Talisker the Golden Retriever puppy figures out a clever way to outsmart Fearghas. Well done!
Talisker the Golden Retriever puppy figures out a clever way to outsmart Fearghas. Well done!
We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we'll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we've received more than 57,300 emails from all corners of the country.How safe is it to go shopping?With the holidays on the horizon and Black Friday promotions out in full force, readers like Sue G. are asking if it's still safe to go shopping.First, it's important to note public health authorities are urging people to stay home as much as possible by limiting errands and outings to just the essentials.So, if you have to buy something, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is advising that you reduce your risk of exposure by making purchases online or using curbside pickup when possible. In fact, these may be the only options in some parts of the country, such as Manitoba or parts of Ontario, where non-essential retail has been temporarily restricted.But if the stores are open where you live, does that mean it's safe? Despite Canadian chains, including Loblaw and Sobeys, reporting numerous positive cases throughout the pandemic, experts have said there is no evidence that grocery shopping has led to significant outbreaks or transmission. That said, shopping is not without risk."I would not spend any more time than necessary at an indoor mall or store," said epidemiologist Lisa Lee, a professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., and a former official at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States."Steer clear from anyone without a mask, and do not spend more than 15 minutes near others," she said in an email to CBC News.PHAC is also advising that Canadians avoid close-contact situations where they can't keep two metres apart from other people, as well as skipping crowded places and closed spaces with poor ventilation.So are smaller stores with fewer people safer than larger ones? Not really, said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, who studies how viruses are transmitted in the air."In the larger stores, the risk is lower because people can be more spaced out in there," Marr said. "Larger, more modern buildings tend to have better ventilation systems."Retailers are also doing their part to mitigate risks.Michael LeBlanc, a senior retail advisor at the Retail Council of Canada, said people should plan ahead so they don't spend any more time than necessary when shopping. Some retailers have made a conscious effort to stretch out sale periods so consumers aren't compelled to all go at the same time."Keep your distance, be patient, wear your mask, be cool, be calm," LeBlanc said. "We don't want retail to be this social gathering place where everybody hangs out."Is it safe for seniors to walk in the mall?Some of our other readers also want to know if it's safe to go to the mall but not necessarily for shopping.Wendy M. asked if it's OK for seniors to get their exercise walking in the mall as the weather gets colder.While all of the experts we spoke to agree that it's important to exercise and stay healthy during the pandemic, they are split on whether or not the mall is the right place for seniors to take their winter walks."For a person who is at high risk of serious complications, they should exercise, yes, but only when crowds are very sparse," said Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto's faculty of information. "A really big mall with high ceilings that isn't crowded won't be especially dangerous." Adrian Wagg, a professor of healthy aging at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, agrees that walking in the mall is not a risk as long as you stay more than two metres apart from others, wash your hands regularly and wear your mask. However, Dr. Anand Kumar, an associate professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said he would recommend seniors try to workout at home or outdoors instead."Exercise substantially increases the amount of air you exhale and inhale per minute," he said. "It's been shown that exercise is one of the high-risk situations, especially if you are in an enclosed space."Is there a safe way to get together?While Christmas isn't cancelled this year, experts say it should be done differently, with large, extended family gatherings likely off the table.Corrine B. wanted to know if there were any strategies for making gatherings safer indoors. First, it's important to check what your local public health guidelines allow. Indoor gatherings are being discouraged in most places across the country. In Manitoba and some regions of Ontario, they're not allowed at all.But if gatherings are allowed where you live, the experts said there are some things you can do to minimize the risk."There is no such thing as a perfect risk-free alternative," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. "This is all about reducing risk as much as possible." The virus spreads when people are in close contact with one another and those who are older or have underlying medical conditions tend to have worse outcomes when infected by the virus, Oughton said. He suggested taking the following steps to make gatherings safer in your home. * Have guests distance within your home. * Provide ample access to supplies for good hand hygiene. * Avoid hugging and close contact. * Avoid singing (even Christmas carols). * Don't share food or drinks. In a previous article, medical experts also warned that the risk of getting the virus increases when you spend longer periods of time in close contact with others.And while raising a toast may be a holiday tradition, it's a good idea to limit how much alcohol guests drink, Oughton said. "Alcohol lowers inhibitions and during a pandemic, unfortunately, it's inhibitions that in part are helping to keep people safe," he said. Wearing masks and opening windows can also help, but improving air circulation doesn't replace the need to keep your distance from other people, Oughton said in an earlier article.And if you can hack it, you may want to consider meeting outdoors if your local public health guidelines permit it. Research shows the risk of transmission is lower outside, likely due to better ventilation and because it's easier to physically distance.What about a small dinner in my garage?With winter weather making outdoor gatherings a lot less appealing, Susan M. wrote to ask if it was safe to have guests over in her garage."If you're just comparing being in a garage with an open door versus being indoors without any windows open — certainly being in an area where there is more and better ventilation is better," said Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infectious diseases and infection control physician with the University Health Network in Toronto.Aerosol expert Marr agrees. But she would "still have people be masked and distanced."Vaisman said that even with garage doors and windows open, they are "not necessarily safe."If you follow local public health guidelines in most parts of the country they would advise you not to visit other people's homes or garages, Vaisman said.Doesn't the cold weather kill the virus?The answer is no. In fact, Marr cautioned that the opposite is true — viruses survive longer in colder, drier environments whether they're in the air or on surfaces.She also identified recirculated air in heated homes and buildings as a potential risk."This leads to greater potential for a virus to build up in the air and for people then to be exposed to higher levels of it," Marr said. Experts said dry air can also make our bodies more vulnerable to pathogens, like the virus that causes COVID-19, by drying out the protective mucous membrane that lines our respiratory tracts.Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, pointed to another issue that impacts how we cope with COVID-19 in the winter — our behaviour."There's a reason why we see respiratory viruses in the winter in Canada," he said. "We tend to be more indoors, more gathered [in] more poorly ventilated settings."So what should we do? Invest in some good, warm winter clothing, Chagla said. "We're going to have a long winter and the outdoors is still a viable option for people to meet," he said."The risk is so low — it isn't zero — but it's modified," Chagla said.As long as it's permitted to meet outside, it's a good option, he said. Even short outdoor meetings can provide a much-needed boost."Having 15 minutes of real life interaction is just so precious for people." How safe is it to fly? Despite the government's travel advisory, we're hearing from a number of Canadians looking to head south this winter. Ursula H. said she's Florida-bound and wanted to know how safe it was to get on a plane right now.When it comes to transmission of the virus, experts say airplanes are actually quite safe. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said earlier this month that there was little evidence that COVID-19 was being transmitted by passengers on airplanes, even though the Public Health Agency of Canada was aware of reports that infected people had travelled into the country by air."There have been very few reports, extremely rare reports, actually, of transmission aboard aircraft," Tam said. "Very, very little."In fact, a Harvard University study found that flying may actually be safer than other routine activities, such as grocery shopping, because of "layered" prevention measures, such as air filtration systems, mask policies, frequent cabin cleaning and screening for symptomatic passengers.Another study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defence also found ventilation systems and stringent masking policies have made onboard transmission rare.Chagla said an airplane's ventilation system is pretty similar to those used in operating rooms, but being on board isn't the riskiest part of flying.He pointed to everything leading up to and after the flight, such as taking transit to the airport and waiting in line, as opportunities for transmission. "All of that probably presents a higher risk than the flight itself," Chagla said. Can vitamin D protect me from COVID-19?If you're not racing for warming temperatures, some readers have been wondering if they should be heading to the pharmacy to buy vitamin D supplements. But do they actually help?The answer is probably not, according to Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist at Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal. "To date, there is no research showing that taking a vitamin tablet will prevent or help cure [the] coronavirus," Labos said.When it comes to vitamin D specifically, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital, noted that there were some "poorly constructed studies" that said it might help, but that the research fell apart on closer examination.Labos said some studies have shown people with low levels of vitamin D tend to have worse outcomes after having contracted COVID-19, but he warned against drawing the wrong conclusions.It's not that the low vitamin D levels cause disease or cause COVID-19, but that older people or people with pre-existing medical conditions tend to have low vitamin D levels, he said.So while it's unlikely that taking a supplement will help prevent you from contracting, or fighting COVID-19, should you take it anyway? Not necessarily.Statistics Canada says about two-thirds of Canadians already get enough vitamin D from natural sources or supplements.Dr. Todd Alexander, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Alberta, said you probably don't need to be taking supplemental vitamin D, and that in fact, it might have adverse effects. "You're getting plenty, and in my opinion, the risks would outweigh the benefits."The risks of taking too much vitamin D can vary depending on your health and age.In children, for example, too much vitamin D can cause a buildup of calcium in the blood, which can lead to kidney stones, said Alexander.So you should always ask your doctor whether supplementing with vitamin D is right for you.
