CUI research shows Canadians’ COVID experience depends on who they are and where they live

The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) marked the 100th day since the World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic with a new report that examines how life in Canada’s cities is changing how we live, move, work, care and prosper.

COVID Signpost 100 Days draws on research from across Canada, including public health data and a survey conducted by the market and social research firm Advanis of 55,000 Canadians over the past 100 days.

The report argues that our experiences with COVID have depended largely on who we are and where we live.

“We know that to date the impacts of COVID have been disproportionately urban,” says Mary W. Rowe, President & CEO of CUI. “But we also know that the experience of each city, and of specific communities within cities, has been quite different.”

According to the report, the largest 20 cities in Canada account for 42 per cent of the country’s population and yet over the first 100 days of COVID account for 67 per cent of total cases, and 75 per cent of total deaths.

Some cities like Montreal, which has had more than 25 times the number of per capita cases as Edmonton, have fared much worse than others.

Data cited in the report also confirmed that the impact and devastation on different population groups has been uneven, often affecting already marginalized communities and thus intensifying existing inequalities. Across the research domains examined including housing and mobility, COVID has disproportionately affected women, older people, Indigenous peoples, and Black and other racialized groups.

“As of the 100-day mark, there is much we still don’t know,” says Dr. Kate Graham, CUI’s Director of Research, the lead author of the report. “But this work makes it crystal clear that decision-makers need to pay much closer attention to the deepening of inequality in our cities.”

The report points to a need for better city-level data, including race-based and hyper-local demographic data.

It calls on governments at all levels to make this a priority over the next 100 days to inform better decision-making. It also calls for a greater role for local leaders, whose on the ground experience in responding to COVID is crucial to developing regional, provincial and federal recovery and rebuilding plans.

The report additionally reinforces calls for the federal and provincial governments to immediately address the acute financial crisis large municipalities are facing because of COVID.

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