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".
Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering.As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes, Rubino said."We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible."Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the "exciting" technology would have multiple benefits.Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn't much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work."It's going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask," she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta's mechanical engineering department, said Rubino's innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
A B.C. surgeon who called his preteen patient a "loose woman" during an appointment has been fined and reprimanded by his professional regulator.Dr. Bruce Taro Yoneda, an orthopedic surgeon based in Victoria, has admitted that he "engaged in unprofessional conduct by using sexualized language during a surgical consult," according to a public notice posted Friday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.Yoneda also acknowledged telling the same young patient he would give her a "lube job," and admitted he did not give her a full explanation before he began questioning her about her menstrual cycle.The college's inquiry committee, which investigates complaints against doctors, "was critical of the registrant's admitted conduct and concluded that his use of inappropriate language displayed a lack of insight," the notice says.As part of a consent agreement with the college, Yoneda has been fined $7,500, received a formal reprimand and has had his registration as a doctor transferred to "conditional" status. He's also agreed to take courses in clinical communication and professionalism.
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Miss Vickie's Canada says some of its potato chips that were part of a recall in Eastern Canada earlier this month due to possible glass contamination were inadvertently shipped west. The company says the chips were only shipped to retail customers in Alberta, Brandon, Man., and Moose Jaw, Sask, and that it's working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to co-ordinate a voluntary recall. It says 630 bags are involved, and they have very specific "guaranteed fresh" dates and "manufacturing codes." Consumers who have purchased the chips should not eat them and are urged to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. At the beginning of November, Miss Vickie's recalled some chips sold online and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada due to what it said was "isolated reports of the presence of a small piece of glass found at the bottom of the bag." The CFIA says on its website there have been reported injuries associated with the products. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020. The Canadian Press
Residents were given proper notice of a vote to remove Fort Simpson's liquor purchasing restrictions, according to N.W.T. finance minister Caroline Wawzonek. MLA for Nahendeh Shane Thompson – also a minister – posted to Facebook on Monday regarding concerns constituents had raised about the plebiscite held on November 12. Specifically, the post related to concerns about how much public notice was provided leading up to the vote and how to contact the official in charge of it. Residents ultimately voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting alcohol restrictions in the community. Of 730 eligible voters, 240 cast a ballot and 175 of those were in favour of removing restrictions. The Department of Finance, which oversees liquor regulations in the N.W.T., is now in the process of implementing the result, which may take several weeks. Thompson's post relayed a message he had received from Wawzonek addressing concerns. “Based on all of the information I have received to date, I am confident in the integrity of the plebiscite held in the village of Fort Simpson,” Wawzonek's message to Thompson reads. Wawzonek states some residents who attend school away from Fort Simpson believe they did not receive adequate notice of the plebiscite. She concludes, however, that there was sufficient notice within the village, on Facebook, and through the media in the weeks and months before the vote. She adds returning officer Tammie Cazon fulfilled her duties in the Local Authorities Elections Act by providing public notice of the plebiscite, including details on how and where to vote. Wawzonek says Cazon met legislative requirements by posting public notices in five locations – the bank, the Northern store, the Unity store, the Nahanni Inn and Pandaville restaurant. “It is not the responsibility of the returning officer to locate and notify every resident of the community who may not be currently living in the community. That would be an impossible task," Wawzonek writes. "Voters bear some of the responsibility for informing themselves about how to exercise their democratic right to vote.” The final concern regards the returning officer’s email address and confusion about how to reach Cazon. Wawzonek again asserts faith in the process, saying her department confirmed with Cazon only one email address was distributed for voters to use. Proxy voting was an option in the plebiscite but, according to Wawzonek, Cazon did not receive any emails related to proxy voting. The community of Fort Simpson requested the plebiscite after a petition with more than 150 signatures from residents was turned in to the village council late last year, asking for action to try to remove the restrictions. Restrictions are set to be lifted in the coming weeks, though an exact date has not been set. Once the regulations are changed and restrictions lifted, the village is still bound to pandemic-related alcohol restrictions, which limit customers to a maximum of $200 per day at any liquor store in the territory and six mickeys (375-ml bottles) of spirits in a 24-hour period.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
An opposition lawmaker called on Tuesday for Malaysia to outlaw online hate speech, accusing authorities of downplaying the gravity of an issue highlighted by a Reuters investigation into abuse on Facebook of Rohingya refugees and undocumented migrants. Citing the Reuters report on rising xenophobia online in Malaysia in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, lawmaker Chan Foong Hin asked the Communications and Multimedia Ministry last week to state its plans to combat such hate speech.
