In a year that's been off from the start, Raptors players have struggled to maintain their positivity.
In a year that's been off from the start, Raptors players have struggled to maintain their positivity.
A formerly healthy 43-year-old father from Langley — who is in hospital recovering from complications following a blood clot — is warning others to watch for signs of trouble after receiving an AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. Shaun Mulldoon and his wife Tara say that doctors confirmed to them that he's a victim of the rare but dangerous syndrome linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The clot in his abdomen will leave him with life-long effects after two metres of his small intestine was removed. Health officials said Thursday at a man in his 40s in the Fraser Health region is one of the two British Columbians known to be affected by the syndrome, but health authorities will not comment on individual cases. Shaun Mulldoon believes he wasn't adequately warned of the vaccine's risks or protected from them. The AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine has been linked to vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). Symptoms include severe headache, pain, swollen limbs, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath. Shaun Mulldoon, 43, had emergency surgery after developing a blood clot in his abdomen that he says is related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.(Shaun Mulldoon/Facebook) Speaking on her husband's behalf, Tara Mulldoon said they are not telling people to avoid AstraZeneca, just be informed and seek help promptly if they develop any health problems afterwards. "This is life changing for us," she said. "I feel like we have a long road ahead of us as far as his recovery goes. He's lost half of his small intestine." Her husband was vaccinated on April 22 and ended up in emergency surgery on May 9. She said that he initially felt nauseous but symptoms progressed to fever, headache and vomiting. Each time he felt ill he called his doctor or the HealthLinkBC line at 811 and was advised to stay home — even after going in to have a test for COVID-19 — which turned out to be negative. He finally went to emergency on May 8 after he began to vomit and pass blood. Mulldoon posted on social media that he wished he'd had more insight into the "worse case scenario." "Seventeen days after my vaccine [I] ended up going into emergency surgery to remove over six feet of my small intestine. I had a massive blood clot. Second surgery two days later to remove more. My surgeon told me it was very close." Tara Mulldoon said the ordeal has been difficult for the family which includes two school-aged children. "We are not anti-vaxxers. We just want people to take any adverse symptoms following the vaccine — please take it seriously," she said. Shaun Mulldoon is in hospital 17 days after his vaccination with life-threatening complications.(Shaun Mulldoon/Facebook) B.C pauses AstraZeneca for first shots "I mean there's chitter chatter about the risks of blood clots, but ... it was presented to us as being so so rare," said Mulldoon. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says while the estimated risk of VITT is evolving — and varies from country to country — the rate in Cananda at the end of April is about one per 100,000 persons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. B.C. followed Alberta and Ontario's lead and paused the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for first doses on May 12. Some experts say the VITT syndrome has not been well described to the public. This is no "run of the mill venous blood clot" in the leg after a long flight, according to Dr. David Fisman, a University of Toronto professor, epidemiologist and an infectious disease specialist with Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. Fisman said that in some people the vaccine activates clotting cells and can cause a syndrome that's difficult to treat. "It's sort of a devil and the deep blue sea clinical situation," said Fisman. Keeps a close watch Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed that B.C. health officials are watching for incidence of the syndrome associated with AstraZeneca. "It's a very serious thing. Once you have antibodies to your platelets, they clump together. That can lead to very severe plugging of some of our important blood vessels. Yes, very challenging, very serious. It seems, though, that you're more likely to develop it the first time you're exposed to the vaccine," Henry said this week. "We're watching very carefully." Fisman believes that Canada may have initially missed signals about the rate of risk as AstraZeneca initially was given to older people so strokes caused by the vaccine may have gone undetected. He predicts — based on global trends — that adverse effects could potentially hit one in every 22,000 people who get the AstraZeneca jab — five times what was predicted.
RCMP on Salt Spring Island, B.C., say they have found the body of a University of British Columbia professor who had been missing since last Wednesday. Sinikka Gay Elliott left her home to run errands on Wednesday and had not been seen or heard from since. Police say they received a missing persons report at 2:15 p.m. the same day. On Saturday, police issued a written statement that said they had found her body. Although they are still investigating the details surrounding her death, they don't suspect foul play. RCMP thanked the more than 100 volunteers who helped search for Elliott. Overwhelming community response The search began Wednesday night and located Elliot's vehicle abandoned on Juniper Place Road at approximately 9:30 p.m. After an overwhelming response from the community looking to help in the search, police had asked the public to stand down. Elliot had been an associate professor with the sociology department at UBC since 2007. Guy Stecklov, head of the sociology department at UBC, previously told CBC News that her colleagues and students were all distressed by her disappearance.
P.E.I. has again delayed the date of entry for seasonal residents to the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, P.E.I. announced it would be putting a pause on those entries as part of stricter border measures to limit the importation and spread of COVID-19. According to an updated section of the province's website, that has been delayed again, this time until June 1. "Travel for seasonal residents coming to P.E.I. is paused until at least June 1, 2021," the website said. "This includes individuals who have already received a prior approval to travel, your approval is now deferred until at least June 1." Those moving to the Island from outside the Atlantic provinces are also paused until at least June 1, unless it's for school or work purposes. Those moving to P.E.I. from within the region can still enter as long as they've been approved. The website says travel to P.E.I. through the family connections stream will be reviewed to determine necessity. Seasonal residents disappointed, but understand Seasonal residents were allowed to enter the province last summer, provided they had a plan with someone to support their self-isolation for two weeks. Jen Harding is the founding president of Seasonal Residents of P.E.I., a non-profit group made up of those with seasonal properties on the Island. She said members who had planned on arriving in the coming days, herself included, started receiving notice Thursday evening saying all pre-travel approvals are being rescinded. Harding said members are disappointed but not surprised. "It's not binary. People can be disappointed and maybe frustrated at changing plans, but they do understand the changing situation with COVID and what's happening certainly in Nova Scotia is causing the region to put stronger measures in place," she said. "And so you can be disappointed at that but also recognize what else is happening around the world and certainly in Canada." More from CBC P.E.I.
