Ontarians take pride in being the most multicultural province in Canada. Our province is home to over 50 percent of Canada’s newcomers, and nearly 15 percent of households speak a non-official language. This cultural and linguistic diversity is celebrated and protected through the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Canada Multiculturalism Act.
However, linguistic diversity also poses challenges when it comes to essential services like health care. The Canada Health Act and the provincial Patients First Act acknowledge that everyone in Ontario has the right to high-quality medical care. However, Ontario patients who speak non-official languages often do not receive language supports, like medical interpreters. Evidence shows that people who speak non-official languages receive inferior care with a greater risk of medical errors, unnecessary tests, and adverse reactions to treatment. Additionally, the lack of language supports compromises the right that all patients have to understand the care that they’re receiving and make informed decisions about treatment, fundamentally undermining their autonomy.
As a result, those who speak non-official languages are routinely being denied their rights in health care settings. It’s time to make good on Ontario’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity by ensuring that all patients, no matter what language they speak, have equal access to good health care.