The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell was checked for the virus on Nov. 18 using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Maxwell was placed in quarantine at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 14 days, said the letter. Maxwell has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19 and will be tested again at the end of her two-week quarantine.
B.C.'s health-care workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for difficult working conditions as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were another 1,933 cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and 17 more deaths.This comes just over two weeks after restrictions were initially put in place in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, and a few days after those restrictions were extended to cover the entire province. Christine Sorensen, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, says nurses are frustrated when they see people continue to gather in groups and not follow the guidelines because that increases transmission and puts additional pressure on the health-care system."It puts greater demands on the staff that also fairly tired, looking for a bit of a rest and a break and really not seeing anything coming in the next few months, particularly with the holiday season coming and people wanting to mix and mingle with their friends and family," Sorensen said. Dr. Kathleen Ross, the president of Doctors of B.C., says the prospect of burnout is looming closer for many front line health-care workers. "Many of us are afraid to go home for fear of infecting our loved ones and many more of us drop our clothes at the door and run to the shower before we even greet our family," said Ross. "We're adjusting to the new normal ... but of course we cannot expect that surge capacity to last forever."And both Ross and Sorensen point out it is not just front line health-care workers shouldering the burden, but additional staff like cleaning crews and maintenance workers who keep the whole health-care system operational."There are lots of unsung heroes in the system, not just in the emergency rooms where there are doctors and nurses taking care of our most acutely ill," Sorensen said. Sorensen says she worries the spike in cases could escalate to point where essential health-care workers are kept on the job even if they've been exposed."[I'm] very concerned [about that]. Nurses are dedicated and they do want to continue working, but if we get enough nurses exposed or sick, we won't have enough nurses to deliver healthcare," she said. Ross says this is a crucial moment."If everyone does their part, if we all step forward and follow the public health guidelines as they have been laid out, then we'll get there. But we have to do it all together."
The Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB) will be moving to a new downtown location, with renovations expected to be finished by late February or early March. Purchasing a new building has been considered for the past few years even before April’s flooding, which damaged the food bank’s King Street location. The new site, which is at 10100 Centennial Drive, will include offices, community meeting spaces, a kitchen and a warehouse. For the past four years, the food bank had started outgrowing its King Street location and was renting storage space to supplement the site. With everything run from one building, Dan Edwards, executive director of the WBFB, said it will be easier to support the community. “If I don’t have to spend money on a building, those dollars can go further towards doing our work, expanding our programs and bringing in new programs,” he said. “It’s going to be great.” Edwards said remaining downtown was always the best option for the food bank. The facility would still be located in a flood area, but downtown is the only area with spaces large enough for their needs. A downtown building is also easier for people to reach than its temporary location in Gregoire—which is where the food bank has been operating since the flood. Edwards said remaining downtown keeps the organization close to residential areas and major bus routes. The new site will still need some renovations, but Edwards says the finished product will be better for staff, volunteers and clients. “Just having that freedom in knowing it’s our own space will make everything much easier,” said Edwards. “We’re going to work hard to make it feel like an inviting space so our clients have somewhere to feel safe when they’re coming in for assistance.” The annual Syncrude Food Drive is also beginning this weekend, which comes as the food bank sees demand continue to rise. Since March, roughly 50 new households per month are added to its client list. The food bank is expecting this trend to continue into 2021, especially as COVID-19 cases rise. In spring, people who turned to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will also be required to pay taxes on the benefit, which Edwards fears will make budgets tighter for some families. This year’s food drive will be done through collection bins at grocery stores. People can drop off food, cash and gift card donations between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29. A list of in-demand items will be available on the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s website, social media and in stores. Some in-demand items include canned fish, canned meat, baking goods, canned fruit, canned vegetables, and diapers size four, five and six. The food drive provides WBFB with 30 to 40 per cent of their food for a year. The food bank’s goal is to raise a total of $300,000 and 80,000 pounds of food. -with files from Laura Beamish email@example.comSarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