Some secondary students in Canada's largest school board are calling for the elimination of quadmesters, saying the condensed schedules are leading to mental health issues and information overload for students. "I hate this quadmester model because I love learning, and this model totally strips us students of that," said Hannah Cohen, a Grade 11 student at Earl Haig Secondary School in North York. Cohen, a senior in the school's dance program, says quadmesters have been detrimental both academically and socially since they were implemented last year by the Ministry of Education to limit contact between students. She says they've also disrupted the balance between social life and education that she says comes with regular semesters. So when the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) announced on Wednesday that it would continue with quadmesters for secondary students for the 2021-2022 academic year, Cohen launched an online petition to fight it. "Learning in quadmesters is mentally and physically draining," reads the petition titled "TDSB Families Fight Back Against Quads," which has racked up nearly 1,800 signatures of support as of Friday night. "We are not able to properly learn and digest the information provided in our courses in such a brief period of time ... Students are not learning; we are just merely memorizing information," the petition says. This petition calls on the TDSB to adopt semesters for the upcoming school year. 'Learning at warp speed' The quadmester system splits the school year into four periods to allow smaller cohorts to attend class in person. Instead of four courses taken during two semesters, two courses are taken across four quadmesters. This means courses that used to be taught over the span of five months are now being taught in about nine weeks. "Teachers are basically blurting out information at us during our classes because they have so little time to get this information across to us," Cohen said. Monika Ferenczy, an education consultant based in Ottawa, calls it "learning at warp speed, because it really puts an enormous amount of pressure on the students to absorb a lot of content very quickly." Ferenczy says students are being taught one thing in the morning and are already being tested on it the following day. She says she has seen an increase in students with high anxiety and depression, and many others asking for modifications to timelines that can often not be accommodated. In response to students' concerns over the quadmester workload, a spokesperson for the TDSB says the amount of work isn't that different because a student is essentially learning two fewer courses at a time than in a typical academic semester. Jason Wong, left, and Hannah Cohen, right, are both seniors a Earl Haig Secondary School who are fighting against the return of quadmesters. They say the learning model negatively affects students' academic performance and mental health. (Submitted by Jason Wong/Hannah Cohen) But the essence of the quadmester system is to cram a bunch of information together at once, according to Jason Wong, who is in Grade 11 and is the student body president at Earl Heights Secondary School. "Let's assume we have two academic subjects at once — math and biology. That's a lot of work and time spent on those subjects. When we're working on that, we are working around the clock memorizing that material," Wong said. He says students are left racing to learn the material before they move on to a different subject, which is forcing many to stay up all night to cram, which subsequently affects students' sleep schedules and their mental health. Cohen and Wong, both of whom are students in the arts, say they also lack down time to practise their majors under this model. They add that mental health resources provided by the TDSB, such as links to access professional support services staff, fall short of what kids need. Cohen says she wants the impact that the quadmester has on students' mental health to be acknowledged and for the TDSB to move forward with a semester system next year. "We are not robots; we want our lives back," Wong added. Quadmesters 'not great' for some students, TDSB admits The TDSB says it acknowledges the quadmester model is not for everyone and that there is mixed reaction to it. "We realize for some, the quadmester model is not great, we know that. However, we're taking direction from the Ministry of Education," said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. He says the decision is about trying to keep people safe. Despite Ontario's vaccine supply ramping up and youths eligible to book a vaccine appointment by June, the ministry has required all school boards to limit schedules to two in-person classes, which for the TDSB, results in a quadmester model to limit student-to-student contacts. "We continue to explore ways to improve it," Bird said of the learning model. "Our hope, however, is that with vaccinations over the summer and those numbers hopefully going up, that we are going to be as close to normal as possible come September." Bird adds that it is important to note that the ministry says it will look into changing the model depending on how the pandemic evolves. "Given the unpredictability of what COVID-19 will look like in September...we need to be flexible," Bird said.
An Island woman who was recently escorted out of a store by police is asking Islanders to be more understanding of people who can't wear masks. Joy Auld was shopping at Dollarama when staff asked her to leave, since she was wearing a face shield and not a mask. "The manager was there, and I got just partway down the aisle and he said, 'You got to leave the store if you're not going to wear a mask,'" said Auld. The P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities said it continues to get phone calls from Islanders who are being told to leave a store if they're not wearing a mask — even if they explain they cannot because of a medical condition, as is Auld's case. "Please be understanding, because not everybody can wear a mask. A lot of us try and if we can't do it, we try to find an alternative," said Auld, who has asthma and anxiety. Face shield hasn't been a problem before Masks have been mandatory indoors in public buildings on P.E.I. since November 2020. Auld has been wearing her face shield in public for the past year, including to medical appointments, and said this is the first time she was asked to leave a store. Marcia Carroll, executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities, says we need to 'give people some grace' around face masks. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC) "I don't think this is fair," said Auld. "I don't think somebody should be discriminated against if they really can't wear [a mask]." The executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities said she's heard these kinds of stories since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. More of the onus needs to be on the individual companies and making sure that they're doing internal education around health exemptions. — Marcia Carroll, P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities "We just need to step back and understand that some people can't wear a mask," said Marcia Carroll. "But they still have the right to navigate through their community as well." Companies should do 'internal education' Carroll said she doesn't think the government needs to step in and remind businesses about exemptions. "I think more of the onus needs to be on the individual companies and making sure that they're doing internal education around health exemptions and what a mandatory order means," said Carroll. Auld said her experience at Dollarama was embarrassing, and she's asked the company for an apology. "People don't realize how sick I am, because I don't show it. And I always say, you don't know my story, so don't judge me," she said. CBC News reached out to Dollarama for comment, but has not heard back. More from CBC P.E.I.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The island of Taiwan, which has had enviable success in containing COVID-19, imposed new restrictions in its capital city on Saturday as it battled its worst outbreak since the pandemic began. Authorities raised the alert level for Taipei, the capital, and the surrounding area of New Taipei city. The level 3 alert, which remains in effect for two weeks, requires people to wear a mask outdoors and limits indoor gatherings to five people and outdoor gatherings to 10 people. Health authorities said that 180 new locally spread cases had been confirmed, the majority in Taipei and New Taipei. That's more than the total of 164 cases previously confirmed for the entire pandemic period. The daily number of new cases rose steadily from single digits early this week to 29 before the triple-digit jump announced Saturday. “The epidemic is gaining intensity,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said, while noting that more cases are being identified as authorities hone in on hot zones. Movie theaters, museums, indoor swimming pools and amusement parks were among the places ordered closed under the level 3 alert, as were community colleges and senior citizen activity centers. Taiwan, a self-governing island of about 24 million people off China's east coast, has kept the coronavirus largely at bay. It has tallied 1,475 cases, mostly infected people who arrived from abroad, and 12 deaths. The total number of locally spread cases more than tripled in the past week to 344 from under 100 as of last weekend. The Associated Press
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Doug Snelgrove has been found guilty of sexual assault.(Malone Mullin/CBC) Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Doug Snelgrove has been found guilty of sexual assault. The decision was announced in St. John's Saturday afternoon after three days of deliberations by the jury. Snelgrove hung his head as Justice Vikas Khaladkar read the verdict. Jane Doe, meanwhile, thanked the prosecutor after the verdict, smiling as she was surrounded by her family and supporters. The crown has requested that Snelgrove be detained in custody until sentencing. The defence argued that sentencing could take some time, and asked the court to release Snelgrove on bail. Snelgrove was ultimately released on conditions, which include good behaviour and keeping the peace, surrendering his passport and staying at his approved residence and having no contact with Jane Doe, among others. He's due to be back in court June 7 to arrange a sentencing hearing. Jury concerned before verdict reached Prior to the verdict being reached, the jury expressed some concern that it may not be able to make a clear decision. On Friday night, the jury sent Justice Khaladkar a brief note. It read, "Cannot come to unanimous decision. Next steps?" Khaladkar pleaded with the jury to continue to try for a verdict Saturday morning, suggesting that they review the evidence and listen to each other's concerns. He also reminded them of their oath to try and reach a verdict, but said that "in some cases, perhaps this is one, juries can't come to a conclusion." While the jury continued trying to reach a consensus Saturday, over a dozen people arrived at the Supreme Court on Duckworth Street to show solidarity with the complainant, known only as Jane Doe. The group moved their support to Topsail Road shortly after it had been announced that a verdict was reached, gathering across the street from the courtroom to support Jane Doe. Moments after the verdict was read, members of the group could be seen hugging and crying in support of the complainant and one another. Drivers also showed their support using horns from the vehicles. Similar demonstrations had occurred at the previous two trials, including a large protest at RNC headquarters in 2017. 3rd trial in 4 years Snelgrove, first arrested in 2015, was tried three times in the last four years after a young woman accused him of assaulting her while she was intoxicated. The woman told the jury last week that she remembers only flashes of the night under scrutiny, testifying that she had at least five drinks and possibly more at a downtown St. John's nightclub. She recalled leaving the bar and getting into a patrol car with an on-duty police officer, who she said offered her a ride to her apartment. The verdict was read inside this makeshift courtroom at the School for the Deaf building in St. John's.(Malone Mullin/CBC) She said she recalls the two kissing once inside her apartment, but doesn't remember why or who initiated it. Her next memory of that night was Snelgrove penetrating her while in uniform and on duty. At all three trials, she told the court she can't remember whether she consented. Snelgrove testified that he did in fact have sex with the woman, but that it was consensual and that she appeared sober. He said she initiated all sexual acts between them. The case was first thrust into the spotlight after the woman reported an assault to a female RNC officer. An RCMP investigation found Snelgrove's DNA on the woman's loveseat, leading to his arrest. Snelgrove was acquitted of sexual assault in his first trial in 2017, a verdict later overturned after an appeals court found that the presiding Supreme Court made a mistake when she explained the definition of consent to the jury. Snelgrove fought that appeal, but lost, sending him back to the stand in 2020. Snelgrove has been suspended without pay from the force since 2015. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The life of a pregnant woman was cut short after a fatal collision in Saskatoon earlier this week, friends and family of the victim say. Nicole Paddy, 33, was pregnant with her first child when she was struck Monday by a vehicle in the 3200 block of 33rd Street W., her obituary says. Officers were called to the scene at around 9:15 p.m. Monday for what the police service says was a hit and run. Emergency responders who arrived found Paddy, who had suffered severe injuries. Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to save her life. An online obituary said Paddy, who was known to family members by the nickname "Nikado," was pregnant at the time of her death. She loved her family and treated them with the "utmost respect," her obituary said. Reached by phone Saturday, her father said he was in a state of disbelief following his daughter's death, but declined further comment. A small funeral service with close friends and family was held for Paddy in her home community of the Thunderchild First Nation Friday. Skid marks and stained pavement mark the spot where the woman died.(Dan Zakreski/CBC) Ira Horse is a family friend who had known Paddy since she was a child and spoke at her funeral. She says the family is deep in mourning, as the violent death has been hard. "It's a big loss," she said. "Someone that's sickly, you can start to prepare yourself, but when you have a sudden loss like this, someone that's active, young, healthy, and to suffer a loss like this — it was a lot of damage to her." Horse said she remembers Paddy best as a happy kid with hair that was almost red and freckles. Even as they got older and talked less, Horse said she and Paddy always stopped to chat if they came across each other in Saskatoon. The recent funeral was difficult for everyone, said Horse. "They were a close family." A Saskatoon Police Service watch commander was unable to provide an update on the hit-and-run investigation Saturday. Horse and others mourning Paddy are calling for the person, or people, responsible to come forward. "Come back and own what you did," she said. "Think of it. You not only took one life, but two lives." People who live in the area previously told CBC News there were several witnesses to the incident, including children, noting a vehicle was seen speeding away from the collision. Anyone with information or video of the incident is asked to call Saskatoon police at 306-975-8300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
The Nature Trust of New Brunswick says a wetland in Fredericton was drained by workers with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure who were doing highway maintenance next to the nature preserve. According to the group, the workers destroyed a beaver dam in the Ferris Street Forest and Wetland Nature Preserve that was blocking a culvert on the Ring Road on the city's north side. As a result, more than half a metre of water was drained from the site, causing critical damage to the area and raising concerns about the impact to the species at risk and migratory birds that use the site for nesting. Shaylyn Wallace, stewardship co-ordinator with the Nature Trust, said the group wasn't notified about the work being done by the province. A Canada Goose could be seen on the protected land on Saturday.(Gary Moore/CBC) "We were very surprised to find out that this wetland had been drained," she said, adding that the timing couldn't be worse because it's nesting season. Wallace said there are Canada geese nesting on the preserve now, and said without the water in the wetland it's likely the geese won't have a successful nest. "The ducklings won't be able to get out of the nest, and they will … likely get stuck in the mud," she said. The dried-up wetland will cause problems for fish and tadpoles, too, according to Wallace, because they will likely get stranded on the land instead of being in the water. Wallace said she hopes the situation can be fixed fast, but isn't certain it's possible. Shaylyn Wallace is with the Nature Trust of New Brunswick.(Gary Moore/CBC) "If we wait too long then all of these nests and all of these species will be in trouble this summer," she said, hoping they can figure out how to get water back into the site within the next week. News of the drained wetland spread fast on social media Friday, and brought a number of people to look at the site from the side of the highway. Michael Mckay grew up in the area, and said he was disappointed to hear the news. "I thought it was disgusting," he said. "I was left empty with a lot of questions as to why, what they would possibly be doing that they had to drain the wetlands like this." According to the Nature Trust, a beaver dam that was blocking this culvert was destroyed by DTI workers. (Gary Moore/CBC) No one from DTI could provide information about the incident to CBC News on Saturday or confirm if the department was responsible for draining the site. But, according to the Nature Trust, the workers had a Watercourse and Wetland Alteration permit issued by the Department of Environment and Climate Change. Wallace said it's a broad permit that allows work to be done in the Fredericton district, but said it wasn't specific to the Ferris Street site, which is problematic. "Why that becomes a problem is because we have areas like this that are conserved and protected," she said. According to Wallace the DTI staff are supposed to be trained to recognize an ecologically significant area, and would have to check with the Department of Natural Resources before proceeding with work. As far as she knows, that wasn't done. The Nature Trust is still waiting for more answers from the province about what happened, and would like to know why the culvert, which has been blocked for a decade according to Wallace, was suddenly an issue. Wallace said some communication with her group could have helped the situation, and they could have worked with the province to figure out a safe way to drain the water to protect the wildlife. "There's a problem in the way we are protecting these wetlands," she said. "We need to have some serious conversations about making sure this doesn't happen again anywhere else."
