In health care, communication is essential to ensuring patient safety and maintaining a high standard of care. Language barriers between patients and health-care professionals have a direct impact on health outcomes, and in a province with as diverse a population as ours, it’s important to keep these challenges top of mind.

Thanks to Provincial Language Services (PLS), health-care professionals across British Columbia have access to several resources and services to help bridge the language gap. “Communication is an indispensable part of a health-care encounter,” says Kiran Malli, PLS Director. “For patients who do not speak a common language with their health-care provider, providing access to language services is the path to equitable care.”

In recognition of National Francophone Immigration Week, we’re taking a look at some of the resources to support French-speaking patients and their families in B.C.

In 2017, PLS Francophone Services collaborated with RésoSanté Colombie-Britannique and introduced Café de Paris—an initiative designed to help staff improve their French language skills so they can provide in-language care to French-speaking patients and their families. This one-of-a-kind initiative funded by la Société Santé en Français for Health Canada offers more than 12 hours of free, one-on-one coaching with a trained instructor. After the pandemic struck, Café de Paris shifted to a virtual model, which has resulted in a major increase in uptake among staff. So far, more than 500 people have completed the program.

“Language plays a big role in creating a culturally and linguistically safe environment for patients. By improving clarity, we can expect better health outcomes by allowing patients to feel safer, understood and part of the collaboration around their health journey,” says Karl-Stephane Coyault, coordinator of Francophone Services at PHSA, adding that language barriers can often result in negatives outcomes like misdiagnosis and whether patients receive timely treatment.

“Through these one-on-one, conversational-style classes, Café de Paris is creating the capacity to provide health-care services in the preferred language of Francophone patients. The program provides a boost of confidence and equips health-care workers with the skills they need to provide the quality of care we strive to achieve in a multicultural context.”

Jannie Ngo, Child Life Specialist at PHSA and recent graduate of Café de Paris, shares how impactful this program has been in improving the way she connects with her Francophone patients. “To be able to speak the same language as somebody else, allows them to feel more understood. And when people feel understood, they are more likely to put their trust in you.”

B.C. has the fourth-largest population of Francophone speakers in Canada. As one of Canada’s two official languages, French is an integral component of Canadian identity.

Together, we can do our part to reduce barriers to care. Happy National Francophone Immigration Week!

If you are a health-care professional who interacts with Francophone patients and/or clients on a day-to-day basis or planning to in the future, consider enrolling in the next cohort of Café de Paris. Registration is open from November 7–21. Learn more about Café de Paris here or send an e-mail to