Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West | Politics and international relations at the time of Covid-19
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Relazioni Tra Cina E Stati Uniti Al Tempo Del Coronavirus

27 May Politics and international relations at the time of Covid-19

The recent coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, with the consequent global health and economic crisis, have highlighted the chronic weakness of the international cooperation system, the limits of governments and historic conflicts between States.
Canada and Europe will assume the role of supporting multilateralism in protecting international assets, primarily security and global health?


Laura Borzi


Among the events capable of causing major strategic crises with threats to the international system, the realization of a significant non-military risk, but with important security consequences, was thought a few years ago.

Examples included a pandemic with devastating effects that arose following the mutation of a flu virus[1].

Biohazard materialized in 2020 with Covid-19 which put a strain on China and other Asian countries first, then Italy with Europe which became the epicenter of the virus.

Progressively and inexorably, the international community as a whole[2] has been affected, with 216 countries and territories involved.


In fact, if the probability of a large-scale pandemic had been considered by scientists in past decades, nevertheless the extent of the current crisis has been configured as an unprecedented phenomenon of considerable scientific complexity, such as to constitute a real stress test for the planet, a strategic surprise with enormous consequences for the future.

Over the four months since the beginning of this epochal crisis, practically all countries with a certain time lag have followed the same script:


  1. initial hesitation about the size and the seriousness of the threat
  2. first precautionary measures
  3. incremental implementation of coercive tools that have significantly restricted the fundamental freedoms of citizens and blocked economic activities.


The epidemic, also due to the rapidity of the infection, has brought a vital threat to the world population with disruptive effects on health systems: hospitals have been put to the test because they have faced exponential growth in cases requiring emergency therapies and respiratory assistance tools. Impressive numbers and, consequently, shortages of human and technical resources, with a situation that in some ways has led to an almost paralysis of societies as a whole.


To stop the spread of the virus, the WHO indications were clear:

  • proceed with extensive tests
  • track people who test positive and their contacts
  • apply quarantine


Obviously each country has had a specific intellectual approach to the Covid-19 crisis in line with the history and political culture of the society involved, with the format of its health and administrative structures and, last but not least, with its own values.


Significant variations for the more or less effective response to the offensive of the virus have sought the competence and authority of the government, the structure of the system, federal or centralized state, or in the distinction between autocratic or democratic regimes, the concept of Gemütlichkeit or habits human beings more or less oriented towards physical contact, finally, more trivially in elements of randomness.


The crisis has managed to put States’ strengths and weaknesses on the one hand, evidently the neglect of the global system which, in the erosion of multilateralism, leaves the protection of international public goods adrift.


China Vs United States


The Sino-American competition, a structuring phenomenon of international relations, was accentuated in this circumstance with

  • China’s diplomatic offensive, which boasts the effectiveness of its model against the virus and underlines the inadequacy of other countries like the United States
  • The United States’ accusation of pro-geniture against China, albeit involuntarily against Covid 19
  • Confirmation of a health system that well exemplifies the inequalities of society as a whole.


The Chinese paternalistic autocracy has shown itself to be efficient after a full-blown crisis, but the opacity of the information is a fact that makes China’s work less intelligible than other Southeast Asian countries.

This is also why Beijing lends itself very little suited to the model.


In terms of external relations, the silk road at the health level, with the help of Italy for example, at a time when Europe derogated from the concept of solidarity, does not entirely absolve from the probable diplomatic pressure on the WHO which it could have moved faster if it had not taken on national political and economic concerns[3], as in a recent past (2002-03 SARS severe acute respiratory syndrome).


In fact, searching for a successful formula to eradicate the pandemic, if a significant distinction deserves to be made is that of the division of the world into two fields.