NEW YORK — “Jeopardy!” record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday.Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show's “Greatest of All Time” title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January.A long-term host to replace Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8, will be named later.“By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers,” the show's executive producer, Mike Richards, said.The show is in its 37th year of syndication, and Trebek was its only host. It is still airing shows that Trebek filmed before his death.Art Fleming hosted earlier editions of the game show, including the original “Jeopardy!” that debuted in 1964 on NBC and aired for a decade.Richards said “Jeopardy!” will air repeat episodes for the holiday weeks beginning Dec. 21 and 28, meaning Trebek's final week of shows will air starting Monday, Jan. 4.Jennings' episodes begin on Jan. 11.The Associated Press
Canada will keep pressing China to improve its human rights record but has no interest in irresponsible tough talk, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday. Bilateral ties between the two nations effectively froze in December 2018 when Canadian police picked up a senior Huawei Technologies Co Ltd executive on a U.S. arrest warrant. China subsequently detained two Canadian citizens and blocked lucrative imports of canola seed.
A Regina curling rink has paused its season to deep clean the premises after a COVID-19 outbreak at a bonspiel, said a message posted to the rink's website.The outbreak happened at a seniors and masters bonspiel held at Highland Curling Club in Regina Nov. 13 to 15. The tournament included divisions for senior men and women in the 50 and up category, as well as a masters division for men aged 60 and older.There were four divisions with a maximum of eight teams per division, so as many as 128 people could have attended the tournament.In a letter to members posted to the club's website, general manager A.J. Scott said it was an "extremely isolated" event. "The rink was closed to the public and kept exclusively for the athletes competing in the event," the letter said. "We only ran two sheets at any single time, as well as made sure to run only the men's or women's divisions at one time. The teams all respected our safety protocols we have here at the rink and routine scheduled cleaning was done more than every 60 minutes as well as after every draw."Bonspiel continued after team reported symptomsOn the Saturday evening of the tournament, a team pulled out due to flu-like symptoms. Scott wrote that the club asked the remaining teams "if they felt safe and confident enough to want to continue play," and all the teams said they did, so the tournament finished as planned.Early in the week of Nov. 16, the club received a notice that members of the team that pulled out had COVID-19."Since that time, we slowly started hearing that several more players from teams that were experiencing symptoms also went and got tested and they too came back with positive results," the letter to members says. The letter says none of the people who tested positive have been in the rink since being tested.Tournaments not permitted under reopen planScott said in the letter that a COVID-19 compliance officer who visited the rink after the outbreak was "pleased" with their preparations and safety protocols.The government's Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan says tournaments are not permitted. When asked whether a bonspiel like this would qualify as a tournament, a government official pointed to a stipulation in the plan that "Competition, including play-offs, ranked and round-robin competition, is permitted within established mini-leagues and for individual sports."Initially, the letter on the website said the rink would be open for business "as usual," but the club later updated the site to say they had paused the season for two weeks."This wasn't an easy decision but we have decided it is the safest and most responsible option to keep our members and our staff protected," read the updated letter, signed by Scott and club president Kevin Fetsch."We need to do our part to help get Regina back to the safer place it was a few short weeks ago."CBC News reached out to Highland Curling Club, but they didn't immediately respond.
