Official Language Minority Communities Initiative: Past, Present, Future - Status Report 2009

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Definning the Communities and the Research Fields
  2. Background
  3. Initiative Activities
  4. Future Directions
  5. Conclusion
  6. Appendixes


The purpose of this report is to document the creation and development of the research initiative on Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Created in 2004, the initiative had a mandate to promote the study of the health determinants and specific needs of the French- and English-speaking minority communities, increase the number of researchers involved in the field and ensure that new knowledge is transmitted to researchers and clinicians with a view to improve the health of these Canadian communities. In order to ensure the success of the initiative, CIHR has already implemented several practices including naming an official languages champion, who closely monitors the development of the OLMC initiative, establishing an OLMC Consultative Committee made up of experts in the field, allocating funds and assigning specific human resources to manage the activities of the initiative.

Although these efforts have advanced the research interests of French- and English-speaking minority communities, work still remains to achieve the established goals. Five years have past since the initiative was created, providing an ideal opportunity to take stock of past achievements and look toward the future. On one hand, the initiative is well established, the number of opportunities for targeted grants, as well as the number of applications has increased and the members of the Consultative Committee are determined to pursue efforts that will increase research in this area in order to obtain evidence that can guide practitioners and decision-makers. On the other hand, the research issues require clarification, partnerships must be established and the number of researchers and grants must be increased.

This report describes the events that led to the creation of the initiative as well as the current and future activities needed to achieve the established goals in the initiative's strategic plan and CIHR's Official Language action plan.

Johanne A. Lapointe, PhD
Team Leader, Research Initiatives, OLMC
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Valérie Bourbonnais, M.A.
Project Officer, Research Initiatives, OLMC
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Carole Reece, B.A.
Project Officer, Research Initiatives, OLMC
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Introduction: Defining the Communities and the Research Field

One of the first challenges facing researchers and organizations concerned with OLMCs is to clearly define these communities. Although it may appear simple, it is a complex task. There are two types of definitions: a generic definition that derives from the Official Languages Act (1985, 2005) and an operational definition that is used to define the linguistic variables used in surveys and other research, so as to better identify the target population and its needs.

Generic definition

CIHR broadly defines OLMCs as groups of Canadians whose first or preferred language is French or English and who live in a province where that language is in minority. This interpretation is in keeping with Heritage Canada's, which defines "Official Languages Minority Communities" as Canadian English-speaking communities in Quebec, and Canadian French-speaking communities in provinces and territories other than Quebec. However, given the methodological and theoretical issues faced by researchers that must define OLMCs, the generic definition is often insufficient to capture the specifics of the linguistic variable.

Operational definitions

To overcome this challenge, researchers examined various ways of defining French- and English-speaking minority communities and the consequences of using one or the other type of definition. In the field of population health, the way in which an OLMC is defined can have a considerable impact on public health policies and programs.

French-speaking Minority Community

There are several ways to define a French-speaking minority community. In an article titled "Defining Francophones in Minority Situations: An Analysis of Various Statistical Definitions and their Implications", Forgues and Landry (2006)1 identify four linguistic variables most commonly used to define this community: 1) mother tongue, 2) first official language spoken (FOLS), 3) home language, 4) first language learned and/or understood (or knowledge of official languages), from which five combinations and intersections can be derived.

Each definition has distinct properties that determine the number of individuals included in the population. For example, Forgues and Landry (2006) show that depending on which linguistic variable is used, the number of minority Francophones vary from 1,020,580 (first language), to 1,038,955 (FOLS), 978,360 (home language), to 115,175 unilingual Francophones to 2,323,875 bilingual individuals (knowledge of both official languages).2

English-speaking Minority Community

The same four linguistic variables are generally used to define the English-speaking community in Quebec. Jedwab (2008)3 examines the consequences that choosing one definition rather than another can have on the population size. According to the 2006 Census of Canada and the degree of inclusion of the linguistic variable used, the number of Anglophone Quebecers varies from 607,165 (mother tongue) to 787,885 (home language) to 994,725 (first official language).

In short, researchers concerned with French- and English-speaking minority communities in Canada face similar challenges in defining these communities. A consensus has yet to be reached on how to define both English-speaking communities in Quebec and French-speaking communities outside Quebec (Stevenson, 1999).4 The approach chosen depends on the target population and the issue under study. In any case, it is preferable to use the definition with the most inclusive criteria to avoid unduly penalizing certain subgroups of these communities.


Unlike other CIHR strategic initiatives, the creation of the OLMC initiative was motivated not only by OLMC health research needs, but by political and legal factors as well. The following section presents the legal basis and provides an overview of the preliminary reports that preceeded the creation of the CIHR strategic OLMC research initiative.