  1. On the one hand, the States that had already experienced epidemic waves and had drawn experience from them, such as the countries of South East Asia, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan thanks to their SARS experiences (but also MERS-coronavirus that from the Middle East had diffused in different countries starting from 2012) and capable of quickly providing masks, tests and tracking strategies.
  2. On the other, those regions of the globe that have not experienced this situation, at least in the 21st century, Europe and America being affected in a different and more consistent way. But also in this case there are variations in the old and new continent. Basically it is a question of having pursued or not pursued a policy of adequate allocation of resources and organization of the health system already for example in the years following avian influenza with investments in precautionary measures.


In other words, many states can be found guilty of negligence, a concept that has the effects of Covid-19 as very high both internally and internationally.


And then, there are on the one hand those actors who took the example of the affected States a few weeks in advance and closed the ranks and on the other those who denied the possibility of being the victim of a virus that, obviously, does not it found boundaries not only at state borders, but also in climatic ones, finding itself at all latitudes from Burkina Faso to Québec.


Preventive tools and policy inspired by the principle of maximum precaution in particular for health professionals: this is the key answer, a concept that insisted, as will be seen, in a report by the Canadian post SARS Commission of 2006.


Coronavirus: what’s happening in the European countries


Italy was the first case of reaction in a democratic and industrially advanced society in the West that had to face such an emergency. The virus manifested itself with an aggressive impact with a very heavy number of infected and deaths[4].

In addition in the early stages it has highlighted the additional internal security dynamics that can trigger a pandemic. The prison riots in early March is an indication of how a health crisis has the potential to become systemic and cause further fractures such as to affect the functioning mechanisms of society as a whole with the destabilization of public order.


On the operational level (and on that of values) the road taken by Rome was a solution aimed at maximum protection of the population, not taking into consideration the “natural” phenomenon of herd immunity.


The concept of values for which society as a whole must be rescued is an approach found in Spain and France, to name two of the most affected European countries. Various critical issues have been exposed in these situations, including:

  • the demographic challenge related to an elderly population (Italy and Spain)
  • deindustrialisation in key sectors for example for the procurement of medical material
  • the consequences of a “Jacobin” bureaucracy that made hospital management rigid and technocratic (France).


Among European countries, Germany reacted in an agile and rapid way, given the possibility of making numerous places available for intensive care and early tests thanks to a significant industrial network, that of the large biology laboratories. It has therefore been able to benefit from an ex-ante organization.

Finally, in British Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially favored the concept of “herd immunity”. An option more oriented to the primary need to protect industry and the economy, which would have generated a sort of social Darwinism, and closer to the Anglo-Saxon mentality compared to the choices of southern Europe, where the sacrifice of the weaker population with the inevitable test of hospital capacity to give everyone the chance to be treated.

But even London, later changed direction.

The scenario of 250,000 deaths to which the mitigation strategy could have led, (the term herd immunity does not appear officially as a political target according to the Secretary of Health, Matt Hancock[5], but this is in fact the concept that emerges) was not the way to go through and, like the rest of the world, epidemic growth had to be reversed, the number of cases had to be reduced to the lowest possible level, by reacting and waiting for a vaccine.

The United Kingdom with over 36,000 deaths, second only to Italy in Europe, did not consider it necessary to act more quickly and take advantage of the experiences of the countries where the epidemic offensive had arrived a few weeks earlier.


How to understand leadership.


Trump in an electoral climate and Johnson galvanized by Brexit, in this circumstance and not only, they appeared as the standard bearers of an intellectual rather than a political autarchy, in the certainly legitimate search for well-being and prosperity for their respective countries. Well-being and prosperity that, like glory, are measured not only in the immediate term, but above all and much more significantly in the long term.


Economic tsunami and weakness of multilateralism


Each country has been called internally to a complex collaborative effort by the public and private sector to deal with the health emergency. A key role played by the same citizens who, with their behavior, can constitute the problem and the solution at the same time.


The adhesion of the population is essential in the implementation of the effective response in an exceptional health situation of a scientific, digital and technological 21st century where, however, waiting for a vaccine, the remedy turns out to be the same as in the Middle Ages: the quarantine.


Having said this, the national level alone cannot in itself manage to contrast the gravity and complexity of such a systemic crisis at various levels, primarily the economic one and, in perspective, the management of emergencies in the future.

As for the economic aspect, the framework outlined by the International Monetary Fund is to a significant revision of pre-pandemic growth expectations[6].


The global economy could have declined 3% in 2020 before recovering 5.8% in 2021. Global trade could drop 11.0% and oil prices 42%.


An even more severe recession is expected than that of 2009 and a recovery expected only for next year, if there will be containment of the virus in the short term that will allow the easing of restrictive measures and above all on condition of providing adequate economic responses on a global scale.


The ways in which states are responding and more generally how the international community will respond as a whole could constitute the litmus test for the system of international relations, in particular a decisive test to stop (or accelerate) the degradation of multilateralism and the complex of values inherent to it.


The Covid-19 crisis has thus stratified on the weakness of the system of planetary multilateralism in the sense of fragmentation of strategies and dialogue between states. A system flawed by the strategic competition between the USA and China as well as by the postures of various regional actors who have begun to pursue their interests in a markedly unidirectional way.


It is not possible to hypothesize future post-Covid-19 geopolitical scenarios but, after almost five months of struggle with the disease and a foreseeable near future of coexistence with it, there are at least lessons to be kept in mind regarding the mode of navigation in troubled waters that constitutes the time horizon of the international community for 2020.


Some observations on the possible trajectory on the role of Canada are of course our subject of interest.



Canada: lesson (almost) learned


In the context of the world scenario briefly outlined, Canada has in some ways represented an alternative, a sort of entre deux.

Report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health October 2003


It is among the western countries that have seen a situation of serious public emergency materialize, leading to a shock of society on at least three dimensions, health, economic and that of values. However, and like Southeast Asian states, Ottawa had already learned some lessons from the SARS experience seventeen years ago, which reflected in improvements to the healthcare system in terms of the structure and supply of medical devices which, at least in part, have proven useful in this circumstance.


This time, however, we had to deal with an epidemic wave of other propositions compared to 2003 when the virus had caused fear and chaos in the city of Toronto with 345 infected and a significant death toll of 44[7].


The impact of Covid-19 has been significant especially in the most populous regions of the country, Ontario and Québec. Alberta and British Columbia followed while other regions such as Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were not particularly affected and should be among the first to ease the restrictions.

In the North, only Nunavut did not register cases. The total numbers, 74,613 cases of contagion and 5,562 deaths, remain testimony to the seriousness of the passage of Covid-19 in the vast North American country[8].


The problems to be addressed are, as in all the countries affected, how to suppress the pandemic, support the capacity of the health system and minimize the economic contraction.


The Canadian approach to Covid-19 was found to conform to a political culture oriented towards the concept of order and good governance and was affected by the experience and revision made to the health system which started in autumn 2003 when a report drafted by a national advisory committee, Learning from Sars[9], sought to shed light on the epidemic that had occurred and was managed with difficulty, in particular in Toronto, providing indications on how to review the health system in the event of a new pandemic.


From a governmental point of view, this has translated into the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is in fact driving the response to the current pandemic and of the Chief Public Health Officer, who collaborates in synergy with the Ministry of Health and with the provincial subjects and territories responsible for health.

Theresa Ta, who since 2017 has been Chief Public Officer in the name of the combination of science and rationality, has tried to assume from the beginning a language based on calm and constant monitoring of the situation. The PM Trudeau with daily interventions informed on the situation and on the sanitary and economic measures to face the threat.


The Canadian approach: intervention proportional to the emergency and trust in the institutions


In April, the consensus for the PM (and territorial leaders) was consistent[10]  also for a widespread Canadian political culture of trust in the government in times of crisis which, inevitably, is destined to weaken once the most difficult moment has passed.