A Dene-Tahltan woman who lives in remote northern B.C. is sharing her birthing story — shining a light on the extra layer of complications faced by life-givers in rural areas. Jasmine Netsena is a successful musician who has travelled across North America for her award-winning career. After moving back to Fort Nelson First Nation from Edmonton, she thought she was settling down. But when she became pregnant with her second child, she was travelling more than ever — including booking the date she would give birth at a hospital a four hour drive away in Fort St. John, and being flown to Prince George for surgery in her third trimester. There is a hospital near where she lives in Fort Nelson, however the services there are limited. In cities, women who are facing complications during pregnancy can easily access care. But for women like Netsena in rural areas, there are less services and specialized medical care is often scarce. Netsena gave birth to a healthy baby in September. She was just a few months pregnant when she began to feel stomach pain that she later found out was an inflamed gallbladder. “I went into the hospital with abdominal pain and I felt like they didn’t take me that seriously, I was just sent home,” she says. "I felt like that was wrong because a pregnant woman with abdominal pain shouldn’t really be sent home especially when we’re so far from a hospital that would be able to take care of me.” The first two times she went to the hospital, she says, she was told that it was because of “gas” and that it was a normal part of pregnancy. Then it was discovered that she had gall stones and needed to go on a low-fat diet. It wasn’t until her third trimester that she says the doctor finally took her concerns seriously, and a simple blood test indicated it was her gallbladder, and she needed surgery to remove it. Not being able to undergo the procedure in Fort Nelson, Netsena was flown to hospital in Prince George for the surgery. Afterwards, she recovered for five weeks at home before driving 400 km to Fort St. John — where she waited to deliver her baby. Planned birth travel is the reality for women who are far away from care like Netsena, who travelled to be near the proper hospital a month prior to her due date, which is a typical time frame for birth trips. Netsena planned in advance to bring her daughter along and had a doula by her side, however her partner couldn’t be with her because of the distance. A spokesman from B.C. Northern Health did not respond to Netsena’s particular circumstance, but spoke generally about the challenges for pregnant women who live in remote areas of the region. Steve Raper says the health authority recognizes that travelling for maternal care can be disruptive and inconvenient, but “patient safety … must come first.” “Ideally, women would give birth as close to their family and community as possible — no matter where they live in the province,” he says. “Some communities, however, face challenges providing these services.” Those challenges, he says, include recruiting and retaining trained staff, a low need for maternal care services, or clinicians not being comfortable providing some services without higher-level supports such as surgeons on deck. “We also recognize that sometimes, babies arrive unexpectedly – and when this occurs, our physicians and staff are equipped to respond to an unplanned delivery at all Northern Health hospitals,” he added. It’s a challenge all mothers who live in remote areas must keep in mind, and especially affects Indigenous people as reserves are often located far from urban centres. But because living in cities can be challenging for other reasons, people like Netsena must weigh the pros and cons of both. Netsena, who is originally from Telegraph Creek, moved away from the reserve for a short time to obtain a degree in music at the University of Alberta. She packed up her life and moved to Edmonton in 2019 with her five-year-old daughter, but after the first semester she quickly realized she was not where she wanted to be. “The family-life balance and all that was just a lot for me to take, and also I just really questioned why I wanted to get my music degree,” she says. “I just wasn’t sure what I would do with it except teach and I wasn’t really feeling like teaching was my calling.” Netsena is a singer-songwriter, and taught herself how to play guitar. She won the SOCAN Foundation Indigenous Songwriters Award in 2018. Netsena took a step back to rethink what type of degree she wanted and figured that she didn’t necessarily need to move to the city to get a higher education with all the online options available nowadays. After enduring such a strenuous second pregnancy, Netsena is happy to be at home with her baby and the rest of her family. “With my first it went by so fast.” she says of her oldest daughter Sadeya. “I’m glad I have another baby. I’m just trying to really enjoy it because it’s going to be over before I know it.” She often sings to her newborn baby and so does her oldest daughter Sadeya. “They both have strong lungs,” Netsena laughs. Our series on reproductive health access is made possible in part with funding from First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced. Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