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the opposition's continued control of Venezuelan-owned U.S. refiner Citgo would be a key point in any eventual dialogue with opponents to resolve the country's longstanding political crisis. Maduro earlier this week said he was willing to sit down with opposition leader Juan Guaido with the involvement of the Norwegian government or other mediators, after Guaido floated the idea of the progressive relaxation of U.S. sanctions to incentivize the government to hold free and fair elections. In a state television address, Maduro said the first point of discussion in any dialogue would be for the opposition to "renounce the path of coups, interventionism and to call for invasions of our country."
In just a few weeks, it will be the fifth anniversary of the massive Rideau Street sinkhole that opened up above where the Confederation Line tunnel was being built. Most everyone in Ottawa will remember the shocking event in which, miraculously, no one was hurt, although a parked van and three lanes of traffic were swallowed whole. And yet in all this time, we have never once heard that the sinkhole cost the city tens of millions of dollars — until this week. The revelation that the city is suing its own insurance companies for more than $360 million due to costs it incurred due to the sinkhole was startling on many fronts, not least of which the fact that in the years since the sinkhole occurred, the city hasn't publicly said anything about the event having any long-term financial impact. Then there's the news that the city's insurers rejected its claim for the costs in December. And finally, the discovery that the consortium that built the Confederation Line, Rideau Transit Group (RTG), is blaming the city for the sinkhole. It's a complicated and expensive mess, and it all raises a bigger question: How many more millions did the LRT cost Ottawa taxpayers that the city hasn't told us about? According to court documents, it took Rideau Transit Group nine months to repair the damage done by the sinkhole.(Andrew Foote/CBC) Legal dispute explained First, let's dissect the lawsuit. News of it came through a confidential memo sent to council and first reported by the Ottawa Citizen, even though there's no good reason for information about the city filing a lawsuit in public court to be kept secret. It's a convoluted document, but here's what we can say for sure based on the memo to councillors, several publicly available court documents and background conversations with people familiar with the issue. As part of the Confederation Line construction, a project that has always been touted as costing $2.1 billion, RTG took out what's known as a builders' risk policy with a team of insurance companies led by Zurich Insurance. The policy covers RTG, but also the city and others working on the project against losses that might occur should something go wrong. The policy has a $700-million payout cap for any single event — such as a massive sinkhole. The insurance companies have paid out $45 million to RTG for sinkhole-related losses. But back in February 2019, RTG made an insurance claim of $235.7 million, arguing that the entire 15-month delay to complete the Confederation Line was due to sinkhole. The insurers disagreed. They contend that non-sinkhole related problems with the Alstom trains and station construction meant that the LRT wouldn't have been finished any earlier. They denied the entire claim, and RTG sued for $275,000 million. That court fight continues. This week, we find out that the city believes the "sinkhole event" cost it $131 million including $104.2 million for so-called "carrying costs," $3.3 million for delayed opening expenses and $22.8 million to pay consultants and employees. The city also made a claim for its costs to the insurers last August. Again, the insurance team denied the claim. This week, the city took its fight to court and will be asking that a judge deal with its suit at the same time as the RTG suit. But wait, there's more! RTG blames sinkhole on city Although the city is claiming losses of $131 million, the suit is for $361 million. The rest of the claim — $230 million — has to do with who will ultimately be found responsible for the sinkhole. In 2017, an engineering consultant's report commissioned by the city found it was "highly likely" that the sinkhole was caused by ground that was loosened during the LRT tunnel construction. But RTG has never agreed with that assessment, believing that the city is to blame — possibly due to poor construction in that area in the past that RTG could not have known about. In fact, that exact scenario had occurred earlier in the project. A report found that a much smaller sinkhole on Waller Street in 2014, at the eastern end of the tunnel, was caused by a "previously excavated construction pit" filled with "poor quality, uncompacted" material — hence, not RTG's fault, although it picked up the costs at the time. So to hedge its bets on getting compensated for its sinkhole-related losses, on top of suing the insurers, RTG has also made a claim against the city for $230 million under the LRT contract's dispute-resolution process, which is confidential. The city, in turn, is including that $230 million in its own lawsuit against the insurance companies in case Ottawa is found responsible for causing the sinkhole. Who's really to blame for the sinkhole? As we learned this week, that's still under dispute.(CBC) Many questions remain unanswered Many troubling questions remain from this week's news. After RTG handed the Confederation Line over to the city in August 2019, the city held back $59 million from its final payment. This money was supposed to cover the city's costs of the 15-month delay — everything from having to keep buses on the road, to driver overtime, to keeping the rail office open. It was understood that RTG might dispute this holding back of payment, but never did the city suggest taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of millions more due to the LRT delay. Why was the public not made aware of this possibility earlier? And how many more millions over $2.1 billion did the city actually shell out for the Confederation Line construction? On a final note, taxpayers were told over and over that the public-private-partnership or P3 format of the LRT contract meant that the private partners — RTG — would be taking all the risks if something went awry. It appears not to have worked out that way. At Tuesday's finance and economic development committee meeting, councillors will get to ask questions about this lawsuit. According to the agenda, that discussion will be behind closed doors, perhaps signalling some new surprises for taxpayers down the road.
A simple surgery to remove unnecessary tissue in the heart could prevent strokes in patients with a common condition that requires them to take blood thinners, says the Canadian lead author of a study involving about 4,800 people in 27 countries. Dr. Richard Whitlock, a cardiac surgeon for Hamilton Health Sciences, said when blood being pumped through the heart pools in the left atrial appendage, it may form a clot that could escape and block the blood supply to the brain and raise the risk of a potentially fatal stroke. But Whitlock says getting rid of an appendage in the heart cuts that risk by 33 per cent for patients with atrial fibrillation, which is characterized by an irregular heart rhythm. The findings suggest a quick surgery, involving the removal of the appendage that's about as useless as the appendix, could be adopted around the world "immediately" through a change in practice for 15 per cent of heart surgery patients living with atrial fibrillation and taking blood thinners, Whitlock said. "This will open a new paradigm for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation," Whitlock said of the results of the McMaster University-led study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Saturday, when it was also presented at a conference of the American College of Cardiology. Whitlock said consenting patients undergoing cardiac surgery for other reasons were randomly selected for an additional operation to remove the left atrial appendage, and their results were compared with those who only took medicine. Blood thinners, which prevent clots, reduce the risk of stroke by up to 60 per cent. Whitlock said cutting out the appendage shrinks that risk by a further 33 per cent, adding those combined therapies will greatly benefit patients with atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for 25 per cent of ischemic strokes. The study began in 2012 and patients, with the average age of 71, were followed for a mean period of 3.8 years, he said. All the surgeons involved in the study across 27 countries — including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Russia, China and Brazil — are invited to events Whitlock is hosting on the findings, and a change in guidelines will be strongly recommended, he said. "We will have a significant effort at knowledge translation in terms of getting the word out there of this benefit. And surgeons, hopefully, across the world, can immediately shift practice and start managing the left atrial appendage in these patients undergoing heart surgery, who have atrial fibrillation." Whitlock said it's been suspected since the late 1940s that blood clots can form in the left atrial appendage in patients with atrial fibrillation. Until now, however, he said there wasn't any definitive evidence to suggest the tissue could be removed to reduce the risk of stroke. Some surgeons have intermittently performed the procedure if they felt a patient already having heart surgery was not at high risk, he added. Patrice Lindsay, who directs change in health systems for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, said that while blood thinners have been the gold standard in preventing blood clots and strokes, the study paves the way for the procedure to be widely adopted for heart surgery patients with atrial fibrillation. As with other studies, the evidence will be reviewed and consultations with governments and experts would follow on ways to move the science into clinical practice, said Lindsay, a former cardiac nurse. "We would put out public information for patients and families to understand what it's all about and why it might be a good thing and who would be eligible," she said, adding development of guidelines and training of surgeons and nurses would also be part of the changes in health-care systems. "It takes a bit of time, but you can move fairly efficiently through that process." This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
HONG KONG (AP) — After more than seven decades in radio, a 96-year-old Hong Kong DJ bid farewell to his listeners Saturday with “Time to Say Goodbye,” sung by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. “Well that’s it. Thank you very much for tuning in, goodbye, thank you for coming,” Ray Cordeiro said in both English and Cantonese before signing off ahead of the 1 a.m. news. It was the coda to a radio career that began 72 years ago, and a more than 50-year run for his show “All the Way with Ray,” which started on public broadcaster RTHK in 1970. Along the way, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tony Bennett, the Beatles and Cliff Richard and nurtured rising Hong Kong pop stars such as Sam Hui. In 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged Cordeiro as “The World’s Most Durable DJ.” Affectionately called “Uncle Ray,” Cordeiro is known for his deep, calm voice, trademark flat cap, and easy listening repertoire. For his last show, he spun a variety of tunes from the the Carpenters, Perry Como and Louis Armstrong, among others. He was born in Hong Kong of Portuguese descent. “I think I’m the luckiest man in the world," he said in an interview with RTHK earlier this week. “To do what I want to do, to love what I want to love, and I don’t think I have any regrets.” Alice Fung, The Associated Press
A year ago this month, three-year old Dylan Ehler went missing from his grandmother’s home in Truro, Nova Scotia. His boots were found at a nearby brook later in the day of his disappearance on May 6, 2020, but after numerous searches, the little boy has never been found. Every day, every week, the same thing is always on their mind, said his mother, Ashley Brown, “Where's Dylan? What happened to Dylan? There isn't really much else on our minds.” After a year of searching, of tips that haven’t led them to their son, Dylan's father Jason Ehler said it feels like nothing has changed in their thoughts. “Not knowing is the worst, unimaginable thing you could possibly go through as a human being ... not knowing where your child is. I don't think there's anything worse than that,” he said. His son's boots were found in the water seven hours after his disappearance. Either someone threw them in or Dylan drowned, his father said - but which is it? “Anything's possible because there's no Dylan,” Ehler said. There were no footprints or any other evidence, but there are two bridges, said Ehler, adding someone could have grabbed him and tossed the boots over a bridge to the river below. His parents and sometimes small groups have searched nearly every day for a year, he said. COVID restrictions have made it difficult, but they keep searching on their own even if everyone who might want to join them could not due to restrictions. They search on land, and they search the waterways because they know there's a chance he went into the water. “We have to do both,” Ehler said. The search is often "overwhelming,” he admits, noting they're just ordinary people without much equipment. But over time they acquired walkie talkies and maps and tried to pursue searching as professionally as possible. More resources, like cadaver dogs, would help, he said. Truro Police still list Dylan as missing and posted to social media as recently as the anniversary of his disappearance, inviting anyone with tips to contact the police. Requests for comment from Truro Police were not received by press time. Dylan's father said there have been tips throughout the year, but also cruel scammers using the tragedy to try to seek out rewards. Tips give them hope, Ehler said, but so far, none have resulted in them finding their son. Brown said tips are still important and encourages anyone with any information to come forward. The parents welcome anyone willing to join searches when permitted by pandemic restrictions and encourage those interested in helping to join IAMMISSING Dylan Ehler Search Updates on Facebook. Above all, they want people to keep their eyes open. Maybe someone reading this has him and will have a second thought and bring him home, Ehler said. Maybe Dylan himself will read this article one day, he said. A reward of $18,207 is being offered by the family for his immediate return. Dylan’s family is broken, said Brown, but she’s had to return to work to provide for their other child, Lily, as the bills haven’t stopped throughout the tragedy, but her son is never far from her mind. Dylan’s father said not knowing where his child is gives him the strength to keep going. Any person with a child who went missing knows, he said, “your whole life goes into looking so nothing stops you, nothing stands in your way.” Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
Deer are shy and gentle animals that keep to themselves. They wander the forests and the meadows, throughout North America, as well as many other countries. We often see them from afar, or very briefly close up, but they are sure to run away at the sight of humans. Even seen from afar, we cannot help but be deeply affected by their gracefulness and their soulful eyes. But this man has discovered that with a little patience, the deer might just become curious enough to wander closer than usual. He sat on this log in a remote section of a protected Canadian forest and hoped to see the deer close up. The animals cannot be hunted here and they have learned that humans mean them no harm. It is common to see them grazing in the distance. They are usually not alarmed enough to flee. They may walk away or they may stare curiously. A human seated on a log, munching apples seems to arouse enough curiosity that the deer slowly wandered closer as they passed through this quiet section of the woods. When the man ignored them and made no move to go closer, they seemed to smell the apples. He tossed a few chunks in the grass and they actually came almost close enough to touch. The most surprising part of this encounter was that one of the does walked over the hill and then returned, bringing her fawns over the hill with her. This is a very unusual thing for a mother to do with her young. Although there is not much reaction from the man here, seeing the deer so close was a beautiful experience and seeing fawns right in front of him like this was unforgettable. The trust shown by these wonderful creatures was extremely touching.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, a prominent hard-line cleric, has registered to run in Iran's June presidential election. He arrived at the Interior Ministry on Saturday, the last day of registering, to put himself into the race. Raisi has been named as a possible successor to Iran's 82-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That had some suggesting he wouldn't run in the race. He ran against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and lost in the 2017 presidential election, though he still garnered nearly 16 million votes in his campaign. Raisi has since conducted high-profile anti-corruption arrests and trials, many televised, gaining support of average Iranians frustrated by the country's poor economy. However, international rights groups have criticized Raisi for reportedly serving on a 1988 panel that sentenced thousands of prisoners to death in the waning days of Iran's 1980s war with Iraq. Raisi has never publicly acknowledged his role in the sentences. Raisi had been the head of the Imam Reza charity foundation, known as “Astan-e Quds-e Razavi,” in Farsi. It is believed to be one of the biggest charities in the country, which manages a vast conglomerate of businesses and endowments. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A former speaker of Iran's parliament registered Saturday to run in the Islamic Republic's upcoming presidential election, becoming the first high-profile candidate to potentially back the policies of the outgoing administration that reached Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers. The decision by Ali Larijani, long a prominent conservative voice who later allied himself with Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, came on the last day of registration for the June 18 election. While a panel overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately will approve candidates, Larijani has maintained close ties to the cleric over his decades in government. Journalists in Tehran watched Larijani, 63, register at the Interior Ministry, which oversees elections. He waved to onlookers after completing the process, his face covered by a blue surgical mask as Iran continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Larijani, a former commander in Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, previously served as the minister of culture and Islamic guidance and as the head of Iran's state broadcaster. Under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he served as secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council for two years, and as a senior nuclear negotiator. He later became speaker of the Iranian parliament for some 12 years, stepping down in May 2020. Larijani's family includes prominent members of Iran's theocracy, with his cleric brother once serving as the head of the Iranian judiciary. His father was a prominent ayatollah. Larijani had an active role in signing a 25-year strategic agreement with China earlier this year. On Friday, as a sign of respect, Larijani reportedly asked permission to run from high-ranking clerics in the religious city of Qom. Within Iran, candidates exist on a political spectrum that broadly includes hard-liners who want to expand Iran’s nuclear program, moderates who hold onto the status quo, and reformists who want to change the theocracy from within. Those calling for radical change find themselves blocked from even running for office by the Guardian Council, a 12-member panel that vets and approves candidates under Khamenei’s watch. “Like outgoing President Rouhani, Larijani is someone Khamenei trusts to represent Iran without compromising the regime’s basic tenets of religious supervision over society and independence from foreign powers,” Barbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, wrote recently. A clear candidate has yet to emerge within the reformists. Some have mentioned Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, though he later said he wouldn't run after a scandal over a leaked recording in which he offered frank criticism of the Guard and the limits of the civilian government’s power. At the same time Larijani registered, so too did Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, the eldest son of the late former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani, a member of Tehran's city council, has been described as a reformist by political commentators. Several other candidates have prominent backgrounds in the Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Khamenei. Hard-liners have increasingly suggested a former military commander should be president given the country’s problems, something that hasn’t happened since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the purge of the armed forces that followed. Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also registered Wednesday. Though his attempt to run in 2017 ultimately was blocked after Khamenei criticized Ahmadinejad, this year the supreme leader has not warned him off. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