Party politics, initially became very weak in the face of the common goal of tackling the pandemic, although Conservative leader Andrew Scheer made some criticism by arguing for some confusion in initial management when the cases were still a few, and some incomplete information. In these circumstances it is in fact essential that health authorities and politics correctly and punctually inform about the evolution of the crisis and prevention measures on the one hand so as not to cause panic, on the other to not cause disinterest.


The significant impact of the virus came with a temporal delay compared to Europe and therefore in some ways the context was characterized by lesser uncertainties. But also, as the weeks go by from the critical issues related to the southern border.


Canada has geographically benefited from the protection of the ocean on three sides, but the border with the United States has proved to be the one with a country that has suffered a strong pandemic offensive.


The vulnerability for Washington, excluding the President Trump choices is proportional to the lack of investment in the health system, capacity cannot be built or recovered during an emergency.


In the Canadian emergency preparedness plan as asserted by Theresa Tam[11], the closure of the border with the United States had not been initially contemplated but came later. The response, continues the Chief Health Officer, was flexible and constructed in such a way as to adapt to an evolving situation, for this reason there were various levels of intervention.


In fact, it seems that Canada has acted in proportion to the emergence of the threat with incremental passages within the country and with precise signals also on the international level, following the direction indicated by the WHO, financially supporting the Onusian institution even in a moment in which he was criticized, some not entirely unjustified[12], including the initial (diplomatic) hesitations.


Overall, therefore, the federal government and the provinces acted fairly quickly.


On January 30, following the second meeting of the Urgency Committee convened by the Director General of the organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, the WHO declared that the epidemic caused by the new coronavirus was an international public health emergency pursuant to the International Health Regulations (2005).


On January 15, the Ottawa government had already activated the Emergency Operations Center and steps were taken to increase the attention of the Canada Border Service Agency with the dissemination of information on the virus in the airports of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal and the retrieval of information from passengers from central China. The risk in the country remained low and the authorities claimed that the situation would be carefully monitored.


In late January there is the first case of a man returning to Toronto from Wuhan[13].


On January 29, Foreign Minister François Philippe Champagne announced the repatriation of Canadian citizens still present in the area affected by the virus in China.

On February 2, the Armed Forces (CAF) dealt with the evacuation of citizens who were still in Wuhan. These, landed at the Trenton military base, were subject to medical checks. The Canadians on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were also repatriated and also placed in quarantine.


Towards the end of the month, February 26, there was some dissonance in government communication.


Health Minister Patty Hajdu suggested to stockpile food and medicine in the event of a rapid evolution of the emergency situation, attracting numerous criticisms from local and national politicians, also because the exhortation was not accepted by the Health Canada government website. Perhaps signs of a certain nervousness in the awareness that the health situation would have worsened even if there were still no cases of transmission within the communities that will occur only in March.


On March 4, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a cabinet committee chaired by Chrystia Freeland to deal with the federal emergency. In fact, the cases had risen to a few dozen, while the new WHO reports estimated the mortality rate for subjects infected at 3.4% higher than the initial estimates.


Minister Hajdu announced two days later that the federal government would make $ 27 million available to support 47 research teams at 19 universities to develop crisis management tools.


On 11 March, the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic stressed the speed with which the infection spread and Minister Hajdu meanwhile asserted that Covid-19 could infect between 30 and 70% of Canadians.



Trudeau therefore announced a $ 1 billion fund in response to the emergency including 500 million for provinces and territories, in addition to the contribution of $ 50 million to WHO and $ 275 million to finance research in Canada. A credit access program, Business Credit Availability Program, was then set up to support private sector financing through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada with additional $ 10 billion in support for economic activities.


With the confirmation in mid-March of the transmission of the virus within the communities, the Canadian provinces and territories declared a state of emergency.


Consequently, with some variations, the various provincial and municipal jurisdictions followed the line marked by the prohibition of assembly, the closure of schools, the closure of non-essential economic activities, restrictions on movement and the mandatory 14-day isolation for travelers who they were returning to the country under the Quarantine Act.


