Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-202 and I want to pay tribute to the member for Ottawa—Vanier, the sponsor of the bill. His work around the bill has been exemplary.
On behalf of all Manitobans I wish to express my support for Bill C-202 which would add the principle of respecting linguistic duality to the Canada Health Act of 1984. This sixth principle is a logical consequence of the Official Languages Act as it would ensure that the linguistic minorities of Manitoba would be entitled to health care services in the language of their choice, that is, English or French, the two official languages of Canada.
We forget too often that there are francophone communities west of Ontario. Some 45,000 francophones live in my home province of Manitoba. Saint Boniface is one of the largest French communities outside of Quebec. French communities in Manitoba are strong, well structured, and their contribution to the cultural, economic, and social development of our province is significant.
Since 1993 francophones in Manitoba have governed their own school board. The time has come to get the same rights in health care accessibility.
Health care in French is important for the preservation and promotion of Franco-Manitoban communities. Among the many arguments, a good communication between health care professionals and patients is absolutely essential. Many studies confirm the importance of the language in ensuring efficient health care service. Language related obstacles reduce accessibility to and the quality of health care.
The health care professional has to help, guide and advise patients. When communication is good, services are more efficient, there is no time wasted, results are better, and costs are reduced.
Francophones in Manitoba have been working hard for a number of years to ensure the delivery of quality health care and social services in French, but access is still very limited. When such services are offered, their capacity is restricted. The Government of Canada must respect its own constitutional obligations and support francophones by giving them quality of status and equal rights in the field of health care.
The Société franco-manitobaine, SFM, is the spokesgroup for Franco-Manitobans. In March 2002, a little less than a year ago, supported by nearly 50 francophone organizations, the SFM presented its view to the Romanow commission when it came to Winnipeg. The SFM asked Mr. Romanow to recommend to the government the addition of a sixth principle to the Canada Health Act.
Francophones want to see their constitutional rights guaranteed when it comes to health in Manitoba. The Société franco-manitobaine was in complete agreement with the document produced by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, “Health in French: Towards improved access to health care services in French”.
Voting in favour of Bill C-202 would definitely be an advancement of rights for official language minority communities in Canada and it would be an excellent way for the Government of Canada to reaffirm its commitment to enhance the vitality and support the development of Canada's francophone and anglophone minorities as recommended by section 41 of the Official Languages Act.
I am delighted to support Bill C-202 and I recommend it to all members of the House.