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Spotlight on a new virtual music festival

The inaugural Ballytobin Live From the Isabel Online Summer Music Festival will bring live concerts to music lovers in Kingston and around the world.

Ballytobin Live From the Isabel Online Summer Music Festival

With large gatherings banned as part of the efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is still looking for ways to bring live concerts to music lovers.  

The result is the creation of an online music festival where Kingston musicians perform live at the Isabel at Queen’s University for a worldwide audience.

The inaugural Ballytobin Live From the Isabel Online Summer Music Festival showcases live performances at the Isabel by fabulous musicians of many different genres, streamed by the Isabel team on its new Isabel Digital Concert Hall from May to August, 2020. The Isabel Digital Concert Hall will be accessible starting May 16.

“There is no doubt that Kingston loves music, and musicians want to make music during this difficult period of isolation. This festival is a musical initiative of tremendous passion and enthusiasm,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director of the Isabel. “The community collaborators have created a wonderful and varied summer program for Kingston’s music lovers and beyond. The irony of social isolation is the increased collaboration and goodwill in the arts. I am grateful to all our partners, the Ballytobin Foundation for making this festival possible, and technical director Aaron Holmberg and arts stage technicians Jesse MacMillan and Noah Sullivan for working tirelessly to bring about a high fidelity live online festival.”

All online concerts are free for all audiences with a voluntary donation requested.

“In these interesting times, we are so pleased to support this innovative arts initiative that ensures that a vast array of live music continues in Kingston and is shared with the community through its new Isabel Digital Concert Hall,” says Joan Tobin, Ballytobin Foundation. “There is such determination in Kingston to ensure that the music does not stop, but rather, continues to flourish in this music-loving city. I congratulate the entire community programming team and all the artists and collaborators who, together, have created a wonderful festival for all to enjoy.”


  • May 16, 7 pm: Gryphon Trio (Classical). In collaboration with Ottawa Chamberfest and Chamber Music Society of Detroit
  • June 19, 7:30 pm: Frase (hip-hop/ funk / house / soul). In collaboration with the Skeleton Park Arts Festival
  • June 20, 3 pm: Sadaf Amini (Iranian santur). In collaboration with the Skeleton Park Arts Festival
  • June 21, 7:30 pm: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and her band (Indigenous multi-arts). In collaboration with the Skeleton Park Arts Festival
  • July 8, 7 pm & 8 pm: Palenai Duo (Classical)
  • July 15, 7 pm & 8 pm: Triola (Classical)
  • July 22, 7 pm: Benny Goodman Tribute Band (Jazz)
  • July 22, 8:30 pm: Jive Ass Slippers (Jazz)
  • July 28, 7:30 pm: Faculty Artist Trio (Classical) In collaboration with Queen’s Dan School of Drama and Music
  • July 29, 7 pm: Valery Lloyd-Watts (Classical piano)
  • July 29, 8 pm: Carina Canonico and David Gazaille (Classical). In collaboration with the Kingston Symphony
  • Aug. 5, 7 pm: Emilie Steele & The Deal (Indie Rock)
  • Aug. 5, 8:30 pm: Oakridge Ave. (Indie Rock)
  • Aug. 12, 7 pm & 8 pm: Kingston Cabaret Night – Musiikki Monday Night Band, Selina Chiarelli and the Firebirds (Jazz, Pop & More)
  • Aug. 13, 7 pm: Isabel String Quartet (Classical). In collaboration with Queen’s Dan School of Drama and Music
  • Aug. 19, 7 pm: Limestone Trio (Classical). In collaboration with the Kingston Symphony


Helping leaders make public health decisions during COVID-19

Queen’s researcher Dongmei Chen and collaborators receive federal funding to explore how the social dynamics of coronavirus transmission impact decision making.

[Photo of Toronto skyline featuring the CN Tower]
Queen's researcher Dongmei Chen and her collaborators are examining the social dynamics of COVID-19 transmission. They are collaborating with community partners in Toronto to examine the epidemic's impact on the Chinese community in the Greater Toronto Area. (Image: Unsplash/ Richard Kidger)

As governments and public health agencies move to rapidly address the COVID-19 pandemic, they face the challenge of making decisions under considerable time constraints and with uncertainty. Developing evidence-based responses will be a key tool, now and for the future, for leaders to make confident decisions on assessing preventive measures, allocating resources and equipment, identifying high-risk groups, and establishing policies on emergency response.

Social dynamics of virus transmission

[Photo of Dr. Dongmei Chen]
Dr. Dongmei Chen (Geography and Planning)

Queen’s researcher Dongmei Chen (Geography and Planning) is working on a project that will help decision-makers access vital information they need for their public health response to COVID-19 and future infectious disease pandemics. Dr. Chen, along with researchers Lu Wang (nominated PI) and Lixia Yang from Ryerson University, have received support from the Government of Canada’s rapid research funding competition to address COVID-19. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research has awarded their project more than $180,000 to study the social dynamics of virus transmission in a large urban hub to help us better understand the impact of our public health response. 

How the social dynamics of coronavirus transmission impact a community are largely shaped by the relationship between community prevention behaviour and individual activity space.

“The effectiveness of preventive measures depends fundamentally on the public’s willingness to cooperate, which is highly associated with the level of risk a person perceives,” explains Dr. Chen. “Because COVID-19 typically spreads via close contact, it is of critical importance to understand, at an individual level, the characteristics of activity space for individuals during an outbreak or a potential outbreak.”

Collaborating with community partners in Toronto

Their project will also explore the importance of how risk perceptions and the specific measures taken in a community can be tailored to the unique circumstances of a transnational community. Specifically, Dr. Chen and her collaborators will examine the epidemic’s impact on the Chinese community in Toronto.

At the time of the proposal in February, the majority of cases in Canada could be traced to travel from China. As the Greater Toronto Area is home to the largest Chinese diaspora outside of China, Dr. Chen and her collaborators believed that the impact of the outbreak would be large for this community because of their many connections to mainland China and Hong Kong. The team, whose research expertise range from transnational healthcare to health among immigrant populations and spatial modelling, will work with three Chinese community organizations and health centres in Toronto to provide new insights on the cultural dimensions of the epidemic and the implications of pandemics within large global cities.

Future emergency responses

Dr. Chen’s expertise in understanding and modelling the interactions between human activities and their physical environment will be key to analyzing the data collected from the team’s community partnerships. Under Dr. Chen’s leadership, Queen’s LaGISA (Laboratory of Geographic Information and Spatial Analysis) will conduct the project’s spatial analysis, geovisualization and modelling of individual activity spaces before and during the pandemic, and help to interpret their implication in COVID-19 prevention and transmission.

Their project will not only be crucial to the current public health response to COVID-19, it will have long-lasting implications. “Such evidence-based findings can be utilized by public health, locally and internationally, in assessing community preventive measures and enhancing the collective capacity for emergency responses to COVID-19, along with other future infectious diseases,” explains Dr. Chen.

Ready for a productive summer online

Enrolments are surging in popular online summer courses at Queen’s.

Photo of a person using a laptop.
Faculties have been adding new courses to meet the high demand for summer online learning at Queen's University.

Demand has never been higher for online summer courses at Queen’s University.

As many students have had their summer plans disrupted by the pandemic, they are turning to online courses in large numbers. And there is still time to enroll in a wide variety of courses, including options in the humanities, education, engineering, and health sciences.

Across the university, most faculties are reporting large increases in their summer online programs over last year. Compared to May 2019, the Faculty of Arts and Science has seen enrolments for Arts and Science Online rise by 50 per cent. They currently have over 9,000 enrolments across their courses and are expecting more for the July start date.

“The pandemic has made it challenging for many students to pursue their original plans for the summer. With our long track record of delivering first-rate online education, we are well-positioned to increase our course offerings and expand enrolment to help ensure that students have options. The extremely high levels of enrolment we are seeing is thanks in large part to the strong reputation of our online programs. It is also due to the fact that our courses are for-credit and may be applied to a student’s degree, regardless of whether they are Queen’s students or students at other institutions who are taking our courses for transfer credits,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science.

