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To:  The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador 

The Honourable Caroline Cochrane, Premier of the Northwest Territories

The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario 

The Honourable Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick 

The Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia 

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta 

The Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island 

The Honourable François Legault, Premier of Québec

The Honourable Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia

The Honourable Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan

The Honourable Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba

The Honourable Joe Savikataaq, Premier of Nunavut

The Honourable Sandy Silver, Premier of Yukon


Date: July 6, 2020


RE: Dealing with COVID-19: A Balanced Response


The undersigned represent current and past leaders in public health, health care systems and academia.  We are writing to you with our thoughts regarding a balanced approach to dealing with COVID-19.  We strongly believe that population health and equity are important considerations that must be applied to future decisions regarding pandemic management.  


The current approach to dealing with COVID-19 carries significant risks to overall population health and threatens to increase inequities across the country.  Aiming to prevent or contain every case of COVID-19 is simply no longer sustainable at this stage in the pandemic.  We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it.  


The current and proposed measures for reopening will continue to disproportionately impact lower income groups, Black and other racialized groups, recent immigrants to Canada, Indigenous peoples and other populations.  And it risks significantly harming our children, particularly the very young, by affecting their development, with life-long consequences in terms of education, skills development, income and overall health.  

Canada must work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 by using measures that are practical, effective and compatible with our values and sense of social justice.  We need to focus on preventing deaths and serious illness by protecting the vulnerable while enabling society to function and thrive.


Elimination of COVID-19 is not a practical objective for Canada until we have a vaccine. While there is hope for a vaccine to be developed soon, we must be realistic about the time it will actually take to develop and evaluate it and then deliver an immunization campaign covering the entire population.  We cannot sustain universal control measures indefinitely.  


We need to accept that there will be cases and outbreaks of COVID-19.  We need localized control measures that are risk-based.  We should consistently reassess quarantine and isolation periods, recommendations for physical distancing and non-medical masks, and travel restrictions based on current best evidence and levels of risk.

At the same time we must improve infection prevention and control in long-term care and congregate living settings.  We should provide support for people living in the community who need to or choose to isolate when the disease is active, as well as those who have been adversely affected by COVID-19, or the consequences of the public health measures.  

Canadians have developed a fear of COVID-19.  Going forward, they have to be supported in understanding their true level of risk, and learning how to deal with this disease, while getting on with their lives – back to work, back to school, and back to healthy lives and vibrant, active communities across this country. 

We acknowledge the heroic work that has been done in recent months by many across all levels of government and the public and private sector, and the sacrifices that Canadians have made to get to this stage.  As we look forward, Canada must balance its response to COVID-19.  


Sincerely yours, 

Robert Bell, MDCM, MSc, FRCSC, FACS

Former Deputy Minister of Health, Province of Ontario

Former President and CEO, University Health Network, Toronto


David Butler-Jones, MD, MHSc LLD(hc), DSc(hc), FRCPC, FACPM, FCFP, CCFP

Canada’s first Chief Public Health Officer and former Deputy Minister for the Public Health Agency of Canada


Jean Clinton, BMus, MD, FRCPC

Clinical Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University


Tom Closson, BASc, MBA, FCAE, PEng

Former President and CEO, University Health Network, Toronto

Former President and CEO, Capital Health Region, British Columbia


Janet Davidson, OC, BScN, MHSA, LLD(Hon)

Former Deputy Minister, Alberta Health

Former CEO, Trillium Health Centre


Martha Fulford, MA, MD, FRCPC

Infectious Diseases Specialist

Associate Professor, McMaster University



Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Former President, Public Health Ontario


Joel Kettner, MD, MSc, FRCSC, FRCPC 

Former Chief Public Health Officer, Province of Manitoba



President, Black Physicians' Association of Ontario

Associate Program Director, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program

Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto


Brian Postl, MD, FRCPC

Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Vice- Provost, Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Former President, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority


Neil Rau, MD, FCPC

Infectious Disease Specialist and Medical Microbiologist

Assistant Professor, University of Toronto


Richard Reznick, MD, FRCSC, FACS, FRCSEd (hon), FRCSI (hon), FRCS (hon)

Professor of Surgery and Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University


Susan Richardson, MDCM, FCRPC

Professor Emerita, University of Toronto


Richard Schabas, MD, MHSC, FRCPC

Former Chief Medical Officer of Health, Province of Ontario

Former Chief of Medical Staff, York Central Hospital


Gregory Taylor, MD, FRCPC

Former Chief Public Health Officer of Canada 


David Walker, MD, FRCPC

Former Dean of Health Sciences, Queens University

Chair, Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS, 2003


Catharine Whiteside, CM, MD, PhD, FRCPS(C), FCAHS

Executive Director, Diabetes Action Canada - CIHR SPOR Network 

Emerita Professor and Former Dean of Medicine, University of Toronto



Trevor Young, MD, PhD, FRCPC, FCAHS

Professor of Psychiatry

Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

 University of Toronto


Additional signatories who have agreed to be listed after the posting date




Emeritus President and Scientific Director, Gairdner Foundation

Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto


Erica Frank, MD, MPH, FACPM

Professor & Canada Research Chair in Preventive Medicine and Population Health, University of British Columbia



James D. Douketis MD, FRCPC, FACP, FCCP

Professor of Medicine and David Braley-Nancy Gordon Chair in Thromboembolic Disease, McMaster University

President, Thrombosis Canada


Jennifer Grant, MD CM, FRCPC

Medical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician, Vancouver General Hospital

Clinical Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia


Paul MacPherson PhD, MD, FRCPC

Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, The Ottawa Hospital General Campus, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Departments of Medicine; Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology; and the School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa


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