This legislation was updated in 2005 just after the SARS affair with new tools for the Minister of Health to impose restrictive measures on citizens to safeguard their health.


At the federal level, the closure of the borders did not initially concern the citizens of the United States, then the need to close the southern border except for essential goods[14], is understood, a choice indicative of a deteriorating health situation considering that the significant exchange commercial between the two countries: Washington is the largest partner for exports 76.4% and for imports 51.5%.


A mutual preferential relationship. The closure of the southern border, currently extended to May 20, is in fact the result of an agreement with Washington while restrictions on the EU and China have been unilaterally imposed by the US.


Trudeau announces aid package or a series of economic benefits for those affected by coronavirus on March 18, doubling aid from $ 27 billion to $ 52 billion, deferred taxation and measures to stimulate the economy. In addition, $ 306 million is expected to assist the economic activities of indigenous peoples, to support businesses through indigenous financial institutions.

The national association of indigenous companies will allow access to interest-free loans to overcome the crisis and recover. This will pay attention to indigenous women and their economic activities, which are also more vulnerable in this circumstance.


In April, a consultation with the territories and provinces dismisses the opportunity to invoke the Emergency Act which has never been invoked by Canada.


This legislative instrument replaced the War Measure Act in 1988 and gives the PM and the Cabinet considerable powers that may be necessary in some types of scenario: natural disasters and diseases, public order problems, international emergencies or war.

Special powers to deal with critical situations involve the assumption of provincial powers, for example in areas such as health and commerce.



Actually the collaboration that has been established between the federal government and territories and the imposition of travel bans to put in place at the provincial level did reject the hypothesis. Consultation with the prime ministers, however necessary, did not reveal the opportunity for the government to resort to these special powers.


Trudeau has repeatedly stressed the trust in the Canadian institutions in the possibility of contrasting a situation which is still very serious. In fact, the federal system gives territories the power to act effectively.


What was needed was coordination and collaboration and not a dose, however useless, of authoritarianism.


The most useful tools that from a practical point of view would derive from this legislation such as the imposition of a sorting of ventilator masks and medical devices from one area of the country to another or the compulsion of medical personnel to work in a specific area not have emerged of such urgency to set the Emergency Act in motion.


There was also a form of solidarity between the various hospitals inherent in the type of Canadian health care with exchanges of personnel and protective devices according to the needs of each.


A circumstance that cannot be reflected, for example, in the United States where hospitals are managed as private companies and, therefore, the lack of solidarity is in the very nature of the system.


Trust in their country’s healthcare system and institutions is strong in Canadians. As indicated by the Deputy Prime Minister, C. Freeland, the Emergency Act is an extreme ratio measure therefore it would have been a sign of a situation no longer manageable.


For this reason, the Armed Forces have been activated to provide assistance to civil authorities or non-governmental partners in responding to international disasters, internal disasters or emergencies (Strong Secure and Engaged 2017).

The collaboration was activated through the Emergency Management Act, under which a province can ask for assistance from the FFAA as Québec did, in particular for residential structures for the elderly, where military medical personnel took steps to provide the skills needed quickly putting all the strength in the Covid battle as Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan pointed out in early May[15].


In the North, the Rangers in particular the 2CRPG (2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group) intervened in Nunavik to facilitate the preparation of the duties of the health personnel.


The relationship between health and national and global security system and the interconnection of events was a fact acquired in the post-SARS as the PM, Paul Martin pointed out in 2004.


The same National Security Policy document[16] (April 2004) placed public health as a fundamental element of national security, although at the time the emergency was terrorism and health issues were only in eighth place.


Despite the seriousness of this epochal crisis, the actions taken have begun to show their effectiveness so much that in mid-April the PM warned against a premature restart of the economy. The desire to ease the confinement also found expression in some Vancouver protests later this month. Obviously the Canadian (and worldwide) problems are those of a progressive return to the resumption of some activities.


