How Canada violated international law during the West Africa Ebola outbreak

October 4, 2017
Ebola Case Map

The 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak illustrated the World Health Organization's inability to enforce the legally binding International Health Regulations (IHR), which govern pandemic responses. Under Article 43 of the IHR, states parties can only implement additional health measures beyond the WHO's recommendations if such measures are justified by public health rationales or scientific evidence. Yet Canada, among at least fifty-eight states parties, enacted additional health measures such as travel restrictions to and from Ebola-affected countries that significantly interfered with international traffic and trade. 

In a timely article in the Canadian Yearbook of International Law, entitled “Canada’s Violation of International Law during the 2014–16 Ebola Outbreak,” GSL Legal Research Assistant Ali Tejpar and Director Steven Hoffman explore how Canada's visa restrictions targeting Ebola-affected countries failed to meet the IHR's requirements and therefore violated international law. They specifically note that Canada's response went against public health authorities' consensus views, scientific evidence on disease transmission, and the WHO's recommendations. Overall, Tejpar and Hoffman insist that “Canada must lead by example and abide by international law, including the IHR, instead of picking and choosing which rules to follow and thereby encouraging other countries to do the same.” Read the open access article here.