Rural Canada and the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 25, 2020

In brief:

  • Approximately 18% of Canada’s national population live in rural
    regions.
  • Rural communities are central to Canada’s economice prosperity. They
    contribute to nearly 30% of the country’s total GDP.
  • Rural communities experience crises differently, and so it is vital that
    economic recovery and stimulus funding be rural specific.

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, reports suggest that rural Canada is experiencing ongoing challenges including: production and service disruptions due to the implementation of social distancing regulations, disruptions in engaging foreign labour due to travel restrictions (nearly 44,000 foreign workers have been impacted), disruption of transportation links, changing marketplaces, and decreasing demand for certain products and services.

The pandemic has also reinforced the urgency of addressing some of the disparities rural communities already face. With many services including educational and health services transitioning online, rural communities without access to reliable high-speed Internet have experienced significant hardships. This is an issue that both the federal and provincial governments have committed themselves to addressing. Additionally, there are already ongoing intiatives within the not-for-profit sector that are expanding broadband access at the municipal level.

Canadian academics, including Heather Hall at the University of Waterloo and Ryan Gibson at the University of Guelph, and colleagues continue to study rural development and resiliency in rural communities. Considering the differentiated experiences of Canadians in rural places will be an important component of building a sustainable recovery.