Government Response and Accountability: What We Can Learn from a COVID-19 Spring

Sponsored by University of Ottawa Press

Recorded on 12/07/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 170

As we stare down the barrel of a COVID-19 winter, many of us would rather skip ahead to summer and what will hopefully be a (generally) vaccinated populace. Entering December, many areas in the US are buckling under increased outbreaks on top of already staggering case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths. How have we not learned the lessons of the spring’s first wave?

This month we (figuratively) sat down with the editors of Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19, a volume rapidly assembled this past spring that covers Canadian and global responses to the pandemic. Our first two episodes of the series are with Colleen Flood and Vanessa MacDonnell, both of the University of Ottawa, who tackled the nuances of Canadian federalism, accountability, and civil liberties in the face of COVID-19.

This first episode dives into the history of Canada’s Emergencies Act, and how it complicates the possibility of a united, national response to public health crises. Colleen and Vanessa also discuss the transparency needed to gain compliance over mask or travel mandates, and the positives and negatives of Canada’s swift—though closed-door—federal action taken in the early days of the pandemic.


About the guests:

Colleen Flood
University Research Chair in Health Law Policy & Ethics
University of Ottawa

Colleen M. Flood is the University of Ottawa Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and inaugural Director of the Ottawa Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics. From 2017 to 2018, she served as Associate Vice-President Research at the University of Ottawa. From 2000 to 2015, she was Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. From 2006 to 2011, she served as a Scientific Director of the Institute for Health Services and Policy Research, one of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


Her research interests are focused on the role of law in shaping health and health care systems and the appropriate roles for the public and private sectors. She is the author/editor of twelve books (two of which are in multiple editions) and editor of Halsbury’s Laws of Canada: Public Health (2019 Reissue) and teaches a course called the Law of Modern- Day Plagues.


Vanessa MacDonnell
Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa

Vanessa MacDonnell is Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and Co-Director of the uOttawa Public Law Centre. She researches in the areas of Canadian constitutional law, constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law, and criminal law and procedure. In 2019, she spent six months as Scholar-in-Residence in the Constitutional, Administrative and International Law Section of the Department of Justice Canada and was a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow in the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law at Melbourne Law School.

Vanessa is currently completing a three- year research project on quasi-constitutional legislation funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Other recent projects focus on global constitutionalism and on examining the civil servant’s role in the implementation of constitutional rights. She is a member of the Global Young Academy.