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Both trips come at a time when various Canadian public officials are using their privilege to travel during the pandemic. Image: University of British Columbia/Provided.

Several other staff and faculty at UBC also admitted travelling during winter break and holidays

The University of British Columbia (UBC) president and vice-chancellor, Santa Ono, as well as the director of the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH), Peter Berman, have come under fire for travelling out of the country in recent weeks.

While the British Columbia provincial government has urged citizens to avoid non-essential travel both inside and outside of the province, several other staff and faculty at UBC have also admitted to traveling during the winter break and holidays. 

In response, on Jan. 15, professor Berman announced his resignation from his position as director in a statement that was released on the SPPH website. 

“I took this difficult decision based on my assessment that the conditions of distress and division currently prevailing at SPPH make it impossible for me to continue to provide effective leadership to grow and develop our school, our community and our profession in my role as SPPH Director,” read the statement. 

The resignation comes after Berman took a vacation in Hawaii with his family over the winter break, breaking B.C. public health guidelines surrounding travel during the pandemic. 

In an earlier public letter, Berman said “I recognize and take full responsibility for my error in judgement and behavior, especially in my role as a public health leader.”

“I am mindful of the anger and disappointment many feel, as well as the concern we have, for the harm I may have done to our community, school and mission.”

However, despite this, Berman continues to face backlash from many members of the SPPH faculty and student body. 

An open letter was penned to the UBC administration outlining more disappointment and frustration with the situation.

“A public health leader should know better,” read the letter. 

“We [at UBC] remain committed to listening to our community members’ concerns as these conversations continue over the coming days,” said Matthew Ramsey, the director of university affairs in an email to students. 

UBC president Santa Ono flew out to Baltimore to care for his parents, as reported the Ubyssey on [Jan. 7]. According to a statement made by Ono, he flew out on Dec. 10 and stayed for four days before returning and self-quarantining for the mandatory 14-day period. 

“I carefully weighed the decision to travel and out of concern for my parents, made the decision to proceed with the trip,” read the statement. 

Ono further goes on in the statement to explain that he followed COVID-19 guidelines and protocols “strictly” and stated that “this trip was not a vacation.”

Both Ono and Berman’s trips come during a time when various other Canadian public officials are using their privilege to travel during the pandemic. 

The much publicized instances of Canadian politicians travelling led to major backlash and resignations at both the provincial and federal levels.