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AOHC welcomes Premier Wynne’s apology for Francophone policy failure

(TORONTO – February 22, 2016) The Association of Ontario Health Centres welcomes the apology Premier Kathleen Wynne delivered today to “all Franco-Ontarians, their communities and all those who suffered from Regulation 17.” In her speech, Premier acknowledged the obstacles that Francophones in Ontario have been facing in the past century and called this policy "a failure".

Regulation 17, passed by the Government of Premier James Whitney in 1912, limited the use of French as the language of instruction and communication to the first two years of elementary school. In 1913, it was amended, further limiting studies in French to just one hour per day. Although the regulation was repealed in 1927, it was not until 1968 that Ontario officially recognized French language schools.

“The practical impact of Regulation 17 was that at a time when Francophones represented ten percent of the population of Ontario, an entire generation was denied access to education in their mother tongue” according to Denis Constantineau, Executive Director of the Centre de santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury and initiator of the request for an apology. “This policy contributed to the assimilation of a large number of Francophones. Thousands of people lost their language, their culture and sense of identity. This has had a major impact on their health and wellbeing. Decades later we continue to feel the impact. ”

The Association of Ontario Health Centres, of which the Centre de Santé Communautaire du Grand Sudbury is a part, represents 108 primary health care centres across Ontario.  As part of its anti-oppression framework, the association recognizes that Francophone communities have distinct histories, needs, legal rights and constitutionally-protected rights which must be reflected in public policies that demonstrate respect, inclusion, accountability and equity.

“Regulation 17 was a public policy that never should have happened,” says AOHC Chief Executive Officer Adrianna Tetley. “We’re pleased Premier Wynne has apologized for this very damaging chapter in the history of our province’s education system. This is an important first step. We urge the Premier to ensure that her government takes strong action to ensure all other provincially funded systems respond more effectively to the needs of Francophone populations.  Our health system is another example where provincial policy currently falls short of ensuring Francophone equitable access to services.”

Later this month, the Association will submit its formal response to proposals from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on measures to overhaul the delivery of health services.  The Association will make the case that the current patchwork delivery of Francophone health services must be replaced with a more equitable and robust system.  

Contact:  Oleksandra Budna: 647-278-7926 oleksandra.budna@aohc.org

Monday, February 22, 2016