By Melissa Renwick A new award has been launched by the lieutenant governor of British Columbia that aims to honour those who have demonstrated a commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples within the province. In partnership with the BC Achievement Foundation, the British Columbia Reconciliation Award was established to help inspire British Columbians to work together to help forge a new future. “Reconciliation to me is making the wrongs right,” said Judith Sayers, BC Achievement Foundation board member and president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “It’s addressing all of those historic grievances and putting them behind us.” Janet Austin, B.C. lieutenant governor, said she has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership towards advancing reconciliation within the province. "Reconciliation must take root in our hearts, within families, between generations and throughout our communities,” she said in a release. “I look forward to supporting this award and its deeply meaningful goal of building our relationships with each other across cultures and social barriers." The award was founded by Steven Point, former B.C. lieutenant governor and member of the Stó:lō Nation. He has a hand-carved red cedar canoe on display at the B.C. Parliament Buildings, which was gifted as a symbol of reconciliation. “We’re all in the same canoe,” he said, encouraging British Columbians to “paddle together.” "Our world and its issues are not apart from us, but rather are a part of who we are,” Point said in a release. “We must not stand by and observe the world, but rather take steps to bring positive change." Open to Indigenous and non-indigenous individuals, groups and organizations, nominations will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2021. "Reconciliation builds relationships and bridges the gap between two worlds through the efforts of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” said Sayers. While COVID-19 means that the award will be celebrated virtually, “it’s the reality we live in and hopefully we can do justice for those groups that are selected for the awards,” she said. As a member of the selection committee, Sayers said she hopes see a “broad, cross-section” of reconciliation efforts being made by British Columbians. “There’s a lot of negativity out there about ‘reconciliation’ – that’s it just an overused word,” she said. “But it really is an important cornerstone of what we’re building right now in B.C.”Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
On a bright November morning in Australia, Andrea Seccafien takes a call from a Toronto reporter before a pair of late spring runs with temperatures set to reach 33C."Never a rest day," said Canada's record holder in the women's half marathon. "To run more 5K to half marathon I need to run a lot."Seccafien doesn't mind the scorching heat now that she's finally training for a race — a half marathon Dec. 13 in the Australian island state of Tasmania — after two coronavirus pandemic lockdowns kept her out of competition from March through October.Seccafien's mental health suffered greatly through those months. Sharing a small apartment with fiancé Jamie Whitfield, she became overwhelmed by "a spiral of thoughts, a lot of worries" and took a break from training in June before the second lockdown of 111 days.Seccafien often wondered if the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics would indeed be held next summer. Would she get a chance to qualify for the Summer Games in the 10,000 metres? What would a long layoff mean for her career?> Everything felt so much harder because my heart rate was always 20 beats over a normal amount. — Canadian runner Andrea Seccafien on training while struggling with mental health"I didn't know what was wrong [with me]. I was definitely dealing with a lot of anxiety but thankfully we have a really good support group with Athletics Canada," said Seccafien, who also began seeing a sports psychologist in Australia, where she has lived since late 2017 after Jamie landed a job as a post-doctoral researcher at the Melbourne campus of the Australian Catholic University."I also wasn't sleeping well, so it was just a lot of things going on."During lockdown, Melbourne's five million residents could leave home to exercise outside and buy groceries but not travel further than five kilometres. Fortunately, there was 31 km stretch of running space for Seccafien on a nearby trail system. Still, the native of Guelph, Ont., faced many challenges."Everything felt so much harder because my heart rate was always 20 beats over a normal amount," the 30-year-old recalled, her voice cracking with emotion. "My body was amped up all the time.'Nerve-racking' without treatment"I would try to do a workout but running a time that would normally be very easy would feel as if I was doing a threshold or a pace faster and harder than a regular easy run."During tougher training sessions on the road, Jamie would bike alongside Seccafien and joined her on all long runs."That was extremely helpful. It was really hard [emotionally] but we're a good team," said the Melbourne Track Club member, who found it "nerve-racking" running 150 km weekly and not being able to receive physio and massage therapy.Looking back, Seccafien realizes stepping away was necessary after struggling through training and not seeing improvement in her fitness."When we went back into lockdown in July, it gave me time to train on my own, at my own pace and not compare myself to others, which was beneficial to getting back into fitness and confident again," said Seccafien, who also focused on meditation and her daily training responsibilities to work through the anxiety. "I think if I had to go back training [with my group] it would have spiraled again. Now, I feel normal."Seccafien is also in good physical health after tearing her right plantar — the ligament connecting the heel bone to your toes — in September 2018. After attempts to run through the pain led to a stress reaction (deep bone bruise) and prevented her from racing the 10,000, Seccafien reinjured the plantar while finishing second in the 5,000 at the Canadian championships in Montreal on July 25, 2019.She recovered to run two personal-best times in three days that October in Doha, Qatar — 15:04.67 in the semifinals to shave nearly four seconds off her PB and hit the 15:10 Olympic standard, then clocking her first-ever sub-15-minute 5,000 to place 13th in her first world final.WATCH | Andrea Seccafien runs sub-15-minute 5,000m for 1st time:"You always want to finish higher, so the goal in Tokyo would be top eight or 10," said Seccafien, who was 20th at her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio. "In Rio I was so green. I was making moves and wasting energy. Now, I feel I've learned how to run those [championship] races."In Tasmania, the former University of Toronto Track Club runner will race for the first time since setting a 33:05 PB in the 10K on Feb. 23, three weeks after taking down Natasha Wodak's Canadian half marathon record in 1:09:38 at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon in Japan."Since August, I have had a consistent block of training and I do think I'm quite fit, so there is no reason it shouldn't go well," said Seccafien, who remains hopeful of running the 5,000 and 10,000 in Tokyo. "I don't know if it'll be a Canadian record race, but I hope to be around that time."
A discovery earlier this year by two sisters in Florida has revealed new photographs of a historic but little-known New Brunswick car.The Maritime Singer Six was assembled at a purpose-built factory in east Saint John in 1913 and 1914. None of the cars survive today, and only two photographs of the luxury vehicle were known to exist. Brian Chisholm of Saint John has been researching the history of the Maritime Singer for more than 30 years. "It was a monster," said Chisholm. "It was a 50 horsepower car. It had 36-inch wheels, it weighed way more than any regular car."It was also expensive, selling for $3,000. By comparison, Henry Ford's then plentiful Model T had a 20 horsepower motor and cost about $600.Chisholm had exhausted most avenues for his research. He'd combed newspapers from that time for ads and articles and even has the names of the five registered New Brunswick owners. The provincial archives in Fredericton had little to add.Then came some dogged detective work from 2,700 kilometres away in Florida.Gail Middleton Zellars and one of her three sisters were going through a box of items last January. They had been saved by their late mother.Included was an album of photographs and quality, extra-large negatives that belonged originally to their grandfather, Ottie White. The century-old pictures showed men in fur coats on a winter trip in an open car. In some of the photographs they are seen shovelling the car out of deep snow. A banner along the side of the vehicle says "Maritime Singer Six, St. John to Halifax.""I love history," said Middleton Zellars. "I love to look through things. I love family history. And I thought, well, that's pretty neat. And I was going to research it and see if I could find anything about it."The lack of online information about the car proved a major roadblock. It was only when she turned to Facebook that she discovered one of the images in her collection was the same one in the cover photo on Chisholm's personal page."So I thought he must be very interested in this. I decided to Facebook message him.""I clicked on it, and I thought, Oh, I don't know this person," said Chisholm. "And then I saw the photographs."When I looked at them I almost fell out of my chair."The collection of photos show the car and the Rothesay Avenue Maritime Singer factory.They also document a publicity stunt designed to promote the Maritime Singer as a durable and reliable car, more than powerful enough to push through packed snow and winter storms when other cars were put away between December and April. Ottie White was the driver-mechanic on the venture. He was accompanied by James Pullen, and by Dutch Ervin, the St. John Standard reporter who was documenting the trip for readers.The trio left New Year's Eve 1913, and arrived in Moncton 12 hours later after ditching three times in –24 C temperatures.But it was the next section that nearly bested both the car and its occupants. That trip, from Moncton to Amherst, took 28 hours."As the automobile struck the drifts the clouds of snow were thrown up over the front of the car and she plowed through for a few yards, only to sink deeper in the snow and sink, stuck solid," wrote Ervin.On occasion, they would seek help from a farmer to drag the car back onto the road using a team of horses.Fifty-eight hours after leaving Saint John, the men finally arrived in Halifax, suffering from exhaustion and frostbite. They were treated in hospital before resting up and hitting the road again, travelling through the Annapolis Valley to Digby and on by ferry back to Saint John.Chisholm and Middleton Zellars each had missing elements of the story.After the gruelling winter car trip, Ottie White went to Europe to serve as a lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War.Chisholm retrieved his war records from Veterans Affairs Canada and sent them to Florida, along with the newspaper accounts of the Halifax trip. He learned that on White's return from the war he moved to the U.S., getting married in 1920 to Ethel Ault of Tennessee. The couple then moved to Florida, where Ottie eventually operated an auto parts business.Middleton Zellars wondered if there was something that could be done with the photographs. Chisholm put her in touch with Joshua Green, photo archivist at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, who showed immediate interest and was thrilled to learn the collection included the original negatives.Middleton Zellars conferred with her three sisters in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Vermont. Like her, they were excited to have the opportunity to make the donation. "It's just fantastic they were able to make their way back here," Green said of the photos, which have already been integrated into the collection. "This is as good as you're ever going to get for that."