A B.C. man convicted of an online hate crime is facing strict new rules on his public expression after breaching his sentencing conditions.Arthur Topham, who ran a publication from his rural home near the central Interior city of Quesnel, was convicted in 2015 of communicating online statements that wilfully promoted hatred against Jewish people.As part of his sentence, Topham was forbidden from publishing or publicly posting information about "persons of Jewish religion or ethnic origin." But In October, a provincial court judge ruled Topham had breached that condition by creating new posts throughout 2018. Late last week, the judge sentenced Topham to a 30-day conditional sentence and three years probation for the breach, placing strict new conditions on Topham's public posts.For the next three years, Topham is forbidden from publishing or printing publicly any reference to or information about the Talmud, Zionism, Israel, and the Jewish religion, ethnicity or people.Topham is also forbidden from publicly posting the names of people he knows to be of Jewish origin. According to court documents, he will still be allowed to publicly name his wife and her family, but not to mention their ethnicity or origin. During his original trial, Topham told the court his wife is Jewish.In addition to the terms of his three-year probation, Topham will serve a 30-day conditional sentence, with a nightly curfew and a requirement to remain in B.C. He's also prohibited from having weapons, liquor, or alcohol."Justice has been served," said Ran Ukashi, National Director with B'nai Brith, a Jewish advocacy group that's been closely following the case."It serves as a deterrent for others, to realize there are consequences, there's a price to pay," said Ukashi."There are limits to … free speech and promoting hatred against identifiable groups is not on," he said."This person has been given opportunity after opportunity to not behave this way."A retired teacher now in his 70s, Topham was first charged in 2012. A website he produced featured frequent posts with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and demonized Jewish people, according to evidence at his trial.At his original trial in 2015, Topham's lawyer argued the posts were political satire, did not incite violence, and included materials that could easily be ordered on Amazon.Topham's case was the first hate crime prosecution in B.C. in almost a decade.It drew support from the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, which champions free speech, as well as from self-proclaimed "white nationalists," who attended Topham's jury trial in the Quesnel courthouse, 700 km northeast of Vancouver. Paul Fromm helped to fund Topham's defence and covered his trial through video blogs from Quesnel. Monika Schaefer, who served jail time in Germany for Holocaust denial, also attended court.
The company's Executive Vice President for Europe and Canada told Euronews that once approved the vaccine could be distributed "very fast" across all EU member states.View on euronews
CALGARY — Suncor Energy Inc. says it has agreed to become the operator of the Syncrude project by the end of 2021, as long as each of the joint venture's owners grants formal approval.Suncor owns a 58.74 per cent stake in the Syncrude Joint Venture, a position it has increased from 12 per cent in 2016.Other Syncrude stakeholders who must approve the agreement are Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., CNOOC Oil Sands Canada and Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership.Suncor chief executive Mark Little says the transition will help Syncrude better compete on cost per barrel.Little says the deal could yield $300 million a year in synergies, noting Syncrude and Suncor have families employed by both operations after years of close ties between neighbouring energy projects.Suncor's statement says that Syncrude and Suncor also stand to gain from the bi-directional pipelines connecting Suncor’s Base Plant and Syncrude’s operations, which are now complete and being commissioned.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell, the one-time girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, is in quarantine at a New York City federal lockup after a staff member there tested positive for the coronavirus, prosecutors said Monday.In a letter to a judge, prosecutors said Maxwell, 58, was put in isolation last Wednesday as a precaution even though she tested negative. The staff member who tested positive works in the area of the Brooklyn jail where Maxwell is housed, prosecutors said.They said Maxwell is not exhibiting symptoms and will be tested again at the conclusion of the two-week quarantine.The government said she will not be able to meet with her lawyers during quarantine as she prepares for a July trial on charges alleging she recruited three teenage girls for Epstein to abuse in the 1990s. But she will be able to continue to review trial materials 13 hours a day, more than any other inmate, prosecutors wrote.Maxwell has been held without bail since her July arrest. Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.An email message seeking comment was sent to Maxwell's lawyers.The Associated Press
The latest updates from around Canada as officials try to contain the spread of COVID-19.
OTTAWA — The federal government's bill to expand eligibility for medical assistance in dying appears to be in for a rough ride in the Senate. Justice Minister David Lametti was grilled about Bill C-7 Monday by members of the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, which has launched a pre-study of the bill before it is passed by the House of Commons. Several senators challenged Lametti on why the bill expressly prohibits people suffering solely from mental illnesses from seeking medical assistance to end their lives. They argued that the exclusion is unconstitutional and predicted it will wind up being struck down by the courts. "I believe that what you're putting forward with this bill will ultimately be invalidated by the courts," said Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan. The government is putting a "huge burden" on people suffering intolerably from mental illnesses, forcing them to fight for their right to assisted dying in court, Carignan added. Another Conservative senator, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, echoed that prediction. And he reminded Lametti that senators tried to warn the government in 2016, when it first legalized assisted dying, that the law would be struck down because it restricted the procedure only to those whose natural death was reasonably foreseeable. The Senate voted to amend the original bill to scrap the near-death proviso but the government rejected the amendment and senators ultimately acquiesced to the will of the elected House of Commons. As some senators had predicted, the near-death requirement was struck down last fall by the Quebec Superior Court. Bill C-7 is meant to bring the law into compliance with that ruling. The bill would scrap reasonably foreseeable death as a requirement for an assisted death. It would retain the concept to set out easier eligibility rules for those who are near death and more stringent rules for those who aren't. Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former Quebec Court of Appeal judge who is a member of the Progressive Senate Group, told Lametti that he believes the exclusion of those suffering solely from mental illnesses is a violation of Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equal treatment under the law, regardless of physical or mental disability. Moreover, he said the blanket exclusion of one group of people flies in the face of the Supreme Court, which has been clear that eligibility for an assisted death must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Lametti countered that he believes the exclusion is very narrow and would stand up to a charter challenge because it is necessary to protect the vulnerable. The issue is complicated, he argued, because there is no consensus among experts on whether it is ever safe to allow assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illness. The trajectory of mental illnesses is more uncertain than that of physical illnesses, he said, and suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of mental illness. Such questions deserve more in-depth consideration but there is no time to do so now, Lametti said, because the government is rushing to meet a court-imposed deadline of Dec. 18 to amend the law. He said the issue can be more properly considered as part of a legally mandated parliamentary review of the assisted-dying law, which was to have begun in June but has not yet materialized. "This exception is very narrow and hopefully temporary," he told the committee. But Lametti could give senators no assurance that the parliamentary review, which is also supposed to study the issues of advance consent and whether mature minors should have access to assisted dying, will begin any time soon. He said he'd personally like it to start "tomorrow" but he has to convince his fellow cabinet ministers on the timing. The committee also heard Monday from the Canadian Psychiatric Association, which has said the exclusion of those with mental illnesses is discriminatory and stigmatizing. Several other senators raised other objections to the bill, including the fact that it would require individuals who are not near death to clear extra hurdles before being able to receive an assisted death. Those safeguards were added specifically to address the concerns of disability rights groups, some of which testified later Monday at the committee and made clear that they are not satisfied. "Why us?" Krista Carr, executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada. "As no other charter-protected Canadian life is being put at risk by this bill, there is only one answer to this question: The lives of Canadians with disabilities are not of equal value." Conservative Senate leader Don Plett urged Lametti to amend the bill to ensure that medical practitioners who have moral objections to assisted dying don't have to refer patients to someone who will provide the procedure. Lametti said he's "generally inclined to say no" to that suggestion, contending that setting rules for doctors in the delivery of health-care services is a provincial responsibility. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020 Joan Bryden and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press