Equity Lens on Canada’s COVID-19 Response: Review of the Literature

Document Type : Review Article


1 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

2 Department of History, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada


A growing literature has documented how the secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded socioeconomic vulnerabilities already present in society, particularly across social categories such as gender, race, class, and socioeconomic status. Such effects demonstrate how pandemic response policies act as structural determinants of health to influence not only direct health outcomes but also intermediary outcomes, such as access to education or income.
This review aims to scope research that analyzes pandemic response policies in Canada from an equity perspective, to identify common themes, recommendations, and gaps.
Fourteen studies were thematically analyzed, the majority being qualitative policy document analysis, applying critical frameworks and focused on effects on select priority populations. Analysis of economic and labour policies indicates a lack of consideration for the specific needs of priority populations, and those engaged in precarious, informal, and essential labour. Analysis of social policies illustrate the wide-ranging effects of school and service closures, particularly on women and children. Furthermore, these policies lacked consideration of populations marginalized during the pandemic, include older adults and their caregivers, as well as lack of consideration of the diversity of Indigenous communities. Recommendations proposed in this review call for developing policy responses that address persistent social and economic inequities, pandemic response policies tailored to the needs of priority populations and more meaningful consultation during policy development.
The limited number of studies suggests there is still much scope for research recognizing policies as structural determinants of health inequities, including research which takes an intersectional approach.


Articles in Press, Corrected Proof
Available Online from 27 March 2024
  • Receive Date: 25 May 2023
  • Revise Date: 14 December 2023
  • Accept Date: 25 March 2024
  • First Publish Date: 27 March 2024