COVID-19 Self-care Guide distributed in French only

The Government of Quebec determined it was a public health imperative that a detailed 24-page guide providing Quebecers with critical information on best practices in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency be delivered to every household. This was done, at substantial cost, because every Quebecer needs to have this information. Unfortunately, the Guide autosoins or Self-care Guide was circulated only in French. On page two, the document notes, in French, that an English version is available online.

On April 7, during the government’s daily briefing to Quebecers and the media, Health Minister Danielle McCann said an English version of the Self-care Guide “should be distributed just like the French version.” We take that to mean it should be delivered to people’s homes. Later last week, a spokesperson for the ministry said that language policy prevented the mailing of an English version.

This is not accurate. It may be government practice or policy never to use English, but it is not the law. In a letter to Premier François Legault and Health Minister McCann last week, the QCGN reminded the government that sections 22 of the Charter of the French language and of the Health and Social Service Ministry’s Politique linguistique provide tools for the government to take appropriate measures in communicating with citizens in English.

It is important to note that we are speaking of the health and safety of all Quebecers. If, as the government has determined, this information must be understood by every Quebecer, not conveying it to 13 per cent of the population puts us all at risk.

We call upon the premier and the minister of health to do the right thing and immediately send this document to all English-speaking households. If they do not have the means to identify those households, then it must be sent to all. This is not politics, this is survival. Let’s get this critical information out now. Once this crisis is over, we can debate how this could have been done more efficiently.

On Monday, April 13, MNA Christopher Skeete tweeted that English-speaking Quebecers who would like to receive the English version of the Self-care Guide can consult it online or order a free paper version. He also announced the government is working on setting up pickup locations.

The most vulnerable English-speaking Quebecers do not have access to the internet and are unable to consult the guide online or request a copy. Elderly people are advised to stay home for their own good and the good of society in general. It is not logical that English-speaking citizens take increased risk to obtain a pamphlet intended to reduce risk.

During government consultations with organizations serving English-speaking Quebecers last fall, participants heard that the government is there to serve all Quebecers. The government’s handling of this issue provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that.

In the midst of a public health crisis all necessary measures must be taken to inform and engage all citizens. English-speaking Quebecers are doing what they can. Some are printing the guide and delivering it to elderly parents and neighbours. QCGN has created an online hub to ensure access to reliable information in English. You can find it at

Over the past few weeks, Legault received high marks for ensuring access to most government information in English on coronavirus. We count on him and McCann to remedy this situation as soon as possible to protect English-speaking individuals, their families, neighbours and communities, and indeed all Quebecers.