French-Language Health Services in the Time of COVID-19:

A Story of Perseverance, Adaptation and Resilience

2020-2021 Annual Report

The screen of a videoconferencing application. Healthcare professionals and members of the Francophone community are taking part in the virtual meeting.
Logo of RSSFE

Our lives have been radically changed over the last months and we all had to pull together and demonstrate determination and solidarity. But the crisis has also shone a spotlight on how important it is for our community to have access to quality French-language health services. Despite the challenges to which the pandemic and the ongoing transformation of the health care system have given rise, the Réseau has continued its work to ensure Francophones have access to safe, equitable health services in their own language.

This is the spirit in which we invite you to explore our 2020‑2021 Annual Report.

Happy browsing!

An expecting mother is being vaccinated against COVID-19.

A Word from the Chair of the Board of Directors

I would like to open the 2020-2021 Annual Report by offering my sincerest condolences to all those who have lost a loved one over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the most important health crisis in over a century and many of us have had to mourn such a loss under exceedingly difficult circumstances.

COVID-19 has also laid bare the holes in our health care system, especially in the long-term care sector. Unfortunately, it must be acknowledged that the Francophone community was affected to a greater extent because of its status as a minority official-language community; the inability to access relevant information in French in real time, or the development of virtual health services available only in English are only a few examples. Similarly, some Francophones living in long-term care homes were particularly disadvantaged; deprived of visits by their natural caregivers, these vulnerable people found themselves completely isolated, unable to communicate in English with personal support workers.

Click for more

It is to prevent the recurrence of such totally unacceptable situations that the Réseau is continuing its work with renewed zeal.

True to our organizational aspiration of being an active partner in the transformation of the health care system1, we have continued our upstream activities with the Ministry of Health and the LHINs (Ontario Health), with the objective of minimizing negative impacts for the Francophone community. This was the spirit in which we conducted a number of follow-ups to the recommendations of the Regroupement des Entités de planification des services de santé en français de l’Ontario on the adoption of the new French Language Health Planning Entities regulation under the Connecting Care Act, 2019. In particular, we reminded the Minister of Health that in March 2020, she had undertaken to propose administrative tools to us in response to the issues raised by the Entities. As I write these lines, we have still not received a response.

On December 5, 2020, the six Entities had their mandate renewed for two years. This was both good news and bad news. On the one hand, we were delighted with the stability associated with this decision; on the other, we were disappointed to see that the mandate of the six Entities was unchanged and that the ongoing restructuring of the health care system had not resulted in a realignment of the Entities’ catchment areas with Ontario Health’s five regions. This was a missed opportunity to integrate a Francophone perspective early on in the transformation, rather than making adjustments after the fact.

This is all the more regrettable in view of the proactive work done on this issue by the Regroupement des Entités. Nevertheless, despite this setback, the Réseau continues to collaborate with the other Entities on the creation of a provincial Entity analogous to Ontario Health.

Finally, at this moment, COVID-19 vaccines are making their way to our communities and the health care system reform – put on ice during the pandemic – has resumed. Building on the lessons learned, the Réseau will continue its advisory work to cocreate a more effective and empathetic health care system for all Ontarians in all their diversity.

My most important message is addressed to all the health, social and community services professionals who have been working tirelessly for over a year. Our corporate members quickly transformed their services so that Francophones could continue to have access to the services they need in their own language. Thank you for your incredible work!

In conclusion, our achievements would not have been possible without the commitment and support of the members of the Board of Directors; I thank them most sincerely for giving me the privilege of presiding as Board Chair. I would also like to salute the extraordinary work of our President-CEO, Jacinthe Desaulniers, and her team of professionals.

Our community has demonstrated its resilience and solidarity by complying with public health measures. Thanks to our collective action, we can hope for better days.

Alain-Michel Sékula
MBA, CMC, Colonel (Honorary) FAC-CAF

  1. “Partner in the transformation of the healthcare system, the Réseau shapes the active offer and strategies to improve access to French-language health services. The Réseau monitors the implementation of these strategies and contributes to viable solutions to provide high-quality French-language health services.”
Two healthcare professionals, a woman wearing pink scrubs and a man wearing green scrubs. The woman is holding a clipboard and the man is carrying a stethoscope.

A Word from the President-Chief Executive Officer

It goes without saying that we all lived through an unusual 2020-2021. Like all other organizations, the Réseau had to adapt. So, for over a year our team has been working entirely remotely.

But even more significant is the way our lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic. And although all of us have been affected differently – and to varying degrees – no one has been spared by this health crisis.

