An effective health care system generates an active supply of health care providers, and active supply in turn generates active demand from patients or users of health care services.
Thanks to provincial laws in Ontario, we have the right, as Francophones, to use the French language in :
- Legislative and governmental institutions
- Government or para-governmental agencies
that are publicly funded and designated by regulation as providers of French language services (hospitals, children’s aid societies, community agencies, homes for the aged).
Active demand means informing service providers and health professionals of your desire to receive services in French. It is also about making your right to receive services in the language of your choice known to the head office of an organization. For example, choosing the French option on a call or identifying yourself as a Francophone or French-speaking person on registration documents allows your interlocutor to know that you wish to be served in French.
Why ask for health services in French?
The health care system advocates a patient-centred approach. And there are many bilingual resources among health care providers who are eager to use their language skills. The active demand motivates health agencies to recognize that the need for French language services is real. Culture (including language) is one of the 12 recognized determinants of health.
Research has shown that difficulties in communicating effectively with a health care professional *:
- Create barriers to access to care;
- Affects confidence in the quality of services received ;
- Decrease the likelihood of adequate follow-up.
In cases of serious illness or sensitive situations, the ability to express oneself in one’s own language is of paramount importance (importance of context).
Bilingualism is not just about having two languages available equally at all times: it is about being able to obtain care of equivalent quality to services in English.
Effective communication is an essential component of safe, quality health care.
Anderson et al, Culturally competent Healthcare System – A systematic review, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2003 + other research.
Who can request services in French?
Any person who wishes to do so may apply for services in French, even if French is not their first language. This right is not restricted to Francophones whose first language is French. In Ontario, the French Language Services Act gives citizens the right to receive services in French from the provincial government, particularly in designated regions.
In Ontario, an inclusive definition of Francophone (FID) was adopted in 2009. It recognizes people for whom French is the language of instruction and people for whom French is a third or fourth language.
Where can I expect to receive services in French?
- Hospital settings
- Community Support Services
- Mental Health and Addiction Agencies – for children, youth and adults
- Community health centres
- Children’s Aid Societies
- Long-term care homes
- Ontario Disability Support Program, etc.
How to request services in French?
- Indicate that you prefer to receive services in French as soon as possible.
- Ask for an interpreter, if necessary.
- Encourage and recognize health care organizations and professionals who make efforts to provide services in French.
- Support us if your region or an organization wishes to be designated or identified.
In the event of non-compliance with the French Language Services Act
As Francophones, when our language rights are not respected, when we cannot deal with departments and agencies in designated regions, we have the right to complain. This fee applies to anyone in Ontario, whether a resident, newcomer or transient. Generally speaking, since laws give us the right to services in French, we also have access to complaint mechanisms when these rights are not respected.
The Ombudsman can receive complaints about more than 1,000 government and public sector organizations in Ontario on issues related to children and youth in care and French language services in Ontario. The Office of the Ombudsman has a French Language Services Commissioner. The Ombudsman’s mandate and investigative powers make him responsible for ensuring that the rights of Ontarians and the obligations of government agencies are respected in relation to the French Language Services Act.
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