Islanders in long-term care are exploring the world without leaving their bedrooms.Health PEI is the first government agency to bring Rendever's virtual reality platform to residents in long-term care homes.Rendever is a Boston-cased company that offers virtual reality (VR) technology designed for older adults and seniors."What we've built is a platform that allows residents to put on these VR headsets and they can go pretty much anywhere in the world," said Kyle Rand, CEO and co-founder of Rendever."They can go back to their childhood home, they can go check off a bucket list item. They can go skydiving. They can go on a hot-air balloon ride. We can even bring them to the International Space Station. But most importantly, they can do all these things together."Ten pairs of the headsets are now in use in West Prince, in O'Leary and Alberton."Wow! Now that was fun," said Eva Rogerson, chair of the hospital foundation in O'Leary, after she tried it out Wednesday.Rogerson sat in an upholstered chair, with the goggles held in place by wide, comfortable head straps. Inside the headset, she was looking at a field of wild mule deer, somewhere in the western United States. She could hear the sound of hooves as the shy animals approached. She reached out to try to touch one."Takes you right into the real-life experience, in the midst of it," said Rogerson.In these days of pandemic isolation and loneliness for some seniors, health-care providers in West Prince see more than just pretty pictures in the new technology.The goal was fighting social isolation, said Paul Young, Community Hospital West administrator. "The feedback from patients and residents has been overwhelmingly positive." Staff use a tablet to monitor sessions and encourage participants to speak with one another about what they are feeling and experiencing.The technology lets seniors "take a walk" down any street, anywhere in the world. So some West Prince seniors are using the technology to drop by the rural farmhouses where they once lived.> We could really improve the quality of life for our people. — Eva Rogerson, O'Leary Community Health Foundation"We ask them where they'd like to go today and off they go," said Pam Corrigan, recreation manager of the Margaret Stewart Ellis Home in O'Leary. "We use it pretty near daily, depending on what we're doing."Staff in West Prince are now talking to the Rendever team in Boston about creating more virtual tours based in Prince County, perhaps offering strolls along local fishing wharfs and trips to potato fields at harvest time."Where people have dementia, their world is so small," said Rogerson."If I was a fisherman or a farmer, to be able to take me back in time where I could see myself hopping on a fishing boat or working at a potato field, we could really improve the quality of life for our people."VR easy for seniors to useWhen Rand started Rendever about four and a half years ago, the belief was that older people might not take to technology like this. Not so, he said."All they have to do is put the headset on and everything is controlled by a tablet. So staff members in the community, or family member or a volunteer — they control the entire experience," he said."You put on the headset, physical space doesn't matter, you can be socially together."Health PEI has run more than 2,400 sessions with participants spending 59 hours in VR, according to Rand.O'Leary Community Health Foundation purchased the technology with assistance from the federal and provincial governments.More from CBC P.E.I.
Tanya Hayles is not an anti-vaxxer. The Torontonian has made sure her eight-year-old son Jackson is up to date with the standard vaccines, and she, too, has been inoculated."There are diseases that we were able to eradicate as a result of vaccines," she said.The event planner, whose business has suffered as a result of the pandemic, would like nothing more than to see the end of COVID-19 as well. Given the choice, though, she said she wouldn't be "first in line" for a COVID-19 vaccination.She points out that side effects of the immunizations she and her son have received in the past are well-known to doctors. "They can say, 'Oh, look for a rash around the needle point,' et cetera."However, Hayles has concerns about whether such clarity will be available with a coronavirus vaccine that has been developed so quickly."Something this big, something this major, something this rushed — I would want to know more information before I put it in my body," she said.Health authorities say the benefits of approved vaccines far outweigh any risks. But international research shows that while most people anxiously await the availability of pandemic-crushing immunizations, a sizeable minority are unsure whether they'd get the vaccine, at least in the early days after one is approved.As Canada readies itself to evaluate and eventually distribute COVID-19 vaccines, this vaccine hesitancy is becoming a key focus of the country's top officials.According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, 65 to 78 per cent of Canadians have indicated they would get a COVID-19 vaccine. Tam said in an interview with CBC that it's "critical" for public health to bring what she calls the "moveable middle," or undecided Canadians, onside."I think that's why it is a very key pillar of our approach in the days and weeks and months ahead, to be able to get that group of people the information that they need to get vaccinated," she said."It is really important that as many people get vaccinated as possible to protect themselves," Tam added, "but also others who are at higher risk."Alongside Health Canada's commitment to study the data about the vaccines themselves, Tam said the government is preparing a multipronged campaign to inform the public about it. That includes working with social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, and even gaming platforms.Canada's public health team has learned that people who get their information via social media are less likely to get vaccinated than those who follow traditional media, Tam said. "So, we'll be collaborating with similar platforms to get the message out to Canadians about the safety of the vaccine, and how the trials are going, and what happens in terms of the programmatic implementation as well."Battling misinformationResearch shows that such messaging will have to contend with a lot of misinformation that is already spreading about the COVID-19 vaccines on some of those same platforms."Vaccine hesitancy is a real and persistent problem in Canada, and it does appear to be growing somewhat," said Aengus Bridgman with the Media Ecosystem Observatory in Montreal. He is studying perceptions about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines on social media.Beyond the more staunch anti-vax posts, Bridgman has seen concerns about safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as questions about the necessity of getting immunized against this virus. What differentiates it from anti-vax sentiment, he said, is that although "it can contain misinformation and often does," much of it isn't "anti-science or anti-intellectual."The danger, though, is that those who are simply hesitant can be swayed by information that plants "the seed of doubt," he said."We know from previous work that we have done, and that other academics have done, that repeat exposure to misinformation [or] to misleading content can change opinions," Bridgman said."This is certainly going to be a major, major public health challenge over the coming year."Global issueIt's not just a concern in Canada. Some in the scientific community have already begun to tackle this issue. Using the hashtag TeamHalo, scientists working on COVID-19 vaccine development around the world have been using platforms like Tiktok to debunk false claims and answer questions that average people may have about the process.In 2019, before the pandemic hit, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats. Now, the fear is that those who hold off getting the eventual COVID-19 vaccine pose a risk to herd immunity.With no other health measures in place, around 70 per cent of Canadians would likely need to be vaccinated to stop the virus from spreading, according to Dr. Scott Halperin with the Canadian Immunization Research Network in Halifax.Halperin is working with public health officials to identify and address Canadians' top vaccine concerns. He said the speed of vaccine development keeps coming up as a persistent worry among members of the public."When somebody says, 'Well, it takes 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine,' that's correct," he said. But he added that, "the rapidity of the development of these vaccines was built on the shoulders of a lot of work that went before."Research on similar coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, meant "we had three or four years head-start already in terms of the basic science," he said. What's more, he said the usual administrative red tape of waiting for research funding and queueing for approvals was eliminated with the global prioritization of COVID-19."And that in itself cuts off three to five years," Halperin said.Dr. Tam said that this is the message she most wants to send to Canadians about the vaccine. "Just because of the incredible speed with which vaccines are being developed does not mean that we cut any corners on safety of these vaccines," she said.Tam points out that Health Canada "is one of the most stringent regulatory authorities in the world." In order for vaccines to get approved in this country, she said, "they have to be safe, effective and high quality."For her part, Tanya Hayles said she will listen to the advice of Canada's public health teams and is open to hearing more about the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines in development.In the end, she said, "I will do what is necessary, of course, for my health and the health of my son and the people around me."
