Rights and Restrictions: Canada's Rights Talk During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hills, Nancy
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University of Guelph

In 2020, a global pandemic was announced following the worldwide spreading of the COVID-19 virus. This resulted in numerous countries taking unprecedented policy actions in an attempt to curb its transmission. Within Canada, this included enacting a number of public health measures, such as mask mandates and travel restrictions. A significant unanticipated consequence of enacting these measures was an increased rights talk throughout the country. This discussion has been translated onto traditional and social media platforms. By conducting a content analysis of both the social media platform, Twitter, and newspapers, this study investigates the nature of Canada’s rights talk in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic health measures. The study on Twitter found that the discussion of rights is particularly broad, uninformed, and absolutist. The study on Newspapers found a slightly more informed and non-absolutist discussion; however, the majority of the conversation was still general, with very few references to specific rights and freedoms stated within the Charter. These findings suggest that the quality of rights talk within Canada is quite poor, which can result in a number of negative political implications within the country. The results found within this study are consistent with past rights talk literature from Canada and the United States.

Rights talk, COVID-19, Digital Politics, Charter of Rights, Canadian Politics, Political Discourse