Pandemic Data Sharing: How the Canadian Constitution Turned Into a Suicide Pact
Amir Attaran,Adam Houston "Pandemic Data Sharing: How the Canadian Constitution Turned into a Suicide Pact" in Colleen M Flood,Vanessa MacDonnell,Jane Philpott,Sophie Theriault & Sridhar Venkapuram,eds, Vulnerable:The Policy,Law and Ethics of COVID-19 (Ottawa:University of Ottawa Press, Forthcoming)
10 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020 Last revised: 8 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 28, 2020
For decades, public health professionals, scholars, and on multiple occasions the Auditor General of Canada, have raised warnings about Canada’s dysfunctional system of public health data sharing. While proper data sharing will not automatically translate into an effective response to the pandemic, it is an indispensible precursor to developing one. Nonetheless, data that are the sine qua non of Canada battling COVID-19 scientifically and effectively are not shared between the provinces and the federal government. With its woefully inadequate response anchored in the erroneous belief that health falls purely within the jurisdiction of the provinces, despite the Supreme Court’s clear conclusions to the contrary, Canada currently relies on voluntary agreements that are not merely ineffective, but may actually inhibit data sharing. There is no reason for this to be the case. As outlined in this chapter, Canada already possesses the powers, under the Statistics Act and the Public Health Agency of Canada Act, to oblige provinces to share vital data in a timely manner. It must exercise those powers, both in response to the current pandemic, and against the threat of even more serious public health emergencies in the future.
Keywords: Pandemic; Data Sharing; Canadian Constitution
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