Go Public looks at who is accountable when online purchases fail to arrive and what shoppers can do before they place an order to ensure delivery.
Go Public looks at who is accountable when online purchases fail to arrive and what shoppers can do before they place an order to ensure delivery.
China's embassy in the Philippines has denounced the United States for "creating chaos" in Asia, after a visiting White House envoy backed countries in disputes with China and accused Beijing of using military pressure to further its interests. During a trip to Manila on Monday, national security adviser Robert O'Brien underscored the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and told the Philippines and Vietnam, countries both locked in maritime rows with China, that "we've got your back". "It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the U.S.," the embassy said in a statement issued late Monday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island's sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China's fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons. At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a "historic milestone" for Taiwan's defensive capabilities after overcoming "various challenges and doubts".
Up to 2,000 GTA families will soon be able to get free dental care at new clinic. At the same time, they'll also be participating in research aimed at making sure every Canadian has access to dental coverage, and that such charity is no longer necessary in the future.The clinic is the centrepiece of what's being billed as the largest-ever dental public health service and research program, opening Tuesday at the University of Toronto.Funded by a $6.15-million donation from Green Shield Canada, the clinic and research program will be run by the U of T Faculty of Dentistry. Along with providing cost-free dental services, the clinic will allow researchers to investigate the long-term impacts of having access to quality care."We know that there's a clear connection between having poor oral health and having worse systemic health conditions," Dr. Carlos Quiñonez, a dental public health specialist, associate professor and program director at U of T's Faculty of Dentistry, said in an interview.Health disorders linked to teethAccording to Quiñonez, there are links between oral health and illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.Unhealthy teeth and gums can have an impact on an individual's mental health, self-esteem and quality of life as well."Just imagine having repeated toothaches and what that might do that to your ability to function well on a daily basis, or even work," Quiñonez said.The federal government estimates that roughly a third of Canadians have no access to dental coverage. "There's a group here that has fallen through the cracks," said David Willows, the executive vice president of innovation for Green Shield Canada, in an interview.Willows says this group is often described as "working poor." Because of the nature of their jobs, they don't have access to dental benefits through work, but also fail to qualify for government assistance.By serving these individuals and their families, researchers at the clinic will be able to learn more about how having regular dental care benefits their health and overall livelihood."We'll be doing the research project around these patients and trying to track their trajectory in terms of their total health and see whether this service really makes a difference more broadly that just in their mouth," Willows said.Universal dental coverageGreen Shield Canada's donation will fund the clinic and the research for at least five years. The goal of the research is to work towards an eventual permanent solution for the millions of Canadians without access to dental coverage.In public debate, that solution often takes the form of a national dental care program. As recently as the 2019 federal election campaign, the NDP proposed an $860-million dental coverage program for uninsured Canadians.Willows says that may not be the best direction, and the research will study any number of possibilities."It may not be the grand national program," he said. "Let's be a little more precise. Let's find out who this population is and how we can get them access."While Quiñonez believes there should be universal dental care coverage, he says it may not take the form of a single-payer system."I think starting off with baby steps to help us understand what we might be able to do is better than just throwing out this idea that it's going to be part of medicare. I think it's far more complex than that."
After a two-week controversy that sparked a petition, protest and several arrests in connection with threats against local elected officials, the city of Longueuil is ditching its plan to capture and put down 15 deer.Mayor Sylvie Parent says the city will work with the province's forestry, fauna and parks ministry to find a safe location for the animals.In a written statement issued Monday night, Parent said the city had no choice but to scrap the plan, despite having gotten the approval from the province's experts and "a large consensus within the scientific community", "The threat posed today by certain people in order to harm, or even thwart the implementation of the deer population's cull in Michel-Chartrand park forces us to consider another option."The city had originally said euthanizing the 15 deer — about half of the park's population — was necessary to preserve vegetation in the area.In the last week, Longueuil police have arrested three men in connection with threats allegedly issued against the city's mayor. According to police, none of the men live in the Longueuil area.Parent hopes to have the deer moved within weeks, pending instructions from the ministry on where and how to undertake the relocation.Earlier this month, Anaïs Gasse, a biologist with the province's forestry, fauna and parks ministry claimed many of the deer would die within days if relocated, due to how difficult it would be to adapt to new surroundings.
There are barely a dozen homes at Cape Spencer on the Bay of Fundy coast. But people here are not surprised when strangers quietly appear in their community about 25 minutes from downtown Saint John.The arrivals are often preceded by an upward trend in gold prices."We've always had people looking for gold out here," said Kimberly Burry, whose home sits atop a hill looking out toward the ocean.The latest newcomers, a small crew of geologists, caused barely a ripple this fall when they took up residence in a rented house and began their daily trips into the woods to explore the many rock outcrops and other geological features.If they find what they're looking for, they'll want to take care to reassure neighbours a new mine will not be like the old mine, which left a legacy of environmental ruin when it closed more than thirty years ago. Gold prices have climbed steadily since September, 2018 and, as of last week, sat at $2400 an ounce, close to a nine year high.'The region's becoming hot'These particular newcomers work for Magna Terra Minerals, a junior mining company based in Toronto whose stock was trading at 24 cents on Friday.That doesn't diminish the optimism of company president, Lewis Lawrick."The region's becoming hot," said Lawrick, who claims there is evidence of gold throughout a fault known as the Avalon Terrane that extends from Newfoundland, through northern Nova Scotia, southern New Brunswick and on down the New England coast."It's probably one of the most unloved and under explored and misunderstood mineralized gold belts in North America," he said. "And it's starting to gain a lot of interest within the geological community." Magna Terra has obtained mineral rights for more than 5000 hectares extending almost ten kilometres along the Fundy coast and inland two to four kilometres.Included is the site of the former Gordex Minerals gold mine that closed in 1988 leaving a legacy of lost investments and environmental desecration.Clean-up & restoration attempts 'feeble'Gordex opened with much fanfare in 1986, 30 years after its founder, Morton Gordon, a young hobbyist prospector, discovered gold while exploring with a simple rock pick.He later staked claims and raised more than a million dollars to mine the low-grade ore using a then new method, called heap leaching to draw out the gold.Heap leaching involved spraying a diluted calcium cyanide over the crushed rock. The solution leaches down, melting the gold from the rock as it passes through.It worked fairly well as a method for extracting gold, but set off alarms when it came to the environment.When Environment Canada learned runoff from the site was making its way into a nearby stream just a few hundred meters from the ocean, they ran a water quality test.All the rainbow trout used in the test died within 60 hours.Changes were made and later tests showed the water to be clean, but contaminated barrels remained onsite for years after the mine closed. And three decades later, a beautiful coastal landscape remains badly scarred.Neighbour Stephen Mitchell, whose family now owns part of the mine site, said large areas were cleared and excavated for the mine, roads were built with little regard for property owners. He describes the cleanup and restoration effort mandated by the province afterward as 'feeble.' "It will take nature hundreds of years to correct it," said Mitchell.Lawrick said he's very much aware neighbours will be apprehensive about talk of a new mine."It left a pretty sour taste in people's mouths," he said. "And that's certainly not something we're intending to repeat."Lawrick said his company is most interested in a formation dubbed 'Emilio's Zone', about three kilometres to the northeast of the Gordex mine site, and roughly the same distance from the nearest homes.He's hoping to find higher grade gold that can be extracted by far more efficient means than were employed by Gordex Minerals.> Going back 150 years or so 'til now, there's never been a profitable gold mine \- David Thompson, former Fundy Baykeeper"I wouldn't anticipate that we would ever, in my wildest dreams, be looking at any sort of a bulk tonnage, heap leach operation in this part of the world."Lawrick said it is too early to determine whether an open pit or underground mine would be used or whether there's enough gold in the area to justify any mining.Even then, he said with permitting and other hurdles, it takes 10 to 15 years from the time a significant gold deposit is discovered to the opening of a mine.Longtime environmentalist and former Fundy Baykeeper David Thompson was active in the fight to have the Gordex mine site cleaned up by the province in the early 1990's following the collapse of the venture. He doubts heap leaching would be attempted here a second time, and he's skeptical a significant gold deposit will ever be found. "Going back 150 years or so 'til now, there's never been a profitable gold mine," said Thompson. "I mean anywhere in southern New Brunswick or along the Fundy coast here."Still a business case for goldPrior to entering politics, former Saint John MP Paul Zed was Gordex Minerals' secretary treasurer and spokesperson.He said millions of dollars worth of gold was poured at Cape Spencer. And at today's prices he believes there's still a business case for some kind of gold extraction in the Cape Spencer area. Looking back, he said a lot of emphasis was placed on creating jobs rather than on creating an 'appropriate balance' when it came to the environment.He said the operation had cleaned up its practices by the time it was forced out of business by falling gold prices.Nonetheless the concerns raised by the facility's neighbours can be justified."I think they were valid," said Zed. "You know, to tear up a beautiful coastline without proper standards becomes, I think, a critical factor in any operation."
