The last three decades have witnessed a steady increase in the frequency of outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19. This trend is expected to continue. Global travel and connectivity, rapid urbanization, and exploitation of the natural environment all contribute to the spread of these outbreaks.
The Trust Project
Trust is essential to the containment of epidemics. Only if people are sufficiently trusting can governments and health officials organize and implement effective responses. Populations with little confidence in public officials and health agencies are less likely to comply with prevention and control measures. People also need to trust each other, if they are to work together to mitigate the impacts of an epidemic.
We will therefore study the relationship between the COVID-19 outbreak and four kinds of trust: trust in government, trust in health agencies, social trust in generalized others, and outgroup trust. China and Canada will be the major sites of this research.
We ask, first, how is trust (or its absence) shaping public responses to the COVID-19 outbreak? Here we focus on people’s compliance with control policies, their adoption of preventive behaviours, and their willingness to offer help to others. Second, how are the outbreak and governmental attempts to contain it influencing people’s trust, including (given the pandemic’s origins) trust in overseas Chinese and in Chinese immigrants in Canada?
The project will entail the collection and analysis of survey data in Canada and China during the pre-crisis, in-crisis, and post-crisis phases of the outbreak.
The Asian Experience Project
In a 2012 article about pandemics, historian Samuel Cohn wrote that it was “time to construct the databases of disease and hate.” Our team seeks to respond to this challenge by compiling the first such database for COVID-19 incidents in Canada.
We will do so by developing a multilingual online reporting centre where people who self-identify as Asian can report their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, rather than focusing exclusively on hate, we will invite respondents to report both positive and negative experiences. This will provide the nuance needed to understand the relationship between disease and the ethnic minority experience.
(Urban and Rural Community Survey, 2020)