Montfort's Victories

"Montfort is the accomplishment of a people. It’s also the dream of a people. How could we be anything but proud, very proud, of Montfort?" [Translation]
Michelle de Courville Nicol
2000-2001 Annual Report

Experience shows that times of crisis can lead to growth and success, whether for people, companies or organizations. For those with backbone, challenges are a learning experience that holds its own reward.

In its way, Hôpital Montfort has risen to meet many challenges in its efforts to protect its gains over the course of its history.

No discussion of challenges would be complete without first mentioning the challenge facing the Daughters of Wisdom in the 1950s when they created a hospital to promote the health and well-being of the Francophone community of Eastern Ontario. The fact that Hôpital Montfort is celebrating its 60th anniversary is a tribute to their determination, courage and dedication.

In 1971 the Council of Physicians lobbied government authorities to obtain an intensive care unit at Hôpital Montfort.  For the Council, it was unthinkable to deprive the hospital of such a critical service, especially when every other hospital in the region had been equipped with an IC unit for ages. However, it took until December 1973 for the hospital to obtain ministerial approval to proceed with the construction of an intensive care unit. Almost a year later, in November 1974, an eight-bed unit was ready to accommodate its first patients.

Throughout the 1970s, use of the emergency room increased incessantly. From one year to the next, the annual reports showed that emergency facilities were falling seriously short of meeting the demands of this growth adequately. However, the Ministry of Health was slow to firmly support the expansion plans of the Hospital’s administrators.

In 1981 cramped quarters and the attendant difficulties had grown serious enough that the Hospital was at risk of losing its accreditation. Exasperated over the sluggish negotiations with the Ministry, the hospital’s physicians supported the Hospital’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Jocelyn Deneault, when he offered up his resignation at a press conference that drew public attention to the problem. The efforts of the Board of Directors and physicians finally succeeded in the fall of 1982 when the Ministry authorized the hospital to correct its emergency room problems, specifically by enlarging it and by providing space for ambulatory care. In the meantime, the intensive care unit expansion was completed in 1985.

In 1985 the hospital’s directors and physicians had to fight to keep the obstetrical department open following a recommendation by the Regional Board of Health whereby thirty medical/surgical beds would be added but the obstetrical department would close. In a show of strength that would foreshadow the intensity of the community’s commitment to the S.O.S. Montfort movement, the hospital mounted a campaign to measure community support for its cause and sound out opinion among its former patients. A petition was distributed and a survey completed. Over 13,000 people signed a petition opposing the proposal.

In 1986, however, a review of needs within the community required the hospital to change the submitted plan. Directors asked the provincial government to approve a "more comprehensive" plan at a cost of over $20 million. 

It took repeated demands to government authorities during a time of uncertainty in order to get the project off the ground. The hospital’s directors constantly promoted the project and raised awareness among public servants and politicians about the need for an expansion, renovation and construction project to address a series of urgent and essential needs.

“Knowing the nature of the fight that [H]ôpital Montfort managers had to wage to get the credits needed to expand its services … without the help of Minister Bernard Grandmaître and MP Gilles Morin, none of the swirl of worker activity (…) in front of (…) the hospital would be happening. The Chair of the Montfort Board of Directors, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, would probably still be shouting in the wind. This man [who] guided the Montfort expansion project … wore out the soles of his shoes … shuttling back and force between the offices of the different local and provincial government stakeholders.” [Translation]
Article entitled, "Montfort grandit" by Alain Dexter,
Published in Le Droit on Thursday, September 10, 1987

Work covering a period of close to ten years not only allowed the hospital to improve its emergency services, but also to renovate its surgical unit and follow an outpatient turn; to add chronic and acute care beds; to bring its fire prevention system in line with the new requirements of Ontario’s Fire Marshal; and lastly, to build a tower connecting the existing building to a new, 100,000 square foot South Wing.

The many transformations had a significant impact on the services provided to the community. With the opening of the South Wing in 1992, the Montreal Road hospital became one of the most modern and best equipped of its kind, with an emergency room capable of serving patients effectively and with dignity. Day surgeries reduced the number of procedures requiring patient hospitalizations. The vast selection of ambulatory care services aligned with the Ministry of Health policy of increasingly diverting a growing number of services to the community.

The decision to build the South Wing was a turning point in the history of Hôpital Montfort. Without this addition, the hospital may have disappeared or have been converted to a chronic care institution.

For the time being, Montfort’s survival was assured. 

The greatest challenge that Montfort ever faced happened in 1997 when the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission recommended its closure.

We all know how the story unfolded. Hôpital Montfort won its case before the Ontario Divisional Court in December 1999, and again in December 2001 before the Ontario Court of Appeal. In February 2002 the Minister of Health and Long-term Care, Tony Clement, visited Montfort to announce that the Ontario government of Premier Mike Harris would accept the Appeal Court’s verdict and would not take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

These events ended the greatest battle that the Hospital had ever known since it opened in 1953, and certainly one of the Franco-Ontarian community’s greatest victories.

The Montfort cause stood out in three ways.

First of all, the cause was truly national in scope: it rallied Francophone and Anglophone communities across the country, including massive support in Quebec. A debate of such scope had never been witnessed since the fight to defeat Regulation 17.

Secondly, the Montfort cause rewrote the book on crisis management and ways to transform a death knell into a resounding victory. There was never any question of agreeing to a compromise during the five years of struggle: S.O.S. Montfort supporters firmly believed that the slightest concession to the Commission could eventually undermine Montfort and lead to its certain demise.

