The national research hub on official language minority communities

The importance of languages of communication and services in the context of Covid-19

The importance of languages of communication and services in the context of Covid-19
As we watch the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world, it is clear that the health and social care sector is under enormous and unprecedented pressure, with everyone trying to do their utmost to prevent the impact of the storm that we are facing. At moments like these, we must think of those who are in distress – some seriously ill in hospital, fighting for their lives, others lonely isolating at home or protecting vulnerable family members, whether older people or young children.

Some would argue that language is not a priority in such challenging circumstances; but in fact, the opposite is true. It is important to be able to communicate and to receive services in one’s own language, whether it be French in Canada, Spanish in the United States, Welsh in Wales, Basque in Europe, Indigenous languages and all other languages in minority situation. As anxiety increases, it is important to remember that many patients within linguistic minority groups use their mother tongue when communicating with health care service providers. Giving an ' active offer ' of patients´ language services can facilitate valid assessment, accurate diagnosis and a better understanding of treatment and care. Alarming data reveal that patients are being left behind due to lack of communication in their mother tongue. See here. We must also remember those who are frail and isolated at home can be better comforted when spoken to in their mother tongue.

Language is a crucial issue in all crisis management. What is more important than being able to communicate with its citizens in their language in order to inform them, give them the instructions to follow and reassure them in order to maintain social cohesion and trust in public authorities? Communication is not incidental. How public authorities and different health and social service providers cope with compliance during this period of instability is important. Admittedly, public authorities and suppliers are under enormous pressure to cope with the daily crisis situation, however, we firmly believe that language standards must be respected alongside other sectoral standards.

We all believe/ We the undersigned believe that fighting for the language is part of a wider fight for social justice and fairness. This is at the heart of our campaign. This is why we demand appropriate language services in the public sector, particularly in the area of health and social care, where ensuring that people have a right to justice and fair treatment is key at a time when they feel at their most vulnerable and needy.

We urge the WHO, public authorities, and public health providers to make a public statement regarding the importance of an ‘active offer’ of language services across the health and social services sector during this crisis, and to remind providers of the way in which language appropriate services can strengthen their ability to deliver effective, fair, safe and high-quality health and social care.


  • ACUFC (Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne)
  • Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (Ottawa)
  • ICRML (Institut canadien de recherche sur les minorités linguistiques)
  • Institut du Savoir Montfort (ISM)
  • SSF (Société santé en français)
  • CHSSN (Community Health and Social Services Network)
  • CCS (Collective Community Services)
  • 4 Korners (Laurentides, Québec)
  • Townshippers’ Association (Sherbrooke, Québec)
  • Assistance and Referral Center (Greefield Park, Québec)
  • CAMI (Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders)
  • ECOL (English Community Organization of Lanaudière)
  • QCGN (Quebec Community Groups Network)
  • Vision Gaspé-Percé Now
  • Montréal West Island Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre
  • ECO-02 (English Community Organization Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean)
  • Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal
  • Literacy Quebec

  • Annie Bédard, Directrice générale, Société santé en français (Manitoba)
  • Lynn Brouillette, PDG, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne
  • Linda Cardinal, Chargée de mission pour le développement de la recherche, Université de l’Ontario français et professeure titulaire École d’études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
  • Stéphanie Collin, professeure à l'École des hautes études publiques de l'Université de Moncton
  • Jacques Paul Couturier, président, Institut canadien de recherche sur les minorités linguistiques
  • Danielle de Moissac, Professeure agrégée, cheffe du département des sciences expérimentales, Université de Saint Boniface (Manitoba)
  • Éric Forgues, Directeur général, Institut canadien de recherche sur les minorités linguistiques
  • Érik Labelle Eastaugh, Directeur, Observatoire international de droits linguistiques (Moncton, Nouveau-Brunswick)
  • Francis LaBossière, Président, Santé en français (Manitoba)
  • Dr. Bernard Leduc, PDG, Hôpital Montfort (Ottawa)
  • Anne Leis, Présidente de la Société Santé en français et professeure au département de la Santé Communautaire et Epidémiologie, Faculté de Médecine de l’Université de la Saskatchewan
  • Denis Prudhomme, Vice-président associé à la recherche et Directeur, Institut du Savoir Monfort, Hôpital Montfort (Ottawa)
  • Sébastien Savard, Professeur agrégé, directeur intérimaire de l’École de service social, Université d’Ottawa (Ontario)
  • Sanni Yaya, Professeur et titulaire de la Chaire Léopold Senghor sur la santé mondiale (Université d’Ottawa)
  • Lorraine O'Donnell, Affiliate Assistant Professor and Coordinator-Researcher, Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec)
  • Patrick Donovan, Associate Coordinator, Quebec English-speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec)
  • Ann Marie Powell, President of the board of directors, Megantic English-speaking Community Development Corporation (MCDC)
  • Brian Gignac, Executive Director, Megantic English-speaking Community Development Corporation (MCDC)

  • SOCDEMCAT (The Catalan Association of Medical Enciclopaedic Dictionary)

  • Administrazioa Euskaraz Taldea, Group for Public Administration in Basque
  • Aintzat – Health professionals and patients group for health services in Basque
  • EHE (Euskal Herrian Euskaraz) Organisation for the revitalization of the Basque language
  • EH Bildu, Basque Political Party, with representation in the Basque, Navarrese and Spanish Parliaments
  • Euskal Herriko Bilgune Feminista Feminist Movement of the Basque Country.
  • Euskal Herriko Emakumeok Mundu Martxa, Feminist association of the Basque Country
  • EHKOlektiboa, (Collective of farmers and neighbor who wirk and promote agroecology in the Basque Country)
  • ELA (Eusko Langileen Alkartasuna) -Basque Workers Union
  • Geltoki kooperatiba (Geltoki cooperativist and cultural association)
  • Hiruki Larroxa Kolektiboa (Rose Triangle Group), LGTBQ critical thinking organization.
  • Hizkuntz Eskubideen Behatokia, or Language Rights´ Watch
  • LAB (Langile Abertzaleen Batzorea), Worker´s Union
  • Medikuntza Asanblada - (Assembly of Medical Students of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country)
  • Naziogintza Taldea, Cultural and Political group for the Basque language
  • OEE (Osasungoa Euskalduntzeko Erakundea- Organisation for Health Care in Basque)
  • NUPeko Osasun Fakultateko Euskara Taldea (Basque Language Association of the Health Sciences School at the Public University of Navarre-NUP.)
  • UEU (Udako Euskal Unibertsitatea), Basque Summer University
  • Kontseilua, or Euskararen Gizarte Erakundeen Kontseilua (Council of the Basque Language Organizations)
  • Ibon Aginaga Imaz, Basque Language Technician
  • Irati Agirreazkuenaga Onaindia, Researcher and Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Joseba Agirreazkuenaga Ziorraga, Reseacrher and Professor at the UPV/EHU (univesrity of the Basque Country)
  • Joxe Mari Agirresarobe, Retired/pensioner
  • Martxelin Aizpuru Agirre, Biologist
  • Arantza Aizpurua Arruti, Retired/pensioner
  • Josu Albero Rodriguez, Microbiologist
  • Maialen Alday Munilla, MD
  • Miren Edurne Alegria Aierdi, Translator
  • Xabier Alkiza San Marcelo, Stuntman
  • Sagrario Aleman Astiz, BSc in Pharmacy, Member of Euskaltzaindia (Academy of Basque Language)
  • Jose Manuel Aleman Astiz, Teacher
  • Beatriz Aleman Astiz, Teacher
  • Margarita Alonso Henares, retired Professor.
  • Aitzol Altuna Enzunza
  • Saioa Altzua Galparsoro, Municipality Worker
  • Imanol Alvarez Garcia, Retired teacher
  • Dionisio Amundarain Sarasola, Retired/pensioner
  • Uxoa Anduaga Berrotaran, Sociolinguist, Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Pako Aristi, Writer and Poet
  • Oihana Aristondo Etxebarria, Researcher Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Maider Arizmendiarrieta Australia, Teacher
  • Izaskun Artola Irazabal, MD
  • Amets Arzallus Antia, Bertsolari (Bard or Basque Poet)
  • Idoia Astiz Landiribar, Retired teacher
  • Alberto Atxotegi Aritzaga, Retired/pensioner
  • Joseba Barandiaran
  • Josune Bilbao Zabala, Retired Professor.