Legal basis - Official Languages Act

In 1969, the Parliament of Canada passed the first Official Languages Act, which proclaimed English and French as the official languages of all federal institutions in Canada. Thirteen years later, in April 1982, the Constitution Act was proclaimed in Ottawa. In addition to the Constitution Act of 1867, it comprises a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that entrenches the linguistic rights of the official language communities (sect. 16 (1).

In 1988, the Act was considerably revised to expand the legislative basis of the language policies and programs adopted by the federal government. Federal institutions were required to promote the development of both language communities through the inclusion of provisions designed to: 1) ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions; 2) support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities and generally advance the equality of status and use of the English and French languages within Canadian society; and 3) set out the powers, duties and functions of federal institutions with respect to the official languages of Canada (art. 41 (1)). More recently, the passage of Bill S-3 (2005) had important consequences for the way that federal institutions fulfil their duties, and in particular their obligation to take positive measures to implement this commitment (sec. 41 (2)).

Sociopolitical Basis - Health disparities

In parallel with the amendments to the Official Languages Act, the government and national organizations representing the OLMCs, published reports on health disparities between these communities. In 2001, the report submitted to the federal Minister of Health by the Consultative Committee for French-Speaking Minority Communities reveals that Francophones are in poorer health than their Anglophone counterparts and that major disparities exist in accessibility to health services. 5 The report also states that more than half of French-speaking minority communities rarely, if ever, have access to health services in their language and hypothesizes that there is a direct link between the language and health of a community. The same issue is observed in English-speaking minority communities, where accessibility to regional health services is often limited and even non-existent in some locations.6 The fact that language barriers have a negative impact on access to health and preventive services, as well as on timely diagnosis and treatment, means that access to health services in one's preferred language (English or French) is a critical health issue for official language minority communities in Canada.

To overcome this situation, the report recommends that "Health Canada support the establishment, within the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) [...], of a chair or networking initiative among researchers of various post-secondary institutions to study the determinants of health of official-language minority communities and to examine their particular needs."7

In October 2003, the Standing Committee on Official Languages of the House of Commons submitted a report titled "Access to Health Care for the Official Language Minority Communities: Legal Basis, Current Initiatives and Future Prospects", in which it underscored the difficulties faced by OLMCs in accessing health care.

A year later, in her annual report to Parliament (2004), the Commissioner of Official Languages recognized the progress that had been made, but criticized CIHR's response to certain recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Official Languages of the House of Commons and asked the government to add CIHR to the list of designated institutions in accordance with sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act.

Creation of the OLMC research initiative

In 2003, in keeping with their mandate and obligations to promote strategic health research in both official languages, and in order to better meet the health research needs of English and French-speaking Canadians living in minority communities, CIHR took the necessary steps to promote health research that targeted these two communities.

As a first step, CIHR named Mrs. Christine Fitzgerald, Executive Vice-President of CIHR, as the Official Languages Champion. In addition to increasing the visibility of official languages at CIHR and ensuring that its commitments and obligations concerning official languages are honoured, Mrs. Fitzgerald is largely responsible for the adoption of a number of measures aimed at promoting health research on the needs of OLMCs.

In November 2004, CIHR create a strategic research initiative on the official language minority communities (OLMC) and Dr. Morris Barer, Scientific Director of the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR) became the OLMC initiative champion. In April 2005, he requested and was granted funding by Research Priorities and Planning Committee (RPPC) $1.5 M from the 13 research institutes. These funds would subsidize research projects for the next four fiscal years. The RPPC also approved the hiring of permanent staff to manage OLMC initiative activities.

Vision and Objectives

The purpose of the OLMC research initiative is to create knowledge and facilitate its application to reduce health disparities between official language minority and majority communities in Canada. To that end, the OLMC research initiative aims to promote the study of health determinants and specific needs of the French- and English-speaking minority communities, identify priority research areas, increase the number of researchers involved in these issues and ensure that new knowledge is transmitted to researchers, clinicians and other concerned stakeholders with a view to improving the health of OLMCs.

Consultative Committee

In 2004, along with the creation of the OLMC initiative, a consultative committee was formed to advise CIHR on OLMC health research needs and the most effective ways of supporting the research. The committee's mandate also includes formulating a strategic plan to increase research capacity and establish a national research agenda.

The committee members were chosen to ensure that both minority language communities were represented. Some of the members are experienced researchers or experts in the health of these communities and have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by both language communities. Others represent organizations that are strongly committed to the promotion and vitality of OLMCs. Each member of the committee is responsible for contributing expertise that is drawn upon in discussions and deliberations on OLMC initiative priorities. The diversity of expertise and experience in the field of OLMC health research is a key factor in the success of the initiative.

The OLMC Consultative Committee is made up of 12 members, including two co-chairs and an observer and meets twice a year. The management team for the initiative organizes and participates in the meetings as ex-officio members (see Appendix B for the complete list of current and former members).