We have therefore had to be very flexible in order to get through this difficult time, in keeping with each person’s capabilities and means. Similarly, we had to work differently, prioritize our actions and interventions without, however, losing sight of our strategic foundations and expected results.

Click for more

Over the last few months, the Réseau has been involved in a number of different forums dealing with issues related to COVID-19, always with the objective of ensuring that Francophones’ experiences and needs are taken into account by the authorities responsible for health care service planning and delivery in the context of the pandemic.

Similarly, while the health care system has moved forward with its transformation, the Réseau has multiplied its interactions with the new stakeholders (Ontario Health provincial agency, representatives of Ontario Health East, Ontario Health Teams) while maintaining its relationships with its existing partners, the Champlain and South East Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), with which we have continued to work on implementation of our three-year French-Language Health Services Strategy.

We have continued to focus on our priorities: active offer of quality French-language health services – especially through designation under Ontario’s French Language Services Act – as well as the collection and analysis of evidence-based data on the system’s French-language health services capacity.

At the end of this extremely turbulent transition year – marked by the transformation of the health care system, the renewal of our mandate as a Planning Entity, the evaluation of our strategic plan, the pandemic, and remote work – I can definitely say that we have successfully weathered the storm while focusing on our objectives and priorities.

In closing, I would like to sincerely thank the members of the Réseau’s team for their perseverance and flexibility over the last year and congratulate them on the amount of work they have accomplished for our community.

Jacinthe Desaulniers

Two women, a doctor wearing a white lab coat and a manager wearing a purple blazer and skirt.

Relationship with the Community

From “in person” to “virtual”, that is how we could describe the transformation of our relationship with the Francophone community since the beginning of the lockdown, starting with our Annual General Meeting. For over 20 years, the Réseau’s AGM has been an opportunity for getting together, dialoguing, collaborating and networking. Last September 24, on the eve of Franco-Ontarian Day, we held our first on-line AGM. This new format – which attracted almost a hundred participants – gave us an opportunity to share our key accomplishments and launch our updated branding.

Over the last few months, electronic communications have come to the forefront; it is more important than ever that our community be able to get information on the services, resources and news that affect it. This is the perspective from which we surveyed the 1500 subscribers to the Réseau Express – our French-language weekly community newsletter – on their preferences and needs.

Click for more

Survey participants indicated a high rate of satisfaction with the newsletter:


of respondents said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied”;


of respondents thought that the newsletter helped them “find the information, resources and services they needed”;


thought that the newsletter enabled them to stay informed about “the work carried out by the Réseau and the results achieved for the Francophone community”.

Respondents also indicated that the sections they found most relevant were Actualité du Réseau, Nouvelles and Ressources. In light of this information, we have considerably expanded these sections, especially the Nouvelles section – so our readers have access to accurate and coordinated information on the pandemic. And we have received a number of positive messages in response. To our faithful readers: thank you for your continuing support and feedback!

In the fall of 2020, we held a series of virtual focus groups as part of the Le Réseau à l’écoute project. Through these consultations, we learned more about how to collect patient and family caregiver experiences. Over the coming months, this project will become one of the Réseau’s main avenues for integrating your feedback into our recommendations to the health care system. Le Réseau à l’écoute is also part of our broader strategic communications and engagement plan, which will be implemented over the coming year. This document will, of course, be aligned with our next strategic plan.

The Réseau’s corporate members committee met on March 4. Thank you to all our partners who, notwithstanding their very busy schedules, participated in this regional French-language health services forum. During this meeting, our members reaffirmed the need to create a French-language services table and also discussed the importance of evidence-based data on Francophones’ health, and their needs with respect to recruitment of bilingual staff.

A senior woman is carrying a purse. She is wearing a mask, a yellow scarf, a pink jacket, a blue shirt and grey pants.

At the end of 2020-2021, we had 74 corporate members who supported French-language health services in our region. Over the last year, we welcomed two new members2, the Équipe psycho-sociale pour enfants, adolescents et familles de Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and the Somerset West Community Health Centre, in Ottawa. Welcome!

As of March 31, 2021, the Réseau could count on the support of 986 individual members, an increase of 2.5% over last year. Thank you for supporting the Réseau’s mission and for being our ambassadors in your communities.

  1. Some of our corporate members were amalgamated over the last year, in particular the Centre psychosocial and Maison Fraternité, which are now part of Le CAP – Centre d’appui et de prévention. This is also the case for the Centre de services Guigues, which has joined the Montfort Renaissance family.
Réseau territory: percentage distribution of individual members. A Map of the Champlain and South East regions. The map represents the City of Ottawa and the following counties: Prescott, Russell, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, Renfrew, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Hastings, Prince Edward, and part of Northumberland. 73% of Réseau individual members are located in the Champlain region, and 27% in the South East region.