The man who killed six people in a Quebec City mosque in 2017 received a "cruel and unusual" punishment when he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years, Quebec's Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday.In a unanimous decision, the court reduced Alexandre Bissonnette's life sentence to 25 years without parole while at the same time invalidating sections of the Criminal Code that allow judges to hand out consecutive life sentences for murder.A spokesperson for the mosque where the attack took place said he was dismayed by the decision to lighten Bissonnette's sentence."We would have liked a definitive sentence to prevent other attacks from taking place," said Boufeldja Benabdallah, a founder of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre. "We're not thinking of only ourselves but of all Quebec society."The court's decision to invalidate the consecutive sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code applies only in Quebec.But if appealed, it opens the door to a possible Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the sentencing provisions that Stephen Harper's Conservative government introduced in 2011.Since then, several convicted murderers have been given consecutive life sentences, including Justin Bourque, who is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 75 years for killing three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., in 2014.The lawyer who represented Bourque at trial said he intended to inform him about the ruling in Quebec. "I would say that this is a situation of national importance. I would assume that the Supreme Court has to rule on it," David Lutz said.Quebec's prosecution service said Thursday it was taking time to review the ruling and hadn't yet decided whether to appeal. The federal government also declined to say whether it intended to appeal."I know that today's decision is going to rekindle a great deal of hurt and anger among those who were affected by this terrible crime: the victims, their families and friends, people in Quebec and across the country," federal Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement."There are important questions raised by this judgment and we will take the necessary time to fully examine it."Sentencing provisions 'absurd'Bissonnette was sentenced in 2019 after he pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. It was the longest sentence ever handed down in Quebec.In issuing the original sentence, Superior Court Justice François Huot made it clear he was uncomfortable with consecutive sentences.Crown prosecutors were asking for a life sentence of 150 years without parole eligibility. Huot settled on a sentence of 40 years without parole, composed of five concurrent 25-year life sentences and an unusual 15-year term for the sixth count, to be served consecutively. The Court of Appeal justices said that hybrid sentence was the wrong way to address concerns about the constitutionality of consecutive sentences.Often using strong wording to criticize the provisions introduced by the Conservatives, the justices wrote that it was unconstitutional to force a prisoner to wait longer than 25 years for parole eligibility.Doing so, they said, violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Section 12, which protects against cruel and unusual treatment and punishment, and Section 7, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person.The justices noted the "absurdity" of handing out life sentences that only allow a prisoner to apply for parole after they are likely to have died. They added that a fundamental concept of Canadian criminal law is the right of rehabilitated prisoners to be paroled."In Canada, even the worst criminal having committed the most heinous of crimes benefits at all times from the rights guaranteed under the charter," the justices wrote. Aimed at childrenBut they also stressed that eligibility for parole in the context of a life sentence must not be mistaken for likelihood of ever being paroled. "In other words, there is no guarantee that the Parole Board will grant parole in 25 years," the decision states.Bissonnette, who was 27 when he attacked the mosque, will now be eligible for parole when he turns 54.WATCH: Quebec's appeal court reduces sentence of Alexandre Bissonnette:During the appeal hearing, his lawyers had tried to argue for a more lenient sentence by producing security camera footage from the night of the shooting that they said proved Bissonnette took care not to harm young children.The Appeal Court ultimately rejected Bissonnette's request to have the evidence admitted, but the justices nevertheless commented on what the footage showed.They said Bissonnette can be seen shooting at a section of the mosque where two children were hiding and a "little girl is standing ... completely frozen." A man later helped her take shelter behind a column."The evidence as a whole [shows] that the appellant attempted to kill young victims and that he was certainly not 'careful about the children,' as he stated to the police officers," the justices said.
Nearly three dozen engineers and doctors in Ontario are calling on the Health Ministry to better inform the public about the risks of airborne transmission of COVID-19, and improve ventilation standards across the province.In a letter, 21 doctors and 12 engineers and other scientists call on Ontario to update the province's COVID-19 guidelines, regulations and communication to reflect the Public Health Agency of Canada's acknowledgement earlier this month that COVID-19 can indeed spread in microscopic droplets, or aerosols, that can travel beyond two metres.> We need our public health leaders and scientists to be explaining this. \- Dr. Sarah Addleman"I think the public generally believes that if you are inside, as long as you are separated more than two metres from other people, you don't need to have a mask on and you'd be pretty safe," said Dr. Jennifer McDonald, a rehabilitation doctor at The Ottawa Hospital, and one of the doctors who co-signed Tuesday's letter."When in reality, especially if you have multiple people in that house or in that room, depending on the ventilation of that room, it could get very dangerous."McDonald conducted her own experiment at home with a carbon dioxide monitor, which can indicate how fresh the air is — generally, the lower the carbon dioxide level, the better the air quality.Outdoor air normally has 400-500 parts per million of carbon dioxide. McDonald found the air inside her home had 1,100 and 1,300 parts per million. A school can be as high as 2,000, she said."The public is not aware of that, that you're literally stewing in stale air that could be building up these virus particles," she said.By simply turning on the exhaust fan over her stove or opening a window, McDonald found she was able to improve her home's air quality within minutes.Knowledge is power, says doctorMcDonald and the other signatories want to see better guidance for high-risk businesses like gyms and bars, and want the province to mandate and fund ventilation assessments at places like schools and long-term care homes, as well as promote the use of HEPA air filters.They'd also like to see practical advice offered to the public about simple ways people can improve air quality at home, like replacing furnace filters and maintaining bathroom exhaust fans. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health said in a statement to CBC that it provides resources for workplaces to protect against the spread of COVID-19 including guidance on installing Plexiglas barriers and improving (HVAC) systems to increase air flow."The most important advice is to wear a mask when physical distancing is a challenge or when it is required," the statement said. "The vast majority of transmission of COVID-19 is by droplet spread between person-to-person. Transmission by small particles (aerosols) has been shown to possibly occur in closed crowded spaces with poor ventilation. There is no evidence at this time that the virus is able to transmit over long distances through the air e.g. through air ducts."Dr. Sarah Addleman, an Ottawa emergency room physician who also signed the letter, said information about COVID-19 airborne transmission shouldn't be frightening, it should be empowering. While handwashing and physical distancing are important, proper ventilation can provide an added layer of protection indoors, she said."People just deserve to know the facts because then they can make decisions for themselves, whether they're comfortable having other people inside their home [or] going to indoor bars or restaurants," Addleman said.Should people chose to host a small gathering indoors, they may decide to crack open a window, buy an air purifier or turn on a humidifier. Studies have shown COVID-19 prefers dry, cool air, she said."I never knew anything about ventilation until I started reading about it," said Addleman. "We need our public health leaders and scientists to be explaining this."
Following an auditor general's report that found Ontario's pandemic response is being driven by political staff atop a command structure developed by a U.S. consulting agency, Premier Doug Ford is insisting that medical experts and Ontario's top doctor are calling the shots.A tough-talking Ford fired back at Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk Wednesday after her report raised questions about how the government is making crucial decisions on lockdowns, school closures and other measures that are affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of Ontarians."To say that [Chief Medical Officer of Health] Dr. Williams wasn't leading this response, it just isn't right. It's actually wrong," Ford said at his daily media briefing."Dr. Williams has been riding shotgun with me from day one."That's in contrast to the findings of Lysyk's 231-page report."The Chief Medical Officer of Health did not lead Ontario's response to COVID‑19," the auditor said.Command structure led by political staffAccording to Lysyk, the government's command structure is being led by political staff, not public health experts.At the top of this structure is the Central Co-ordination Table, which is co-chaired by the government's cabinet secretary and the premier's chief of staff. Lysyk writes the table "does not include key public health officials, such as the Chief Medical Officer of Health and key representatives of Public Health Ontario (although they have been invited to attend meetings)."Ford countered by accusing Lysyk of overstepping her office's mandate for monitoring financial accountability and questioned her capacity to critique how the government handles a medical emergency."I'm really glad the AG just got a health degree and became a doctor over the last year or so," the premier said sarcastically.Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Michael Gardam says the report shows that Public Health Ontario has been "sidelined" by the Ford government during the pandemic."And so a lot of decisions were made, I would argue, for political reasons," Gardem told CBC Toronto.As for the involvement of Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Gardam believes the position is too close to the government to provide "arms-length" medical guidance."It's very hard for that role to be outspoken and maybe publicly disagree with the government," Gardam said.Consulting firm hiredThe report also revealed the Ford government developed its command structure by hiring an outside consulting agency. The firm is not named but CBC Toronto has confirmed it was U.S.-based McKinsey & Company.According to the auditor general's report, the government hired McKinsey at the outset of the pandemic to create an organizational structure for the pandemic response, at a cost of $1.6 million. McKinsey also assisted the government with its COVID‑19 recovery planning at a cost of $3.2 million. Of that, $942,000 was spent to provide feedback on the child care and school reopening plans, said a spokesperson for the education minister.Asked about the exact nature of its work with the government, and if its advisers have expertise in public health, McKinsey responded with a statement saying, "While we cannot comment on the details of our work, we can confirm that we supported the government of Ontario for a finite period in 2020.""McKinsey, like so many other organizations in Ontario and Canada, is committed to supporting the humanitarian and economic response to the COVID-19 crisis," the statement said.NDP 'deeply horrified' by AG's reportMeantime, opposition parties at Queen's Park were quick to pounce on Ford in the wake of the report's release.Sara Singh, the NDP's deputy leader, said her party was "deeply horrified" by Lysyk's findings, and she chided the premier for telling citizens that he listens to public health experts."Every single day, the premier got up here at one o'clock and reassured Ontarians that he was following the advice of the chief medical officer, when in fact, today, what we learned is that he lied," Singh told reporters Wednesday."And so, when it comes to the appointment of Dr. Williams, we, and I'm sure many Ontarians, have real concerns."Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca was also critical of the way the Ford government structured its pandemic response and he too laid the responsibility at the premier's feet."He has neglected repeatedly to listen to public health leaders. He has neglected repeatedly to be clear and level with the people of Ontario," Del Duca said. Echoing the critiques in Lysyk's report, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government's moves have led to "delays and confusion" in the pandemic response."The government can't spin their way out of this report," Schreiner said."It is clear that they spent millions to create a dysfunctional structure, where decisions are being driven by politics and not public health."
