Just attended a meeting for @UBC Public Health students, having the opportunity to address concerns of Prof Peter Berman, as head of @ubcspph, who travelled to Hawaii over the holidays which @globalnews and @jarmstrongbc reported on
Numerous students asked for him to resign, some sharing heartbreaking stories of not being able to visit older relatives or to grieve the deaths of relatives alongside family members that lived abroad, recognizing the sacrifices many had made
Berman stated that he would take responsibility, listen, and learn. Would not provide tangible commitments for what that would look like or state that he would resign. He would also not commit to resigning from instructing a course taught on international responses to Covid.
Within the call, Prof Berman was asked whether his privilege as a straight white man contributed to his decision to travel. His reply:
"It was possible to travel over the holiday period because travel per se has not been banned in a legal sense. I wouldn't say that there was the question of getting away with it. Rather, my behaviour represented ignoring the spirit and content of the guidance that had been given"
His response shows his inability to acknowledge his own privilege as a highly educated, highly paid, leader of a public health institution and how this let navigate PHOs in order to enjoy a tropical vacation while restrictions tightened in BC. After all, it wasn't 'illegal'
When asked whether he considered the harms that his actions would have on the Indigenous communities in Hawaii, who have been among the hardest hit in the State, he replied:
He considered the PH impact but that the situation in Hawaii indicated a low prevalence of Covid-19 and that he followed guidelines to reduce the spread. But that he didn't know much about the impact on the Indigenous population and that it didn't enter into his thinking.
While the low prev might have posed low risk to him, did he think about his risk to Indigenous pops or to the service staff? How can the head of #ubcspph think he is qualified for the position when social inequities and the impacts of colonialism don't enter into his thinking?
Prof Berman also stated that as a scientist and researcher he is able to form his own views on the guidelines that have been given, but that he has a responsibility to support the PH authorities.
He had the responsibility to support the guidelines - guidelines that have prevented our community from seeing dying loved ones, that have led to our loved ones dying alone - but chose to use his credentials to justify a vacation based on his interpretations of the evidence
We have all suffered and sacrificed throughout this pandemic. Some of us have also made difficult decisions to place the wellbeing of our mental health and families before public health orders.
Those with power and authority need to be held at higher standards. They need to recognize the harms that their actions cause. They need to recognize that their privilege should not afford them special treatment and that accountability means more than listening and learning

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