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a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to Premier François Legault on relations with English-speaking Quebecers, said an agreement had been reached to send out 800,000 English versions of the government's COVID-19 self-care guide.

Christopher Skeete “The Quebec government’s point man on anglophone affairs does not see the purpose of dividing the province by language when it comes to gauging the population’s fear of contracting COVID-19.”


I am revisiting my last post: Chronicling Covid-19 (14): The Mask (15 May 2020). It is not entirely clear and it did not address a serious matter: anxiety among English-speaking Montrealers. The relevant video is at the foot of this post.


Premier Legault’s Statement

I will write first that I did not vote for monsieur Legault, the leader of Coalition Avenir Québec, EN CAQ FR, a party Premier Legault founded.

As we have seen, there are very real problems in Quebec. For instance, the pandemic has brought to the fore the lack of safety in long-term care facilities. This problem exists elsewhere. There has just been a flare-up in Hamilton, Ontario, at the Rosslyn Retirement Residence.


In Quebec, however, 4 out of 5 victims of Covid-19 lived in long-term care facilities, CHSLDs, located in Montreal. The first two persons taken to the Montreal Jewish General Hospital were not diagnosed with Covid-19, but everything soon changed. Further arrivals to the Emergency Room (ER) were infected with Covid-19.

Other victims were the poor living in Montreal North (Montréal-Nord).

Frontline Workers

  • syndicates
  • sense of duty

Moreover, at the very beginning of his statement, monsieur Legault asked health-workers who were infected, but had recovered, to return to their duties. This I should have noted. The pandemic revealed considerable reluctance on the part of Quebec doctors to be frontline workers. Their syndicate, these are powerful in Quebec, negotiated fees that could total approximately $2,500.00 per day, which is a large amount of money. Too many lack empathy, a requirement in the case of health workers.

Monsieur Legault is taking the responsibility for his province’s lack of preparedness and will correct problems, such as unsafe long-term care facilities, to the extent that this problem can be corrected. Quebec quickly ran out personal protective equipment, as did other provinces. But there can be no doubt that he had difficulty recruiting health-care workers. Fortunately, as you know, monsieur Legault was able to call on the Canadian Armed Forces. Moreover, there were volunteers. A group of immigrants wanted to help in exchange for being granted citizenship. Would that I could find that video! This is question I must explore further. As well, there were volunteers who cooked free meals that were distributed to various houses and to the frontline workers. Charitable donations should cover the cost of these meals.



The demiurgic figure Urizen prays before the world he has forged by William Blake. (Wikipedia)

Rights and Freedoms

  • Bill 21
  • secularization versus protection
  • anxiety among anglophones
  • bilingualism

I should also comment on the worries concerning rights and freedoms, expressed by the lady, a journalist who asked a question, or questions, following Premier Legault’s statement. She may have been referring to Quebec’s unthinkable Bill 21 (MacLean’s).

There are other problems in Quebec, some of which the response to the pandemic have exposed. However, after he was elected Premier of Quebec, François Legault and members of his government passed Bill 21, which promotes absolute laïcité, secularization. Monsieur Legault’s predecessor, Dr Philippe Couillard, had attempted to forbid the wearing of clothes that impeded identification of a person. He wanted to protect Quebec citizens, but the matter of rights and freedoms was raised.

If one clicks on burqa, one can see that it is a garment that covers the face and which could also be used to conceal a weapon. Monsieur Couillard was the Premier of Quebec (Premier Ministre) at a time, not so distant, when terrorist attacks were frequent. Protection, not secularization, was Premier Couillard’s goal. However, monsieur Legault and his government introduced Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, which was assented on 16 June 2019. Bill 21 affects Civil Servants and it could be considered as an infringement on “rights and freedoms” in Quebec. Muslim women wear veils. 

French vs English/English vs French 


Finally, in a survey conducted recently by Léger Marketing, it was determined that English-speaking Quebecers (68%) feared Covid-19 more than French-speaking citizens of Montreal and Quebec as a province (47%). At first, I could not understand the lady’s question. Canadians were lifting the lockdown when the coronavirus was still active. Consequently, Premier Legault urged the citizens of Quebec to wear a facemask as a protective measure. Who wants to breathe in the virus? In short, the facemask has nothing to do with Quebec’s secularization and Bill 22. But the notion came to the lady’s mind that monsieur Legault’s request could restrict personal rights and freedoms. It didn’t. As I noted, it was a safety measure. 

But Christopher Skeete, the parliamentary assistant on relations with English-speaking Quebecers, stated that an “agreement” had been reached and that 800,000 English versions of the government’s COVID-19 self-care guide were sent out. I have my copies. As quoted above, Christopher Skeete, Quebec government’s point man on anglophone affairs “does not see the purpose of dividing the province by language when it comes to gauging the population’s fear of contracting COVID-19.”

In the days of Covid-19, a Premier of Quebec addresses both the province’s French-speaking citizens and its English-speaking citizens. Monsieur Legault, Quebec’s top doctor, Horacio Arruda, and Danielle McCann, Quebec’s Minister of Health, addressed the press in both French and English, as did monsieur Legault.

So far politics has played no role in the pandemic, and there were no significant Anglo-French skirmishes. Monsieur Legault may have expressed impatience, but he has managed the pandemic very well, in both English and French and has followed the same guidelines as other Premiers. 


The pandemic in Quebec has made several issues surface, including bilingualism. It would be my opinion, however, that the worst issue monsieur Legault faced was his nearly futile call for frontline workers and helpers. The Quebec government was dealing with a humanitarian disaster. By the way, some schools have reopened. There is a school next to my building, I could hear the children during recreation.

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 5:34 p.m. on May 17, 2020:

There are 77,001 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

  • Quebec: 42,920 confirmed (including 3,562 deaths, 11,754 resolved)
  • Ontario: 22,653 confirmed (including 1,881 deaths, 17,360 resolved)
  • Alberta: 6,644 confirmed (including 127 deaths, 5,453 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 2,428 confirmed (including 141 deaths, 1,932 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,040 confirmed (including 55 deaths, 938 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 591 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 433 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 278 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 257 resolved), 11 presumptive
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 260 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 249 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 120 confirmed (including 120 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases
  • Total: 77,001 (11 presumptive, 76,990 confirmed including 5,782 deaths, 38,552 resolved)
    (19 May 2002: 78,072 cases, 5,842 deaths, 39,228 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2020.

I think the time has come to delight English-speaking Quebecers and everyone else with Le Temps des cerises, (The Days of Cherries, Wikipedia). Our colleague Manuel Cerdá (A mi manera) wrote a post about it: Le Temps des cerises.

Yves Montand sings Le Temps des cerises. (I will post a short article, the lyrics, on this song.)


© Micheline Walker
18 May 2020