A residential school survivor in Manitoba who received his high school diploma last week says he hopes to inspire others to believe in their education goals."Now I can prove that an elder like me could graduate. If anybody like me can do it, they can do it," 61-year-old Glenn Courchene said.Courchene is Anishinaabe from Sagkeeng First Nation, located 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.He received his high school diploma from the Empower Adult Education Centre, in the neighbouring community of Pine Falls, Man., on Nov. 18.Courchene made the commitment in February 2019 to obtain his high school diploma."I wanted to go back to school and I wanted to complete my education, so what I did was I encouraged myself to believe in myself," he said.As a child, he attended the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School in Manitoba for eight years starting in the 1960s. He also attended the day school in the community for three and half years.At the residential school, he had only gone up to Grade 6, and he blamed the schools for him not being able to speak Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibway language, and for hurting his confidence."My education in the residential school, it was kind of hard for me," Courchene said."We couldn't learn because of what happened to us. We were abused, physical and all that. We were there to learn, not to get hurt."Arriving early before staffCourchene said he wouldn't have been able to finish school without the support of his friends and the staff at the Empower Adult Education Centre.Among the staff members he gives credit to is Karen Legall, the school's work counsellor. She helps students upgrade their skills so they can take the courses that are required for graduation.Legall said Courchene tried to give school a chance back in 2012 but didn't follow through with it at the time.When he returned in 2019, she said, he was there at the school every day.Every morning, Courchene walked the roughly seven kilometres to the centre from Sagkeeng to Pine Falls — often getting picked up along the way and given a ride.Legall said he would often arrive at the school before the staff, waiting for the doors to open."Last year he just took off," she said, adding he really enjoyed his math studies."He just started coming in every day. And then we thought, you know what, let's get your Grade 12. And he was so excited and he did it."Legall described Courchene as funny and caring and said he has shared many stories with the staff since he started at the school. She said he made individual dreamcatchers, as well as a big heart-shaped dreamcatcher for the staff at Empower."He really likes to share all his knowledge over the years. And we appreciate him doing that. We've learned a lot from him," Legall said.Courchene said he plans to go to university to obtain a bachelor's degree."I've gone through a lot of hurt, and I respect myself for going to school. And I will never give up school because I want to keep learning."
New COVID-19 directives from the Ontario government about how people should celebrate the holidays have some changing their plans, while others are forging ahead.On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford urged people to celebrate with only those people in their households, adding that those who live alone can join one other household. The announcement came as the province saw another 1,373 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths.The news meant a hard decision for Ottawa area resident Kevin Farrell, who usually celebrates with his adult children at a restaurant each year. But he said since those children live in two different households he can't see them together, and couldn't pick only one to visit."I'm extremely disappointed," Farrell said. The decision was made even harder by some good news he received this year. "On November 11, I became a grandfather for the first time. I haven't been able to hold my grandson yet and I was really looking forward to that … It looks like that's not going to happen."Coming home despite warningsOttawa's medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches urged residents Wednesday to keep travel to a minimum and avoid going from areas with higher case numbers to places with lower. But that warning doesn't sit well with Carlos Verde, who's still planning to come home to Ottawa from Toronto for the holidays."It's kind of hard to stomach this idea that it's been fine to go home the last eight months," he said. "At a time when mental health is nosediving, as we go into winter and stuff — when people really need to kind of have some family face time ... now you're telling us that all of a sudden we can't go home."Verde said he has been following the rules throughout the pandemic by keeping his bubble to just his roommate, working in an isolated office away from co-workers and he plans to quarantine before returning home.He said his family will be isolating before too in order to ensure their visit is safe.
As western Quebec experiences its deadliest month so far during the COVID-19 pandemic, the region's top health official says it's imperative to limit outbreaks at retirement homes.In November alone, 33 people in Outaouais have died from COVID-19 — 43 died from the start of the pandemic until Oct. 31.As of Wednesday, Outaouais reported 947 new cases of COVID-19 in November, compared to 946 confirmed cases for the same period in Ottawa, a jurisdiction with more than double the population.Dr. Brigitte Pinard, director of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais, said Wednesday that 10 retirement homes are currently experiencing outbreaks."We know a part of the increase [in cases and deaths] is associated with those outbreaks, yet those outbreaks don't explain the entire situation," said Pinard.Red zone designation until at least Jan. 11Of the total 76 deaths since the start of the pandemic, 29 have been of residents in retirement homes.Pinard said retirement homes in Outaouais managed, for the most part, to avoid outbreaks during the first wave of the pandemic, but a combination of community transmission and possible fatigue with COVID-19 prevention measures explain the outbreaks during this second wave."It's possible that as the retirement homes were less affected during the first wave, that there was still some need to increase vigilance," she said.Outaouais was upgraded to red status, the maximum level on Quebec's COVID-19 alert scale, in October. The earliest the provincial government said it might lower the threat level is Jan. 11, 2021.Pinard said it's imperative to stabilize the rate of infection before the holidays to keep numbers from getting out of control. "It's a situation we consider to be quite fragile," she said. "People everywhere need to apply measures so we decrease the transmission and we also decrease the risk of having our most vulnerable population contract the disease."Protecting hospitals is keyMeanwhile, hospitals in western Quebec are currently caring for 40 patients with COVID-19, including one in intensive care. Sixty-six hospital staff are infected with the virus, something that is especially concerning to Dr. Denis Marcheterre, president of the health care advocacy group Action Santé Outaouais."If we have more outbreaks it won't look pretty in the hospitals," he said. "We have a pretty fragile health-care system and we've got to protect it."Marcheterre said he supports the red zone designation for Outaouais through the holidays."There is a significant lack of nurses and support staff in hospitals and elderly care homes," he said. "We have to stay in the red zone to protect our hospitals."
