For the first time in a decade, Canada has fallen out of the top 10 of the freest countries on earth, according to a new study by two conservative think tanks.
This year’s Human Freedom Index released Thursday, by the Fraser Institute in Canada and the Cato Institute in the U.S., ranks Canada as the 13th freest country out of 165 surveyed, based on 2020 data complied during the first year of the pandemic.
That compares with Canada’s ranking as the world’s 6th freest country in 2019.
This year’s index ranks Switzerland as the world’s freest country followed in descending order by New Zealand, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, Norway and Canada.
The world’s 10 least free countries are, in descending order, Burundi, Iraq, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen with Syria being the least free country on Earth.
Russia ranks 119th, China 152nd.
The annual index assesses countries on the basis of 83 indicators in the areas of rule of law, security and safety, freedom of movement, religion, association, assembly, expression and information, relationships, size of government, legal system, property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally and regulation.
“During the pandemic, like other governments worldwide, governments in Canada restricted freedom of movement, expression, assembly and other freedoms even more than they had in previous years,” said study co-author Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute.
Canada certainly wasn’t alone in restricting freedom, the study notes.
“Human freedom deteriorated severely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic” worldwide, it says.
“Most areas of freedom fell, including significant declines in the rule of law; freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly; and freedom to trade. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents more freedom, the average human freedom rating for 165 jurisdictions fell from 7.03 in 2019 to 6.81 in 2020.”
The study concludes 94.3% of the world’s population experienced a decline in freedom between 2019 and 2020, as governments around the world imposed restrictive public health, vaccination, trade, travel and other policies they said were necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The study’s authors also argue that even before the pandemic, global freedom was on the decline for 79% of the world’s population between 2007 and 2019, which was the high point for human freedom.
Today, it says, only 13.4% of the world’s population lives in the top quartile of free countries, while 39.9% live in countries in the bottom quartile.
The authors of the study by two conservative think tanks — perhaps surprisingly to some — still rank Canada as the most free country among the G-7 developed nations of which Canada is a member.
As the 13th freest country on earth, Canada ranked higher than Japan (16), Germany (18), U.K. (20), U.S. (23), Italy (33) and France (42) in the freedom index.
Regionally, the study says, Western Europe, North America (Canada and the U.S.), and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) have the highest levels of freedom, while the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the lowest levels.
One of the key findings of the study is that freer countries are more prosperous than those that are less free.
The study found that average per capita income in the top-quartile of free countries in the index was US$48,644 (C$65,127), compared to US$11,566 (C$15,485) for the countries in the least-free quartile.