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 24 ... What we are watching in Canada ... EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says COVID-19 has become like a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up size and speed, and threatening to overwhelm the health system. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says immediate action is needed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Premier Jason Kenney and select cabinet ministers were to meet with Hinshaw, and new measures are expected to be announced today. Alberta, once a leader in how to prepare for and contain the virus, has in recent weeks become a national cautionary tale. There have been well over 1,000 new cases a day for five straight days, and there are more than 300 patients in hospital and more than 60 in intensive care. Kenney has said he wants targeted measures to control the virus while keeping businesses as open as possible. Others, including some doctors, say the focus needs to be on a sharp clampdown, even for a short period. --- Also this ... A new poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they're eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-two per cent of respondents said they have gained weight since March, while 15 per cent said they lost weight over that time. Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says this is one of the collateral effects of the pandemic, as the survey suggests there is a link between weight gain and fear of COVID-19. Forty-six per cent of respondents who said they are very afraid of COVID-19 gained weight during the pandemic. Forty-four cent of those who expressed that level of fear said they have been exercising less than they did before the pandemic and about 46 per cent said they were eating more than usual. The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... The U.S. General Services Administration has ascertained that president-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election. President Donald Trump, who had refused to concede the election, said Monday that he is directing his team to co-operate on the transition but is vowing to keep up the fight. The move clears the way for the start of the transition from Trump’s administration and allows Biden to co-ordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on Jan. 20. An official said Administrator Emily Murphy made the determination after Trump efforts to subvert the vote failed across battleground states, most recently in Michigan, which certified Biden’s victory Monday. And today, Biden is preparing to formally announce his national security team to the nation. Those being introduced during an afternoon event are among Obama administration alumni whose roles in the upcoming administration signal Biden's shift away from the Trump administration’s “America First” policies. The picks include former Secretary of State John Kerry to take the lead on combating climate change. Outside the realm of national security and foreign policy, Biden is expected to choose former Fed chair Janet Yellen as the first woman to serve as treasury secretary. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... China’s latest trip to the moon is another milestone in the Asian powerhouse’s slow but steady ascent to the stars. China became the third country to put a person into orbit a generation ago and the first to land on the far side of the moon in 2019. The Chang’e 5 mission, launched today, will be the first to bring back moon rocks and debris since a Soviet mission in 1976. Future ambitions include a permanent space station and putting people back on the moon more than 50 years after the U.S. did. --- On this day in 2002 ... Quebec Premier Bernard Landry announced that the May 24th Quebec holiday, ``La fete de Dollard,'' would henceforth be known as ``La Journee nationale des Patriotes.'' The name was changed to honour the movement that contributed to the Rebellions of 1837-38 in Lower Canada and became an early symbol of French-Canadian nationalism. --- In entertainment ... Anne Murray wasn’t sure her singing voice was still intact until a few months ago. The famed Canadian crooner had left her most-cherished instrument largely unchecked while in retirement, aside from belting out a song here and there while doing household chores. But last summer, she decided to dust off her guitar to see whether her trademark lush alto voice could still carry a tune. Murray says she performed a few of her old songs “just for the fun of it,” and was pleased to learn her famous pipes are still humming. The winner of 24 Junos and four Grammys swore off recording new music more than a decade ago, but she recently compiled several of her classic tracks for a new holiday album. “The Ultimate Christmas Collection” brings together 22 songs pulled from Murray's various Christmas albums, including “Joy to the World, “Blue Christmas” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with Michael Buble. --- ICYMI ... A Quebec municipality that had planned to cull about 15 white-tailed deer in the coming days relented late Monday amid pressure on officials to relocate the animals. Longueuil Mayor Sylvie Parent said in a statement the threat of people intervening or attempting to thwart the cull has forced the city to consider other options. Parent noted the plan to capture and slaughter the deer, approved by Quebec's Forests, Wildlife and Parks Department, was supported by a "broad consensus within the scientific community." But given the circumstances, she's asking the city's top civil servant to come up with a plan to move the deer from Michel-Chartrand Park to a sanctuary authorized by provincial officials. Parent's announcement came hours after an animal rescue group and a lawyer who champions animal rights urged the Montreal-area city to reconsider its plan to kill half the white-tailed deer in the park and donate the meat to a food bank. The organization, Sauvetage Animal Rescue, along with well-known Montreal lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, had urged Parent to consider its own plan to relocate the animals to a sanctuary, free of charge. Ultimately, the city relented but Parent said the deer situation would need to be resolved quickly. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020 The Canadian Press
Following a serious COVID-19 outbreak at a French public school in Ottawa, some parents are threatening to keep their kids out of class unless they get assurances it's safe to return. Sixteen students and one teacher at École publique secondaire Omer-Deslauriers tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, forcing the shutdown of all grades 7 and 8 classrooms by Nov. 4, and three more classes in the upper grades by Nov. 10. > I'm feeling very sad because I'm jeopardizing my daughter's education, but I'd rather keep her safe than the danger of sending her to school. \- Idil OmarLast Wednesday evening, parents received notice the children could return the following day, however the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO) confirms about 40 per cent of the students did not immediately return."It has been very dramatic to many, many families," said Youcef Fouzar, a parent representative on the school council.Fouzar said about half a dozen families have moved their children to another school in a different board. He said the council is demanding assurances from CEPEO that the school will be safe, as well as better communication with parents.Superintendent points to surrounding communityCEPEO superintendent of education Sylvie Tremblay said the outbreak at the school occurred because COVID-19 rates in the surrounding community are high."More often than not, when there are cases in any school, it's because of behaviours and practices that people have outside of the school," Tremblay said.CBC did ask to speak with the principal of the school, but was referred to Tremblay for comment. But parents at Omer-Deslauriers aren't buying that explanation. There have been no cases at the neighbouring English high school or middle school, and only two at the nearby French Catholic elementary school.Instead, they're pointing to overcrowding in two Grade 7 International Baccalaureate (IB) classrooms. On Oct. 21, the school eliminated one of three Grade 7 IB classes, creating two larger classes of 28 and 29 students.In Ontario, there are no cap sizes for classes in grades 4 through 8, only a maximum average of 24.5 across each board. Public health guidelines mandate large classes must be in rooms that can accommodate adequate physical distancing. Tremblay said an Ottawa Public Health investigator suggested only a few "tweaks" to the current class configuration following the outbreak, including Plexiglas dividers between desks. That change has been delayed because of supply problems, she said.Girl came home 'very anxious'Idil Omar said her 12-year-old daughter came home after the first day back at school "very anxious" over a lack of physical distancing. The girl told her mother she could reach out and touch her nearest classmate, and said there was no adult supervision at lunch. Omar's daughter is among the students who have not yet returned to the school. "I'm feeling very sad because I'm jeopardizing my daughter's education, but I'd rather keep her safe than the danger of sending her to school," Omar said.Tremblay said there has always been supervision at lunch.A source with L'Association des enseignantes et enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the union representing teachers at the school, confirmed it's heard health and safety complaints regarding COVID-19, but said it can't discuss the details while it's actively trying to resolve the issues.Several parents said members of their families have since contracted the virus, and school council members estimate some 100 households with links to the school have been under quarantine. The president of the school council, Yussuf Farah, said in one case both parents have been so ill they've had trouble caring for their children."I hope the community keeps these families in mind," Farah said in a French interview. Fouzar said he's interested in how the Toronto District School Board used its own funds to cap grades 4-8 at 20 students in neighbourhoods with higher COVID-19 transmission, and said he'd like to see the CEPEO take similar steps."This is like a huge anxiety," he said. "Every morning I have to talk to myself, am I doing the right thing? Am I protecting my kids?"
Scotland's High Court was told on Tuesday that the conviction of a Libyan man over the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing, the deadliest militant attack in British history, rested on evidence that was badly flawed. The family of now deceased Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the bombing that killed 270 people, have launched a posthumous appeal, supported by some victims' relatives who say the truth has yet to come out. Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 en route from London to New York, carrying mostly Americans on their way home for Christmas.
A group of medical students from Memorial University are in the midst of running one of St. John's most challenging routes every day for an entire month, sweating it out up Signal Hill in support of Newfoundland and Labrador's Arthritis Society.The idea for November's event, called Hills for Humanity, sprang from second-year students Brett Holloway and Joey Landine, both of whom are part of the newly-created MunMed Adventure Sports Club. The group organized a previous fundraiser running a 50-kilometre race on the East Coast Trail earlier this year, and were looking for a new challenge when the calorie-burning idea came to mind."Me and Joey were chatting one evening and we thought it would be neat to get something started that would kind of engage the community a little bit and [bring] a bit more public awareness," Holloway said Sunday."It gives us an opportunity to kind of showcase what we've been doing in the community."The group settled on the idea of tackling the three-kilometre run on the Signal Hill trail in St. John's, and chose a cause close to one of their members, Claire Neilson. Neilson, a first-year student from Charlottetown, P.E.I. lives with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and pitched the idea of helping the local arthritis society."It's been something that I really struggled with for a long time. But I found that through exercise it really helps mitigate the bad effects of the disease," Neilson said."I kind of put forward the idea of the arthritis society because they took really good care of me when I was in the pediatric centre back in Halifax. They agreed and here we are."Windy, cold, and slipperyThe team has split up the running schedule over the course of the month, with most members completing the run around five times each. Landine said the area's weather conditions can present a challenge, particularly in November, but that's part of the fun."Everyone knows Signal Hill is windy and cold sometimes, so every day provides a new challenge for sure." he said."We've definitely had a couple of days that were a little bit slippery, so we have to make sure we watch ourselves during those," Emily Collis, a first-year student from St. John's added. "But it's been a really great challenge."Neilson has completed the run five times throughout November, and said the idea of running for a cause so close to her has been rewarding since the arthritis and medical community has given her so much help and support."I think this is a really good way to kind of dive both feet in, especially with COVID and the fact that we're not actually allowed to be in the clinics interacting with the community," she said. "It's kind of nice to be able to give back in this little more of an interactive way.""To be able to give back is just an awesome feeling," Collis said.The running crew enters the home stretch this week, and had raised $950 as of Sunday.They're inviting others to join them in the final push, including Premier Andrew Furey, who they said they would love to run with if the opportunity came.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Cape Breton Regional Police are stepping up foot patrols in downtown Sydney at the request of local business owners.It's been a difficult year for retailers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that have so far survived 2020 are now trying to protect against thefts as holiday shoppers return to the downtown core."You're a little bit busier and you're not maybe paying as much attention," said Bruce Meloney, owner of Rieker by the Shoe Tree on Charlotte Street."It's an easy time to be targeted by would-be thieves who want to steal."Hard to ID mask-wearing thievesA Shoe Tree employee grabbed a shoebox for sizing last week only to realize it was empty. Meloney said he believes a woman snagged a pair of expensive boots by tucking them underneath a cape she was wearing. The store is monitored by security cameras, but identifying a suspect has become more difficult due to pandemic protocols. "With masks on, it's harder to say, 'Oh, I know who that person is now,'" said Meloney. "And that's why I'd love to have just a police presence, just for simple things like that."Police patrols returningLast week, during an education session with police on biker gang activity in the local area, members of Sydney's business community asked the force why regular foot patrols were stopped in the downtown core.Acting police chief Robert Walsh responded that there had been very little foot traffic in the area."For a long while there wasn't a presence in the downtown community, in the downtown core," he said.After the meeting, the police service committed to increasing its presence downtown during the shopping season.Michelle Wilson, executive director of the Sydney Downtown Development Association, said preventing thefts is always better than trying to solve shoplifting crimes. "We always appreciate when the police have enough resources to put someone downtown," she said. "It creates an extra sense of safety and security — not only for our customers, but for our business owners and staff, as well."Campaign to attract customersFor many retailers who survived the first difficult months of the pandemic, Christmas sales are crucial. A cancelled cruise ship season this year has brought hardships to several downtown merchants.For many, the hope is shoppers will spend their holiday dollars locally. "We always rely more heavily on the Christmas season," said Wilson. "For a lot of people, year end is December 31st … and it's right before a few really slow months."To draw more visitors to local businesses, the association is issuing a challenge to light up downtown Sydney.The campaign aspires to have 30,000 lightbulbs glowing outside downtown buildings and in window displays. MORE TOP STORIES
Andrew Cuomo receives International Emmy for televised coronavirus briefings; "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings will be interim show host; Bruce the shark from 'Jaws' moved into the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. (Nov. 24)
This column is an opinion by Alfred Burgesson, a member of the Prime Minister's Youth Council, curator of collectiveaction.ca, and co-host of the New Action Podcast. For more information about CBC's opinion section, please see the FAQ.This year has afforded all of us more time to pay attention to the needs of people in our communities, especially the most marginalized, vulnerable and oppressed.This past summer I expressed how we can turn the momentum of Black Lives Matter into real change.Over the past several months, I decided to learn about Africville, so I engaged with former residents and the community's descendants. The so-called "settlement" was home to hundreds of individuals and families, and together they built a thriving, resilient and close‐knit community, until it was expropriated by Halifax city council in the 1960s.From the early 1800s to 1970, Africville was home to many Black families, a school and a church. However, the community was denied access to clean drinking water, paved roads and sewage treatment.Africville was also home to the first people who came to help during the 1917 Halifax Explosion, and to heroes of the world wars.Eddie Carvery has been protesting for 50 years, demanding justice and reparations for the past residents of Africville. Thanks to Eddie and his family, I've learned a great deal about Africville, the people of Africville, and the harm caused by our governments back in the 1960s.We have formed a special relationship over several months together. I cannot write this piece without giving thanks to a living legend.A mother's wise adviceMy first time visiting Eddie Carvery was spontaneous, and I quickly realized that this man is not as crazy as some members of the public made him out to be. I have enjoyed spending time with him and his family, and hearing their stories. When I visited Eddie on my birthday, I was greeted by the family and was given a birthday card with a gift.My favourite story about Eddie is that he tried to orchestrate a plan to destroy city hall with a bomb after the community that raised him, Africville, was demolished. This plan never succeeded due to sage advice from his mother, Daisy Gehue Carvery.Eddie is peaceful, thoughtful, and he is still fighting for justice for Africville.Fifty years later, the Africville protest is gaining more momentum — this time with some support from young people in Halifax and across the country.Eddie's grandson, Eddie Carvery III, is determined to bring the community together, determined to create a plan, and committed to giving Africville back to the former residents and descendants.Next generation takes up the