Many Nova Scotia businesses took a serious hit from the lack of tourists over the usually busy summer tourist season and now many are fearful locals are spending their dollars online with big retailers.Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he hopes consumers see the benefits of contributing to the local economy as the holiday season unfolds."I think we should look on this as our opportunity to support our community by supporting local business, by not ordering everything online from you know who," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday.Communities throughout the province have launched campaigns encouraging shoppers to buy local. Savage pointed out that many local businesses offer online shopping as well, including restaurants that sell gift cards.Jordi Morgan, vice-president Atlantic at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the pandemic is taking a toll on businesses in Nova Scotia.He said sales at this time of year are critical for many businesses, which regard it as a turnaround point for their year-end figures. The federation has conducted surveys and found that many businesses are under stress. "People are really feeling it's wearing on them in a serious way," Morgan told CBC Radio's Mainstreet."So along with the economic repercussions and worries about consumer spending and debt and staffing, and all the other things that go along with running a business, there are mental health considerations."Morgan said he's glad the province didn't follow in the footsteps of other jurisdictions that allowed larger stores to stay open while smaller establishments had to close. He said he's hopeful the province provides greater clarity when decisions are made regarding restrictions on retail activity.Like Savage, he also wants consumers to look at local online options rather than heading for more established internet retailers. "I can't emphasize how critical it is to the success of our community and our province for people to look at these local enterprises as assets, and what they can do to support the assets," he said.With the city losing $900 million in tourism revenue in 2020, buying local is more vital than ever, said Ross Jefferson, CEO of Discover Halifax."When you do support local, we know that more of our money stays here in our community. It stays here in Atlantic Canada and it stays here in Nova Scotia," he said. In smaller communities like Yarmouth, the pandemic has spurred many businesses to explore new business models. Rick Allwright of the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce told CBC News that many businesses there have found opportunities in the current crisis. Some have taken their businesses online while others have begun offering delivery in order to survive."There's some, even though they're not ready to be fully online stores yet, they're taking orders over the phone or taking orders even through social media channels," said Allwright. His organization launched a Love Yarmouth campaign earlier this year and Allwright said the plan is to keep it going throughout the holiday season. People supporting the campaign are asked to spend $25 in their community that they would otherwise spend with a big online retailer. Allwright said 250 people have already taken the pledge and he hopes more will come on board. The campaign is aimed at all local businesses and not just smaller, independent ones. "Our campaign is really about spending money locally. If that happens to be with the big box chains in town ... that's not a problem," he said."They're still supporting our local economy. They're still employing local people."MORE TOP STORIES
A national financial rescue package for Canadian municipalities hurt by the pandemic has been rushed out to most communities in the country – but not in New Brunswick. The province is hanging on to the federal cash until local governments detail their losses."To access this ... funding, local governments are required to submit a resolution of council which clearly outlines the net impact of COVID-19 in 2020," said a letter sent to mayors earlier this month by local government minister Daniel Allain."Payments will be processed once resolutions of council have been received and reviewed for compliance," the letter states. "The deadline to submit information is December 31, 2020."New Brunswick was allotted $41.1 million by Ottawa to give to local governments as its share of a $2-billion national rescue package announced in July. Ottawa provided the relief money on a per-capita basis and most provinces opted to distribute it without waiting on the detailed accounting New Brunswick is requiring.Canada's largest cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, have been already told what they're getting, as have thousands of medium, small and even tiny communities from one end of the country to the other. Every New Brunswick municipality in the darkTilt Cove in Newfoundland and Labrador, Greig Lake in Saskatchewan and Betula Beach in Alberta, each of them home to fewer than 20 people, have all been notified of their federal relief amounts.Meanwhile, every New Brunswick municipality remains in the dark.Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard said he has no idea how much his community is getting, or when it's getting it."I really don't know ... at this stage," Simard said in a message Wednesday.In Alberta, more than 300 eligible communities were told 10 weeks ago that the province's entire $233.2-million share of the federal funding would be paid out in roughly equal amounts of $54 per person per community. For Grand Prairie, which is slightly larger than Saint John and slightly smaller than Moncton, that meant $3.7 million in federal relief money. Cold Lake, which has a population halfway between that of Bathurst's and Edmundston's, is receiving $818,000. The Alberta government is also adding to those amounts with matching provincial funding. As in New Brunswick, paperwork accounting for COVID-19 losses has to be completed by communities in Alberta, but not until next year and only to a minimal standard"We will not require detailed proof of expenses incurred or revenue lost," state the Alberta rules that govern the funding."No applications are required. Our goal is to ensure municipalities are able to use funding to offset fiscal challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, without necessary red tape. We recognize that not all municipalities had the resources and capacity to accurately track pandemic-related fiscal impacts as they were occurring." Next door in Saskatchewan, 700 cities, towns, villages, hamlets and other community structures were informed on Sept. 9 of their individual shares of the $62.3 million given to that province for federal municipal relief.All received identical amounts of just over $59 per person per community.Other communities minimized paperwork, expedited reliefLori Carr, Saskatchewan's government relations minister at the time, said it was important for communities to get the money as soon as possible to deal with problems the pandemic was causing."Quickly and efficiently, the amounts will start to be distributed immediately so municipal leaders can funnel dollars to areas of highest local priority," Carr said during the Sept. 9 announcement.British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario have also announced amounts going to municipalities in those provinces, while in eastern Canada, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have also divided up the federal money and disclosed amounts to every local government.In St. John's, the municipalities minister Derek Bennett said the province is minimizing paperwork for its nearly 300 communities and adopting the same per-person method of distributing federal municipal relief used in western Canada."We know municipalities ... have been eagerly anticipating the amount of funding that each municipality will receive," said Bennett in a statement."No applications are required." Each community in Newfoundland and Labrador is receiving the same $59 per person as Saskatchewan communities, including $6.4 million for St. John's, $1.2 million for Corner Brook and $833,000 for Grand Falls Windsor.New Brunswick's 104 eligible communities are unlikely to be treated in a similar, predictable and equal way.Allain has indicated there will be an individual decision made by the province for each community, with some getting more and some less than a per-capita distribution would deliver.He instructed mayors to provide a detailed accounting of their increased COVID-19 costs and to combine that with their decreased revenues. They are also required to list "operational savings" achieved as they tried to rescue their budgets and deduct that amount from the first two to come up with a "net COVID-19 impact." That raises the possibility that municipalities who cut the most services to save money during the pandemic could show lower net budget impacts from COVID and receive reduced amounts of relief.That happened last month when the province took $1.6 million out of the federal municipal relief money to apply it to transit relief. 'We shouldn't be penalized' for being prudent: DarlingSaint John cut more of its transit service during the early days of the pandemic than Moncton and Fredericton did, and on paper showed a lower "net" financial deficit from COVID, even though its service was harmed the most.. As a result, the province awarded Saint John the least amount of transit relief – $400,000, compared to $500,000 for Moncton and $670,000 for Fredericton Saint John finance officials have been working for the last three weeks on the larger application for federal municipal relief money and Mayor Don Darling does not want to see communities who took dramatic action to contain their deficits get the least relief."We should not be penalized for being fiscally prudent," said Darling in a message to CBC News on Tuesday.Allain's office did not respond to a request for an interview about his department's handling of federal assistance meant for municipalities or whether the "net impact" measurement being used to disperse money will penalize some communities.Department spokesman Jean Bertin said in an email that communities will know how much of the federal money they are getting when they fill out their paperwork and have it inspected by department officials."The sooner local governments get their resolutions of council into the department, the sooner they will be reimbursed," he wrote.