The most affected region of the country, Quebec, has recently opened nursery schools and other provinces have also made plans to do so[17]. As Ontario which, in the words of Premier Doug Ford, has studied a road map for the resumption of activities.


Fundamental in these circumstances is to have a detailed test plan released in view of the reopening of the activities as suggested by scientific experts including the WHO.

Prudence is a must in Ottawa mindful of the experience of 2003 when the virus returned to past emergency. The fears are that of losing the ground conquered by the epidemic in the contemporary challenge of finding a balance between security concerns and the need to restart the economy.


Parliamentary Budget Officier Director Yves Giroux warned a few days ago that the federal deficit for 2020 could even be around $ 1,000 billion by the end of the year.


The government has implemented economic support programs since March that pushed the 2020-21 deficit to around $ 251 billion. But urged on the topic, on May 13 Trudeau said that the situation is moving very quickly and that it would not make sense to provide any financial documentation at this time that may prove to be no longer valid in a month.


The immediate is the urgency, not the long term.


In this sense, if the attenuation of the confinement now also transmits to individuals the responsibility to manage the global national threat related to interactions and circulation, from the economic point of view, in the long run, the minority liberal government will have to find the way for an intervention that meets political consensus probably with lessened state interventionism.


Trudeau’s leadership already put to the test in the first months of 2020 will still be under scrutiny at the time of exit from the emergency and will also be measured in the ability to revive the vision of an open society within the territory and internationally with the defense of Western values.


Ontario with SARS, Canada with Covid-19

After nearly twenty years after the difficult management of SARS, Ottawa was able to verify with the pandemic in progress how the changes made to the system impacted the management of the Covid-19 emergency.

From the point of view of the particularly interesting health response, a 2006 report appears, drawn up by the SARS Commission led by Judge Archie Campbell[18], which underlined how the epidemic had constituted an alarm bell for the country and for the challenges that could arise in the future.

The public health system and the emergency infrastructure had been neglected from the point of view of resources by the various governments that had followed each other until then. In fact, hospitals became the centers of spread of the virus: of the 438 people who had been infected in Ontario 72% had contracted the infection in the hospital and 45% were made up of health personnel.

The framework outlined in the 2006 document was merciless: inadequate public health system, dysfunctional and fragmented with limited resources and without a pandemic plan, the communication system is not alerted the emergency of the disease in China and Hong Kong.

The negative aspects of the confluence of factors, such as systemic weakness in worker safety, infection control and public health, were only highlighted by the great professionalism and self-denial of the health personnel.

Instead, the example of how to manage the epidemic had come from Vancouver with well-developed infection control, personnel protection, and protocols defined to manage the emergency. If the numbers of the infection in BC had been small (five) it is equally true that a consistent culture of safety had allowed a better containment of the infection.


The main lesson, the report continues, is the precautionary principle to reduce risk.


Reasonable elements of a threat to public health are sufficient to act with the utmost precaution without resorting to scientific evidence.

If, as happened in Vancouver in 2003, an undiagnosed respiratory disease is treated at the highest precautionary level, personnel protection is immediately guaranteed and the guard level can be lowered with the emergence of the diagnosis.

It is not overlooked how this procedure implemented in our country in the 2020 scenario could have significantly affected the fight against the pandemic.

The 2006 report denounced the lack of attention in terms of financial resources by the various governments that had followed each other with the emergency infrastructure system in a state of decay.

The post SARS directed resources towards obtaining minimum standards for infection control in emergency departments in order to ensure an adequate number of negative pressure chambers for patients who contracted contagious diseases.

Past experience has made it possible to improve the training of healthcare personnel, the identification of infected patients and to increase the rooms equipped with instruments for air filtering in hospitals.

In addition, clearer and more up-to-date instructions from health authorities are provided by authorities to doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.