Evidence-Based Data

2020-2021 was the third consecutive year in which we collected evidence-based data on French-language health services capacity across the province. 1418 health service providers were asked to complete a French Language Services Report through the OZi web portal. And we are immensely proud to announce that we have the highest completion rate to date – 96% – despite the pandemic. Thank you to all our partners – Ministry of Health, LHINs, Planning Entities and service providers – who made this initiative possible.

At the end of each data collection period, the Réseau conducts an anonymous satisfaction survey of all users of the OZi portal. This continuous improvement exercise has been most helpful as user satisfaction with the data collection process has consistently increased over the last three years, as the figure below shows.

Click for more

At the end of these three years, we can say that this strategy has enabled all the stakeholders involved to collaborate through a web portal and, above all, to access essential information in real time.

In August 2020, the Ministry of Health informed the Réseau that it was repatriating the data collection and analysis process within government. Since then, the OZI team – a Réseau affiliated organization – has been collaborating with the Ministry to ensure an effective and efficient transition. The Réseau is pleased that the Ministry recognizes the importance of these data and is shouldering its responsibilities with regard to the collection, analysis and use of data on the system’s capacity to offer French-language services. We are, of course, ready to collaborate further to ensure the sustainability of this data strategy.

We would, however, like to ensure that the collection and analysis of data by the government produce the expected gains, namely greater integration of data on French-language health services into the Ministry’s data strategy. And that is why we will remain vigilant.

As part of our mandate as a Société santé en français (SSF) resource network, we have continued to support the SSF’s national data strategy. To this end, the OZi team has adopted a pan-Canadian development plan with the objective of aligning supply and demand in minority Francophone public markets. In collaboration with the OZi team, we have continued to provide support to other SSF member networks, especially with regard to their respective data strategies.

We are therefore proud to report that after a two-year pilot project in Manitoba – in collaboration with the Réseau santé en français –, the provincial health organization Shared Health has submitted a project to the SSF to retain OZi’s services as part of its French-language services data strategy. Similarly, after several years of discussion and negotiation, the Saskatchewan Health Authority has retained OZi’s services to support development of its active offer of French-language health services.

Finally, in collaboration with the OZI team, we are pursuing our conversations with other provinces and territories as well as Health Canada and the Consortium national de santé en français (CNFS), to determine how OZi could support them in their missions.

Two managers, a woman wearing a mask, a blue blazer and a grey skirt, and a man wearing a black suit, and a blue shirt and tie. The woman is holding a clipboard.
An adult woman is hugging her young son.

Health Services Planning

One of the central elements of the health care system transformation is the creation of Ontario Health Teams (OHTs). The Réseau has supported and continues to support the development of all OHTs in its catchment area. Following a new ministry guideline allowing the Entities to become OHT members, the Réseau joined OHTs mandated to provide health services in local areas designated under Ontario’s French Language Services Act (FLSA): the Ottawa OHT, the Ottawa East OHT, the Frontenac Lennox and Addington OHT and the Kids Come First Health Team.

Click for more

Health teams in the region
Status as of
March 31, 2021
Health teams that include the Réseau as one of their members
Ottawa OHT
Ottawa East OHT
Frontenac, Lennox & Addington OHT
Lanark-Leeds-Greenville OHT
Kids Come First Health Team
Upper Canada Cornwall and Area OHT candidate
Under development
Network 24 (Renfrew County) OHT candidate
Under development
Four Rivers OHT candidate (Western Ottawa and Western Champlain)
Under development
Hastings – Prince Edward OHT candidate
Under development
Prescott-Russell OHT candidate
Under development

In collaboration with Entité 4, the Réseau has also submitted to the regional official responsible for the transition of Ontario Health East a joint recommendation that the OHTs serving areas designated under the FLSA (Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, Pembroke and Stafford and Westmeath townships, Kingston) be identified for the provision of French-language health services. This correspondence came in response to a letter from the Minister of Francophone Affairs stating that OHTs would be subject to the FLSA.

At the provincial level, the Planning Entities also provided support to OHTs, particularly through the RISE platform (training, resources and support for OHTs under development). The Entities helped develop a RISE brief on the key components of French-language health services.