Federal health authorities laid out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19, just as regional officials warned some people may be getting ahead of themselves through ill-advised gatherings. Canada's chief public health officer raised hopes Friday that summer fun and fall holiday bashes may lie ahead as she rolled out a blueprint for how the vaccination campaign could lift the country out of COVID-19 lockdown. Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada may have "passed the peak" of the third wave, as average daily COVID-19 case counts dropped to fewer than 7,000 for the first time since April. There's also been a decline in severe illness, with an average of fewer than 4,000 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital each day, she said. Tam touted "great strides" in the fact about 50 per cent of adults have at least one vaccine dose, suggesting that maintaining this pace could pay off in the form of "an outdoor summer that gets us back into many of the activities we've been missing." That could include small outdoor gatherings with family and friends in the warm weather, such as picnics in the park, outdoor sports and patio dining, said Tam. For that to happen, at least 75 per cent of adults must receive at least one jab, including 20 per cent who have both doses, according to federal modelling. Tam said that first immunization target is "within sight." The next step will be to fully vaccinate at least 75 per cent of eligible adults to allow for more indoor activities this fall, including in-person learning at colleges, a return to the office and multi-household holiday celebrations, she said. "To get to this better summer and fall, we need to keep doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our communities, ease the pressure on the health system and help bring an end to this pandemic," said Tam. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada can expect to receive 4.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna ahead of Victoria Day weekend. Anand said Pfizer has moved up its schedule to deliver two million doses early next week, and 1.4 million more are expected to arrive on Thursday and Friday. Moderna is also set to send 1.1 million doses next week, she said. As the vaccine rollout accelerates, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the national timeline to ease restrictions is "realistic," but these targets have to be tailored to local epidemiological conditions. "This gives Canadians a vision of what it looks like as we proceed down this vaccination path together," said Hajdu. "It helps provide that guideline for Canadians as they undergo their own community's journey with vaccination." The upbeat tone at the federal level was discordant with grim forecasts out of Manitoba, where a top health official predicted Friday that COVID-19 numbers would worsen for at least another week before dropping. Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief public health officer, said a current spike in cases and hospitalization rates had been made worse by too many people gathering and interacting with others, despite public health orders that have been tightened three times in the last month. The province reported 491 new infections Friday after setting a daily record Thursday of 560 cases. Manitoba was just behind Alberta, which continued to have the highest infection rate in the country. Alberta reported 1,433 new cases and five additional deaths. Meanwhile, health officials in Nunavut scolded scofflaws in Iqaluit on Friday, warning that unauthorized gatherings could quash the city's hopes for summer. Nunavut's chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said a recent gathering between multiple households resulted in infections in children. Public health measures currently restrict all indoor and outdoor gatherings. Twelve more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Iqaluit, bringing the city's active total to 78. "We have a very short summer and it seems it's getting shorter by the day," said Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak. Ontario reported 2,362 new infections Friday, continuing a downward trend since April's streak of daily case counts in the 4,000s. There were 26 more deaths from the virus, according to the province. Officials said 1,582 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, including 777 people in intensive care. Quebec maintained its run of case counts below 1,000 on Friday, reporting 838 diagnoses, and eight more deaths. The province said there were 530 hospitalizations, and 123 intensive care cases. Saskatchewan reported 227 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths. The province also confirmed one case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), or blood clots, in a woman who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in April. British Columbia's case count dropped to 494 on Friday, the first time infections fell below 500 since March. There were two more deaths. On the East Coast, Nova Scotia reported 117 new cases and one virus-related death, as a court-ordered injunction blocked a pair of anti-mask rallies planned in the Halifax area this weekend. Health officials in New Brunswick said there were five new COVID-19 cases Friday, while Prince Edward Island reported two new infections and Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed six more cases. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
A B.C. couple moving to Nova Scotia says they're sitting in limbo after their requests to enter their new home were denied due to COVID-19 restrictions. For Julia Park-Bendel, leaving Victoria, B.C. and heading to the Maritimes is a return to her roots. "It's been in the works for almost 30 years," she said. She quit her job. Her husband Robert Bendel retired after 34 years in the Navy. They sold their home on the Island, and the couple, along with their two dogs and a cat, were set to live in their cramped RV from April 26 until June 1. They were planning a three week journey to their new home in Nova Scotia with the goal of arriving by June 21. The Bendel's say they planned to live in their trailer from April 26 to June 21 but now they feel they could be stuck all summer long.(Robert Bendel) But halfway through May and with restrictions in Nova Scotia constantly changing, they say they're no longer sure when they'll be able to leave their crowded RV and enter their new home. "I think we've spent ... over $2,000 staying in trailer parks so far and we budgeted for that. But we didn't budget for staying another month, two, three ... we didn't budget for having to spend an indefinite period of time in our trailer," Park-Bendel said. But it's an indefinite period of time they're looking at right now. On Friday, a new travel application process for people trying to enter Nova Scotia came into effect. "There's a potential for no end in sight," Park-Bendel said. No entry The application process is required for anyone entering the province. No one can until it's reviewed and approved. "We are currently not allowing most people to move to Nova Scotia. The restriction will be in place until at least the end of May," was the emailed message from Nova Scotia's provincial exemptions team when the Bendels asked about their status. Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang hold a COVID-19 briefing on April 29, 2021.(Communications Nova Scotia) The email went on to say the province is considering exceptions for people who have a closing date on or before May 20. The Bendels closing date is May 31. "Given that your closing date is beyond the date noted above, we are unable to offer an exception at this time," the email read. What now? On Friday, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang said people in the Bendels' situation should not apply right now. "We're not sure where we're going to end up in terms of what types of measures we're going to need to have when we get into the last week of May. We're asking people to hold off. We don't want to flood our exemptions process," he said. Park-Bendel says it doesn't seem fair. "They've changed their mind three times. I know it's a moving target, but, eventually, those of us who have bought property, we want an end date and a guarantee like, 'OK if you come, we will let you in,'" she said. On Friday, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said while people are appealing to him, he's not involved in granting exemptions. "Strict border control is an imperative piece to make sure we're not bringing in anymore cases while we're trying to control the cases we have now," Rankin said. The Bendels say they're worried about how long they'll have to live in a cramped RV with money running out.(Robert Bendel) But for Park-Bendel and her RV filled with family and the remaining possessions that haven't already been shipped to Nova Scotia, she says they may just have to risk it and head to the border anyway. "Are we going to be allowed in on the 21st? Are we going to be turned away and be camping in the bush for one month, two months, three months? What are they going to say? Until there's no cases, you're not coming in? We're hostages."