Canada, according to some experts, has yet to refine the emergency management tools of vast proportions, in the sense of having to free places during a crisis by better managing the discharge of patients not seriously ill from hospital facilities.


The management of Covid-19 was coordinated through effective communication and cooperation between the various levels of federal and provincial government and in a responsible manner. This sense of responsibility has also been the line adopted by the Canadian media with a daily and widespread commitment since information in these circumstances is part of the system and overall “feeling” of security.


If some initial hesitation from the Government was objectively encountered, such as a slowness in implementing the guidelines for the control of passengers at airports, any hesitation was quickly overcome.


The critical issues faced by Canada and all countries on this occasion are essentially due to the epidemiological characteristics of a new virus that has spread rapidly.


Which had an effect on the data that was provided mainly in the initial phase.

These data were related to the test subjects, not those who may have contracted the virus but had not been tested, or people exposed to the virus but asymptomatic.

In these cases the actual numbers are higher, which alters the veracity of the incidence of the disease, which may appear low, as well as the mortality rate which may be too high.


Inaccurate data can expose to inappropriate reactions from the public and to wrong actions by the government.


One of the greatest Canadian experts David Naylor, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and among the authors of the Learning from SARS report, indicated at the end of March[19] the need to share data with expert analysts so as to have a greater awareness of the real situation and act more punctually to flatten the contagion curve and limit the virus growth rate.

To act appropriately, a precise framework is needed, which summarizes demographics and risk profiles, related to the performance of hospitalization and death tests. This allows the government to act adequately on how to loosen or intensify or loosen physical distance and therefore have suitable tools to act on the level of economic recovery. The use of data correctly is also fundamental for the protection of the weakest population such as the elderly and the sick who evidently in Canada as elsewhere paid the highest price at Covid-19.


Of course, the speed of the infection has made the hospital facilities crowded and canceled at least 100,000 surgeries that will probably be carried out for the autumn.

Covid will continue to drain financial and human resources with an exit strategy diluted over time especially if the virus, as highlighted in a research by the University of Minnesota, should constitute the global health concern for the next two years.

The future will be increasingly digital as this will make patients less exposed to contagion problems.


Canada’s goal is that of a digital infrastructure that covers the territory in its entirety with a link between two systems, that of public health and that of clinical information. And the implementation of South Korea’s successful formula, that of the three T’s: testing, tracking, treatment.



Sinocentric multilateralism and the West without leadership


Internationally, Canada has maintained and strengthened relations with the WHO.


Theresa Tam for her ties to the Geneva Body has even been rudely accused by an Ontario MP, Eric Duncam[20] of indulging in Chinese interests.

The Organization’s performance has been strongly criticized by President Trump who in fact stopped the contribution in mid-April (22% of the world’s top contributors, while Canada at 2.7) in a policy clearly enrolls in the strategic contrast with Beijing.

Canadian Minister for International Development, Karina Gould, commented[21]that this was not the appropriate response at a time without historical precedent for the international community.

When a global and coordinated reaction is needed, it is necessary to work with international bodies to fight the pandemic.


The 2020 crisis has been the brutal accelerator of previous trends and which are now exacerbated.


One wonders if there is still a concept of an international community since the pandemic, the global threat par excellence, has failed to align even the G20 or G7 countries around a collective response.


In contrast to an unequivocal fact: international cooperation is absolutely indispensable.

Yet it is inhibited by the scenario of confrontation of United States / China powers whose confrontation is a permanent and harmful obstacle not only to the elaboration of formal acts and shared solutions (see Security Council currently chaired by Beijing) but even to the starting of a concerted reflection. This circumstance, if it proves dangerous in the current management of the crisis, will be even more dangerous in the post Covid-19 period due to the mainly economic consequences that the pandemic had on the Planet, including the developing countries.


In other words, the problem for Canada (and Europe) is that the lack of American leadership translates into a lack of leadership tout cour for the West.


