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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are French Language Services?
  2. Why Services are Required in French
  3. Who Provides Service in French?
  4. Testing and French Courses
  5. Other

1. What are French Language Services?

  • Mission The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is committed to providing French Language Services to the French-speaking community. French Language Services:
    • provides information and resources in French;
    • responds to issues of interest and concern;
    • focuses on the Active Offer of services in French;
    • increases staff awareness about needs of the French-speaking community;
    • collaborates with Francophone community representatives; and
    • facilitates changes to improve the quality of services provided.
  • Where are the services in French offered at the WRHA? Services are offered at a variety of facilities, programs, services and agencies of the WRHA covering primary care, community health services, tertiary care and long-term care. They are available in areas where the French-speaking population is concentrated, however they may also represent single site, or regional services. A full list of designated bilingual facilities, programs, services and agencies can be viewed here.
  • What does it mean to be a designated BILINGUAL facility, program, service or agency? It means they are required to provide key services in both official languages. The internal working language, however, is English. While not all services can be offered in French, those that are deemed essential will be. They follow and respect the Active Offer and the five WRHA French Language Service policies. Within these facilities, specific positions are designated as bilingual. Employees holding designated positions are required to actively offer services in French to their patients and clients. 
  • What does it mean to be a designated FRANCOPHONE facility? Francophone facilities provide all services in both official languages and their internal working language is French. Centre de santé Saint-Boniface and Foyer Valade are the two francophone facilities within the WRHA.
  • What is an Active Offer? It is an offer of services in French, ensuring that such services are evident, readily available, and easily accessible and of comparable quality to those offered in English. A few of the many elements of Active Offer include bilingual greetings – in person and by telephone, bilingual signage, staff wearing pins etc. identifying their bilingual status, and bilingual education materials, bilingual correspondence, bilingual websites, etc.

2. Why Services are Required in French

  • Is there a policy that requires service in French? The Official Languages Act of 1969 stated the federal government's commitment to promoting linguistic duality within Canada. In 1989 the Government of Manitoba established a French Language Services policy. The policy ensures that services provided by the Government of Manitoba are offered, to the extent possible, in both official languages in areas where the French speaking population is concentrated. In 1998 the seven bilingual RHAs of Manitoba were directed to complete French Language Services plans for submission to the Minister of Health and the Minister responsible for French Language Services. The WRHA has five specific policies by which services in French are offered in our region.  More information is available here and at www.ocol-clo.gc.ca
  • Don't all Francophones of Manitoba speak English? No. There are many who have little to no knowledge of English and require health care services in French. Even those who are fluent may prefer to receive their care in their mother tongue. This makes the interaction more comfortable for them and reduces the many risks associated with language barriers. It is a known fact that in stressful and frightening situations, or when someone is ill, or incapacitated, or as they age, the most basic communication skills (the ability to speak and understand) can suffer. This becomes even more pronounced when someone speaks more than one language. Under these circumstances there is a very strong instinct for him/her to revert to his/her first language. We also know that if a patient receives health care services in his/her mother tongue it can help facilitate a positive outcome. (For more information about health outcomes, see  Language Barriers within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Sarah Bowen, Ph.D., 2004)Winnipeg is also welcoming very high numbers of immigrants and refugees from French-speaking countries, many of whom do not speak English.

3. Who Provides Service in French? 

  • What is a designated bilingual position (DBP)? * [Note] It is a position that is filled by an employee who can communicate in both official languages and is able to adequately deliver comparable services in both.
  • What happens if my position becomes designated and I'm not bilingual? * [Note] Positions are designated bilingual only after a thorough review of needs. If you are working in a designated bilingual facility, program, service or agency your immediate supervisor would advise you of the change. The designation would only come into effect for the next incumbent to the position, when you choose to vacate the position. The designation would not affect your status at all. You will not be required to transfer or to learn French.
  • Do designated positions automatically go to bilingual people? No. The successful incumbent must meet all clinical and professional job requirements, plus the bilingual requirement. Candidates must undergo language testing to determine their ability to function effectively in French.  In exceptional cases the positions can be awarded, usually on a term basis, to non-bilingual incumbents.  Bilingual persons filling designated positions do not receive salary premiums.
  • How do we know who the designated bilingual employees are? Designated bilingual employees have been asked to wear either a green Bonjour/Hello pin or badge pull. Some may also wear a green Bonjour/Hello bracelet.  These items are being promoted to the general public as identifiers of staff capable of offering service in French.  
  • Do designated bilingual employees have to translate and do interpretations? No. French Language Services manages the translation of written materials for the WRHA. You should never be asked nor should you volunteer to translate documents (education material, form letters, consent forms, etc.) intended for an external audience, nor any internal patient-related material. Translation is a highly skilled practice, requiring several years of post-secondary studies, and specialization by industry. French Language Services uses professional, accredited translators. Designated bilingual employees provide direct care to patients and clients in French. This is not the same role as interpreters who work as a neutral third party to facilitate oral communications between two people who do not share a common language. A few bilingual (French/English) employees in the WRHA have previously been identified to occasionally work as volunteer interpreters under very specific conditions. This practice is being phased out as the capacity to provide direct care in French within the designated facilities, programs, services and agencies is being built with the hiring of bilingual staff. The WRHA Language Access Interpreter services which employs trained health interpreters will still be needed at non-designated facilities.
  • I am bilingual working at a non-designated bilingual facility. Can I still provide services in French? Yes, if you feel confident in your ability to do so, however you are not obligated to provide service in French. Please keep in mind any limitations of your language skills and make your decision accordingly. Language Access should be contacted if you are unable to provide the required services to the patient/client in their language of choice.
  • Can I also wear a Bonjour/Hello pin? The pins have been distributed to designated bilingual employees who have an obligation to offer services in French. If you are not in a designated position, and you choose to wear this pin, your patients/clients will expect you to offer services in French.  If you wish to voluntarily accept this responsibility, contact French Language Services.

    * Some facilities use different terminology.  Francophone facilities do not designate positions.

    ** Does not apply to certain non-devolved facilities or funded agencies.

    *** The internal working language is French at Centre de santé Saint-Boniface and Actionmarguerite, due to their designated francophone status.

4. Testing and French Courses

  • Why do you test people? There are various levels of fluency in languages. Some people can communicate on a basic level in French in simple situations; others can communicate at extremely high levels in French in complex, stressful situations. Candidates are tested to ensure their level of French matches the needs required (linguistic profile) of the position. Some positions require higher levels of fluency than others.
  • I've been tested by the federal/provincial government. Can you use those results? No. Their testing system is not the same as the one used at the WRHA, which was developed specifically for use within a health care environment.
  • Can I be tested by the WRHA? Employees who have applied for designated bilingual positions have their French formally tested as part of the regular recruitment process. We understand that some employees have hesitated to apply for DBPs or to use French with their clients and patients because they are unsure of their linguistic abilities. FLS now offers INFORMAL FRENCH ASSESSMENTS. Any French-speaking employee of the WRHA who is not currently working in a designated bilingual position and has not been tested by FLS in the past can be assessed on their speaking and listening skills. This normally takes approximately 15 minutes. Employees will be assessed against the levels of proficiency currently used in the WRHA. To schedule your appointment call: Angèle Matyi at:  204-237-2889 or email amatyi@sbgh.mb.ca. We are located at St. Boniface Hospital in Room A1153.
  • Please note: These informal assessments are for your information and purposes only.  Results are confidential. If you ever chose to apply for a Designated Bilingual Position, you would be required to go through the formal testing process as required by the WRHA FLS Recruitment to Designated Bilingual Positions policy.
  • Can I take French courses? Two programs are available to employees for French Language Training. Program 1 is geared to full-time employees working in client/patient contact positions for designated bilingual or francophone facilities, programs, services or agencies. Program 2 offers French Language training to employees who don’t meet the criteria for Program 1. For more information please go to WRHA French Language Training link below.
  • I hear some people HAVE to take French courses. Why? ** [Note] Some employees hired into designated bilingual positions do not have the full fluency required of the position, at their time of hiring. If they have an intermediate level of French, they can be hired, if they agree to attend language upgrading classes until they meet the required level.

    * Some facilities use different terminology.  Francophone facilities do not designate positions.

    ** Does not apply to certain non-devolved facilities or funded agencies.

    *** The internal working language is French at Centre de santé Saint-Boniface and Actionmarguerite, due to their designated francophone status.

5. Other

  • I feel excluded when people talk French around me. The working language of the WRHA is English *** [Note] However, it is very difficult to function in a second language when you are surrounded by English all the time.  Employees in designated positions often need to create situations to use their French to keep their language skills sharp. They are encouraged to do so as long as it does not exclude their colleagues within the normal course of their work, i.e. side conversations during staff meetings, etc.
  • Why all the emphasis on French when there are so many other patients and clients that speak other languages? English and French are the two official languages of Canada and as such have special status when it comes to government services. The WRHA acknowledges that many other languages are requested or needed to provide appropriate health care services to clients/patients from other language constituencies. In recognition of these needs, other language services are provided within the Winnipeg Health Region by the WRHA Aboriginal Health Program, Kivalliq Inuit Services, WRHA Language Access, and E-Quality Communication Centre of Excellence (provides ASL/English Interpreter services and intervenors for persons who are Deaf-Blind). For more information, visit the WRHA Aboriginal Health program and WRHA Language Access websites.
  • Why is this FAQ only in English? The working language of the WRHA is English *** [Note] and as such, general internal documents produced for WRHA staff are always in English. 
  • I still have questions about all of this, what do I do? You may wish to speak to your supervisor for additional information. You can also check out the FLS website. All five FLS policies are posted and reading these may answer your questions. If you still require information, please send us an email at: flsfeedback-retroactionSLF@sbgh.mb.ca.

    * Some facilities use different terminology.  Francophone facilities do not designate positions.

    ** Does not apply to certain non-devolved facilities or funded agencies.

    *** The internal working language is French at Centre de santé Saint-Boniface and Actionmarguerite, due to their designated francophone status.
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