Over the last few months, the Réseau has continued to play its advisory role with local health authorities. For instance, we prepared a report on mental health and addiction services in the Champlain region. This capacity analysis highlighted the gaps in French-language services in this sector. The document also included a series of recommendations for improving French-language services provision in the region, especially Western Champlain where services are extremely scarce.

Although this report relies in part on data collected through the OZi portal, it is important to note that it deals only with LHIN-funded mental health and addiction (MHA) services. We hope that the ongoing health care system integration will eventually enable us to access more comprehensive data, particularly for MHA services funded directly by the Ministry of Health along with those funded by other ministries.

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has made digital health services a core issue. As a result, the Réseau has published two briefs on digital health. The first brief was submitted to the Competition Bureau as part of a digital health care market study for Canada. The second brief was submitted to the Ministry of Health following an examination of the two main provincial strategic guidance documents on digital health. This analysis showed that neither of these two documents made reference to either potential digital health tools accessible in French or Francophones’ digital health needs. In anticipation of an update to these strategic documents, the Réseau presented a series of recommendations for involving the Francophone community in planning digital health services in French.

Finally, the Réseau is still very involved in planning health services related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We sit on a number of tables, committees and working groups, always with the objective of providing a Francophone perspective. We are part of the following groups: COVID-19: Collaboration Table, MHA COVID Response Table, Champlain MHA COVID Meeting, South East LHIN AMH COVID Weekly Touchpoint, as well as the Ottawa Vaccine Sequence Strategy Task Force.

A female healthcare professional is holding a file. She is wearing a mask and blue scrubs.


As a French Language Health Planning Entity, the Réseau continues to focus on designation under Ontario’s French Language Services Act as a mechanism for ensuring quality French-language services are actively offered on a permanent basis in our catchment area. This is why we are providing support to 59 health service providers in the Champlain and South East regions in developing their designation plan or statement of compliance.

The designation committee has been very active over these last months. A total of six statements of compliance were evaluated by the committee and forwarded to the Ministry of Health. Five new designation requests were evaluated by the committee; three of them were sent on to the Ministry of Health.

A female personal support worker is helping a senior woman using a walker.

Click for more

In the Champlain region, the Réseau’s Board of Directors recommended the designation of the Foyer St. Jacques (Embrun) in September 2020. The designation request was submitted to the Ministry of Health for final approval. The Réseau also recommended the designation of an additional program3 at the Renfrew Victoria Hospital; this agency is still awaiting a response from the Ministry regarding its initial designation request. Furthermore, the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre (Ottawa), was officially designated by the Ministry of Francophone Affairs in October 2020. Congratulations!

In the South East region, after several years of structural work, we are proud to announce that a very first designation request has been approved by the Réseau’s Board of Directors: the request from VON Greater Kingston (Victorian Order of Nurses – Ontario Branch, Kingston). On February 25, 2021, the Board determined that this agency had the capacity to actively provide home care in French on a permanent basis. The agency’s designation request was therefore sent to the Ministry of Health for final approval. We would like to congratulate VON Greater Kingston on this important achievement! This upcoming designation is a first for a health service provider in Kingston.

Designation is making unprecedented progress in the South East region. All nine health service providers identified for designation have submitted a designation plan in 2020. Following an analysis of their compliance with designation requirements by the Réseau’s planning and community engagement team, we can say that over half of these plans had compliance rates of over 50%, and two of those had compliance rates of over 80%. These rates are evidence of real progress in the region and further designations can be expected over the next few years.

In October 2020, the Réseau recommended to the South East LHIN that it identify Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) as the Francophone primary care site in the region. Following publication of our report Improving Access to Primary Care in the City of Kingston, KCHC asked to be identified for designation. This self-identification request has since been approved by the South East LHIN and KCHC have begun their designation process so that Francophones in the South East will have access to primary care in French.

Finally, recent progress on designation has led the Réseau to optimize its communications practices in this area. We have implemented a standardized communications procedure to better inform Francophones of the positive impacts of designation on French-language health services provision in our communities. Over the coming months, we will have an opportunity to test and fine-tune this procedure, especially when new designations are officially announced by the Ontario Ministry of Francophone Affairs.

  1. The Regional Assault Care Program was recommended for designation. The other two programs included in Renfrew Victoria Hospital’s initial designation request are Addiction Treatment Services and the Hemodialysis and Nephrology Program.
A senior man is holding a smart phone. He is wearing a grey jacket, a white dress shirt, a grey sweater vest, and grey pants.
A female healthcare professional wearing green scrubs.


2020-2021 marked the end of our Strategic Plan 2016-2021 and its evaluation. The first finding was that over the last five years our environment had been in constant flux, as the summary below shows.