When Nupur and Ajay Soin got married in India in 2018, they pictured a perfect family life together in Maple Ridge, B.C. Instead, more than two years after they moved to the Metro Vancouver suburb, they are still waiting to reunite with Shaurrya, Nupur's 15-year-old son from a previous marriage. "I get overwhelmed," said Nupur, sitting in her yard with her husband and 16-month-old daughter nearby. "Not even a single day goes by when I don't cry because, I mean, I'm losing hope." Nupur moved to Maple Ridge, where Ajay had been living, shortly after they got married. At the time, wait times for permanent residency visas from India were about one year. Nupur already had a visitor visa and joined Ajay in B.C. Shaurrya stayed in New Delhi with Nupur's mother so he could finish the school year and join them once the newlyweds had settled in. Nupur and Shaurrya. Nupur says Shaurrya, who remains in India, is looking forward to moving to B.C.(Submitted by Nupur Soin) It's been two and a half years since they applied for Nupur and Shaurrya's permanent residency, and the Soins have no idea what is causing the delay. They were told by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) they were eligible. Their application still says "in process" when they check online. But despite advocacy from their local MP and multiple attempts to reach out to IRCC for answers, Ajay says they've heard nothing. Shaurrya is excited to move to B.C. and meet 16-month-old Atishi, Nupur says. In New Delhi, all of his schooling has been online and he barely leaves his room. She says she wishes she could continue to keep a close eye on him, as she as since he was a baby. Nupur is Shaurrya's sole custodian. She last saw the boy's father in 2007, when they divorced, and she has heard through mutual friends that he has died. 'Somebody needs to make this a priority' The couple's immigration lawyer, Alex Stojicevic, says this is a straightforward visa application that should have been rubber-stamped months ago. "This is a case where they should issue the visa and allow the child to come as soon as possible," he said. Health workers attend to COVID-19 patients at a makeshift hospital in New Delhi, India, on April 30. (The Associated Press) Stojicevic says the delay seems to be coming from the High Commission of Canada in India. He says the situation there has been made worse by how the pandemic is playing out in New Delhi and across the country, leaving the health-care system in crisis and thousands without treatment. "Really what needs to happen is somebody needs to make this a priority," he said. "If the Canadian staff in India can't do it, well, they have to do it from somewhere else." Family reunification prioritized IRCC did not respond to requests for comment. On its website, the department says Canada's "immigration policy and legislation have a long tradition of supporting family reunification." The family reunification program allows Canadians and recent immigrants like Ajay, who is a permanent resident, to sponsor family members like spouses, parents and dependent children. The sponsor remains financially responsible for the family members for at least three years, or until children are 22 years old. The program accounts for about a quarter of all immigrants to Canada, according to IRCC, but demand routinely outstrips demand. However, changes made in 2016 kept wait times at a steady average of 12 months, the site says. Ajay and Nupur were married in Delhi in October 2018. (Submitted by Ajay and Nupur Soin) 'Things are so scary' Nupur says she is worried sick about her son and mother in New Delhi. She has told them not to leave their home, and she orders everything for them online. The stress has been keeping her awake at night, to the point where her doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medication. "That's the only way I can sleep at night because things are so scary," she said. Ajay says he feels guilty about having brought Nupur to B.C. He had been living in Maple Ridge when they got married, working remotely as a designer for the software giant Cisco Systems. "When we got married, I thought, we're going to have to have a nice little family and a great place to live in," he said. "What I'm worried about is I put Nupur in a really tough spot." But also, Ajay says he's sad to be missing out on Shaurrya's "wonder years." The delay has caused him to question how welcome he and his family truly are in Canada. "This community, Maple Ridge, has really accepted us. We really like it here. But I sometimes I wonder if Canada has really accepted us as a family," he said. Nupur, Ajay and Shaurrya. Nupur is her son's sole custodian. (Submitted by Ajay and Nupur Soin)
Several family doctors and physician associations across Canada say they welcome questions from anyone concerned about second doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca or any other COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Eben Strydom, a generalist in Melfort, Sask., said he's happy to answer the call recommended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if it means giving his patients confidence in the vaccines. "This is our ticket out of the pandemic so it is critically important," Strydom said. "If it means you're going to take it or not, you should speak to your doctor." Trudeau said this week his own doctor recommended he get a second dose of AstraZeneca when it's his turn, adding that he knows scientists are also studying the effectiveness of mixing and matching vaccines. Health Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and provincial health officials make recommendations about how and when Canadians can get vaccinated, Trudeau added. "I certainly encourage all Canadians to talk to their doctors." More than two million Canadians got AstraZeneca for their first jab. Since then, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan said they would reserve remaining doses for second shots due to limited supply. Ontario paused its use over concerns about rare blood clots. Keir Johnson, a spokesperson for Manitoba Doctors, said physicians are keeping up with the new evidence and shifting recommendations but it's understandable why the pauses and shifting eligibility could create concern for the public. The association has a campaign encouraging anyone with concerns to speak with a doctor and in most cases members report that patients feel more confident after that conversation, Johnson said. "Because physicians are a trusted voice, they're often able to reassure people to help them understand the current benefits and risks," he said. That said, there has not been any deluge of new questions since Trudeau's recommendation, he added. Dr. Noah Ivers, a family doctor at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, said the pandemic has prompted some doctors to engage with their patients in new ways. He and some colleagues have started holding virtual town halls to address common questions. A town hall on COVID-19 vaccines attracted about 1,000 participants who could type in questions and upvote the most popular ones. "It's gone so well, I started to wonder why we didn't do it before," he said. On an individual basis, family doctors also have the benefit of knowing a patient's health history. If an individual has had a recent kidney transplant, for example, a physician may recommend a shorter gap between doses than for a totally healthy individual, he said. Generally speaking, he said he tells his patients the same thing he tells his parents, whose first jab was AstraZeneca. "We are in no rush to figure this out and we're waiting for information," Ivers said, adding the recommended gap between doses means there's plenty of time for more research on mixing of manufacturers and blood clot risks. Of course, not everyone has access to a family doctor. The Liberals' own 2019 platform promised to make sure every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health-care team, noting nearly five million Canadians don't have access. Ivers said vaccine hesitancy is another reason why governments should be making access to a family doctor a priority. "I think this is one in a million reasons why you really need to get connected to a primary care professional," he said. "It's time to write a letter to your MP and MPP about how important primary care is," he said. Dr. Matthew Chow, president of Doctors of BC, said like Ivers, other doctors are finding new ways to interact and share information widely with their patients. The South Asian COVID Task Force — a volunteer organization made up of physicians, researchers and others — has chapters across the country. They are sharing culturally appropriate communications about COVID-19 in multiple South Asian languages, he said. Doctors understand the pandemic has been tough on the public in many ways and keeping track of shifting evidence is one of them, he said. However, family doctors are evidence-based practitioners who take their information and best guidance from federal authorities such as Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, who in turn are monitoring international evidence, he said. "We can be confident those recommendations will be safe," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press