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Nova Scotia's central region, and with most of the new cases in the 18 to 35 age range, many are wondering about the role of universities in making sure students are following the Public Health guidelines.Two off-campus Dalhousie University students tested positive for the virus over the weekend and a house party on Edward Street with about 60 people took place Friday night. It was broken up by Halifax police and one $1,000 ticket was issued."I live in a university community and there are definitely more parties going on than that one," said Michelle Scully, a third-year Dalhousie student who lives off campus in Halifax.Scully said while she receives emails about Public Health guidelines from the school, at no point has Dalhousie told students there would be academic consequences for not following Public Health protocols."If people continue to have such large gatherings, I think they need to enforce further consequences," she said.Verity Turpin, Dalhousie's acting vice-provost of student affairs, said the university expects its students to "share that responsibility" for keeping the university and surrounding Halifax community safe and healthy, which includes avoiding large gatherings such as parties."In the case of any event off campus, I think it's important to recognize that at Dalhousie, we look at our students as independent adults," Turpin said. "They are responsible for following all of the laws in our province when they decide to come back and live as part of our community."Turpin said the school is in constant contact with students, such as sending out emails and notifications from the Dalhousie app about Public Health guidelines, as well as advisers and faculties speaking directly with students about the requirements.St. FX, Acadia address off-campus partiesOther universities in the province have made an effort to crack down on large student gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if those students are living off campus.Both Acadia University and St. Francis Xavier University required students to sign a code of conduct form, telling students they would face discipline or academic consequences for breaching health protocols. These universities both have in-person classes this semester.At Acadia, the university president, Wolfville's mayor and the student union president went door to door, visiting houses and speaking with students directly about following Public Health guidelines. Turpin said student ambassadors from Dalhousie did similar door-to-door visits in neighbourhoods surrounding campus.St. FX has also taken away practice and training privileges for student-athletes after a large off-campus party. St. FX said at the time students found to have violated the school's code of conduct could face suspensions. The university also did its own investigation into the event.A Saint Mary's University spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday that "a SMU community member" tested positive for COVID-19.Cale Loney said in an email on Wednesday that the university has been sharing the health protocols with students and that "violation of those protocols can be subject to discipline under the university's code of student conduct."Dal's Faculty of Health takes more direct approachWhile Dalhousie as a whole has not made clear that there will be academic consequences for those who disregard the COVID safety measures, the Faculty of Health decided to do just that last month.Dean Dr. Brenda Merritt said students in her faculty, roughly 1,500 of which take part in on-campus learning this semester, were given an honour statement this semester.In it, students had to agree to stay up to date on and follow the current health requirements, and failing to do so "could result in dismissal or suspension on the grounds of professional unsuitability.""We felt strongly that this is part of our identity as health professionals and health researchers that we should be doing this," Merritt said."We did hear some feedback from students that they wanted something like this, they wanted their peers to be accountable, so to raise the feeling of safety on campus and in clinical placements."These students are also using an in-house COVID pre-screening app before they attend any face-to-face classes. Merritt said so far, these students seem to be following the rules."From what I'm hearing, they are really communicating well with each other about it and calling each other out on things," she said."They are taking this very seriously. They know that if we have an outbreak on campus, their programming stops."Merritt said there is a "rippling effect of a shutdown," which would mean pharmacists, nurses and other health students would not graduate on time, causing "a big strain" on the healthcare system.85 of November cases in ages 18 to 35A spokesperson for the province said that of the 118 cases reported in November as of Tuesday, 85 were people between the age of 18 and 35. The province could not offer a breakdown of how many of those cases are university students.Halifax Coun. Waye Mason has been calling for more fines to be given out to those involved with the Edward Street party — which he adds were "probably" Dalhousie students — and that the university needs to step up."Dalhousie has to take responsibility, both for helping to address the policing issues that happen in the neighbourhood around the university, and in going out and educating students when they are off campus about what the expectations are," he said."Unfortunately this year Dalhousie chose not to participate in funding Dal Patrol or going out with the police to knock on doors in the problem neighbourhoods. I think that's certainly something that the neighbours, and I, would like to see happen again."During Tuesday's news briefing, Premier Stephen McNeil said there will be stronger enforcement for illegal gatherings going forward, "including a $1,000 fine for every person who walks through the door.""All of the universities have been supportive and we will continue to work with them," he said. "It's a critical demographic that we will need to be vigilant on and keep on top of."MORE TOP STORIES
Mexico's ambassador to Canada apparently watches question period — and it seems he did not like what he saw and heard on Tuesday."Mexico has worked hard to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all," Juan José Gómez Camacho tweeted on Tuesday night. "We believe a pandemic is a time to promote solidarity, rather than showing selfishness, which could endanger us all."The ambassador tagged Conservative leader Erin O'Toole and Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel at the end of his message. During question period on Tuesday, Rempel dwelled upon reports suggesting that Mexico's first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine might arrive before Canada's first vaccinations.Mexico was really just an unlucky bystander caught up in an outbreak of vaccine nationalism in Ottawa this week. The hope offered by glowing reports on the leading vaccine candidates has given way to questions about when exactly Canada will receive its first shipment of a vaccine, and how close to the front of the line Canada might be among the 195 countries of the world.Those questions represent significant risks for the Liberal government — even if Canadians ultimately have to accept that they can't necessarily expect to go first.The impetus for the Official Opposition's questions on Tuesday was the prime minister's acknowledgement that other countries will be able to start vaccinating their citizens before Canada."The very first vaccines that roll off an assembly line in a given country are likely to be given to citizens of that particular country," Justin Trudeau told a morning news conference. "But shortly afterwards, they will start honouring and delivering on the contracts that they signed with other countries, including with Canada."WATCH: Federal government can't guarantee vaccination timelineSpecifically, Trudeau suggested that the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany might get the first vaccines. In each of those countries, it has been suggested that vaccinations could start in December.On Wednesday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CBC's Power & Politics that Canada should "start to receive" vaccine doses in January. That might not immediately amount to a huge difference — but this week's debate offers just a hint of how the international rollout of a vaccine might be used to keep score between nations.It's not clear yet whether the Trudeau government could have done something over the past eleven months to change Canada's place in the pecking order, or whether Canada will even receive vaccines markedly later than most other countries.Trudeau said that "Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines" — but that's not quite right. This country does have vaccine manufacturing facilities — GlaxoSmithKline has one near Montreal and Sanofi Pasteur operates in Toronto. What Canada doesn't have is a production facility connected to any of the current leading candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine.'Horrendously complex'Those major manufacturers are also producing other vaccines. And even if they had excess capacity, setting up a new facility to deliver a new vaccine would be a complicated, time-consuming endeavour."Manufacturing vaccines is horrendously complex," said Robert Van Exan, a former executive with Sanofi Pasteur in Toronto and now a consultant on immunization policy. "And you don't just take it from one facility to another."Trudeau's government has spent federal money to boost research and manufacturing capacity at facilities in Saskatchewan and Quebec, which could lead to vaccine production next year. In the meantime, the government has signed contracts with a number of international suppliers.During question period on Wednesday, Trudeau pointed to what he called the "most diverse portfolio of vaccines anywhere in the world" (a claim recently supported by the Economist) and insisted that his government's approach was informed by experts in the field (the Liberals have established a vaccine task force).Rempel asked whether the government had attempted to negotiate the right to produce those vaccines in Canada. Trudeau said the government "looked at different ways of ensuring domestic production as much as we were able to," but it was not something it could "move forward on."WATCH: Opposition leaders push for vaccine rollout planAnyone looking for errors or oversights in this aspect of Canada's pandemic response might have to look a little deeper into the past."I think what it shows, if anything, is a lack of foresight in our pandemic planning," Van Exan said. He suggested the federal government could have invested years ago in reserving manufacturing capacity at a domestic facility — one that would be needed only in the event of a pandemic.In any pandemic, Van Exan said, the country where the vaccine is being manufactured will insist on getting the first doses."The problem is you can't make enough in the first months to do the whole world," he said. "It's going to take years to make enough vaccine to do the whole world. So there's going to be a rollout of this and there will be some who get it sooner and some get it later."Politicians might be worrying now that Canada might not get the vaccine as fast as other countries — but just three weeks ago, some observers were warning that wealthy countries like Canada were buying up too many doses and pushing developing countries to the back of the queue.Mexico's government has suggested it might have the vaccine in December. But a lot about international vaccination efforts is still up in the air — when the first doses will arrive, how much individual countries will get in their first shipments, how quickly each country can vaccinate its entire population.The number of viable vaccines might increase and supplies might progressively expand. But Van Exan contributed to a study by the Center for Global Development that estimated in October it could take until 2023 for every person in the world to be vaccinated. Various factors could push that into 2024.It is easy to see the opposition heaping scorn upon the Trudeau government if there's a significant vaccine gap between Canada and a large number of other countries. Envious eyes will no doubt be cast at the first doses deployed in the United States, if Americans do see a vaccine before we do. But in that respect, Canadians might be like citizens in many other countries.The whole world is living and dying with the same pandemic. This week's debate might have alerted Canadians to the fact that they are not necessarily entitled to first crack at what will be — at least initially — a limited supply of a life-saving vaccine, and that there's no particular reason Canada should get to go ahead of Mexico.But Trudeau will still be judged by what his government did to ensure Canadians got their share as fast as possible. And the further Canada is from the front of the line, the easier it will be to criticize.
