Building a Digital Memorial for Lives Lost to COVID-19

Jul 28, 2023

In November of 2022, we began work on a new initiative: Remembering Lives Not Numbers. This project aims to collect the names and life stories of the Saskatchewan victims of the COVID pandemic.

This project emerged as our SSHRC-funded research team gathered thousands of news articles, reports, and social media posts about the pandemic for Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 Community Archive. We noticed a clear trend in the ways that the pandemic was reported on, which shifted from stories of personal loss to a heavy focus on data and policy.

The earliest reports about the pandemic were focused on the people who lost their lives to COVID-19. These were stories of personal loss, but also allowed people to grieve collectively over the loss of the individuals who were part of the fabric of our communities. This was vital at a time when funerals and other mourning rituals were suspended because of public health concerns.

As the pandemic hit hard in late 2020 through to early 2022, most of us became numb as the total death count climbed upward. The news media struggled to cover individual lives lost to COVID-19 and the stories turned to scientific debates about excess deaths in the province or the scale of the crisis in the ICU departments.

That shift in the public conversation is very important and we have dedicated research exploring how social and traditional media reacted to public health realities. However, lost amidst the increasingly vitriolic conversation about COVID-19 mandates, lockdowns, and more is the reality that many families lost loved ones and never had a chance to publicly grieve those losses.

Through public submissions and dedicated research, we have created over 120 public entries on the Remembering Lives Not Numbers page. We encourage you to look through the life stories we have found. The diversity of people in this memorial is a testament to widespread impact of the pandemic and the collective loss of the province of Saskatchewan.  

You can learn more about this initiative in these news stories: