In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, law- and policymakers are taking and contemplating drastic measures to minimize the spread of the virus. But hasty and broad punitive measures may perversely undermine public health objectives while also violating human rights — so it is essential that any measures be appropriately narrow and comply with human rights standards.
Lessons learned from the HIV pandemic confirm that successful public health responses must place human rights front and centre to reduce suffering, save lives, and protect public health.
We’ve written an important statement on Human Rights in the age of COVID-19 that outlines concerns and gives Canadian leaders important recommendations to centre human rights in the COVID-19 response. While the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing legal and policy decisions to be made quickly and within previously unimaginable timelines, now is not the time for Canada to abandon its human rights obligations, including to those most marginalized.
Our statement covers four key issues:
1. Criminalization and public health surveillance
2. Prisons and other places of detention
3. Universal access to shelter and housing, income and other supports, and health care
4. Travel and border restrictions