Recent developments: * Students at select Ottawa schools can now be tested for asymptomatic COVID-19.What's the latest?Ottawa has 24 of Ontario's 1,478 new COVID-19 cases, with no more deaths reported Thursday.The Ontario government has announced it will offer voluntary COVID-19 tests to students at select schools in some parts of the province including Ottawa. The province says the tests will help track the spread of the coronavirus.An Orléans business owner says a man paid him for $75,000 worth of disposable gloves with a fraudulent certified cheque in an apparent personal protective equipment (PPE) scam.WATCH LIVE | Update from Quebec's premier:How many cases are there?As of Thursday, 8,278 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 259 known active cases, 7,647 cases now considered resolved and 372 people who have died of COVID-19.Public health officials have reported more than 13,400 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 12,100 resolved cases.Eighty-nine people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 76 in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do?Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with, or one other home if people live alone, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.Ontario says this will apply through December's holidays, with people who live away from home such as post-secondary students asked to reduce close contacts for 10 to 14 days before going back.Quebec has shared what it will take to have at most two small holiday gatherings next month. Rules won't be loosened until mid-January at the earliest.Travel from one region to another discouraged throughout the Outaouais.Ontario says people shouldn't travel to a lower-level region from a higher one and some lower-level health units want residents to stay put to curb the spread.Ottawa is currently in the orange zone of the provincial pandemic scale, which allows organized gatherings and restaurants, gyms and theatres to bring people inside.Ottawa's medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has said Ottawa's situation is stable and people should focus on managing risks and taking precautions, such as seeing a few friends outside at a distance, to bring the spread down further.WATCH | Dr. Vera Etches says residents should avoid travelling for the holidays:Communities in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) and Eastern Ontario health units are yellow.That means restaurant hours, capacity and table limits and other rules that are between orange Ottawa and the rest of eastern Ontario, which is green, the lowest level.In Gatineau and the surrounding area, which is one of Quebec's red zones, health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it's essential.There is no indoor dining at restaurants and gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.The rest of western Quebec is orange, which allows private gatherings of up to six people and organized ones up to 25 — more in seated venues.What about schools?There have been about 200 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there's a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.Distancing and isolatingThe novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.People can be contagious without symptoms.This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don't live with — even with a mask on.Ontario has abandoned its concept of social circles.Masks are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and should be worn outdoors when people can't distance from others. Three-layer non-medical masks with a filter are recommended.Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their local public health unit. The duration depends on the circumstances in both Ontario and Quebec.Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible. Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.If you have severe symptoms, call 911.Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.Where to get testedIn eastern Ontario:Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment.Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you've been told to by your health unit or the province.People without symptoms, but who are part of the province's targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.Ottawa has nine permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high.WATCH | How the health system is addressing vaccine hesitancy:Kingston's test site is at the Beechgrove Complex. The area's other site is in Napanee.The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile test site visiting smaller communities.People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.In western Quebec:Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.First Nations, Inuit and Métis:Akwesasne has had its most known COVID-19 cases of the pandemic this month, with 22 and counting in its Ontario portion and more on the American side of the border. Its council is asking residents to avoid unnecessary travel.Akwesasne schools and its Tsi Snaihne Child Care Centre are temporarily closed to in-person learning. It has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only.Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte reported its first confirmed case this month.People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.For more information
Experts explore how politicians can play a role in perpetuating conspiracy theories.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the federal government have thrown the Port of Sydney Development Corporation a lifeline.The port is facing a $600,000 deficit this year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the cruise ship season.CBRM council has voted to allow the port to use reserve funds created by the dredging of Sydney Harbour in 2012, but two councillors questioned whether the port administration has first done enough to cut costs and increase revenues."My problem ... is that to basically turn over all that money and it can just be gone if nothing else is achieved," District 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said during discussion of the port's finances at CBRM's inaugural council meeting on Tuesday.District 8 Coun. James Edwards said he supports the port, but he was the only councillor to vote against allowing access to the special reserve fund."There was some pertinent questions asked, but I think there was lots of opportunity for more explanation," he told reporters afterwards.The federal, provincial and municipal governments and Nova Scotia Power created a $38-million fund to dredge Sydney Harbour eight years ago to accommodate larger cargo, coal and cruise ships.There was some money left over after the project finished and the port has been allowed to use it for various purposes.Some of the money was supposed to be used to fix the shore-based navigational aids that were no longer aligned with the newly dredged channel, but eight years later, the Coast Guard has still not undertaken that work.The Coast Guard said in an email that the navigational aids in Sydney Harbour currently mark the channel safely and it will maintain them in future.The federal government had required the port to set aside $800,000 of the $1.1 million remaining in the reserve fund for navigational aid costs, but has since given its approval to use that money to cover this year's deficit.Port CEO Marlene Usher said cruise ships and passengers supply the majority of the port's revenues, but there have been none this year."Hopefully we will get some cruise [ships] next year, but at this point I'm not very optimistic," she said.Some staff have been laid off and others have taken a 20-per-cent pay cut or foregone raises.Usher said there is no fat left to cut, but the port needs to remain open to take delivery of gasoline, diesel and heating oil for all of Cape Breton."Fuel vessels come in every week and if we don't have the doors open and the lights on, that would be catastrophic for the island," she said.If not for the pandemic, the port's current finances would be at least as good as last year's, Usher said."You'll see when we present our audited financial statement at our AGM that we were $700,000 over budget, to the good, so we've been responsible and we'll get back there," she said.Cruise ship traffic is booked in Sydney up to 2026 and it will return eventually, she said, but in the meantime the board has to find new revenues to ease reliance on one industry.'Need to diversify'"We need to diversify that area," Usher said. "We need to make the port a part of downtown and downtown a part of the port."For example, extending the boardwalk would allow pedestrians easier access to shops on the dock that are normally open for cruise ships.Meanwhile, the port is losing revenue after announcing the opening of its second cruise ship berth earlier this year.Usher said there are vessels that would use the new dock, but there are unexpected difficulties with power at the facility.A new financial plan will be presented to council in the new year, she said.MORE TOP STORIES
The federal government's prescription for the COVID-19 pandemic — spending is the best medicine — hasn't varied much since the spring. The finance minister is signalling that approach will continue (if in much smaller doses) in next week's economic statement."Our plan will continue to support Canadians through the pandemic and ensure that the post-COVID economy is robust, inclusive and sustainable," Chrystia Freeland told the Commons this week.Her economic statement will be the first detailed fiscal update from the federal government since March 2019. Back then, the Liberals were still in their first mandate. Bill Morneau was the finance minister. COVID-19 didn't exist.While other countries have produced financial blueprints since the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, the Trudeau government initially refused, arguing the pandemic made it impossible to forecast economic growth, or even government spending, with any degree of accuracy.That's one of the reasons Freeland's update on Monday is generating so much advance interest.Keep your eye on the ball, says business council"We're expecting the update will be very pandemic focused and that is good news," said Goldy Hyder, the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, which represents more than 150 companies in every sector and region of the country."Let's make sure we are managing the crisis at hand and not ... 're-imagining' Canada."Government sources (who are not authorized to speak publicly) tell CBC News the update will include new but time-limited spending measures to deal with the pandemic's economic impact on specific industries and vulnerable Canadians, while laying the groundwork for the policy priorities listed in September's speech from the throne.They also say the cost of the new stimulus will be in line with the percentage of GDP represented by other G7 countries' pandemic plans.While they would not set out exact details, the measures in the update are expected to include: * Support for airlines and the tourism and hospitality sector, which have yet to recover from border closures and ongoing lockdowns. * Money to help long-term care homes control infections. * Support to help women return to the workplace. * Some infrastructure projects tied to the government's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the economic recovery.Job creation with a green glossIn 2009, stimulus projects meant to help lift Canada out of the global recession were tied primarily to putting people back to work.The focus this time would be on both job creation and helping Canada meet its emission reduction targets. Rather just widening a highway, for example, a pandemic stimulus project might also install charging stations for electric vehicles. A project to refurbish a hockey arena might include the installation of solar panels."Think of these measures as a down payment on what is to come once we are in the post-pandemic recovery," said one source.The timing of that recovery is still in flux as Canada awaits shipments of vaccines, and while severe outbreaks continue to plague many parts of the country.It's also not clear how much room Freeland still has to add to the country's deficit.Running out of road?In September, the parliamentary budget officer pegged this year's deficit at $328 billion — and that's without factoring in the extension of the emergency wage subsidy and revamped rent relief program that became law just last week, or the top-up to the interest-free loans available for businesses.Still, the sources suggest the update will include assistance not only for the airlines, hotels and restaurants that have lost business, but for their suppliers as well.Freeland also is expected to earmark funds to help meet the commitment in the throne speech to set national standards for long-term care facilities — which accounted for nearly 80 per cent of the deaths in the pandemic's first wave."We can't be going through the same sort of carnage we went through in long-term care in the second wave that we did in the first wave," said another source. "That would be irresponsible."Those sources suggest there will be a down-payment on efforts to help women in the workforce — people who were more likely to lose their jobs to the pandemic "she-cession" and less likely to return to work following the first wave.There could also be money to help families cover one-time expenses they incurred when schools shut down — things like laptop purchases and additional expenses associated with online classes."These are short-term costs," one source cautioned. "It's not a long-term commitment to increase the availability of child care across the country."Economist Armine Yalnizian has written extensively on the impact the pandemic has had on women. In the Financial Post last month, she argued that a lack of child care is "the policy chokepoint of a she-covery.""There will be no recovery without a she-covery, and no she-covery without child care," she wrote. "The sooner we accept the simple facts of pandemic economics, the sooner we can stop making things worse than they need be."Hyder said that while business leaders aren't opposed to more spending, he wants to see some commitment from the federal government to start balancing budgets again — to signal to financial markets and investors that this country is on a sustainable path."This country has 37 million people. The population is aging dramatically. Trade patterns are changing. Our economy is heavily dependent on natural resources," he said. "The question being asked is, 'How are you going to pay this all back?'"That answer likely will have to wait until the full budget next spring. In the meantime, Freeland and her cabinet colleagues seem willing to spend whatever they think the country needs to deal with the pandemic's second wave.