This brings out a “Chinese multilateralism”, which is even centric and feared since China’s current perception is not positive (certainly not in Canada), nourished by the feeling that the virus originates from China. China also has a strategy aimed at occupying key roles in international organizations as a political and diplomatic lever that inevitably affects the content of discussions worldwide. An attitude that integrates more the concept of hegemony than leadership.


Multilateral issues must undoubtedly be rethought urgently since the crisis is health, economic and security. Therefore, it will require greater and not less collective responses.


In this sense we are navigating towards a fluid multilateralism such as the international system at present. Or towards a diplomacy in small groups which then goes towards international institutions by integrating their contents.


Canada has a reputation for good international citizenship and also a tradition of good diplomacy. He has the ability to negotiate, identify the essentials and build compromises to reach an agreement. This could be implemented for example in the context of the G20. Ottawa (and Brussels) could move in this direction[22].




PM Trudeau described the present crisis as the challenge of our generation.

It is interesting to note how this same expression had been used during the last election campaign, referring to the theme of climate change.

In reality, this repetition is not necessarily an urgent rethink.

It fits exactly into a continuum of neglect by the international community that neglects prevention, thus neglecting the concept of human security.

The virus has shown the vulnerability of society in cases of neglect of health policy in many countries, but also for countries like Canada they had available tools reviewed to deal with disasters.

The short circuit of the international system which was the Covid-19 pandemic and which stopped a large part of the planet for a few months should lead to an awareness of the next disaster which could be precisely that related to climate change.


A subject on which the awareness of Canadians is not lacking if a survey last August revealed that 42% of citizens considered climate change as a national emergency[23].

Moreover, as noted at the outset, the prospects for these disasters have been a subject of debate for some time. For decades, the United Nations has argued that national insecurity would have translated into global insecurity. The idea that we would not be threatened (only) on the territory or at the borders but by a global phenomenon was given.

The error does not lie so much in the realization that it has not paid attention to existing forecasts / analyzes for the future but that it has not become aware of the fact that the current world is not an extension of the past world.

The result is a clear dissonance: on the one hand, the power of the nation-state to which we turn in the moment of the social crisis emerges, for the protection of individuals and the community. However, this same state is unable to manage a global challenge on its own given that it remains tied to a territory and to a national community.

Adding about 193 national health policies leads to mediocre and counterproductive results. Internal policies should rather articulate social, economic and national needs and “aggregate” them to globalization.

The extent of the pandemic is as powerful as the failure of international cooperation of which it is to some extent an expression.


It is hoped that in the immediate future new solidarity may emerge on an international level on which to rebuild a multilateralism, which despite everything seems inevitable.

There will be a long time to “fix” the system.

Meanwhile, Canada and Europe cannot afford to suffer the present. Prevention and globalization must be integrated, in other words knowing how to build a social security that takes into account the speed and breadth of global exchanges of goods and people, but is coordinated and in line with global challenges to manage present and future risk.

Governing through prevent.



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[1]B.Tertrais, Géopolitique des ruptures stratégiques contemporaines, note no 21/2015 Fondation pour la Recherche stratégique  

[2]2 16 between countries and territories are affected, 4.347935 cases and 297.241 victims source WHO, May 16 2020.

[3]Paul Benkimoun, «Coronavirus : comment la Chine a fait pression sur l’OMS », Le Monde, 29 janvier 2020

[4] For updated data, see the WHO reports; for our country the figure as of May 15 was: cases: 223096; deaths: 31368


[6]World Economic Outlook, International Monetary Fund, April 14, 2020





[12]Pneumonia of unknown cause China 5 January 2020: “based on preliminary information from the Chinese investigation team, no evidence of significant human to human transmission have been reported”










[22] P.Martin, The G20 Today: Pandemic Disease, Climate Change, and the Need for a Rules-Based Order, Canada Global Affairs Intitute, April 2020


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