Click for more

2016 to 2021: a turbulent period for French-language health services

March 2016
Adoption of the Réseau’s Strategic Plan 2016-2021.
December 2016
Adoption of the Patients First Act, 2016 by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
June 2017
CCACs (Community Care Access Centres) are integrated into the LHINs (Local Health Integration Networks).
November 2017
Amendments to Ontario Regulation 515/09: Engagement with the Francophone Community (regulation on French Language Health Planning Entities).
November 2017
Adoption of the Guide to Requirements and Obligations Relating to French Language Health Services by health care system stakeholders (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, LHINs and French Language Health Planning Entities).
June 2018
Election of Doug Ford’s Conservative government.
November 2018
Abolition of the independent Office of the French Language Services Commissioner.
January 2019
The Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine, led by Dr. Rueben Devlin, issues its first report.
February 2019
Creation of a provincial agency, Ontario Health.
February 2019
Abolition of LHIN boards of directors.
March 2019
Adoption of the Connecting Care Act, 2019 by the Ford government.
May 2019
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is integrated into the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office.
June 2019
The Devlin Council issues its second and last report.
June 2019
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is split in two: the Ministry of Health (which includes the new position of Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions) and the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
November 2019
Creation of Ontario Health’s five regions, including Ontario Health East, which is made up of the Champlain, South East and Central East LHINs.
December 2019
Creation of the first Ontario Health Teams (OHTs).
March 2020
Publication of Ontario Regulation 211/21 Engagement with the Francophone Community under Section 44 of the Connecting Care Act, 2019 (new regulation on French Language Health Planning Entities).
March 2020
Start of lockdown in Ontario because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
July 2020
Adoption of the Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, 2020 by the Ford government.
December 2020
The Réseau’s mandate as the French Language Health Planning Entity for the Champlain and South East regions is renewed for two years.
April 2021
LHIN responsibilities not related to patient care are officially transferred to Ontario Health, except for home and community care. From now on, the LHINs will operate under a new name: Home and Community Care Support Services.
April 2021
The new Ontario Regulation 211/21: Engagement with the Francophone Community under Section 44 of the Connecting Care Act takes effect.

Despite this instability, the Réseau managed to make progress on its five strategic directions. We were also able to realize our organizational aspiration: “Partner in the transformation of the healthcare system, the Réseau shapes the active offer and strategies to improve access to French-language health services. The Réseau monitors the implementation of these strategies and contributes to viable solutions to provide high-quality French-language health services.”

The Réseau provided significant guidance to active offer and access strategies through its data model, which has been implemented across the province. Thanks to OZi, we were able to monitor implementation of designation, which allowed us to recognize the significant progress made in our catchment area. However, we must admit that it was more difficult to follow the implementation of other viable solutions for French-language services, given all the legislative and administrative changes that have taken place over the last five years.

The Strategic Plan 2016-2021 gave the Réseau a clear alignment and allowed it to distinguish itself. In anticipation of the next strategic planning exercise, the Board of Directors has decided to undertake a comprehensive planning and strategic positioning exercise. This work includes an in-depth environmental scan but also an analysis of the evolution of the Réseau and its key partners, including the Regroupement des Entités de planification des services de santé en français de l’Ontario, the not-for-profit 10551040 Canada Institut, and the Société Santé en français.

Of course, our environment is still evolving, but the Réseau has made an informed choice to give itself a flexible plan for the future. The Board of Directors therefore expects to adopt a new strategic plan early next year; this plan will be broadly shared with our members, our partners and our community.

In addition to the pandemic, 2020-2021 saw many demonstrations against all forms of racism, including systemic racism. It was in this spirit that the Board of Directors – in collaboration with 613-819 Black Hub – conducted a major reflection exercise on the issue. In light of this international movement, the Réseau wishes to better understand the impact of social inequities on the health of different Francophone communities – in particular, our Black communities – in order to develop appropriate organizational strategies.

In conclusion, many of our achievements in 2020-2021 would not have been possible without the support of our financial partners: Health Canada and the Société Santé en français (SSF), the Ministry of Health and the Champlain and South East LHINs.

Our complete financial statements will be presented at the 2021 Annual General Meeting.

Réseau revenues are shown in this pie chart. 36% of revenues are derived from the SSF, 35% from the LHINs / Ontario Health, and 29% from services rendered and other sources. Total revenues amount to $2,871,019.
Réseau spendings are shown in this pie chart. 92% of spendings are devoted to salaries and fees, 7% to operations, and 1% to community engagement. Total spendings amount to $2,781,246.