Initiative Activities

Since its creation, the OLMC initiative has been involved in its own activities, as well as others in which it has collaborated. Because this was a new initiative, it was important to increase the opportunities to promote its mandate and its activities. To enhance the visibility of this initiative and to increase the number of researchers interested in this field, CIHR collaborated on projects dealing with the health of French- and English-speaking minority communities. In addition, in keeping with its primary purpose, the OLMC research initiative also increased its funding activities.

Development and promotional activities

To achieve the objectives many development and promotional activities were implemented. The most notable of these include the March 2004 workshop aimed at identifying the needs, gaps and opportunities for improving OLMC access to health services, the consultative committee's strategic planning retreat (June 2006), the training sessions on the preparation of CIHR grant applications (August 2008), the 2008 OLMC Summer Institute, dedicated to the health of OLMCs in Canada, and the participation in the National Forums on research relating to the health of French-speaking minority communities (2004, 2007) organized by the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS).

Workshop - Needs, Gaps and Opportunities: Improving Access to Health Services for Minority Anglophone and Francophone Communities (March 11, 2004)

In 2003, the Consultative Committee for French-Speaking Minority Communities revealed that the lack of evidence allowing a better understanding of the health challenges faced by the two language communities is a major obstacle to developing targeted strategies to improve access to health services in both official languages. In response to this, on March 11, 2004, CIHR held a workshop that brought together approximately 40 key stakeholders from both official language minority communities. The goal was to: 1) discuss needs, gaps and future opportunities in OLMC health research, 2) determine the priority research themes, and 3) develop an action plan specifying joint responsibilities in order to implement recommendations resulting from the workshop.

Consequently, an action plan focusing on the following five objectives resulted from these discussions:

  1. include variables that are relevant and specific to language minorities in studies and surveys on health services and systems research;
  2. create a CIHR OLMC consultative committee to advise CIHR on the most effective ways of supporting the research and increase the number of researchers involved in this area;
  3. identify OLMC health and social service needs;
  4. develop a national research agenda to meet OLMC needs;
  5. create national networks and partnerships.

These objectives are the cornerstone of all activities of the OLMC initiative since its creation. They are specific enough to give the initiative direction and flexible enough to vary programs and methods in order to achieve the objectives.

1st National Forum on Health Research for French-speaking Minority Communities (November 30 – December 2, 2004)

The National Forum on health research for French-speaking minority communities, organized by the CNFS and the Société santé en français (SSF) in collaboration with CIHR, was aimed at developing a network of health researchers and professionals involved in OLMC health research. More than 180 researchers, managers and community participants involved in the health of French-speaking minority communities, as well as government representatives and research-funding agencies from all the regions of Canada attended the Forum. Together, they took stock of the progress made and explored future perspectives for research on the health of French-speaking minority communities. Three priority research themes were identified: 1) the study of social determinants; 2) study of links between governance and health services management; and 3) the link between the language, culture and health of these communities. The first Forum was an important milestone in the development of research on the health of French-speaking communities and led to the creation of inter-regional and inter-institutional teams. A report on this Forum was published in April 2005.

Summer Institute - Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR) and Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH) (June 19 -21, 2006)

In 2006, the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR) and the Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH) held a Summer Institute titled "Using Population-based Health and Health Services Data for Research: Challenges and Opportunities in an Intersectoral Environment". One of the goals of this learning exercise was to encourage discussions about sources of population-based data in Canada, because such data are especially relevant for those doing research on population health and health services. For this purpose, the term "data" was defined to include "administrative databases, registries and survey databanks that are representative of an entire population who reside in a geographic region." (Black, McGrail, Fooks, Baranek, Maslove 2005:12)8.

Given the challenges that can arise when using population-based health and health services databases in Canada when they include subgroups, such as official-language minority communities, it seemed important to include a session on this issue. To heighten the awareness of future researchers to the impact that these subgroups can have on research results, a session was inserted into the Summer Institute program. In addition to organizing a session on this topic, Dr. Marc L. Johnson, a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities at the Université de Moncton, made a presentation to all the participants. The purpose was to make the participants more familiar with the challenges that OLMCs face and to get these young researchers interested in this research field.

Strategic Planning Retreat (June 19–20, 2006)

Having recognized the need for a strategic plan to guide decision-making related to OLMC programs, facilitate management of the initiative, and serve as the foundation for a detailed plan of activities and as a cornerstone for the next strategic plan, the management team for the OLMC initiative and its consultative committee met for two days of intensive deliberation in June 2006. The resulting five-year plan lists the strategic objectives and the actions needed to reach them. It is the foundation upon which the OLMC initiative is built and by which progress is measured.

Peer Review Committee Chairs and Scientific Officers Meeting (September 27, 2006)

At the annual meeting of the Chairs and Scientific Officers of CIHR peer-review committees, the Team Leader for the OLMC research initiative made a brief presentation on CIHR's obligations toward OLMCs. Its purpose was to inform the Chairs and Scientific Officers of the recent amendments to the Official Languages Act (Bill S-6, 2005) and their important implications for the way that federal institutions must henceforth fulfil their duties, and in particular their obligation to take positive measures to implement this commitment (sec. 41 (2)).

Training Sessions: Preparing CIHR Grant Applications (August 24 and 31, 2007)

In order to provide researchers with the best practices needed to optimize their chances of obtaining grants, CIHR collaborated with the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) and the universities of Ottawa and Moncton to offer training sessions on preparing CIHR grant applications. A total of 43 researchers attended the sessions, led by CIHR experts and an experienced health researcher. The experts from CIHR explained how to complete the forms in order to maximize the possibility of obtaining a grant, and the researcher shared his experience as a recipient of many fellowships and a member of a CIHR peer review committee. According to the participants' feedback, the training sessions reached the proposed objectives, and they felt it would be beneficial to hold these sessions annually, as well as to add a second more technical training module.

2nd National Forum on Health Research for French-speaking Minority Communities (November 22–24, 2007)

In November 2007, the CNFS organized a second National Forum on OLMC health research for French-speaking minority communities under the theme "Society, Language and Health: Barriers to Access Health Services for French-speaking Minority Communities". The Forum provided an opportunity to take stock of the progress made over the previous three years, strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones while networking and sharing new knowledge about the health of French-speaking minority communities.

In addition to providing financial support and participating in the Forum, CIHR took the opportunity to promote the OLMC research initiative to the 250 participants. The event also provided an opportunity for CIHR and the University of Ottawa to announce the first Summer Institute on OLMCs health, to be held in June 2008.

OLMC Summer Institute (June 8–12, 2008)

In response to a request by the CNFS and the Société santé en français (SSF), CIHR organized a summer institute addressing health within OLMCs. The objectives of the institute were to promote the study of health and of the specific health needs within the two language communities, increase the number of researchers involved in the field, increase the number of researchers working in this field, and promote the creation of multidisciplinary and inter-institutional research partnerships.

This project was made possible through the contribution of multiple partners: the University of Ottawa and its Faculties of Health Sciences, Social Sciences, Medecine, the National secretariat of the Consortium National de Formation en Santé and its programs at the University of Ottawa, Laurentian University, the University of Moncton and the University of Alberta (Saint-Jean campus), the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities (CIRLM), the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) and the University of McGill - Training and Human Resources Development Project.

From June 8 to 12, 2008, the first Summer Institute focusing on OLMC health issues welcomed 30 participants. The unique training experience brought together researchers, students and decision-makers from all over Canada. The program included presentations on topics relevant to OLMCs and provided participants with the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge to the development of a research project with the support of research and community mentors. The list of presentations and speakers is presented in Appendix C.

After four days of learning and networking, the participants took stock of their experience and produced five recommendations. In addition to 1) the creation of a network of community partners and researchers concerned with OLMC health and 2) the need to offer professional development workshops (e.g., writing scientific papers, completing grant request applications), participants deemed essential the 3) creation of a network of mentors capable of providing more personalized support to young researchers. They also recommended 4) creating a research start-up fund, and providing means to support publication in existing scientific journals and 5) exploring the possibility of creating a French-language journal on health within OLMCs (indexed and peer reviewed).

As Dr. Geneviève Rail, Chair of CIHR's 2008 Summer Institute on Health within OLMCs, reported: "The Summer Institute was a resounding success. Everyone involved (participants, community mentors, speakers, research mentors, and observers) greatly benefited from their experience. The Scientific Committee can be proud of having delivered an interesting, high-quality program that achieved its many objectives."

Funding health research in OLMCs

Initially, the OLMC research initiative offered funding opportunities through some of CIHR's member institutes: the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, the Institute of Gender and Health, and the Institute of Population and Public Health. From June to December 2004, these three Institutes launched eight (8) funding opportunities that included, among others, OLMC health research priorities.

Since December 2005, CIHR, through its OLMC research initiative, has launched ten (10) funding opportunities that targeted OLMC health research priorities specifically. These programs have included Priority Announcements (for operating grants and scholarships), Catalyst Grants, Research Syntheses, and Fellowships.

Because building research capacity is one of the key objectives of the OLMC initiative, it was essential to increase the number of funding opportunities specific to this research field. To this end, in 2004, CIHR allocated $1.5 million to fund research projects designed to increase knowledge in three priority research areas: 1) determinants of health, 2) relationships among governance, management, and delivery of health services, and 3) linkages among language, culture, and health (Appendix B). The purpose of these investments was not only intended to increase the research capacity but also to encourage the creation of interdisciplinary research teams and the development of ties with community stakeholders.

