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Canadian Public Health Association

CPHA releases a review of Canada's initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic


Ottawa, Ontario

The goals of Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery have been identified as minimizing all serious illness and death, while limiting societal disruption, including reducing the burden on health care resources. To accomplish these goals, the Government of Canada has taken unprecedented actions to respond to the outbreak that have affected all aspects of life.

The Canadian Public Health Association today released a review of Canada's Initial Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The report examines the response to the pandemic in Canada, offering a perspective and overview of public health measures as they evolved from the first wave to the second. 

This report provides a non-governmental perspective and overview of the public health measures taken during the event, and those actions taken to address the social determinants of health in Canada. It is not meant to provide a detailed analysis of the actions taken.

The report contains a number of recommendations relevant to addressing the ongoing pandemic.


Data Collection

  • Develop national data collection methodologies that incorporate gender, race and socio-economic data using culturally-safe methodologies.
  • Develop and implement auditable protections to maintain the privacy of the individual and avoid stigmatization.
  • Strengthen capacity at the local, regional, PT levels to collect race-based data.


  • Prepare a pan-Canadian framework for testing protocols, planning for testing capacity and surge laboratory capacity as part of the national response plan.
  • Include the basic components for testing kits within the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS).

Contact Tracing

  • Develop a national framework for public health human resource capacity in times of infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Establish national principles to support the future development of electronic contact-tracing applications.
  • Develop protocols for contact-tracing training among on-reserve and off-reserve First Nations populations.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Continue to develop and maintain national supply chains to meet the demands for PPE within Canada.
  • Review and adjust the composition of NESS to meet the current demands of an all-hazards approach to public health responses.

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Responsibilities

  • Develop a response framework that provides a consistent national approach to outbreak management, including communications and decision-making responsibilities.

Social Determinants of Health

  • Develop response plans to address all aspects of the social determinants of health.
  • Conduct research to determine the effect of public health response events on the social determinants of health and on individuals with low socio-economic status (SES).

Mental Wellness

  • Develop and implement population-based approaches for addressing mental wellness during an infectious disease outbreak.
  • Develop and implement plans for improving mental health and mental wellness during the recovery phase of the outbreak.
  • Develop and implement a population-based approach to mental wellness for Canada.
  • Fund mental health and wellness programs so that they can provide coverage similar to that of the health sector.

A National Approach to Public Health

  • Develop and implement federal legislation and a funding accord to identify and support public health roles and responsibilities.

Basic Income

  • Investigate and evaluate the development of a basic income model approach to social services supports.


“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses in our national public health response. Chief among our concerns is that it revealed and, and in some cases, made worse the inequities in our society. But it also provides us the opportunity post-pandemic to improve our systems so that we are better prepared for the next major infectious disease outbreak.”

“In order to be better prepared for the next infectious disease outbreak, we need federal legislation for public health – a Canada Public Health Act – with clear roles and responsibilities defined for all governments and stakeholders. Such legislation would require a national funding accord that incorporates performance measures for the delivery of public health services according to national standards.”

“Canada lacks national data collection standards and so we have inconsistencies in how surveillance data are collected and reported. Chief among these is our failure to collect information concerning race, ethnicity and socio-economic status.  This deficiency prevents officials from knowing which residents are most affected and from targeting services to meet their needs. This deficiency has clouded the real impact of COVID-19 on Black and Indigenous populations and people of colour.”

Ian Culbert
Executive Director
Canadian Public Health Association

For more information contact:
Dolores Gutierrez, Communications & Marketing Officer
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 190

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions that are necessary to achieve health for all.

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