  • Eneko Ceciaga Elexpuru, MD
  • Koldo Callado Hernando, MD
  • Aitor Elizaran Aguilar
  • Mitxel Elortza, Musician and teacher
  • Ines Etxabe Belamendia, Educationist
  • Amaia Maite Erdozain Fernandez, Professor of Pharmacology, UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Jabier Etxebarria Bartolome, Interpreter
  • Malen Ezeiza Zapiain, Nursery Student
  • Joseba Fernandez de Retana, MD
  • Ana Galarraga Aiestaran, Science-journalist
  • Miren Arantzazu Galparsoro Barandiaran, Retired/pensioner
  • Mikel Gandarias Jaio, MD
  • Virginia Guillen, Professor at the Department of Neuroscience, UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Cristina Gonzalez Artetxe
  • Karlos Gonzalez Gonzalez, Language technician
  • Aitor Ibarra Alberdi, Metal worker
  • Iñaki Idigoras Igartua, Industrial Engineer
  • Abel Irizar Mantzizidor
  • Loinatz Lasa
  • Jose Inazio Lopez de Luzuriaga Fernandez, Musician and Retired teacher
  • Ismael Manterola Ispizua, Teacher
  • Oskar Martinez de Gereñu Martinez de Madina
  • Aitor Montes Lasarte, MD
  • Leire Narbaiza Arizmendi, Teacher
  • Aitor Okina Llodio, Engineer
  • Begotxu Olaizola Elordi
  • Iñaki Olalde Azkorreta, Teacher
  • Miren Onaindia Olalde, Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Patxi Otamendi Egiguren, Priest
  • Joseba Otano Villanueva, Administration worker
  • Irati Pagoaga, Teacher
  • Jaime Robredo Villanuenga, Retired/pensionist
  • Garikoitz Sanchez Verdugo
  • Andoni Sarriegi Eskisabel, Retired/pensioner
  • Aitor Sarriegi Galparsoro, Teacher and Poet
  • Francisco Sudupe Elorza, Ph D Philologist
  • Mikel Tirapu Goikoetxea
  • Rebeka Ubera Aranzeta, MP (Member of the Basque Parliament)
  • Kandido Uranga, Actor and Stuntman
  • Mikel Urkola Eleizegi, Retired Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Ane Maite Urtiaga Arregi
  • Iker Villanueva, MD
  • Julen Zabalo Bilbao, Sociologist, Professor at the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Jon Zarate Sesma, PhD, Professor of Pharmacy, Vicerector of the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country)
  • Arkaitz Zarraga Azumendi, Director of the Basque Language School of Basauri (Basque Country)
  • Adrian Unai Zelaia Arieta-Araunabeña, MD
  • Joseba Unzalu Aurrekoetxea, Retired Professor.
  • Jon Zulaika Isasti, Technician of the Public Administration

  • Gwerfyl Roberts, Cadeirydd, Is-grŵp Iechyd, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg
  • Dr Emyr Humphreys, Ymgynghorydd Rhewmatoleg, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Cwm Taf Morgannwg
  • Beti George, Darlledwr, ac Ymgyrchydd Dementia
  • Dr Elin Walker Jones, Seicolegwr Clinigol, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwalader
  • Dr Conor Martin, Ymgynghorydd mewn Gofal yr Henoed, Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwalader
  • Dafydd Meurig, Aelod Cabinet Oedolion, Iechyd a Llesiant, Cyngor Gwynedd
  • Dr Llinos Roberts, Meddyg Teulu, Y Tmbl
  • Sara Vaughan, Rheolwr Datblygu’r Gymraeg, Ysgol Meddygaeth Prifysgol Caerdydd

Letter in a PDF format

Basque Country