Mary Louise Adams
School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic public parks emerged as hotly contested sites in which uncertainty and fear about the risk of infection collided with many people’s desire to find fresh air and be physically active outside their homes. While municipal governments deliberated over appropriate restrictions on parks and trails, moralizing debates about jogging, hiking and cycling erupted on social media. In some cities, by-law officers took to the task of Covid-related ticketing with a worrying enthusiasm and, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a tendency to engage in racial profiling. In this lecture I look at parks as a means of exploring social issues made apparent by the current public health crisis: inequity in the distribution of health risks, unequal access to public amenities, increased public surveillance, the moral regulation of difference, and the over-reliance on policing as a solution to social problems. But while parks have been sites of conflict, they have also been sites in which people have exercised their visions of what a more just post-Covid city might look like. With a focus on Kingston, this lecture looks at the history and politics of parks in relation to public health in the era of Covid-19.