Two years ago, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
In the months following, provincial health officers announced weeks' long lockdowns, wave after wave, variant after variant.
And despite phrases like “the new normal” or “return to normal life,” we've heard B.C.'s top doctor Dr. Bonnie Henry say multiple times that COVID-19 is here to stay.
Since the initial lockdown in March 2020, the pandemic has changed the way people interact with each other and introduced norms like mask-wearing in public settings, and proper hygiene (though this should’ve been a no-brainer).
What some believed would be a break from school or the office became a dark period of declining mental health, increasing hate crimes, social unrest and financial uncertainty.
Mental health and social unrest
When the world learned that the first known COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan, China, the Asian diaspora felt its significance in western countries.
In its 2020 year-end report, the Vancouver Police Department revealed that anti-Asian hate crime increased by 717 per cent. Bloomberg called Vancouver “the anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America” — referencing more reported crimes than the top 10 populous cities in the United States.
In a newly released report titled "COVID-19 in Canada: A two-year update on social and economic impacts," Statistics Canada notes there was a 37 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes — 718 more in 2020 compared with 2019 — against Black, Indigenous, and Asian populations.
Mental health, meanwhile, has not recovered to pre-COVID levels, the 14-page document shows. In fact, as of June 2021, 61 per cent of Canadians reported very good or excellent mental health, compared to 2019's 67 per cent. Notably, this decline was greatest among women than men.
Along with poor mental health, the report says social unrest is linked to income inequality.
Uncertainty and inflation
Despite buzz words like the Great Resignation, the report states that the number of people leaving or changing their jobs has been similar to pre-pandemic. Less than one in 10 workers are planning to leave their job over the next 12 months, with visible minorities more likely to hand in their resignation because of low pay.
And while many Canadians have returned to work, economic obstacles like the global supply chain and inflation have made it more difficult for people to live as they once did.
The Statistics Canada report says headline consumer inflation hit a 30-year high of 5.1 per cent in January 2022, with food, gas and housing prices increasing. Grocery prices also rose at their fastest yearly pace since 2009.
A recent Angus Reid study found that half of Canadians can’t keep up with the cost of living.
On Monday, the B.C. government announced it will be increasing the minimum wage by $0.45 to $15.65 per hour on June 1.
Looking forward, Statistics Canada says high inflation and modest wage gains suggest "that pressures related to affordability will worsen in the near term — especially if prices for food and shelter continue to rise."