Increased demand for online courses across Queen’s

Arts and Science Online is not the only program seeing large spikes in enrolment. The Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) has more than doubled its enrolment for summer online courses compared to last year. Currently, there are over 1,900 students enrolled in these classes. Recognizing the high demand, the BHSc has added six courses to its original set of offerings for the summer.

The Faculty of Law has raised the enrolment caps for some of their courses as well to respond to demand. Enrolments for Aboriginal Law have more than doubled compared to last year. And Introduction to Canadian Law has 210 students enrolled with a number of students on a waitlist, compared to 147 enrolments in 2019.

Over the last five years, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) has seen sustained growth in its online summer courses. This summer that trend has accelerated. This spring term, FEAS has more than 775 enrolments in their online courses, which is more than 200 additional enrolments then they had in 2019.

Expanding course offerings in Education

Teachers and graduate students in education are also turning to Queen’s to develop their skills over the summer. The Faculty of Education has added courses to several different programs and seen unprecedented demand for all their offerings. They have added a new seven-week spring term to their Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry and Professional Master of Education programs. During this new term, they are offering nine courses, and all reached full enrolment shortly after registration opened.

The Faculty of Education also offers a number of Continuing Teacher Education (CTE) and Professional Studies courses. These have also seen strong surges in interest. Compared to their 2019 spring course enrollments, there are 1300 more students enrolled in Professional Studies and CTE courses this spring. One of the more popular courses this year is Teaching and Learning through e-Learning, which provides timely skills that can help teachers improve their remote instruction abilities.

Read more about how faculties are connecting students with online learning opportunities in this previous article in the Queen’s Gazette.

To learn more about summer online courses and enrolment, visit the faculty websites.

Queen’s remembers J. Harry McCaughey

The Queen’s community is remembering Professor Emeritus J. Harry McCaughey of the Department of Geography and Planning, who passed away on Friday, May 1. He was 76.

Professor Emeritus J. Harry McCaughey
Professor Emeritus J. Harry McCaughey

Dr. McCaughey joined Queen’s University in 1971 where he specialized in climatology research and teaching. He retired June 30, 2012 and was granted the title of Professor Emeritus.

He was a pioneer and leader in the micro-climate and eddy covariance research communities. In 2003 he received the NSERC 25 Years of Excellence in Research certificate in recognition of twenty-five years of continuous funding support from NSERC.

In the department, Dr. McCaughey served a year as Acting Head (1984-85) and served on a number of committees. He was also cross-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies.

Dr. McCaughey served on numerous committees both on and off campus. Some of those included: International Review Panel for the Swedish Natural Science Research Council; Review Panel for Climate Change Action Fund in the area of Adaptation and Impacts (Forestry); The BERMS Science Committee; the Science Committee and the Board of Directors of Fluxnet-Canada; and the Operational Science Committee of the Canadian Carbon Program.

Born in Limavady, Northern Ireland he received his undergraduate degree (BSc) from Queen’s University, Belfast. He received both his MA and PhD degrees from McMaster University.

Harry mentored and graduated many graduate students who fondly remember him. One of his former students, Dave Branson, reflects: “Harry had an immense impact on my education and preparing me for my future jobs. As an undergrad it was always a challenge to keep up with his lectures. He would be writing frantically on the acetate for the overhead projector and in a split second that acetate would be gone and he would be onto the next. In grad school, I could not have had a better supervisor. Although he was meticulous about our writing and would send back drafts full of edits and comments, he was also sure to keep us on schedule.”

Another former graduate student, Rene Barendregt, recalls: “I really enjoyed Harry as a professor. Much of what he taught me about weather and climate I still use in my lectures. Most mornings when I wake up and look to the sky, I try to understand the day’s weather. Often I am reminded of Harry’s descriptions of sky conditions and clouds and what these might be telling us. Harry was a very practical man, and that appealed to this young Alberta farm kid trying to work his way through a Ph.D. in Geography at Queen’s University.”

Principal announces 2020 Distinguished University Professors

Six faculty members receive Queen’s University’s top research-related honour.


Six faculty members receive Queen’s University’s top research-related honour
The 2020 Distinguished University Professors are, clockwise from top left: David Bakhurst (Philosophy); Audrey Kobayashi (Geography), Julian Barling (Smith School of Business); Glenville Jones (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences); Kathleen Lahey (Law);John Smol (Biology).

Queen’s University has announced the latest recipients of the Distinguished University Professor designation, the university’s highest research-related honour.

Now in its second year, the Distinguished University Professor Program recognizes professors for exhibiting an outstanding and sustained research record, teaching excellence, and significant and lasting contributions to Queen’s, Canada, and the world.

“There is world-class research and teaching being conducted every day at Queen’s and this seems all the more imperative with the challenges we currently face with COVID-19,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s. “Each recipient exemplifies excellence in their field and it is my great pleasure to designate these six accomplished faculty members as Distinguished University Professors.”

The 2020 Distinguished University Professors are:

  • David Bakhurst, Department of Philosophy
  • Julian Barling, Smith School of Business
  • Glenville Jones, Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences
  • Audrey Kobayashi, Department of Geography
  • Kathleen Lahey, Faculty of Law
  • John Smol, Department of Biology

The Distinguished University Professor Program was made official by the university’s Senate in 2017-18. Each year, the program’s advisory committee invites nominations from the campus community, reviews the submissions, and makes recommendations to the principal, who then determines the recipients.

“Assessing the submissions for this program provides an invaluable opportunity to see just how our faculty members are having an impact in the classroom and through their research,” adds Principal Deane.

Each recipient will soon add an honorific name to their title, to be selected from a list of Senate approved names.

Visit the Principal’s website to learn more about the Distinguished University Professors Program, its advisory committee, and selection of honorific names.

The inaugural list of recipients, announced last year, included nine faculty members.

Queen’s University professor earns international honour

Queen’s University professor Katherine McKittrick has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as an International Honorary Member in social sciences. The award recognizes her research contributions, which are in areas of black studies, anti-colonial studies, cultural geographies, and gender studies.

Katherine McKittrick
Katherine McKittrick

Founded in 1780, during the American Revolution, by John Adams, John Hancock, and 60 other scholar-patriots, the prestigious award recognizes scholarly merit, leadership, and the advancement of social good.  The work of members focuses on arts and humanities, democracy and justice, education, global affairs and science.

Dr. McKittrick joins an elite group of scholars including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton in the eighteenth century; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell in the nineteenth and Robert Frost, Martha Graham, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth.

International Honorary Members include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Laurence Olivier, Mary Leakey, John Maynard Keynes, and Nelson Mandela.

“To be nominated and elected an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science was a beautiful surprise,” says Dr. McKittrick (Gender Studies). “It was truly unexpected; to learn I was being honoured alongside wonderfully smart colleagues such as Alondra Nelson, Maydianne Andrade, and E. Patrick Johnson, as well as former inductees Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison, and Robin D.G. Kelley has me whirling a little. These scholars are brilliant and generous and to be in their company is an incredible feeling.”

Read more about the honour on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences website.


Philanthropists back ventilator project led by Queen's Nobel Laureate

Canadian donors are supporting Professor Emeritus Art McDonald as he leads the development of a ventilator that could help people affected by COVID-19.

The team's ventilator design.
The team's ventilator unit design. (Photo by Mechanical Ventilator Milano)

Philanthropists from across the country are rallying to support a team of Canadian physicists and engineers who are part of an international initiative to create an easy-to-build ventilator that can help treat COVID-19 patients.

These efforts, led in Canada by Arthur B. McDonald, an emeritus professor at Queen’s University and the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, are harnessing the talents of physicists who would normally be spending their time trying to solve the mysteries of dark matter. Since both tasks depend on the precise regulation of gas flow, Dr. McDonald and the project founder, Dr. Cristiano Galbiati in Italy, felt their fellow astroparticle physicists were perfectly positioned to help build up the world’s ventilator supply. In Canada, Dr. McDonald got instant and continuing participation from the lab directors and teams at TRIUMF Laboratory, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories at Chalk River, SNOLAB, and the McDonald Institute.

The collaboration, now called the MVM Ventilator project, has gained national attention — including a strong statement of support from Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and from federal innovation, supply, and regulatory agencies.

This work at such a difficult time for the world has captured the imagination of a dozen Canadian philanthropists who have stepped forward to support the project financially with donations through Queen’s University to the Dr. Art McDonald Ventilator Research Fund.

Pictou, Nova Scotia-based Donald Sobey, a Queen’s alumnus and the chair emeritus of Empire Company Limited, was one of the first philanthropists to support the initiative, making his donation less than 24 hours after receiving an early Easter morning call from fellow Nova Scotian Dr. McDonald.

“Dr. McDonald’s leadership and brilliance in developing a Canadian solution to the global ventilator shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic is inspiring,” says Sobey. “He is one of the leading scientific minds in the world, and a source of pride for all Canadians. But when we spoke on Easter morning about the urgent issues facing his project, I was compelled by the voice of a true humanitarian.”

Other Canadian philanthropists share Sobey’s enthusiasm for the project. Supporters of now include the Lazaridis Family Foundation, The Garrett Family Foundation, Josh Felker, Dan Robichaud, Patricia Saputo, Peter Nicholson, Salvatore Guerrera, and Nicola Tedeschi, as well as four anonymous donors.

Dr. McDonald extends his thanks for this valuable support.

“The very generous donations by Donald Sobey and the other philanthropists have been crucial for us to maintain our research at a very critical time in the project," he says. "I have been amazed and extremely grateful for their very timely support, as it has enabled our team to push past obstacles towards our goal of producing large numbers of cost-effective ventilators with strong capability for saving lives.”

The MVM Ventilator project is proceeding well toward its goal through successful testing of the ventilator in Italy, Canada, and the US for certification, guided by medical experts. The collaboration team is working with manufacturers who are capable of production at rates up to 1000 per week in the near future. In Canada, the production companies will be Vexos in Markham, Ontario and JMP Solutions in London, Ontario. The development work is published openly and is being carried out with an open source licensing concept, enabling companies around the world to manufacture this design to help with shortages in other countries.

“We are thrilled that so many Canadian philanthropists have been inspired to contribute to the ventilator project,” says Karen Bertrand, Queen’s Vice-Principal (Advancement). “Their generosity is ensuring that more ventilators get in the hands of health-care professionals, and more people receive the treatment they need. This is a graphic illustration of the impact that both research and philanthropy can have on our world.”

For more information, visit the Queen’s research website.

Queen’s remembers Suning Wang

The Queen’s community is remembering Suning Wang, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Chemistry who died Monday, April 27 after a long illness. She was 61.

Suning Wang

Dr. Wang arrived at Queen’s in 1996 after starting her teaching career at the University of Windsor. Born in Nanjing, China she earned a B.Sc. from Jilin University and a Ph.D. from Yale University. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Wang was well-known and highly respected within the international chemistry community as well as at Queen’s. She was included in the first group of Distinguished University Professor recipients in 2019. Throughout her career she received numerous major awards including a Killam Research Fellowship (2012-14) from the Canada Council for the Arts.

In 2015 she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada.

Dr. Wang’s research focused on the development of new organometallic chemistry and luminescent materials chemistry. Her research interests also included the work on organic photovoltaics and nanoparticles, stimuli-responsive materials as well as OLEDs. Dr. Wang and her group developed a simple method of producing graphene-like lattice through light exposure, which may contribute to a huge field of future use.

During her career she co-authored more than 300 publications.

Dr. Wang also excelled in her work with students and in 2018 was named the inaugural winner of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) Award for Outstanding Graduate Mentorship. During her career she supervised more than 70 graduate students, including 34 Ph.D. students, many of whom are already well-known scientists and hold faculty positions.

Will coronavirus help or hinder women’s candidacies?

The Conversation: COVID-19 has the potential to shock the system, upending or reinforcing existing gender imbalances in political power.

Parliament Hill with a blue sky
Only 29 per cent of Canada's Members of Parliament are women. (Unsplash / Erik McLean)

Women’s leadership has drawn a lot of praise during the COVID-19 crisis, including for politicians like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and chief medical officers Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry.

The Conversation logoThere has also been quick acceptance that women’s perspectives must shape the crisis response. Attention to issues like domestic violence, which is increasing during the pandemic, is a good example. Longer term, however, what effect will the crisis have on women’s political power? Will the pool of women candidates and leaders swell or contract in coming years?

Women make up only 25 per cent of legislators worldwide, and only 29 per cent in Canada’s House of Commons. The chief obstacle for women attaining political office is recruitment and nomination, not general election. Women are less likely than men to seek candidacy, and parties are less likely to recruit and nominate women than men, including to winnable districts.

Political recruitment requires time, money and professional networks. Economic status and social hierarchy affect the decision to run for office.

Women have fewer resources

Women run less often because they have fewer of these resources, and early data on COVID-19’s effects suggest those inequities will widen. Statistics Canada’s March jobs report, for example, shows that Canadian women suffered greater job losses than men since the pandemic started, and not only in the service industry, but also in the hard-hit insurance, real estate and finance sectors.

Among core workers aged 25 to 54 years, women account for 70 per cent of job losses. Government income supports will help compensate, but concern about women’s economic well-being and future career trajectories is warranted.

For women who have retained employment, they too face pandemic pressures. With schools and day-care centres closed, many parents now find themselves engaged heavily in child care and home-schooling, and also care responsibilities for relatives, friends and neighbours. Women shoulder a disproportionate share of all these tasks.

In Canada, the 2015 General Social Survey (GSS) shows that women spent 47 per cent more time per day on housework than men did (2.8 hours versus men’s 1.9 hours), 64 per cent more time on routine child-care tasks (2.3 versus 1.4 hours), and 70 per cent more time per day on caring for other adults (1.7 versus 1 hour).

A women holds several cleaning products in her arms
Women still spend a lot more time on housework than men. (Unsplash / Kelly Sikkema)

Detailed time-use data was not collected in the 2018 General Social Survey, but it is unlikely that these patterns changed dramatically in three years, and certainly not enough to close care gaps.

As the care demands increase during COVID-19, therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that women are the essential front line in many households.

Career paths interrupted

Care for home and children can be a rewarding part of life for many men and women. But the danger now is that inequitable care patterns established long before the crisis are likely to have dramatic consequences. These include substantial interruptions in women’s career achievement and diminished time and energy for political engagement. This consequently will contribute to even greater gaps in the supply of qualified and eager women candidates post-pandemic.

On the other hand, maybe things will be better for women candidates after the pandemic. Perhaps flexible work arrangements will persist, allowing more women to combine care-taking and career ambitions, including political careers.

Legislatures could become more flexible workplaces, allowing remote sittings and voting, for example, as recommended by the Good Parliament Report, a blueprint for a more representative British parliament by gender and politics professor Sarah Childs.

While complex, such reforms might make politics more attractive to women, especially in large countries like Canada, where many MPs must travel thousands of kilometres between their constituencies and Parliament Hill. Greater workplace flexibility would also allow women MPs to breastfeed longer if they choose, and recover more fully post-birth, while still serving their constituents and fulfilling parliamentary duties.

In the home, the COVID-19 crisis may have put some men into primary caretaker roles if they’ve been laid off and their partners have not, which may accelerate the erosion of gendered norms about the household division of labour.

More involved fathers post-pandemic?

Studies of the effects of paternity/parental leave on fathers suggest that caretaking norms and behaviours can shift rapidly. Men who take parental leave are more likely to be involved with the care of their children further down the road.

The effect is found in countries around the world, and is not simply a product of pre-birth childcaring commitment, socioeconomic status and other drivers of involvement — it appears to be an independent effect of men taking parental leave.

Households where men have experienced primary or equitably shared care for a child end up being more equitable environments with greater continued sharing of care later too. The same outcome may prevail as a result of COVID-19 child care and home schooling.

Whatever the eventual impact on women’s candidacies post-pandemic, COVID-19 has the potential to shock the system, upending or reinforcing existing gender imbalances in political power.The Conversation


Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, Associate Professor, Political Studies; Director, Canadian Opinion Research Archive, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mobility in the time of COVID-19

Queen’s researcher Jennifer Ruth Hosek examines how paradigms of mobility and immobility are being upended as a result of the pandemic

A streetcar climbs a street in heavy traffic
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting how we view mobility. 

For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to drastic changes in how we move about in our daily lives. Adhering to social distancing rules, millions of people are now working and socializing from home — only venturing out for essential trips. This shift marks a stark contrast to a mere few months ago when many were able to freely move about, not only of necessity but for desire and fun.

Queen’s researcher Jennifer Ruth Hosek (Language, Literatures and Cultures; Gender Studies; Film and Media) is working on urban mobility studies and petrocultures (social and cultural study of energy sources). She has found that the COVID-19 situation is impacting how we view mobility.

“Typically, mobility expresses privilege,” says Dr. Hosek. “In these times of the virus, however, immobility expresses privilege, with self-isolation understood to demonstrate exemplary citizenship to boot. This is clear a reversal of the mobility paradigm.”

A complicating factor is the harsh reality that much of humanity cannot participate in such immobility. This includes medical personnel, such as doctors, nurses and other frontline hospital workers needed to attend to the sick and to monitor and test populations. They are hailed around the world for their heroism during this crisis. This recognition also extends to other professionals such firefighters and police who are working to keep our communities safe and protected.

According to Hosek, the definition of “frontline” is finally starting to broaden. It is extending to service workers such as warehouse laborers, paid drivers, and grocery store employees who may not have the choice to stay home. Their mobility ensures essential services like garbage pickup and much less essential services like home delivery of consumer goods. These workers are seldom mobile based upon particular expertise, but because they need employment, whether or not they may be more vulnerable to illness.

“Once those of us who have the privilege to be able to stay at home acknowledge this latter group as frontline, our immobility becomes less noble,” says Hosek. “In today's world in which so many of us are choosing immobility, there are millions of others for whom both immobility and mobility present impossible options and even deadly peril.”

However, in virus times, even the privileged feel the detriments of immobility. It can spell work disruptions, meaning-of -life crises, loneliness, and boredom. Such challenges belie the idea of immobility as fundamentally privileged.

And this reality: that our current immobility is both profoundly unjust and profoundly unsatisfying, is driving us towards what needs to be done recalibrate our mobility assets.

It may not seem immediately obvious, but Hosek points out that the long-time, hypermobility of the privileged few has promoted this hypermobile pandemic. Fuel emissions further climate change, which fosters disease spread, just to name a few issues. High speed hypermobility is untenable, while equitable distribution of mobility furthers environmental and human health.

Now, this pandemic has revealed that inequitable mobility – and its associate inequitable immobility – is unfair, unfun, and unsustainable. Hosek says it has also simultaneously shown that we must fundamentally revamp societal infrastructures. All of which points to a solution.

Working together, governments must deploy fiscal policies – such as debt buyback, quantitative easing, and job guarantees – and largescale projects – such as renewables and public transit – to resuscitate the economy while overcoming this disease and mitigating recurrences, in part through flattening the mobility differential globally.

According to Hosek, "The painful realities of the new mobile order in the time of COVID-19 demonstrate that more equitably distributed, moderate mobility is both more sustainable and more worth sustaining."


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