Thirdly, the Montfort cause clarified the intentions of the Fathers of Confederation concerning minority language rights at the time of Canada’s creation in 1867. Montfort’s lawyers, after conducting exhaustive historical research, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Fathers of Confederation intended for both linguistic groups — Francophones outside Quebec and Anglophones in Quebec — to be equal regardless of their numbers.  

The judgements in favour of Montfort were based on an acknowledgement of the principle of linguistic minority protection and respect. The two courts of law in question understood that the victory of S.O.S. Montfort was vital to show that Francophone minorities have a legitimate place in this country.

“Directions [of the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission], which replace a wide variety of truly francophone medical services and training at Montfort with services and training elsewhere in a bilingual setting (…) fail to conform to the principle underlying our Constitution which calls for the protection of francophone minority rights.“Given the constitutional mandate for the protection and respect of minority rights (…) it was not open to the Commission to proceed on a "restructured health services" mandate only, and to ignore the broader institutional role played by Hôpital Montfort as a truly francophone centre, necessary to promote and enhance the Franco-Ontarian identity as a cultural/linguistic minority in Ontario, and to protect that culture from assimilation. “We find this is what the Commission did. Accordingly, its Directions cannot stand.”
Ontario Divisional Court Judgement
November 29, 1999

The Court of Appeal upheld this judgement. Montfort’s victory became a powerful symbol to Francophones across the country, far exceeding the boundaries of the healthcare field. These legal decisions gave Hôpital Montfort an institutional role as an establishment "vital to the Franco-Ontarian community". Today, this role translates into the hospital’s obligation to maintain the French language, pass on French culture, foster unity among the Franco-Ontarian minority, and protect the Franco-Ontarian community from assimilation.      

The Hospital’s epic saga continues. 

The New Montfort

"We must never forget the glorious past that has brought us here. However, the time has come to face the future (…)."
Gérald R. Savoie
Annual Report 2003-2004

Once the hospital’s survival was assured, its leaders turned their focus to enlarging the facility and expanding its services. The hospital was preparing for a critical transition that would allow it to fulfill its dual mission as a service provider and a teaching facility working toward self-sufficiency in the health field. 

A proposal was made to renovate the existing buildings with the addition of approximately 450,000 square feet or more than double the area of the former hospital. Today, the hospital includes five wings: the original 1953 building is now Wing C and the former South Wing has been renamed Wing A.

The hospital’s expanded physical capacity means greater access to high-quality health services for the community: in addition to more intensive care beds, it includes a completely renovated emergency room in premises twice their former size and the capacity to handle 56,000 visits a year; a new surgical theater reserved entirely for advanced laparoscopic surgery; and, revolutionary new technologies in magnetic resonance imaging, digital mammography and nuclear medicine.

The “New Montfort” that opened in 2010 is not only the most extensive expansion project in the hospital’s history, but also one of the largest infrastructure project in the history of French-speaking Ontario.

National Defence

In 2009 Hôpital Montfort became the location of National Defence’s new Canadian Forces Health Services Centre Ottawa. The Hospital saw this partnership with the federal government as an important asset for enhancing the scope and reputation of its outstanding care and services even more. Montfort is proud to serve our militaries.

Research Component

Launched in the fall of 2009 and officially opened in 2012, the mandate of the Institut de recherche de l’Hôpital Montfort (IRHM) is to improve the health of Francophones living in minority situations in Ontario and Canada.

In close collaboration with the University of Ottawa, the IRHM is studying the issues faced by Francophones living in a minority situation. Its role is to generate new knowledge along with detection tools, and to create new procedures for preventing and treating diseases.

The IRHM is an offshoot of one decisive element of Hôpital Montfort’s mission: to ensure the health-related self-sufficiency of the Franco-Ontarian population. The results will not only affect Francophones across Canada, but all minority populations, a population often neglected by research.

Academic Teaching Hospital

In June 2013 the Government of Ontario granted Hôpital Montfort its Group A academic teaching hospital designation. This moment was the culmination of over twenty years of struggle to secure recognition for the unique role of Hôpital Montfort in delivering French-language training for physicians and health care professionals in Ontario.

This official designation, which ensures the permanency of a medical teaching program in French within the province, entails greater responsibility for Hospital executives who are required to work in close collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.


A product of activism and perseverance among Francophone leaders determined to equip Ottawa East with a health facility offering services in French, Hôpital Montfort has always been a key institution within the Franco-Ontarian community. 

During its 60 years of operation, it has evolved from a small facility serving a sector of Ottawa to a centre of excellence in health care, education and research that now ranks among the best.

It has become a model hospital, and one of Ontario’s top performing hospitals. The work accomplished by its staff reaches a level of excellence that far exceeds provincial standards. It numbers among the best in the province in terms of client satisfaction.

Montfort has constantly raised the bar when it comes to quality care and services by introducing best practices and new technologies. It has spread roots throughout the community and innovated through its satellite centres, ambulatory care clinics, regional, provincial and national partnerships as well as training and research activities.

The fact that Hôpital Montfort not only managed to fight for its survival, but to flourish and become what it is today, is a tribute to the incomparable loyalty of its Boards of Directors and leaders, its staff, volunteers, physicians, health care professionals and the entire Franco-Ontarian community.