understand just one language throws the spotlight on the minefield of Canada's linguistic legislation which aims to guarantee the status of both English and French.

The issue of language is also intricately tied to the perpetually thorny issue of separation of the French-speaking province of Quebec from Canada.

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