Canada's Violation of International Law During the 2014-16 Ebola Outbreak
The Canadian Yearbook of International Law: 2016/Annuaire canadien de droit international: 2016, Vol. 54, October 2017
18 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2017
Date Written: 2016
The devastating 2014–16 West African Ebola outbreak challenged the authority of the World Health Organization (WHO) to enforce the legally binding International Health Regulations (IHR) that govern pandemic responses. Under Article 43 of the IHR, states parties can only implement additional health measures beyond the WHO’s recommendations if public health rationales or scientific evidence justify such measures. Yet at least fifty-eight states parties enacted additional health measures, mainly travel restrictions to or from Ebola-affected countries. This article explains why Canada’s visa restrictions targeting Ebola-affected countries failed to meet the IHR’s requirements and therefore violated international law. Specifically, Canada’s response went against public health authorities’ consensus views, the best available scientific evidence on disease transmission, and the WHO’s recommendations. In light of its traditional role as a global health champion, Canada must lead by example and abide by international law, including the IHR, instead of picking and choosing which rules to follow and thereby encouraging other countries to do the same.
Keywords: International health law, global health governance, Ebola, infectious diseases, pandemic responses, International Health Regulations, World Health Organization
JEL Classification: K32, K33, F53, F55, I14, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation