When the SARS outbreak struck Canada (and the world) in 2003 it was not only a lesson in public health preparedness. This tragedy also offered some lessons for those of us in legal.
What were the responsibilities of employers, employees? What was the purview of the state? What responsibilities did Canada have under International Conventions? What about the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control? Who did the public listen to?
As we prepare for COVID-19 it is extremely useful to look at the legal literature that came out a few years post-outbreak. For example, volume 43, issue 2 of the Alberta Law Review (on CanLII) offers a nice selection of articles:
- Timothy A Caulfield, Introduction: Infectious Diseases Forum
- Rosario M Isasi, Thu Minh Nguyen, The Global Governance of Infectious Diseases: The World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations
- Mireille Lacroix, Quebec’s Public Health Ethics Committee: A Model for the Public Health Agency of Canada
- Nola M Ries, Quarantine and the Law: The 2003 SARS Experience in Canada (A New Disease Calls on Old Public Health Tools)
The legal literature and the short list of cases and tribunal decisions that mention SARS offer some good scope for dealing with the legal issues that will come about from COVID-19 in the future.
For today, wash your hands and look to government news and the WHO for valid information.