Overview of French-language Services in Manitoba

Healthcare and Social Services

Historical background

French and English have been the two official languages of Canada since 1867, the year of Confederation. The importance of this linguistic duality is, moreover, recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which contains constitutional guarantees with respect to the status and use of the official languages.

The province of Manitoba was established in 1870 when Louis Riel, a bilingual Métis, signed the Manitoba Act, giving equal status to the French and English languages in the newly created province.

Shortly thereafter, in 1890, the Government of Manitoba passed the Official Language Act making English the only official language in the province. It took until 1979 for the Supreme Court of Canada to declare this act unconstitutional.

In 1969, Canada’s Parliament passed the Official Languages Act, which recognized the equal status of French and English. Its primary goal was to ensure that people had access to services from federal institutions in the official language of their choice. Twenty years later, the Act was amended to specify the rights of citizens with respect to the language in which services are provided, and also to state the government’s commitment to the promotion of the linguistic duality.

The French-language Services Journey

The roots of Santé en français in Manitoba began in 1989 when a French-language Services Policy was tabled in the provincial legislature. Regional health authorities were created in 1996 and Child and Family Services Authorities in 2003, both of which required the organizations to develop and submit French-language services plans.

The four regional health authorities (RHAs) that are designated bilingual, the four child and family services authorities and various social and health service delivery organizations are affected by the policy. Each is required to deliver a specified level of French-language services in accordance with the active offer concept. To learn more, consult our list of designated bilingual organizations.

In 2004, Santé en français was designated as the official representative of Francophone communities in Manitoba in the areas of health and social services by the Government of Manitoba. It currently works with the government to establish an official process for the designation of Francophone and bilingual health and social services institutions and programs to enhance access to these services in French.

In 2016, the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act was adopted unanimously by the Manitoba government. 

As part of Manitoba’s health system transformation, the government of Manitoba announced the creation of a new provincial health organization in the summer of 2017. In the spring of 2018, this new organization officially began its work under the name of Shared Health in English and Soins communs in French. To ensure that French-language services were part of its planning and that the organization be designated bilingual, Shared Health/Soins communs accepted to work with Santé en français and the Francophone Affairs Secretariat.

 ‘’Shared Health plans clinical and preventive services for delivery across the entire province, supported by centralized administrative functions that use human, capital and financial resources in the best way possible. We work collaboratively with regional health authorities, service delivery organizations and communities to ensure the health care needs of Manitobans are met compassionately, effectively and as close to home as possible.’’ www.sharedhealthmb.ca

 In 2018, Santé en français and its partners, Shared Health/Soins communs and the Francophone Affairs Secretariat, laid the groundwork for two projects funded by Société Santé en français (SSF) over a three-year period. These projects are “Integrating French-language services into the new Shared Health/Soins communs organization” and “Establishing a provincial strategy for bilingual human resources”. The overall objective of these projects is to improve access to French-Language services in the context of the health system transformation. A new two-year project began in 2021 to continue the work underway.  

Are you looking for social or health services in French?

Consult the Find Services section of this site. It is the most comprehensive directory on services available in French in the province.

The Find Services in French section is the result of a collaboration between the Société de la francophonie-manitobaine, Santé en français and many of its allies and partners.