COVID-19 Impact Committee

Forward together: Introducing the Foundation’s COVID-19 Impact Committee

Leadership and guidance are critical in a time of crisis, even more so in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as it touches so many aspects of lives in such profound ways. The pandemic has indeed created an urgent need for informed public discussions that can guide citizens’ understanding of current developments and help guide responses to the crisis in various sectors.


This is the driving force behind the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation COVID-19 Impact Committee: to engage and educate the public on the implications of the pandemic in light of our four founding themes—Human rights and dignity; Responsible citizenship; Canada and the world; and, People and their natural environment. These themes are all very topical with respect to the manifold issues raised by the crisis in Canada and globally. By creating the COVID-19 Impact Committee, the Foundation seeks to elevate the voices of our community’s experts in public discourse.


Our committee is composed of active and alumni members of the Foundation who are Canada’s leading thinkers in various sectors and disciplines, including bioethics, public and global health, Canadian and international law, human rights, Indigenous children and family welfare, arts as well as migration studies.




Members of the committee will contribute to public debate on the pandemic and its consequences through thought leadership in mainstream media and digital events. At their first meeting, Committee members noted that the pandemic and the extreme measures taken to prevent rapid spread of the virus will have a lasting effect. In Canada and the world in general, this poses questions regarding how our systems will change and create an opportunity to reassess how our societies function. They also highlighted the importance of protecting marginalized populations around the globe and the importance of international collaboration to ensure all countries can respond equally, particularly in the face of an infectious disease that can travel around the world quickly and freely.


As pointed out by Vardit Ravitsky, chair of the committee, “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with not just urgent life-threatening challenges, but a profound teachable moment for all of us. This global crisis, and the ways it is being managed, is exposing issues of vulnerability and inequity that cannot and should not be ignored. Going forward, new ways of doing must especially address solutions for the elderly, the homeless, people living with disability or with mental illness, migrants and asylum seekers, First Nations, racialized or ethnic groups, women and children”.


The Committee will work to develop a Declaration on ethical considerations and social implications of COVID-19, which will serve as a global response to the pandemic from the perspective of the Social Sciences and Humanities. According to Ravitsky, who most recently wrote in La Presse and gave a podcast interview on the implications of the pandemic for bioethics, “The ideas and insights that the Pierre Elliott Trudeau COVID-19 Impact Committee will bring forward in the public discussion, will underscore the fact that we are all interconnected, despite being impacted in different ways. The solutions must reflect this reality”.  


Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, is on the front lines of Canada’s efforts to act in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been prolific in her contributions to the public conversation around its impacts. Dr. Nemer sees indispensable value in this initiative of the Foundation:


“In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the diversity of ideas and approaches represented by this unique gathering of intellectual leaders stands to make a meaningful difference by disseminating forward-looking options as Canada and the rest of the world seek solutions that take into account the plight faced by everyone, particularly the most marginalized and vulnerable”.


The Foundation thanks the members of the Committee for generously offering their talents and expertise to this initiative so that we may move forward together


toronto star


The latest publications by members of the committee highlight topics including rights, communications, and the impact of inequalities:

Toronto Star:

Translating pandemic data into lessons learned, Eric Meslin

Inequality means we’re not all in this together, Mohammad Karamouzian

Writing the story of COVID-19: why investing in public health matters, Steven Hoffman

Pandemic has exposed Canada’s mistreatment of newcomers, Carlo Charles

Return to sport should be about safety, not prizes, Jocelyn Downie

Why you should care about access to justice, Beverley McLachlin 

The COVID-19 ‘infodemic’— Debunking works, if it’s done right, Timothy Caulfield

Let’s continue to make the sacrifices we must make — willingly, Vardit Ravitsky


La Presse:

Protéger les droits humains au temps de la pandémie, Bernard Duhaime

Se frayer un chemin à l'aide de la science et de l'éthique, Eric Meslin, Vardit Ravitsky


La COVID-19 et les protocoles de triage, Jocelyn Downie

On ne peut plus ignorer la crise de la justice, Beverley McLachlin 

On ne peut pas lutter contre la désinformation avec de la mauvaise science, Timothy Caulfield

Les impacts sociaux de la COVID : la duplicité du gouvernement en matière de racisme systémique, Cindy Blackstock

Les impacts sociaux de la COVID-19: place à la solidarité d’après-crise, Vardit Ravitsky


The Declaration on the social and ethical issues the pandemic has exposed

To conclude its work, the Committee produced a Declaration on the social and ethical issues the pandemic has exposed. Centered on the key value represented by the democratization of knowledge, the Declaration calls on government, industry, universities, and all of society to rethink structures which cause or exacerbate social vulnerabilities and inequalities. Dr. Pascale Fournier (Ad.E), a member and Fellow of IWF and President of the Foundation, Dr. Vardit Ravitsky, Chair of the Committee, and the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, active member of the Committee, offered a first look at the Declaration for members of Montreal's International Women's Forum. Read the Declaration here.