Happy 400th! A Health Promotion Way to Celebrate Ontario’s French Heritage

By Pascale Leclair-Roberts

On August 1st, we celebrated 400 years of French Ontario. On that very day in 1615, Samuel de Champlain began a long journey that took him and other French comrades along the Ottawa River and the deep woods of Ontario. Befriending the Huron-Wendat chief in Toanché (today known as Peneteguishene), Champlain was able to foster relationships with Aboriginal communities, implement and expand fur trade networks, and build small settlements for Francophones to call home.  

Four hundred years later, Francophones in Ontario have grown and spread out to all corners of the province. They make up about 4.8% of the province, about 611,500 people. Almost a quarter (23.4%) of Francophones live in Northeastern Ontario and one sixth (15.4%) in Eastern Ontario. Central, Southwestern and Northwestern regions have smaller Francophone population, representing between 2.1 and 3.4% of the total regional population.

Francophones in Ontario are therefore numerous and varied. Yet, they are misrepresented and underserved by the health sector. A report on the health and well-being of Francophones in Ontario states that Francophones self-report worse overall health statuses than the rest of Ontario’s population. In fact:

  • 74% of Franco-Ontarians have never or almost never received their hospital services in French.
  • 47% have never received their emergency services in French.
  • 59% have never had access to home care services in French, especially seniors.
  • 53% have never received mental health care services in French.
  • 77% have never received treatment for alcoholism in French.
  • 66% have never received treatment for drug and other addictions in French[1].

So what can health oriented organizations do? Celebrate 400 years of French heritage in Ontario by taking the first steps in offering French Language Services! Learn about the Francophone population in Ontario and those who live within your service area. Learn what their unique needs are and take simple steps that can improve their health status, while making your organization more inclusive towards minority groups. Health Nexus and HC Link offer various resources to help you learn about how to engage Francophones and offer French Language Services. The University of Moncton also created a wonderful tool kit in French called L’Offre Active, which has many awesome tips and tricks to offer French Language Services.

Becoming a bilingual organization is simpler than you think, and by doing so, you support and celebrate Ontario’s French heritage!

Check out resources on offering French Language Services:




[1] Fédération des Communautés Francophones et Acadienne. (2001). Pour un meilleur accès à des services de santé en français. Retrieved from : http://resosante.ca/fr/portraitreseau-52615/ressources-du-reseau/documen...