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Yukon to expand French services

The Yukon government wants to help the francophone community access health and social services in their own language.

The Yukon government wants to help the francophone community access health and social services in their own language.

Elaine Taylor, the minister responsible for the French language services directorate, announced $289,000, pending legislative approval, for improved service in French.

“It is the first time that I know of that they are investing so much money towards this kind of project, so it’s really positive from our end, said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of the Association franco-yukonnaise.

Being able to access government services, and especially health services, in French is very important to the francophone community, she said.

“When you’re sick it’s very important to be able to explain everything in your language, and to be heard in your language.

“Say you have mental health problems. Try to explain, ‘See, I am just trying to have an interview with you and I’m looking for my words.’ Imagine if I was talking about my mental health, which you don’t want me to do, but…” said Salesse with a laugh.

Yukon’s Languages Act established the right to government services in French 25 years ago, and “it’s about time” that we see some action on it, she said.

Whitehorse General Hospital currently does their best to offer service in French, said Val Pike, spokesperson for the hospital corporation.

“We do have some staff that are bilingual, so if a patient came in and required service in French we would do our very best to accommodate that. As well as, we have a list of available translators that could be called in an emergency to help out. And we also have a French language half-time employee who is here in the mornings who can assist.”

The level of service will improve over the coming year with this initiative, she said.

The project aims to develop a four-year plan for improving French language service in the territory, with a focus on health and social services.

In addition, a full-time employee will be hired to implement three pilot projects.

The first is an active offer program, which encourages French language service to be publicized where it is available. Examples could be signs or buttons that identify staff who speak French.

The second project will examine different models of interpretation services, including over the phone, video calls, in person and simultaneous translation.

The third pilot will seek to establish staff positions in the government that are designated for bilingual employees only. No one will lose their job, but as positions open up they may be required to be filled by someone fluent in English and French.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at