A new interactive map has gone live detailing fines, arrests and charges in Canada detailing the North American country's enforcement of public health regulations amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Alexander McClelland, a sociologist and Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottoway and Alex Luscombe, a PhD student with the University of Toronto, created the new database, Policing the Pandemic, which also establishes a timeline that tracks charges and alleged violations as they occur.
Policing the Pandemic: Interactive map, database, and timeline tracking charges and violations related to COVID-19 across Canada— Alexander McClelland (@alexmcclelland) April 4, 2020
Developed by @alexlusco and I #policingthepandemichttps://t.co/fAwZqZ9MKK
In an opinion piece published on 30 March, McClelland explains that as "someone living with HIV in Canada – a leading country for criminalizing HIV – and as a social scientist who studies the policing of communicable and infectious diseases, I can tell you: criminalising a virus does not prevent its spread. It only adds to the crisis". He warns that it is not possible to "police our way out of a pandemic" but that criminalisation can drive people away from the emergency services and alienate them from society.
"With any kind of pandemic, what happens is it reveals existing forms of social marginalization", McClelland told the The Canadian Press. "While the police say that they're tasked with protecting the public, that's only a certain public that they're protecting, and they actually target and marginalize systematically certain communities across Canada", he added.
McClelland also warned that treating human beings like "vectors of disease" creates a climate of "fear and suspicion" which can also deter people from accessing much needed healthcare and emergency services.
The website has only been active since 4 April but it already has 15 entries which include the charges or fine, the place they occurred, the date they were reported, and the law ostensibly being enforced.
This is the latest in a series of projects initiated in the wake of sweeping powers being passed across the world as governments seek to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A COVID-19 Civic Freedoms Tracker, which lists emergency powers that have an impact on civil liberties, also recently went live. It is backed by two not for profit legal organisations and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.