Previous Funding Activities

In its first competition (December 2005), the OLMC initiative issued Priority Announcements for two funding programs (Fellowships, Operating Grants). These Priority Announcements were designed to highlight the importance of the OLMC health research priorities. Only the operating grants program was a success. While five relevant grant applications were received, only one (1) of them received funding, totalling $100,528, which represented a success rate of 20%. In December 2006, the initiative launched another Priority Announcement for operating grants. A total of six (6) research proposals were submitted, but at the peer-review stage, none of them obtained a high enough rating to receive funding.

In light of these results, the management team for the OLMC initiative modified the funding strategy to increase the number of grant applications submitted and funded. After consultation with CIHR experts and with the Co-Chairs of the OLMC consultative committee, the management team opted for a Catalyst Grant Program. This program is designed to generate preliminary data, observations, or knowledge and/or to facilitate the development of teams so as to subsequently be able to take advantage of more comprehensive funding opportunities (such as team grants and operating grants). This program also offers researchers the opportunity to pursue new areas of research such as OLMC health issues. Launched in July 2007, this program seemed to better meet the immediate health research needs of these communities. Of the five (5) proposals submitted, the OLMC initiative was able to provide funding for three (3), which represented a success rate of 60% and an investment of $115,251.

In December 2007, the OLMC initiative issued another Priority Announcement for operating grants, designed not only to help build research capacity but also to support the creation, dissemination, and use of knowledge about health. Two (2) applications related to OLMC health were received, but neither was funded.

In July 2008, the management team, supported by its consultative committee, launched another Catalyst Grant program. Whereas the preceding competitions had focused on three priority research areas (Appendix B), this one narrowed its scope to issues surrounding accessibility of health services to OLMCs. This decision arose from a clearly identified need to learn more about the issues in this area. Six (6) applications were received, five (5) of which were relevant. Unfortunately, two of those were incomplete and were withdrawn from the competition. Following peer review one project was funded for a total of $50,000.

Also in July 2008, the OLMC research initiative launched a funding opportunity focusing on knowledge synthesis. The projects funded through this program could enable health policy makers, administrators, managers, and research communities to better understand the state of knowledge regarding access to health care, quality- and safety-focused management, sustainable funding, allocation of health care resources, and the relationship between public health and health care. No applications were received.

Current Funding Activities

For December 2008, two competitions were launched: a Catalyst Grant program and a research Fellowship. The objectives of the research Fellowship are to provide support for university researchers early in their careers and to develop a pool of highly qualified researchers. The results of these competitions will be announced in June 2009.

To date, the OLMC initiative has invested $215,779 in OLMC health research. This amount excludes projects funded through open competitions or specific to the priorities of the 13 member Institutes. These modest results are explained partly by the fact that OLMC health research is a relatively new and generally less well known field, and partly by the fact that the OLMC research initiative is fairly new itself. In order to increase the number of researchers who are interested in this field and the number of applications submitted and funded through this initiative, the management team for the OLMC initiative will have to maintain its efforts to promote the OLMC health research programs, to collaborate with the organizations that have a mandate to train new researchers, and to establish partnerships with organizations interested in OLMC health.

Responsabilities to government agencies and other organizations

In addition to carrying out the activities identified in its strategic plan, the management team for this initiative had to respond to requests from government and to write annual and other periodic reports on its activities regarding OLMCs. In a spirit of co-operation, CIHR has also participated in studies and surveys conducted by other organizations interested in OLMC health issues.

Like all federal organizations, CIHR must submit reports to Parliament on an annual basis, including the Departmental Performance Report (DPR), and must periodically submit a report to the Canada Public Service Agency (CPSA), in which the activities of the OLMC initiative are included. A report is also submitted to CIHR's Scientific Council (2005, 2006, 2008). As required, the champion of the OLMC initiative forwards relevant information to the members of this committee.

In 2006, CIHR participated in a study by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages on the practices of federal research funding agencies that could promote linguistic duality and the development of English- and French-speaking minority language communities. The same year, CIHR participated in a summative evaluation of the CNFS.

Future Directions

In keeping with its mandate, the CIHR strategic research initiative on OLMCs plans to continue promoting the study of the health determinants and the health-related needs of French-speaking and English-speaking linguistic minority communities. To this end, the OLMC initiative will carry out the actions identified in its own strategic plan and will implement certain measures set out in the CIHR's 2008-2011 Action Plan for the Promotion of Official Languages.

Strategic Plan

Though the work is well under way, not all of the objectives identified in the initiative's strategic plan have been fully achieved. Several tasks remain to be completed in order to reach the goals.

Define the OLMC Research Field

One of the primary objectives of the consultative committee is to define the OLMC research field and identify the OLMC research priorities. To accomplish this, the strategic initiative pays particular attention to the results of consultations with researchers, with OLMCs, and with organizations that are deeply committed in developing these communities. Future funding opportunities targeting OLMC research priorities will take into account the existing frame of reference while incorporating more specific needs as they are identified.

Fund the Three Priority Research Areas and Build Research Capacity

The second objective of the strategic plan is to fund the three priority research areas identified by the OLMCs and thereby increase the capacity to conduct health research in these areas. For that purpose, CIHR has set aside funds to support research projects on health issues related to official languages for the period 2009-2013. The funding programs most likely to help build research capacity in this field will be used. In addition to Catalyst Grants, Scholarships and Fellowships will be offered to master, doctoral, and post-doctoral students to increase their interest in this field. Emerging Team Grants will also be offered to support the development of interdisciplinary, interprofessional, and intersectoral teams that conduct OLMC health research, to accelerate the application of research findings, and to provide opportunities for developing careers and building research capacity. At the end of the funding period, the teams that have received financial support should be able to compete with other teams in the major funding competitions.

Disseminate New Knowledge about OLMCs Health

To encourage the application of newly created knowledge, the OLMC initiative plans to make use of Meetings, Planning and Dissemination Grants. These activities are both consistent with the mandate of CIHR and relevant to its priorities. In order to disseminate new knowledge, with the researchers' consent, CIHR will publish, on the OLMC initiative web site, the results of the studies that it has funded in this field.

CIHR action plan for the promotion of official languages 2008-2011

On January 9, 2008, the Commissioner of Official Languages published a report titled "The Role of Canadian Federal Research Funding Agencies in the Promotion of Official Languages", which contained nine recommendations directed at federal granting agencies. In response to the report, CIHR submitted an action plan to the Commissioner on February 22, 2008, outlining the actions CIHR will take to implement the relevant recommendations contained in the report.

The action plan includes five objectives aimed at better serving researchers and research institutions involved in health research within OLMCs. The objectives are to:

  1. Promote CIHR research programs and the OLMC initiative;
  2. Ensure that the applications' evaluation process is adequate in both official languages by ensuring that the members of peer review committees are knowledgeable about and have a better understanding of the unique reality of researchers in small official language minority universities and the obstacles they face;
  3. Ensure stable funding reserved for health research relevant to OLMCs;
  4. Simplify the funding application process for researchers;
  5. Facilitate the use of data related to funding awarded to OLMC universities, bilingual and official language majority universities, as well as to research projects submitted in English or French.

Some of the measures proposed in this action plan have already been implemented, such as the allocation of funding for research on OLMCs health issues, the use of a Common CV, the implementation of software that lets researchers submit their grant applications online, and certain activities carried out to inform researchers about the initiative's mandate. Although past efforts contributed to promoting the interests of English and French research communities in minority communities and to increase capacity for OLMC research, further work is needed.

Promote CIHR's OLMC Research Programs and OLMC Research Initiative

To make researchers more knowledgeable about the programs offered by CIHR, and especially the funding opportunities specific to OLMCs, the following activities will be carried out:

Summer Institute - CIHR plans to hold a Summer Institute once every three years for the purposes of: 1) making the participants more aware of the special situation of OLMCs, 2) providing the participants with research training, 3) building the capacity to do health research on OLMCs, 4) promoting the creation and maintenance of interdisciplinary research teams and partnership with health professionals and key players from the OLMCs, and 5) contributing to a national network of OLMC health researchers and persons who use their research results.

Visits to universities - Starting in Fall 2008, the management team for the OLMC initiative will visit French-language universities outside of Quebec. These visits will be repeated regularly. Their purpose will be inform researchers of the OLMC initiative and CIHR's funding programs, to provide training sessions on how to fill out CIHR application forms, and to provide consultations for researchers who wish to submit applications in the near future. Visits will also be made to French-language universities within Quebec and English-language universities elsewhere in Canada that have research programs focusing on health in OLMCs.

Symposium to promote networking - The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in collaboration with McGill University's Training and Human Resources Development Project, the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN), and Jeffery Hale Hospital and Saint Brigid's Residence, are organizing a research symposium which will take place in Montreal on March 26-27, 2009.

The objective of this gathering will be to explore opportunities for establishing partnerships between researchers and community organizations in order to address healthcare issues regarding English-speaking minority communities in various regions of Québec.

Presence at provincial and national conferences - The management team for the initiative will ensure a presence at conferences, forums, colloquia, symposia, and lectures focusing on health within OLMCs. The team will take advantage of these opportunities to promote the funding programs offered by CIHR and its OLMC initiative.

Training for new researchers - CIHR plans to continue partnering with the Consortium national de formation en santé and other interested organizations, to support researchers at small French-language universities. CIHR's roles in this partnership will be to contribute expertise and to provide training sessions to enhance these researchers' chances of obtaining CIHR grants.

Evaluation Process

To increase the awareness of the Chairs and Scientific Officers of the peer-review committees of the challenges faced by OLMCs, a section has been included in the guide provided by CIHR. The managers of the OLMC initiative will also work with the peer-review committee officials to incorporate the relevant information into their annual training sessions. The purpose of these measures is to ensure that the process for evaluating funding applications is equitable in both official languages.

Facilitate the Compilation of Data on OLMC Funding

To inform the researchers, communities and interested organizations, the management team for the OLMC initiative will write and publish an annual report on the grants awarded and the results of the promotion and development activities carried out.

Consultative committee renewal

After five years in existence and in keeping with the committee's mandate, the time has come to begin the renewal process of one third of committee members. Interested parties are invited to apply. The selection of the new members is planned for early 2009, their term should begin in the spring 2009.


In its short history the OLMC initiative has been proactive in determining strategic directions, launching capacity building funding opportunities and establishing productive partnerships with organizations having vested interests in the health of minority languages communities. Advancing research that is relevant to Official Language Minority Communities is an ongoing commitment of CIHR. However, to be most successful, the involvement and commitment of other key partners interested in the promotion and well being of Official Languages Minority Communities is needed. To that end, CIHR is committed to expand its list of partners and collaborators.

Appendix A – Current Members of the OLMC Consultative Committee

Mr. James Carter
Program and Policy Advisor
Community Health and Social Services Network
Health Canada CCESMC
1691 Montarville, suite 102
Saint-Bruno QC J3V 3E9

Mme Francine Desbiens
Research coordinator
National Secretariat - Consortium national de formation en santé
Institut canadien de recherche sur les minorités linguistiques
260 Dalhousie, suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7E4

Danielle Ferron, PhD (Observer)
Senior Research and Policy Analyst
Office of the Commissionner of Official Languages
344 Slater, 3rd floor,
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T8

Ms. Christine Fitzgerald (ex officio)
Official Language Champion
Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160 Elgin Street,
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0W9

Mr. Louis Hanrahan (Co-chair)
Director General
Jeffery Hale Hospital - Saint Brigid's
1645, Chemin St-Louis
Sillery, QC G1S 4M3

Dr Rodrigue Landry
Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities
Moncton University
Pavillon Léopold-Taillon pièce 410
Moncton, NB E1A 3E9

Anne Leis, PhD
Associate Professor
Faculty of Medicine
Community Health and Epidemiology,
University of Saskatchewan
107, Wiggins Road
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E5

Jo Ann Lévesque, PhD
Director of Research
Office of Research Opportunities
Faculty of Arts, McGill University
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Arts Building, Room 136
Montreal QC H3A 2T6

Roger Guillemette
Assistant Director, Policy and Analysis
Official Language Community Development Bureau
Health Canada B351 Jeanne Mance Building
200 Eglantine Driveway, Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0K9

Denis Prud'homme, M.D., M.Sc. (Co-chair)
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Ottawa
451 Smyth Road, room 3028
Ottawa (Ontario) K1H 8M5

Mathieu Ravignat
Program Officer, SSHRC
Strategic Programs and Joint Initiatives
350 Albert, box 1610 Suc. B
Ottawa On K1P 6G4

Dr Léonard Rivard
Faculty of Education, Director, Research Center
Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface
200, avenue de la Cathédrale
Winnipeg (Manitoba) R2H 0H7 Canada

Johanne A. Lapointe, PhD
Team Lead
Multi-Institute Strategic Initiatives
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0W9

Carole Reece
Project Officer
Multi-Institute Strategic Initiatives
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0W9

Former Members of the OLMC Consultative Committee

Dr. Morris Barer
Scientific Director
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Mme Jeanine Bustros
Physical Health Measures Division
Statistics Canada

Dr. Antonia Maioni
McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Ms. Michèle O'Rourke
Associate, Stratégic Initiatives
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Dr. Louise Picard
Programme de rechherche d'éducation et de développement en santé publiques (REDSP)
Département de santé publique

Dr. Amélie Quesnel-Vallée
Assistant Professor
Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine
McGill University

Kelly Van Koughnet, (ex officio)
Program, Planning and Process (PPP)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Sonia Vieira
Project Officer
Multi-Institute Strategic Initiatives
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Ms. Jennifer Zelmer
Vice-president Research and Analysis
Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

Appendix B – OLMC Research Priorities

Determinants of health

The importance of language has a particular dimension with health issues in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention and effective communication between patients and health workers. The few studies on official language minority communities reveal a negative health differential and a stronger role of some determinants, such as living in a minority community, yet the studies do not explain these health inequalities.

Population health research looks at all determinants of health: the social and physical environment in which populations live, resources available to them, health services, lifestyle, cultural practices and biological determinants. This view incorporates two major factors that may explain health inequalities: the personal factor, which explores the characteristics of individuals, and the contextual factor, which looks at living environments (resources and infrastructures) and the collective functioning (sociocultural and historical characteristics of the community, degree of integration, mobility, norms and values).

This priority research area seeks to identify the bio-psycho-social determinants of health and the health needs of official language minority populations, document the access these populations have to health services and determine how accessibility affects their health.

Health service governance, management and delivery

The issue of health institution governance by official language minorities and its consequences on the health of these communities is still not clearly documented. It is important to increase our knowledge to gain a better understanding of the impact increased participation in governance and decision making will have.

Language, culture and health

The connections between language, culture and health have to do with the effects of the minority linguistic and cultural experience on identity development and health. The connections between "language, culture and health" particularly affect certain "client groups": early childhood, youth, seniors, women, new Canadians and people with mental health or psychosocial problems. Speech, verbal and non-verbal communication, the meaning of "symbols" and general comprehension are closely linked to culture and language. When it comes to health problems, it is particularly crucial for people to be able to use their own language to explain their symptoms, state of mind, difficulties and pains to a professional who understands their language.

It is important to understand the situation of members of official language minority communities, how they view the limited access to services they encounter and the impact this situation has on their health. With an active immigration policy, the specific situation of new francophones from Africa, Asia and the West Indies is among the shifting issues of access to French-language services. The importance of language and culture becomes even clearer for seniors with memory problems or depressive people under great psychological distress.

Appendix C – OLMC Summer Institute: Speakers and Conference Titles

Date Speaker Conference Title
June 9, 2008 Denise Moreau
School of Nursing and Institute of Women's Studies,
University of Ottawa
Reflections on the Learning Objectives
Hubert Gauthier
Président-directeur général, Société Santé en Français
OLMC and Health 101: General Context
Jennifer Johnson
Executive Director, Quebec Community Health and Social Services Network
Quebec's English-speaking Community in 2007
Anne Leis
Department of Community Health and Epidemiology,
University of Saskatchewan
The Health of Francophones in a Minority Situation
Louise Bouchard
Department of Sociology and
Institute of Population Health,
University of Ottawa
The Linguistic Minority Situation as a Determinant of Health
Pier Bouchard
Department of Public Administration, Université de Moncton
Governance, Citizen Participation and Continued Improvement of Health Services in French
Dre Marie-Hélène Chomienne
Department of Family Medicine,
University of Ottawa and Montfort Hospital
Language, Culture and Health: The State of Knowledge
Lise Dubois
Canada Research Chair in Nutrition,
Faculty of Medicine,
University of Ottawa
The Determinants of Health and Well-being: The Population Health Approach
Michelle Fortier
School of Human Kinetics,
University of Ottawa
The PAC Project: Counseling in Physical Activity: Interdisciplinary Research ... in Action!
June 10, 2008 Jean-Pierre Corbeil
Chief Specialist, Language Statistics Section, Demography Division,
Statistics Canada
Survey on the Vitality of Official Language Minorities in Canada (EVMLO, 2006) and Access to Health Services in the Language of Choice: Methodological Issues
Dr Pierre Pluye
Department of Family Medicine,
McGill University
Mixed Methods in Health Sciences
Alexandre Dumas
Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa
Under the Spotlight
Eric Mykhalovskiy
Canadian Institutes of Health New Investigator,
Department of Sociology, York University
Power and Ethics in Community-oriented Research
Christiane Bernier
Research Manager, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages,
Department of Sociology, Laurentian University
Utopia or Possibility? Francophones in a Minority Situation and their Perception of Access to Services in their Own Language and Region
Andrea Smith
Senior Knowledge Synthesis and Exchange Specialist, Knowledge Translation Portfolio, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Building Bridges from Research to Implementation
Gratien Allaire
Director, Institut franco-ontarien and Professor,
Department of History, Laurentian University
Second report on the health of Francophones: Issues, challenges and follow-up
Nathalie H. Gendron
Deputy Director, Knowledge Creation Programs Branch, Research Portfolio, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
How to Write a Grant Proposal

  1. Forgues E., Landry R. (2006). Defining Francophones in Minority Situations: An Analysis of Various Statistical Definitions and their Implications, Joint Commission on Health Care Research for Francophones in Minority Situations.
  2. Ibid
  3. Jedwab, J. (2008). How Shall we Define Thee? Determining who is an English-Speaking Quebecer and Assessing its Demographic Vitality. In R.Y. Bourhis (Ed.) The Vitality of the English-Speaking Communities of Quebec: From Community Decline to Revival. Montreal, Quebec: CEETUM, University of Montreal.
  4. Stevenson, G. (1999). Community Besieged: The Anglophone Minority and the Politics of Quebec. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.
  5. Report to the Federal Minister of Health: Consultative Committee for French-Speaking Minority Communities, September 2001.
  6. Report to the Federal Ministerof Health Consultative Committee for English-Speaking Minority Communities July 2002.
  7. Report to the Federal Minister of Health: Consultative Committee for French-Speaking Minority Communities, September 2001.
  8. Black C., McGrail K., Fooks C., Baranek P., Maslove L. Data, Data, Everywhere... : Improving Access to Population Health and Health Services Research Data in Canada. Final Report. Vancouver, BC and Ottawa, ON: Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and Canadian Policy Research Networks, April 2005.
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