causeEddie Carvery III has been working on a solution. Right now, the plan is to get as many people in Canada to take action by petitioning the federal, provincial, municipal governments and human rights commission while at the same time engaging the community in a plan to redevelop Africville.On Saturday Nov. 21 at City Hall, over 100 people showed up to support the cause. Coun. Lindell Smith, member of Parliament Andy Fillmore and Leader of NDP Party of Nova Scotia, Gary Burrill, all made remarks to protesters at the rally.The following call to action can be sent to your local MP, MLA, the mayor of Halifax, the premier of Nova Scotia, the prime minister, the Human Rights Commission of Canada and Human Rights Commission of Nova Scotia:"We, the citizens, demand reparations now! * WHEREAS in the year 2020, the Halifax Regional Municipality, in collaboration with the Province of Nova Scotia, Government of Canada, and the Human Rights Commission, in the interest of restoring justice, launches a reparations process. * WHEREAS monetary contributions to ensure social and economic development, quality of life and prosperity, land, education, business and employment will be considered reparations. * WHEREAS the government will grant ownership of the land and management of the district of Africville will be returned to the residents and descendants of Africville. * WHEREAS the government will return all of the buildings and land formerly occupied by Africville residents, families and descendants of Africville, and redevelopment of Africville shall occur. * NOW, THEREFORE, a new community entity led by former residents and the descendants of Africville, Africville Legacy and Development Association, will form a community working group to discuss and define the terms and conditions of said reparations with government bodies."If you believe this is reasonable and is a decent way forward, join the people demanding reparations for Africville now.In 2016, the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, on the conclusion of its official visit to Canada made a statement. I would highly recommend you read it if you haven't already. Among several other recommendations, the statement by the working group recommended that governments "issue an apology and consider reparations for enslavement and historical injustices."'We're not giving up'I'm not convinced that former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly's apology and the joint investment of $5 million from all three levels of government in 2010 qualifies as reparations. The funds were used to build a replica church of the Seaview Baptist Church, now a museum managed by the Africville Heritage Trust. A nice gesture; however, it does not meaningfully address the generational trauma, misfortune and lost opportunities for Africville residents and descendants.I'm convinced there is a better way forward.I hope you take 30 seconds of your time to respond to the above call to action, demanding reparations for Africville. I will end this piece with this quote:"There will be a protest until the Africville people have been dealt with fairly. If not me, it will be my children, if not them, their children. It's not going to go away. We're not quitting, we're not giving up." — Eddie Carvery, CBC Radio, Sept. 8, 2020MORE TOP STORIES
Students at the University of Calgary are fighting to expand the school's African studies program.For more than two decades, only two African studies courses have been available at the U of C, and for the past decade they've been taught by just one professor. Students say they hope an expansion of the program would mean more classes and more teachers. Prof. Caesar Apentiik said it would make him very proud to see the program finally expanded. "The university is trying to decolonize its curriculum, and decolonizing its curriculum means bringing into focus studies like African studies," he said. "This fits well with the university's strategic plan of trying to internationalize our students' degrees to give them a global perspective, and Africa is an important part of that discussion."Student advocates looking to help the program grow are now applying for $300,000 through the Quality Money program — a partnership between the Students' Union (SU) and the university — which gives the campus community an opportunity to bring forward ideas to enhance the overall student experience. "Each year, the SU is provided with approximately $1.67 million from the UCalgary board of governors to invest in these projects. Through this unique program, students have a direct say in how a portion of their tuition is spent," said students' union president Frank Finley in a written statement to CBC News."Since 2004, over $26,000,000 has been awarded to more than 260 Quality Money initiatives that range from physical space upgrades to the creation of expanded academic and professional opportunities for students."Second year student Prudence Iticka with Black People United is one of the students behind the application to expand the African studies program.Iticka said she became passionate about making this change after she inquired about getting a minor in African studies. "When I went to look at the course offerings, I realized that there are only two courses offered in African studies every academic year," she said. "I reached out to the only professor in the department and I asked him, 'how does one actually major when there are so few courses available within this program?'"Iticka said she was told that the way the program is now, that option simply isn't available."When I found that out, I started reaching out to other students within U of C to find out what we can do. How can we rally behind this program not only to save it, but also to expand it so that students can minor?" she said."Because right now you can't, really. You have to go to another school if you're seeking a minor in African studies because the course offerings here are just mediocre."As an educator, Apentiik said it's been difficult telling students they can't major or minor in African studies, despite their interest."I will say that the saddest moment is to see your student struggling when they have genuine interest in a regional area and they can't minor in it," he said. "We anticipate that if we are able to achieve what we're trying to do now, it means that we'll have enough courses within the program and students can be assured that they will have enough courses if they make a decision to minor." The expansion of the program is also something the U of C's African-Caribbean Student Association (ACSA) would like to see. "By using the Quality Money application, we're able to hire more black professors to teach more African studies courses. That's something that the African Caribbean Student Association has been pushing alongside multiple other organizations on campus," said co-president Ganiyat Sadiq.With their application due on Friday, Sadiq said student advocates are collecting all evidence of community support for the expansion of the African studies program. "We have to get a lot of student support and community support just to show the university administration that it is something that is wanted on campus, too," she said. Sadiq said a petition organized by ACSA has already garnered more than 1,000 signatures of support. "We were able to show that there are over a thousand students that do want to have Africana studies courses and who do want to take those courses and would potentially want a minor in that degree. That's a primary thing we've been doing."Iticka said the existing African studies courses offered at the U of C are already very popular. "They're constantly wait-listed. The enrolment is incredibly healthy for those two courses," she said. Iticka said offering more African studies courses isn't just something that students are showing they want, but also something she believes will have a big impact on the greater Calgary community. "If we truly seek to develop the next generation of leaders, we have to give them a global perspective. This education is so necessary and we don't want people to think that we're doing this for African students," she said. "Everybody benefits from learning about Africa. We want people to understand that, you know, this is so much bigger than just the university." Iticka said that since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, the U of C has made a lot of statements about anti-racism but she hasn't seen a lot of concrete steps to make change at the school."For now, we've just seen that it's a lot of lip service that is being paid to dismantling structural racism and tackling racism and discrimination, but there is actually nothing that is being done so far," she said. "We believe that you can actually tackle racism and undo its harm through education, because a lot of the unconscious bias and the stereotypes that a lot of people have about Black people comes from the fact they know nothing about Black people, about Black history, about African history," she said."We can combat this unconscious bias. We can combat these stereotypes with proper education about African people, where they come from, what is their contribution to humanity [and by] seeing Black professors and having black professors in their life."In a written statement to CBC News, the U of C's faculty of arts said that while it is too early to know what the outcome of the Students' Union process for selecting Quality Money recipients will be, the faculty is supportive of the student-led application for Quality Money funds to expand course offerings in African studies."The faculty has committed to providing some additional funds, in the event of a successful application, and in order to hire an instructor of African studies for the next three years," said Richard Sigurdson, dean of the faculty of arts.The funding amount from the faculty will be determined following the decision by the Students' Union about the application, as they may choose to offer partial funding or the full amount requested.Recipients of Quality Money will be informed in April 2021. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
A class-action lawsuit launched against a Catholic religious order in 2018 has grown from the initial 30 Innu claimants on Quebec's Lower North Shore to 190 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from across Quebec.Allegations of sexual abuse by priests with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate initially surfaced during the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). Those allegations have now multiplied across several First Nations, where the clergy tried to "silence repeated sexual assaults it was well aware of," according to court documents submitted to Quebec Superior Court, in the request for authorization for the class action.The inquiry's stop in Mani-Utenam in November 2017, an Innu community near Sept-Îles, on Quebec's North Shore, revealed decades of alleged abuse against Innu children and women living in Unamen Shipu and Pakua Shipu, on the province's Lower North Shore.Alexis Joveneau, a Belgian priest who arrived in the region in the 1950s, held a tight grip on the Innu communities where he worked, until his death in 1992.Noëlla Mark, who is the main claimant in the class-action suit, said during the MMIWG hearings, that she never talked about the abuse because Joveneau "was considered to be the chief of the village, the head." That public image of a "god-like" figure has since been torn down, says lawyer Alain Arsenault.Fifty Innu women and eight Innu men from Unaman Shipu and Pakua Shipu have since come forward with complaints of sexual abuse by Joveneau. And other members of the congregation have been named in the class action, which hasn't yet been authorized by Quebec Superior Court.Alleged abuse in several First NationsThirty-one people, mainly from the Innu First Nation of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, have made similar allegations against father Omer Provencher. None of those allegations have been proven in court, at this time.Other priests included in the class action have already been found guilty of acts of a sexual nature.Father Raynald Couture was sentenced in 2004 to 15 months for sexual assault against Atikamekw children. Nine alleged victims from Wemotaci and Opitciwan are naming him as their alleged abuser, in the class-action request.Thirty-three Anishnabe people also came forward with allegations against Father Edmond Brouillard, who was sentenced in 1996 to five years in prison for sexual abuse.Seven Atikamekw people from Manawan claimed to be victims of Édouard Meilleur. And 34 other Indigenous people, as well as 17 non-Indigenous claimants, have come forward regarding allegations of sexual abuse by other members of the order.Out-of-court settlement not yet reachedArsenault says he is not surprised that the number of cases has grown since the case was first presented. There would have been many more, he said, if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn't prevented visits to other communities in northern Quebec."It's the tip of the iceberg," Arsenault told CBC. Initially, the Oblates stated they wanted to settle out of court to spare the victims further trauma. The congregation also set up a confidential hotline, in English and French, to offer counselling to victims of sexual abuse.But the initial negotiations never led to an agreement, Arsenault said, leaving few options other than pursuing the matter in court.The hotline has since been taken down, according to the lawyer representing the congregation, Charles Gibson. Gibson told CBC the Oblates are still hoping to settle the matter out of court and continue to be open to negotiations.Arsenault said that hasn't been possible because the proposals made so far have been "disproportionate" to the harm caused in the various communities where the Oblates were based.The request for the class action covers alleged abuse that would have happened between January 1, 1950, and December 31, 2018.
Saskatchewan health policy consultant Steven Lewis has watched from the relative safety of Melbourne, Australia, as COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have spiked back in his home province.The southern Australian city of five million people, where Lewis is currently living, is now COVID-free and in the process of lifting restrictions.Lewis, who has advised governments in several provinces and countries, agreed to share his thoughts on Saskatchewan's rapidly deteriorating COVID-19 situation — which saw nearly 3,000 active cases and more than 100 people in hospital as of Monday.On Monday, the province announced four more people with the virus had died and that Premier Scott Moe is in isolation after a recent potential exposure in the Prince Albert area.Lewis said the three-month lockdown in Australia was difficult, but that residents generally agreed it was necessary. Those tempted to flout the rules were slapped with large fines. Lewis said he isn't recommending an Australia-style lockdown, but that one thing is clear: the Saskatchewan government's "half-assed" approach will simply prolong the pandemic's devastating effects on people's health and the economy.The following comments by Lewis have been condensed and edited.On 'high-risk venues'Lewis: It's crazy to allow bars and restaurants and gyms to stay open. They are known worldwide to be three sites where infections take off. Alcohol is a disinhibitor. Loud music makes people lean in and talk louder to be heard over it, expelling more droplets. People exercising strenuously breathe more heavily, sweat, expel. On gatheringsAll mass gatherings, including church services, weddings, funerals, should be locked down, and [there should be] very strong prohibition of socializing at home with non-family members.On mandatory masksAt least [Saskatchewan] has mandatory mask wearing indoors in public spaces. But responding too late can't be undone. It may be useful prospectively but the numbers got bigger than they had to.On enforcing the rulesI don't have strong enough evidence to suggest cause and effect, but enforcement appears to matter.Here in Victoria [Australia], population 6.5 million, since March the police have issued about 25,000 tickets for COVID non-adherence violations, at an average of about $1,200, which is pretty steep. I do think this, combined with the 8 p.m. curfew that was in place for weeks, was a deterrent for young people.What we've learned is that even if messaging is well-done and broadly effective, a small number of non-adherers can spark a new cluster that quickly expands. When 95 per cent adherence isn't good enough, you cannot rely on moral suasion or appeals to civility.On contact tracingOnce numbers get beyond double-digits per day, contact tracing becomes virtually useless. It's just too labour-intensive, people may not have good recall, and there is still stigma and suspicion of authority, so people may not disclose their contacts.On testingCanada is still terrible at testing.Slovakia tested just about the entire adult population in a weekend and then repeated a weekend later. They found about a 1 per cent positive rate the first weekend and directed the infected to isolate. The positive rate the second weekend was a lot lower, no doubt because the first one removed the positives and kept them out of the population.My understanding is that it is still hard for asymptomatic people (in Canada) to get a publicly provided test and the results take days rather than hours.On the Saskatchewan government's 'slowdown' plan[Health professionals] have I think justifiably hammered the government for it's half-assed and complicated approach.It is increasingly clear that you can't slow-walk the pandemic with a fine-tuned balancing act that keeps the economy humming while keeping daily case rates at a predictable and low level. It's too volatile, there are too many asymptomatic transmissions, and there's too big a time-lag between when you are infected and when you know you are.So you have to come down hard and fast and universally to flatten the curve quickly. If you have to stop and start and stop and start, it's just as disruptive for businesses and the pain is prolonged. Bottom line: Saskatchewan has been tested by the second wave and largely failed. It was stupid to differentiate between urban and rural Saskatchewan [on mandatory masks] and it's really stupid to keep known high-risk venues open. The virus doesn't care if you're going to a bar or to church. It's going to bite people in both places if you keep them open.
Back in mid-April, about a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, Magdalena became worried her husband's verbal and sexual abuse would escalate."'You're stuck here with me, you got to do everything I want you to,'" Magdalena recalls her husband telling her. CBC has agreed not to publish her full name to protect her identity and safety.Originally from Mexico, now living in rural eastern Ontario with no family support, Magdalena said she called 10 women's shelters before finding safe beds for her and her young son. "I just grabbed my kid and we left," she said.She was driven to an unfamiliar community 100 kilometres away, where she recently found a job and has lived in a shelter ever since. "I cannot imagine what could have happened if I didn't leave that day. I'm in a shelter and I'm grateful to be in here, but I don't want to be here forever," she said.Call volume up 75%Women's shelters in rural eastern Ontario say they're coping with an excessive number of crisis calls and an increasingly volatile environment for women, all while dealing with COVID-19 restrictions on their staff and facilities. "If you compare April 2019 to April 2020, our calls were 75 per cent up," said Erin Lee, executive director at Lanark County Interval House in Carleton Place, Ont. "We've seen more severe incidents of violence. Women are reporting more complexities in the violence."Across the region, Lee's counterparts report a similar story. "We're looking at about 800 crisis calls so far this year," said Deborah Thomas executive director of Naomi's Family Resource Centre, a nine-bed shelter in Winchester, Ont.To the southwest, Leeds and Grenville Interval House in Brockville, Ont., is chronically full, and like the others, has fewer rooms available due to COVID-19 precautions."We have had to use hotels ... for all of our overflow," said Charlene Catchpole, executive director of the Brockville shelter.Leeds and Grenville provides outreach services to about 250 families in an area from Westport to Kemptville to the St. Lawrence Seaway and everywhere in between, while the Lanark County shelter serves approximately 400 families in the wider community, women who may never need a shelter bed but still need help to stay safe. Money with strings attachedEarly on in the pandemic, women's shelters across the country shared a $20.5-million fund from Women and Gender Equality Canada. In October, the federal department promised "up to $10 million [more] for women's shelters and sexual assault centres to help them continue to provide their critical services safely.""It's the first time for us that we've ever received money from the federal government, so it has been helpful," said Lee.The rural directors say the money was spent on new equipment, mileage for outreach visits, and internet and data plans so staff could communicate with women in need. Money received from the Ontario government, the main funder of women's shelters, came with the condition that it be spent directly on services inside the shelter. "[If] we have to go and buy dash cams or we have to help with some of the security issues, we can't use the provincial money for that," said Lee.Staff burnoutWith fewer volunteers and more reports of violence, the executive directors worry about their staff. "I have no doubt that we're burnt out," said Catchpole. "Staff are doing all the cooking. They're doing three times the cleaning ... we don't have volunteers doing that anymore." Naomi's Family Resource Centre in Winchester has lost 30 per cent of its staff since March. "Some people openly declared at the beginning, 'I can't work here because of pre-existing health conditions,' and we're not allowed to have staff working at two shelters at the same time," said Thomson. Most shelters depend on community fundraising to keep operating, but during the pandemic, face-to-face fundraising events aren't possible."We're entering into the Christmas season, which is our big time of the year for fundraising. Right now we are probably down by about 60 per cent for this time of year," said Catchpole. "It's a perfect storm.
The NATO principle of one-for-all and all-for-one was the reason it — and by extension Canada — went into Afghanistan, but that assumption is being sorely tested by a U.S. administration that is in a hurry to wind things up.Hurry might be a relative term, though, considering Washington's military involvement in the country is approaching the two-decade mark.The Trump administration's deadline to draw down U.S. forces to 2,500 troops by mid-January — paving the way for a full withdrawal — has been greeted with nervousness by NATO allies.There is an old saying, from early in the war, that the Taliban were fond of repeating: you have the watches, we have the time.The implication was that militants could simply wait out foreign forces and wear them down in a steady drip of casualties and spectacular setbacks.It seems time is still on the Taliban's side.Witness the steady rise in attacks across at least 50 districts in the country, according to Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, in figures that were recently reported in the local media.Key parts of Kandahar province, which have remained relatively peaceful since the Canadian withdrawal from there almost a decade ago, have become contested. Afghan forces, with the help of punishing U.S. airstrikes, were forced to retake the Arghandab district from the Taliban recently in a level of fighting that matched the darkest days of Canada's involvement in the restive province.With their refusal to agree to an outright ceasefire, the Taliban are putting pressure on both the Afghan government and the U.S. as a deadline for the complete withdrawal of international forces looms next spring.A hard decisionThe Taliban are playing for time as peace talks grind on in Doha, Qatar, leaving bewildered NATO allies warning that the last two decades may end up being for naught should the Taliban succeed in their resurgent campaign of violence. "We strongly support the peace talks that are taking place between the Taliban and the government," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a pre-recorded interview at last weekend's Halifax International Security Forum."And part of the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban is that all international troops would be out by the first [of] May next year. So, clearly we have to make a very hard decision and that is whether to leave and risk to lose the gains we've made … or whether we stay and continue to be involved in a very challenging and demanding operation in Afghanistan."Stoltenberg staked his ground on the possibly quaint notion that the alliance is free to make its own collective decision about whether to follow the U.S. out the door next spring."My message is that we must assess whether the conditions for leaving are met together," he said. "We need to make these decisions together, and as we have said many times at NATO, we went into Afghanistan together, we should make decisions about adjustments to our presence together, and when the time is right we should leave together in a co-ordinated and orderly way."The reality is, without U.S. logistical and air support, a standalone NATO mission would have a short shelf life.Abdullah Abdullah, the chair of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation and the man leading the government's negotiating team, told Agence France-Presse a few days ago that the two sides are "very close" to breaking a deadlock in peace talks.Those negotiations started on Sept. 12, but bogged down over agenda disagreements, the basic framework of the discussions and religious interpretations, according to the news agency."We haven't moved towards discussion of the main substance of negotiations, the main agenda," said Abdullah, who was interviewed in Turkey."We are close. We are very close. Hopefully we pass this phase and get to the substantial issues" including security.The assessment coincided with a separate statement from the Taliban to AFP that said "sufficient progress" had been made on key sticking points.At the same time, the group has consistently refused to take part in a ceasefire, with frequent attacks against Afghan security forces.They show no signs of being in a hurry. As ever, the Taliban don't need watches.
Two Green MLAs have called out some of their legislature colleagues for examples of what they call belittling, demeaning and patronizing language during last week's sitting.Kevin Arseneau said he's had enough of politicians referring to "our" Indigenous people, a phrase he said conjures up a colonial attitude.And Megan Mitton said she got overwhelming support on social media after revealing an unidentified older male MLA called her "young lady" to her face."Ultimately, language matters," she said. "It really matters what we say to each other and about each other. I think we should move calling women 'young lady' out of our vocabulary, especially in the workplace but probably everywhere else."Mitton won't identify the member but points out that she is, at 34, the youngest MLA in the house and one of only 14 women, "so there's quite a few people who it could be."Arseneau said he has heard the possessive pronoun "our" used for Indigenous people for a long time but decided to speak out after last week's Speech from the Throne. It said MLAs had gathered "on the ancestral territory of our Indigenous people.""It refers to colonialism," he said. "I find it's extremely disrespectful … to take possession of people."Two days later, Liberal leader Roger Melanson said he wanted to contribute to "a strong partnership with our First Nations."Melanson used the phrase while congratulating St. Mary's First Nation Chief Alan (Chicky) Polchies on winning a new term in band elections.Polchies said in an interview he'd also like to see the use of "our" disappear. "Indigenous people are the Indigenous people of this land," he said. "When you refer to 'our,' we don't belong to any group or government other than our own. We belong to the land of Turtle Island. It's the Indigenous people of the territory." The official French translation of the Throne Speech did not use "our." Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn won't say whether the phrase should have been in the English version but commented, "I would not refer to First Nations as 'our' First Nations. I refer to First Nations as partners. Full partners."She notes she has nine nieces and nephews who are Indigenous. "My preference is to call them partners, and be respectful."Arseneau said if Dunn had read the Throne Speech ahead of time, "she could have told government to change that part of it."I know a lot of people in that [Progressive Conservative] caucus, if they'd read it in advance, would have flagged it." Liberal MLA Lisa Harris, who became her party's aboriginal affairs critic after the provincial election, has been vocal in criticizing the Higgs government on its refusal to hold an inquiry on systemic racism but said the implications of the word "our" hadn't occurred to her."I never really thought about that question before but it's a good question," she said, suggesting the word could be seen as a way to be inclusive."I could only begin to imagine what it means, but I think we're blessed to have First Nations in our province, so I guess we're owning the fact that we have First Nations in the province, the same as our francophone population or anglophone population."To me, they're all to be celebrated." Mitton said 98 per cent of the people who responded to her Instagram post about being called a "young lady" agreed with her that the term was ageist and sexist. "In a workplace, but especially workplaces that are dominated traditionally by men, there's a power dynamic that exists, so I think it adds an extra layer to women maybe not feeling they belong because historically they haven't," she said.Fourteen women were elected as MLAs in September's election, a record number. Mitton said none of her fellow female members from other parties had approached her to talk about her post. She said that may be because COVID-19 guidelines have made discreet one-on-one conversations difficult in the corridors of the legislature.
It's flu season, which means the glass-and-concrete warehouse on an industrial stretch of Pie-IX Blvd. in Montreal's north end is buzzing. Forklifts are trundling to and fro.It's the sort of secure building — owned by the medical distributor McKesson Canada — that comes in handy if you're preparing mass immunization for COVID-19.It's expected that campaign will begin at some point in early 2021, but what will it look like in Quebec?There are several clues: new federal guidelines suggest health-care workers and vulnerable elderly populations will probably be at the head of the line. In all likelihood, people will need to be injected twice, so an appointment system will be set up.Unlike the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, which provides a recent blueprint for mass inoculations, it seems unimaginable people will gather in, say, shopping malls to queue for a shot.The effort will likely involve CLSCs and family medicine clinics, as well as hospital installations. Might pharmacies be involved? Possibly, but those questions haven't been dealt with yet.Coincidentally, the province moved to a new distribution model for the flu vaccine this fall. It has involved the private sector to a greater degree than in years past and by all accounts it has worked smoothly, with only minimal hiccups."We've offered our help. We are in active exchanges with the various levels of government involved so we can be part of the solution," said Jean-Philippe Blouin, McKesson Canada's senior vice-president of pharmaceutical distribution and operations.As the province gears for a COVID-19 serum — which should arrive this winter if the front-running candidates from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University win speedy approval from Health Canada — there are still pivotal issues to sort out.'The main obstacle is not having any data'Several European countries and multiple U.S. states have already spelled out how they plan to vaccinate their populations — some as early as next month.If it seems like Quebec and the other Canadian provinces are lagging behind, there are solid reasons for that.For one thing, Quebec has a large territory to cover.For another, there are likely to be two, three or more simultaneous rollouts, aimed at different segments of the population."What's complicated is there are multiple things that need to happen at the same time," said Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a microbiology and infectious diseases professor at Université de Montréal and chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (or NACI), the external scientific body that advises the Public Health Agency of Canada."The first one is to see the data from the vaccines to see in which population we'll use which vaccine."The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use similar technologies, but Quach-Thanh said there is comparatively little data on their effect "in the most vulnerable populations, or even in the healthy population for that matter."It seems likely one or more of the vaccine candidates will prove more effective with some clienteles than others, she said.The most pressing need is to decide who comes first."If we decide we want to start with elderly people in long-term care facilities that's an entirely different strategy than if we want to start with health-care workers in hospitals and clinics," said Quach-Thanh.The scientists at NACI recently issued preliminary guidance on prioritization, but it will ultimately be up to Quebec public health authorities to decide."We don't know yet what's going to be the final distribution model," said McKesson's Blouin. "There are still a lot of unknowns. What we know, though, is that the front-runners ... are going to use frozen or ultra-frozen conditions on their products, which creates some challenges, obviously."In a white paper issued in September, the company warned "the overall public and private vaccine supply chains in Canada are not equipped to support frozen and/or ultra-frozen COVID-19 vaccines at scale."But that's changing. Health Minister Christian Dubé said recently the province has arranged for the purchase of 60 specialized refrigeration units. As of September, McKesson, one of the largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country, only had one.The Canadian government has also entered into agreements to buy 100 more, according to the federal procurement department.There is a low-intensity international scramble to acquire the equipment, which is key to preserving some of the vaccines.The AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine can be stored between 2 C and 8 C but Moderna's needs to be kept at -20 C and Pfizer's must be kept at the ultra-cold temperature of around -70 C."It has to be kept at a specific temperature, it's not just 'get a big freezer and put everything in the big freezer,'" said David Levine, a former junior health minister who managed the vaccine rollout for the H1N1 flu pandemic, as head of Montreal's regional health authority.It may also be that Pfizer and the other vaccine providers decide to deliver their product directly on a just-in-time basis rather than providing a stockpile that can be kept in facilities like McKesson's or the provincially-owned medical depots.But Quach-Thanh says it's not how the health-care system here is used to doing things."We don't necessarily have a good handle on who is going to show up the next day," Quach-Thanh said. "Yes, you can book appointments but you have no-shows. It would be very regrettable to have vaccines go to waste."A logistical challengeOne person who will play a part in ironing out the logistics: Jérôme Gagnon, Quebec's assistant deputy minister of health.Dubé appointed the operations specialist on Oct. 19. Gagnon has spent the past two decades in the Public Security department. His background is in civil security and anti-terrorism.Quebec's Health Ministry declined to make Gagnon available for interviews, citing his busy schedule.On Tuesday, Dubé said the current flu vaccination campaign has managed to reach 200,000 people per week, and that his department is discussing options to scale that up quickly depending on the availability of COVID-19 vaccines."Are we going to go to the pharmacists, or other medical professionals ... we're in the middle of preparing for that. Those discussions have started. That means in the coming weeks not only will we be ready, I would tell you we already are," the health minister said.There are complex issues to manage in any vaccination effort, for example, the winter rollout will be complicated by the fact that most of the leading candidate vaccines will require two injections, with the second coming between two and four weeks after the first.Levine said the good news is Quebec's health-care system — despite the perennial staff shortage it faces — is well-equipped to organize a mass inoculation. Centralization, usually something to be feared and loathed by regional health administrators, is a good thing in this case, he said."I don't think the logistics today is a problem," he said.It also helps that another substantial piece of the puzzle, namely millions of needles and syringes, is already taken care of, courtesy of the federal government.Then, there's the issue of who wants the vaccine."Everyone is going to want the vaccine and they're going to want to get it as soon as possible," Levine said. "There might be parts of the population that say I'm going to wait and see that the vaccine works well. And those will be the main challenges."Though the health system doesn't have a surplus of nurses, Levine said the government showed this past spring that it's possible to temporarily re-allocate staff, if necessary.Lessons from the pastThe H1N1 episode is instructive, even though it was a far different situation, in that the pandemic never really took off. "We were lucky," Levine said.The government also learned the importance of clear communication."Throughout the whole process remain very transparent, very open. It'll be a moment of intense movement in the population when the vaccine is made available," Levine advised.In 2009, as today, there were multiple vaccines and one drug in particular, the antiviral Tamiflu, was in heavy international demand."Everybody was nervous: 'Are we going to get it? What about the hoarding? Who's stockpiling?'" The lesson, in Levine's view, was clear."You need to be careful that in that type of scenario there is an equal distribution of the vaccine, and it isn't related to social class, it isn't related to parts of the city rather than other parts of the city, parts of the country rather than other parts of the country," he said. Dividing up the dosesCanada has a contract for 20 million doses each of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and options to acquire 56 million more of the Pfizer and 36 million of the Moderna.In all, the federal government has agreements in place for 350 million total doses from seven manufacturers, including Quebec City-based Medicago.The blanket-tugging has already started.Last week, Ontario plainly stated that it expects to receive 1.6-million doses of Pfizer vaccine and 800,000 of Moderna in the first three months of 2021.Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott lifted the cover on how much Canada expects to receive as a whole between January and March: four million of the first and two million of the second.Her Alberta counterpart quickly staked a public claim to about 900,000 doses. Last week, Quebec's public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda stated plainly that Quebec will ensure no other province claws into its per capita share.There should be enough to go around, although the provincial Health Ministry indicated in an email that it expects limited quantities of serum at first.WATCH | One man's struggle with COVID-19 Quach-Thanh suggested the vaccination campaign needn't be mandatory, and pointed out children won't be vaccinated, at least not to start, because "there is no data whatsoever, they haven't been enrolled yet in phase three studies."Also, there may be a popular misconception about the benefits the vaccines will provide.Quach-Thanh said it's still not clear the vaccine has "any capacity to mitigate transmission."In other words, the vaccine can and does protect against symptomatic and acute illness from COVID-19, but it may not prevent a pre-symptomatic person from spreading the coronavirus.Thus, the key is to provide it to those people who face the greatest risks."To me, the overall goal of this vaccination program is not herd immunity, it's individual protection of those who are vulnerable and those who need to be protected," she said, later adding "you're going to vaccinate those whose working and living conditions put them at higher risk of infection, regardless of their risk of complication."
There's mixed messaging emerging from the debate over methylmercury contamination in Labrador, with a U.S. researcher again raising the alarm about the toxic organic compound, while a contractor monitoring the effects of Muskrat Falls — backed up by the Department of Environment — says there's no need to worry.Ryan Calder co-authored a 2015 study by researchers at Harvard University saying hundreds of Labrador Inuit will be exposed to dangerous levels of methylmercury once the Muskrat Falls reservoir is fully flooded.The report was rejected at the time by Nalcor Energy, the government-owned corporation building the controversial hydroelectric generating station and dam on the Lower Churchill River.Calder has since moved on to research university Virginia Tech, but has continued to follow the findings of an ongoing monitoring program on the river and in Lake Melville.He said recent data showing an increase in the toxin is cause for concern."There's a small number of people that eat enough fish and marine mammals for it to be a concern," Calder said during a phone interview. "Probably in the hundreds of people among the Labrador Inuit that would be pushed beyond the Health Canada and EPA [United States Environmental Protection Agency] reference sources for mercury exposure."But Jim McCarthy — a senior biologist with Wood Environmental Infrastructure Solutions, which has been contracted by Nalcor to lead a methylmercury monitoring program in central Labrador — disagrees.It's now been a full year since the Muskrat Falls reservoir was filled to capacity, and McCarthy said methylmercury levels in the Muskrat reservoir has average 0.06 nanograms (one billionth of a gram) of methylmercury per litre of water. And as expected, McCarthy said levels increased in the summer, reaching as high as 0.2 nanograms per litre in one sample, with the 2020 summer average at 0.07 nanograms per litre.The natural levels prior to reservoir flooding was 0.017 nanograms per litre, said McCarthy.So is McCarty alarmed by those numbers? "That's not high at all," he said. "To put it in terms of drinking water quality, there'd be an advisory on if the water quality had 1,000 nanograms per litre of methylmercury."The main concern for area residents is their wild food supply becoming contaminated with unsafe levels of methylmercuy, and so far there is no evidence of this, said McCarthy, who has been studying the water and fish in the Churchill River for two decades.Fish samples collected in 2019 did not show any changes in methylmercury levels from previous years.McCarthy is awaiting laboratory results from fish samples collected in September and October, but is not expecting any significant change again this year.McCarthy said it can take anywhere from three to five years for higher concentrations of methylmercury to appear in fish, and, he said, "I don't expect it to be much."When asked if he envisioned a scenario where area residents might be advised against consuming fish or mammals, McCarthy said, "I"m not a human health person, I'm a fish person. But I don't believe so, based on the data that I've seen, I don't think there'll be advisories."The Environment Department said methylmercury levels are below the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's guidelines."To date, monitoring data confirms that the actual methylmercury levels are far below predicted levels by CCME guidelines for aquatic life," a department spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC News.A statement from Nalcor says, "The Muskrat Falls reservoir is reacting in a similar way to other reservoirs following the first year of flooding."In fact, Nalcor says average methylmercury concentrations in the reservoir are slightly lower than predicted for the past year, at 0.058 nanograms per litre. The concentrations decrease further downstream, said Nalcor."We've noticed that there is an increase, but not a very large increase," said McCarthy.McCarthy said it's common for concentrations to increase in the first three years after reservoir flooding, and eventually return to natural levels.He said he could easily find a pond dammed by a beaver anywhere in the province and find higher concentrations of methylmercury.He stressed that the consumption of fish and mammals should not be avoided."I think they're safe to eat, yes," he said.Ballooning project costs and long delays have dogged the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project for years, but human health concerns have also been at the forefront, especially for those who eat fish and other mammals in the region.The threat of methylmercury contaminating the wild food supply resulted in protests four years ago, and a prolonged impasse was resolved after the provincial government agreed to establish an independent expert advisory committee.An enhanced monitoring program was also launched, with weekly testing at more than a dozen sites upstream of the Muskat Falls reservoir, downstream into Lake Melville, as far as Rigolet.The issue flared again last year after the provincial government failed to deliver on a promise to clear some vegetation — a process known as wetland capping — from the reservoir prior to full flooding, with then premier Dwight Ball calling it an unintentional oversight.Nalcor responded by allocating $30 million in compensation for three Indigenous groups in Labrador.Meanwhile, Ryan Calder says the data emerging from river monitoring is supporting his early concerns about methylmercury."The first data that's rolling out is consistent with our predictions, and is exactly what Nalcor refused to believe five years ago," said Calder."Immediately the levels are going way beyond the Nalcor projected peak, and are now well within the range of what we had predicted. And they're still rising. The fact that we're in late November now and the levels are still rising quite sharply, when they usually are falling, is a concern. And it suggests they'll probably continue to rise next spring and summer."When asked why Calder's tone is so different from his own, McCarthy replied, "Well, there's two conflicting models too, I guess."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador