Equity and Vulnerabilities: What We Can Learn from a COVID-19 Spring

Sponsored by University of Ottawa Press

Recorded on 12/21/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 172

As health care workers and susceptible citizens receive the first COVID-19 vaccinations, many hope this will mark the beginning of the end of a dark, deadly period. But the vaccine rollout also deepens the same problems we’ve been facing all year: who are our most vulnerable, and how do we help them in an equitable way?

Last week, two of the editors of Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 talked government response and accountability. The remaining three editors, Jane Philpott, Sophie Thériault, and Sridhar Venkatapuram, join us to continue the conversation. In these next two episodes, we shift gears into the equity and vulnerabilities of government response to COVID. What structural changes need to happen to prevent another public health crisis?

In this episode, we tackle policy measures, global response, and frontline workers. Sophie takes us through the First Nations’ roadmap on federal funding and measures to protect them from public health crises–how is this strategy relevant to safeguarding other underserved groups? Sridhar explains the dangers we’ve seen in officials treating populations as equally susceptible to the virus. Jane discusses the challenges of frontline workers that government officials fail to see, and how she hopes they’ll no longer be undervalued: “You can have all of the emergency departments and ICU beds ready that you’d like, but if you don’t actually have those frontline health workers, who are paid very little and put themselves at enormous risk … then people will die.”


About the guests:

Jane Philpott
Professor of Family Medicine, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Director of the School of Medicine
Queen’s University

The Honourable Jane Philpott is Professor of Family Medicine, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Director of the School of Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is a medical doctor, educator, and former Member of Parliament, and received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Western Ontario. She completed a Family Medicine residency at the University of Ottawa, then both a Tropical Medicine fellowship and a Master of Public Health from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Philpott spent the first decade of her medical career in Niger, West Africa. In 1998, she moved to Stouffville, Ontario, where she served as a family physician for 17 years. She was Chief of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. In 2015, Dr. Philpott was elected as the Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville. She served in numerous federal cabinet positions from 2015 to 2019, including Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Services, President of the Treasury Board, and Minister of Digital Government. Her research interests include medical education, primary care, and the Indigenous health workforce.


Sophie Thériault
Full Professor and Vice-Dean in the Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa

Sophie Thériault is Full Professor and Vice-Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Law (Civil Law Section) at the University of Ottawa. From 2015 to 2017, she served as the Vice-Dean of Graduate Studies in Law at the University of Ottawa. Professor Thériault’s research focuses on Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the context of natural resources extraction; Indigenous environmental governance; environmental justice and environmental rights; and food security and sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples. Her work examines the myriad ways in which state law dispossesses, subjugates, and marginalizes Indigenous Peoples, especially in relation to the extraction of natural resources from their traditional lands. It also focuses on the role of law in creating, reproducing, and potentially remediating environmental Biographies 603 injustices for Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups. Professor Thériault is a member of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Network of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and of the Global Young Academy.


Sridhar Venkatapuram
Associate Professor
King’s College London

Sridhar Venkatapuram is an academic practitioner in global health ethics and justice. He is Associate Professor at King’s College London, and Director of Global Health Education and Training at the King’s Global Health Institute. His interdisciplinary training includes international relations (Brown), history (SOAS), global public health (Harvard), sociology, and political philosophy (Cambridge). He has worked with organizations including Human Rights Watch, Doctors of the World, the Population Council, Open Societies Institute, Welcome Trust, Health Foundation, U.K. Parliament of Science & Technology, and recently, the World Health Organization. He is a member of the Independent Panel on Global Governance for Health, a trustee of Medact, and a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, Human Development & Capabilities Association, the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), and U.K. Faculty of Public Health, among others.

His PhD was an argument for every human being’s moral right to health, examined and passed without corrections by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. It was the basis of his first book, titled Health Justice: An Argument From the Capability Approach (Polity Press). He publishes in diverse scholarly journals on public and global health ethics, social determinants of health, the capabilities approach, health equity, and global governance for health. His Twitter handle is @sridhartweet.


Enjoy the episode? Hear the first two of the series with Colleen Flood and Vanessa MacDonnell: