As Canadians in India react to news they may now be stuck there for a month due to a ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan to Canada, one expert says the attempt to keep more cases of COVID-19 from being imported may not be good enough.
As Canadians in India react to news they may now be stuck there for a month due to a ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan to Canada, one expert says the attempt to keep more cases of COVID-19 from being imported may not be good enough.
SEVEROMORSK, Russia (AP) — A top Russian admiral complained Thursday about increased NATO military activities near the country's borders, describing them as a threat to regional security. Adm. Alexander Moiseyev, the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet, said that NATO navy ships' presence in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea have reached levels unseen since World War II. Speaking to reporters onboard the Northern Fleet's flagship, the Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) missile cruiser, at its Arctic base of Severomorsk, Moiseyev charged that NATO drills have edged closer to Russian borders, and noted increasingly frequent flights by U.S. nuclear-capable strategic bombers. “Such actions are provocative and have a negative impact on regional security,” Moiseyev said. He voiced particular concern about the U.S. military assets on the territory of NATO ally Norway that borders Russia, charging that it has led to an “increase of the conflict potential in the Arctic.” Ties between Russia and the West have plummeted to post-Cold War lows after the 2014 Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern over the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders. Russia and the alliance also have blamed each other for conducting destabilizing military exercises near the borders. Last month, a massive build-up of Russian troops alongside the Ukrainian border fueled concerns in Ukraine and the West. The Kremlin rejected Western worries, charging that the troops don't threaten anyone, but it also warned Ukrainian authorities against trying to use force to reclaim control of the rebel east. The Associated Press
A small town congregation's defiance of COVID-19 public health orders and the community's surveillance of parishioners have created a toxic environment that could come to a head Friday when a judge decides whether to lock the doors of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont. The church, Pastor Henry Hildenbrandt and Assistant Pastor Patrick Wall were found in contempt of court for continuing in-person services despite a court order to stop to meet COVID-19 restrictions. Ontario Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas must now decide what penalty, if any, to impose. "This whole thing has turned one small community in Ontario into a cauldron of hostility, one that has pitted neighbour against neighbour. I am deeply concerned about the toxic environment in Aylmer," Thomas told virtual court Thursday. "This congregation and these people, although different than the mainstream population of southwestern Ontario, were living in peace and tranquility in this community in the past. Now, I see a splintered community, a fractious community." The town church is one of several in Canada that are challenging the constitutionality of public health orders that prohibit gatherings, including church services. Those will be heard in October. Locking the doors of churches in Canada is a poignant symbol of our democracy under threat. - Lisa Bildy, Aylmer, Ont., church's lawyer At the beginning of the pandemic last year, the southwestern Ontario church held drive-in services, which were prohibited by provincial law, and then escalated to 200-person gatherings within the building, with no physical distancing or mask wearing. Hildebrandt's sermons, in front of a large congregation, are available on YouTube and Facebook as shown in this image. (Church of God at Aylmer/YouTube) The church, and its pastors and parishioners have been ticketed multiple times by Aylmer police. But physically locking all the exterior doors, as the Crown has asked, goes too far, argued Lisa Bildy, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents the church. "Locking the doors of churches in Canada is a poignant symbol of our democracy under threat," she said. "This was two weeks to flatten the curve and has become 60 weeks and counting. No outbreaks have been traced to the church... I don't think we should be locking church doors in this country. Church is fundamental to these people." Welcomes further fines Many church members come from a Mennonite tradition, speak Low German (a variety or dialect of the language), and dress in modest clothing as a way to signal that church for them is way of life, not just something to attend on Sunday, Bildy said. They [Church of God] are flouting the law and public health orders. Locking the door is the only way to ensure they won't access the building. - Connie Vernon, Crown lawyer "Pastor Hildebrandt didn't set out to be defiant, he didn't set out to be a figurehead in a movement. He wanted his parishioners to have some community," she said. He has now embraced the role of figurehead, said Bildy. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hildebrandt has embraced the No More Lockdowns movement, including a 2,000-person rally against COVID-19 restrictions in the small town. He has preached that the virus doesn't exist and encouraged defiance of provincial lockdown rules. His sermons, in front of a large congregation, are available on YouTube and Facebook. The church and its pastors have "committed themselves to publicly and continuously defy the public health measures," said Crown lawyer Connie Vernon in her arguments to the court. "They have stated clearly that they plan to breach any court order, they have encouraged civil disobedience, they've encouraged others to come to the church," she said. "It is clear that [Hildebrandt] welcomes further fines and will continue to open the church. They are flouting the law and public health orders. Locking the door is the only way to ensure they won't access the building. There is nothing to suggest that they will stop inviting people in." The Crown wants: All exterior doors locked until there are no more public health orders. For Hildebrandt and his assistant pastor to be fined $10,000 each. For the church to be fined $50,000. For the church to pay for $100,000 in court fees. Bildy argued the court fees are much too steep and the monetary penalties too high. If the doors are locked, the pastor should be allowed to access the building sometimes to check on it, and they should be unlocked when public health orders are less restrictive. Hundreds of people stand by the side of the main street in Aylmer, Ont., before a rally and march to protest public health measures. (Kate Dubinski/CBC) Thomas said he will make his decision Thursday, but added he doesn't see Hildebrandt as a passive player in the movement against public health orders. "He has chosen the role he now has. He has chosen to be the spokesperson for the infringement of rights," said Thomas. "He uses his pulpit as a pulpit to exert an argument to others to follow his example. It's not about the word of his God, it's also about the concerns that he is exhorting others to breach the regulations. He's chosen to be the face, front and centre of this movement."
Ottawa is launching a new policy to help the families of victims of two major airline disasters become permanent residents in Canada, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday. The new policy will apply to relatives of anyone who died on board Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 or Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, so long as those victims were Canadian citizens, permanent residents or found eligible on their application for permanent residency. The policy applies to people currently in Canada, and anyone who made a refugee claim after these two disasters happened is also eligible to apply under the new policy. Mendicino said the federal government is introducing this public policy, which will remain in place until May 11, 2022, to demonstrate compassion and solidarity with the families in their efforts to seek justice. "I've had the privilege of speaking with some of the families were related to the victims of flight PS752. Grief and anguish is real and ongoing," he said. "Families are in pain. They still ask questions." Kourosh Doustshenas, whose partner Forough Khadem died in the crash, said the association that represent the families of the victims welcomes the new policy. "We appreciate the government of Canada is taking these steps to support the families," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed when a Ukrainian jetliner was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile minutes after taking off from Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020. The Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane crashed near Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, claiming the lives of 157 people, including 18 Canadians. Mendicino said the new program provides a pathway to permanent residency to people whose loved ones made Canada their home before being so suddenly taken. He said a relative a relative could be spouse, common-law partner, child, grandchild, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew. Applicants may still be eligible even if they have entered Canada without the required visa or other documents, failed to comply with certain conditions or have worked or studied without being authorized under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, he said. Doustshenas the government should allow family members outside of Canada to apply. "We are hoping (the government) will expand (the new policy) to be more inclusive," he said. "We want to make sure other people who are not in Canada also get the chance to travel here and apply for permanent residency." He said the policy should be expanded to include the families of Iranian students who where among the victims of the plane shootdown and had the intention to work and live in Canada after graduation. Mendicino said his department is working on further measures to facilitate permanent residence applications for certain members of victims’ families who are currently outside Canada, and it will provide updates on this once those measures are in place. Former Liberal public safety minister Ralph Goodale, who was named Canada's special adviser on the response to the crash, released a report on the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in December concluding that it's vital it is for the investigation into this air disaster to be transparent to ensure accountability. Ten Iranian officials were indicted over the shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane by Tehran military prosecutor Gholamabbas Torki, who avoided naming those responsible when he announced the indictments last month. Doustshenas the families of the victims can't trust the Iranian justice system because the Tehran military prosecutor didn't disclose the names of those charged, nor the alleged offences. "We still don't know what happened. We still don't know the truth. We haven't seen any kind of justice," he said. "We are hoping through an independent investigation by Canada and other countries, we can finally get to the bottom of that and find the truth." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that Canada would work with the international community to reform aviation standards and to ensure the families of victims "get closure, get compensation and mostly get justice from Iran." This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021. —— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellows Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
Five patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. The outbreak, declared on Tuesday, is taking place in the hospital's medicine unit. Four of those infected are in-patients while the fifth person had been discharged prior to the outbreak declaration, hospital president and CEO Lori Marshall told reporters during a media briefing Thursday morning. Fifty staff members have been tested for COVID-19 in relation to the outbreak, none of whom has tested positive as of Thursday morning. Marshall said that additional preventative measures are in place during the outbreak, which is believed to involve a COVID-19 variant of concern. Overall, the hospital has 17 COVID-19 patients, three of whom are in ICU, Marshall said. Eleven of the patients are residents of Chatham-Kent, while six are non-residents. The hospital is one of many in Ontario accepting transfers of COVID and non-COVID patients from hospitals facing capacity issues amid the third wave of the pandemic. The average age of COVID-19 in-patients as of Thursday is 48.2, she said.
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island said Thursday they are concerned a case of COVID-19 tied to a daycare centre in Charlottetown may have spread beyond the facility. The case is likely travel-related and involves someone in their 20s who works at Leaps and Bounds Childcare Centre, chief medical officer Dr. Heather Morrison told reporters. "We really are going to need to focus on trying to see if we can contain and manage any potential spread that may have happened in this situation," she said. The centre takes care of between 38 and 40 children and has eight staff. Morrison said the daycare will be closed and children, staff and their close contacts will be tested and asked to isolate as they wait for results. Morrison said early contact tracing indicates the case may involve a close contact of someone who recently travelled, adding that it's too early to say if additional restrictions are needed in the capital. Premier Dennis King told reporters he has asked Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay to help people affected by the daycare closing to access federal support payments. The province has seven active reported cases of COVID-19. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
B.C.’s provincial health officer says officials are monitoring the province’s second case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT, following a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the man in his 40s is in stable condition and receiving care.
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of COVID-19 through India's vast countryside on Friday, as 4,000 people died from the virus for the third straight day and total infections crossed 24 million. India is in the grip of the highly transmissible B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus, first detected there and now appearing across the globe. Modi said his government was "on a war footing" to try to contain it.
Japan has declared a state of emergency in three more prefectures hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, a surprise move that reflects growing concern about the spread of the coronavirus. The latest declaration comes as Japan grapples with a surge of a more infectious virus strain just 10 weeks before the Tokyo Olympics are due to start on July 23. Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures on Sunday under a state of emergency until May 31, Suga told a news conference, adding that this was due to a rapid increase of cases in those areas.
TORONTO — Ontario is extending its stay-at-home order until June 2, a move Premier Doug Ford said was aimed at bringing down the number of COVID-19 infections while ramping up vaccinations to achieve a "two-dose summer."The government had hinted in recent days at prolonged restrictions, which will see all public schools and thousands of non-essential businesses remain closed. But many had hoped it would end a controversial ban on outdoor recreational activities that experts say are important for people's physical and mental health.Ford, however, said recreational outdoor facilities would remain closed to limit mobility and other behaviour that could contribute to spread of the virus. "They pick up another buddy, two or three go out, go golfing, there's nothing wrong with golfing," he said. "The problem is, then after golf they go back, they have some pops. That's the problem."Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath expressed disappointment with that decision.“I think it’s very clearly what leading public health and other science advisers are saying,” she said. “I think there's a lot of room to give Ontarians a break.”The Progressive Conservative premier, who has been more vocal recently in his criticism of the federal government's handling of the pandemic, took a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his recent remarks about a "one-dose summer.""I just don't believe in a one-dose summer," Ford said. "It's just not good enough. ... if we get the supply, we will work our backs off to have a two-dose summer."A spokeswoman for Ford later told The Canadian Press that the province aims to have all willing adults in Ontario fully immunized against COVID-19 by Sept. 22."So long as we receive sufficient supply from the federal government, we will work to get everyone who wants to be vaccinated fully vaccinated this summer," Ivana Yelich said in an email.The president of the Ontario Medical Association said family doctors can help the province achieve that goal."We do need to see more empowerment and capacity amongst family doctors to help their patients get vaccinated and to be able to administer in office when feasible,” Dr. Samantha Hill said.Meanwhile, the province's top doctor said he would like to see the number of daily infections drop "well below" 1,000 before Ontario lifts the stay-at-home order. "We want to open and stay open," Dr. David Williams said. "We do not want a fourth wave at all."The premier blamed Ottawa for the third wave of the pandemic, suggesting a significant number of cases of the COVID-19 variants had entered Ontario through its land, air and water borders, a claim disputed by experts.The province's own science advisers had warned the government back in February that without strict measures, the variants of concern would trigger a third wave of the pandemic that could overwhelm the health-care system. The province, however, briefly loosened restrictions despite the warning before a surge of infections forced it to impose another lockdown."The reality is, existing border measures have failed to keep the contagious variants out of Canada," Ford said. "This brutal third wave is fuelled almost entirely by variants that pass too easily through our borders."Trudeau said Thursday he was "frustrated" and "disappointed" with the Ontario premier.In an interview with Toronto television station CP24, the prime minister said Ottawa has reduced the number of international flights and is open to working with the province to enact more restrictions.“We're there to continue to support Ontarians through this difficult time in whatever ways are necessary," he said. "It's just unfortunate that Doug Ford continues to play politics.”Green party Leader Mike Schreiner also slammed Ford for being preoccupied with attacking the federal government on border issues, saying he should in stead be doing more to prevent the main source of outbreaks - workplaces."The premier is using the border to deflect from his own failures to ... avoid, or at least mitigate, the third wave," he said.Ontario declared a state of emergency and invoked the stay-at-home order in early April amid skyrocketing cases.Under the order, stores providing essential goods remain open but are only permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items. Non-essential retailers are limited to curbside pickup and delivery. Restaurants and gyms are closed for in-person service.Ford also stressed that while he knows people are eager for some "sense of normalcy," COVID-19 variants of concern remain a risk to the province. "We need public health doctors, teachers and our labour partners to agree on the best path forward," he said. "We simply don't have that right now."Ontario reported 2,759 new COVID-19 cases today, with 31 more deaths from the virus. There are 1,632 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the province, including 776 in intensive care.The president of the Ontario Hospital Association said the group "fully supports" the extension of the stay-at-home order and urged people to follow the public health measures."Hospitals are continuing to operate in a state of emergency and are doing everything they can to maintain equitable access to care," Anthony Dale said in a statement.-with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021. ' Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
A driver who travelled from their home in North Vancouver to Vancouver Island has become the first person in B.C. to be fined for breaking current restrictions on non-essential travel. RCMP initially pulled over the driver, who was not identified, for driving offences on southern Vancouver Island on May 1. An officer spoke with the driver and determined their reason for being on the Island was not essential. The officer issued a $575 ticket under the Emergency Program Act and told the driver "to return to the Lower Mainland immediately," according to a statement. The driver was also ticketed for the initial driving offences. Travel boundaries Non-essential travel in B.C. is limited to three regions, which are areas covered by the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities; the Northern and Interior health authorities; and Vancouver Island. RCMP has set up road checks on highway corridors connecting the mainland regional zones to uphold the rules. No tickets have been issued at any of the checks established so far on highways 1, 3, 5 and 99. There are no check stops in place around BC Ferries terminals. Ferry staff are being instructed to ask passengers for their reason for travelling, and are refusing to accept bookings for recreational vehicles such as campers and trailers. RCMP Supt. Holly Turton, the officer in charge of the B.C. Highway Patrol Unit said many non-essential travellers stopped at the highway checks have turned around voluntarily after RCMP refreshed them on the rules. "I've been very impressed by the fact the people we've encountered at these road checks, by and large the vast, vast majority, are clearly engaging in essential travel. We've had to turn around very few people," Turton said.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The governor of Mexico’s resort-studded Caribbean coast said Thursday his state is at “imminent risk” of returning to lockdown as coronavirus cases there rose steadily. Gov. Carlos Joaquín said the state of Quintana Roo, home to resorts like Cancún, Cozumel and Tulum, has seen five weeks of increases in cases. Joaquín suggested that increased tourism around Easter played a role in the rise. Anecdotal evidence suggests tourists are attracted to Mexico's Caribbean resorts in part because there has been no lockdown and sanitary measures are largely voluntary. Many visitors shed their masks when they reach their hotels or beach clubs. “We knew that there were large risks during Easter week, that there could be a greater number of infections. Unfortunately, that came to pass,” Joaquín said. Rates in most of the rest of Mexico have been declining, but Quintana Roo depends on tourism for 87% of its economic activity, and has instituted no travel bans or testing requirements. Mexico has never enforced a strict, European-style lockdown, but the state currently restricts some businesses like hotels and restaurants to operating at reduced capacity. At the highest level of alert, which the state has not reached yet, many non-essential businesses would be required to shut down entirely. Joaquín said the state still has plenty of hospital beds available; hospital occupancy rates are one of the criteria used to determine whether to order business closures. The state has suffered 2,677 COVID-19 deaths to date, and almost 25,000 test-confirmed cases. However, because Mexico does so little testing, that is clearly an undercount. Only about 226,000 of the state’s 1.8 million people have been vaccinated. In late March, the state's acting police chief patrolled the streets of the resort of Tulum, reminding people to wear their masks and complaining about how few people did. “It is regrettable to see how undisciplined things have become,” Lucio Hernández Gutiérrez said at the time. “It was truly frustrating to see hundreds of people walking around without face masks,” noting that tourists were the worst offenders. The Associated Press
Every time Nicole Sparks pulls into an accessible parking spot, her heart starts racing and she asks herself, "Who's going to yell at me today?" It was no different last Saturday when Sparks, 28, parked her vehicle and started making her way into a pharmacy. The Cole Harbour, N.S., woman is missing her left arm and wears a prosthetic. "The lady in the car next to me rolled down her window and started making very derogatory comments, saying that I did not look like I was disabled so I should not be in that spot," Sparks told CBC Radio's Mainstreet this week. About a year ago, Sparks said she asked her doctor for an accessible parking pass because she'd developed carpal tunnel in her right hand, which makes it painful and difficult to carry grocery bags or push a cart. Sparks said she tried to explain that to the woman, but the stranger didn't listen. "She cut me off," said Sparks. "She started making very rude comments about my disability. She was swearing at me, and it escalated quite quickly to the point where I nearly had a panic attack. I was shaking. I couldn't get my words out." It was not the first time the mother of two faced this kind of harassment. As the provincial government moves to make Nova Scotia barrier-free by 2030, Sparks said it's time to change accessible parking permits and spots to better reflect invisible disabilities. "They need to repaint these spots and remove the wheelchair and put a more inclusive symbol because that [the wheelchair] kind of creates the idea that it's a visible disability spot, and it's not. It's an accessible spot," she said. Sparks says she's regularly accused of abusing accessible parking even though she has a permit.(Getty Images/EyeEm) A spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation said while the Motor Vehicle Act defines disability more broadly, the blue wheelchair symbol is an "international symbol of access and is universally applied worldwide." "Any change to the symbol would have to be considered in this broader context," wrote Andrea Frydl. People share similar stories On Saturday, Sparks said she even removed her prosthetic arm to show the woman in the car. "I was desperate to get them to stop to the point where I removed my own medical equipment off of my body to try and justify why I was in that spot, and that's just not fair," she said. Sparks said the encounter was the worst she's experienced, but similar incidents happen at least once a week. Sometimes people yell and swear at her. Other times, they look in her car windows to see if she has an accessible parking pass. "I also have people, you can see them looking up and down and looking at me closely, trying to find something that's wrong with me," she said. Sparks posted about her most recent experience on Facebook, and heard from many other people with disabilities who face the same treatment when they park in an accessible spot. "It's clearly a bigger problem than I would have ever imagined," she said. Sparks hopes sharing her story shows Nova Scotians that not all disabilities look the same. "There are many disabilities that are invisible, so it's not right to attack people because they're young and healthy," she said. "My car is clearly marked as accessible so people should respect that and leave me alone, but unfortunately they don't." MORE TOP STORIES
EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as a way to avoid wearing masks in public indoor places. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said Thursday that effective immediately, anyone not wearing a mask where required will need to have a medical exception letter. Wearing masks remains a "critical public health measure" to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus and there are a "limited number of health issues" for which a mask exception is possible, she said. Those include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay or cognitive impairment, mental illness disorders, facial trauma or recent oral or jaw surgery, contact dermatitis or allergic reactions to masks. "In order to verify that someone has a medical condition that makes them unable to wear a mask, Albertans with these conditions will require a medical exception letter from a health professional," Hinshaw said at a COVID-19 update. "This letter is important to have especially if requested by enforcement officials for not complying with the legal requirement to wear a mask in indoor public spaces." Hinshaw said the letters must come from a nurse practitioner, physician or psychologist. She said the change comes as a result of talks with Alberta Health Services staff as well as some publicly reported instances where people have refused to wear a mask. "There have been some incidents reported in the media where individuals who are not following public health rules are perhaps seeking loopholes or areas in the rules where it's not clear. That's sometimes challenging our local law enforcement teams," Hinshaw said. "(Masks) are not optional. They are mandatory." Alberta reported another 1,558 infections Thursday and nine more deaths. There were 722 people in hospital and 177 in intensive care. Hinshaw said Alberta has now administered more than two million COVID-19 vaccine doses and there are another 328,000 appointments for a shot in the next seven days. If vaccine supply remains constant, the province is likely to start offering second doses in June, she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's recent letter calling on the federal government to further restrict travel into and across Canada is an attempt to deflect attention away from the third pandemic wave rampaging through the province, says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. "I would encourage the premier to look at his data, listen to his health experts and let's act on the facts. And frankly, we see an effort to deflect and distract from a very serious concern that everyone has in Ontario," Blair told guest host David Common on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Thursday. "I know they've got some serious problems ... in their workplaces and in their social gatherings but their own data tells us … they had 2,320 cases reported in Ontario yesterday. Zero of those were related to travel, so frankly I would disagree." The Ford government sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau another letter this week restating requests it made in previous letters. The provincial government says it wants Ottawa to reduce the number of international flights allowed to arrive in Canada, require that Canadians take pre-departure tests before flying domestically and extend quarantine measures at Canada's airports to the land border with the United States. Blair dismissed the suggestion of restricting international flights further, saying all non-essential travel to Canada was halted 14 months ago. He also said international travel is down by 96 per cent and Canadians are returning home from abroad because they have a right to do so. As for Ford's request that domestic travellers be required to take a polymerase chain reaction test — commonly known as a PCR test — for COVID-19 before they travel, Blair said the federal government is willing to help but internal travel restrictions are a provincial responsibility. "If the premier wants to implement measures restricting travel into Ontario from anywhere domestically in Canada, he has the authority to do that and we're happy to work with him," Blair said. Land border measures working: Blair On Feb. 22, the federal government implemented new quarantine measures at airports requiring all air travellers returning from non-essential trips abroad to isolate in a federally designated facility for up to 72 hours while they await the results of a PCR test that they must take upon arrival. The three-day mandatory quarantine stay at a federally designated facility can cost as much as $2,000 per person. Ford said he wants those measures extended to the land border. "There are 117 land border points across this country and many of them are hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest hotel," said Blair. "The safest and most effective way to manage people who are arriving at our borders by land is by the system that we have put in place." Blair said Canadians returning by land from the U.S. while contained in their cars, with their families, and going directly home after their tests to quarantine for two weeks "is the safest way to manage those people." "All of the requirements of pre-arrival testing, post-arrival testing and 14 day quarantine are enforced vigorously at our land borders, and in fact we have 99.6 per cent compliance," he said. "And when people are not compliant with that, there are substantial consequences and fines that are imposed."
A man is facing two assault charges in connection with an attack in Saskatoon that sent two city road workers to hospital. Police say the city employees were working at 1st Ave. S. and 20th St. E. at about 8:20 a.m. CST on Wednesday when a man threw a shovel at one of them. When the other worker tried to step in, that person was struck with a skateboard. Before that incident, the suspect was reported to have damaged a vehicle with his skateboard. Unfortunate and kind of shocking. - City spokesperson Goran Saric The man fled and the workers were taken to hospital with minor injuries. The city's director of roadways, Goran Saric, called it an "unfortunate and kind of shocking experience." Suspect spotted kicking a bus The workers are recovering at home and the city is trying to give them all the support they need, he said. On Thursday morning, police got a call about the suspect, who had just been witnessed kicking a city bus. Police arrested a man, who has been charged with two counts of assault with a weapon. The accused, 29, is also charged with mischief over allegations he damaged property. Saric says he wants the public, including drivers, to respect city workers and be polite. "I think it's really important that people are aware that they're out there, that they're doing a job for the benefit of the entire city," he said. "They take pride in what they do."
A federal judge on Thursday sided with the state of Virginia and tossed a lawsuit filed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase over her censure by the Virginia Senate. Chase, a far-right-wing conservative state senator often at odds with even fellow Republicans, filed the lawsuit in February, a few days after her colleagues passed the censure resolution on a bipartisan vote, denouncing her for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct.” Chase was seeking a declaratory judgment that the censure violated her First Amendment rights and wanted the censure expunged and her seniority restored. Her attorney, GOP legal activist Tim Anderson, argued the censure was a stain on her candidacy for governor. Chase was one of seven Republicans competing for the party's nomination, but GOP delegates chose businessman Glenn Youngkin as the nominee on May 8. Chase has been accused of voicing support for those who participated in storming the U.S. Capitol. She herself attended a rally shortly before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but was not part of the group that later stormed the building. Chase also previously called for martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The Senate's censure resolution said she had "exhibited conduct unbecoming of a Senator during her terms in office by displaying a disregard for civility in discourse with colleagues, making false and misleading statements both in committee and on the Senate floor, and displaying a disregard for the significance of her duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth as an elected representative in the Senate of Virginia.” It also said Chase, who has refused to wear a mask amid the pandemic and sits on the Senate floor behind a large plastic barrier, has “undermined the seriousness of the pandemic by stating, ‘I don’t do COVID.’” U.S. District Judge Robert Payne agreed with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that the two defendants named by Chase — the Virginia Senate and the Clerk of the Senate — are immune from the lawsuit. Chase declined to immediately comment on the ruling. She told The Associated Press in a text message that she is on vacation this week and would be happy to comment on Monday. The state also argued in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that Chase’s claims were a political question and not for a court to decide. Sarah Rankin And Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press
A Calgary doctor has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta after engaging in a sexual relationship with a patient, creating false entries on patient charts and failing to have a chaperone present while examining female patients, as required under a previous ruling. Dr. Wequar Ahmad, a general practitioner, voluntarily withdrew from practice in 2018 when the most recent allegations surfaced. He had signed an undertaking with the college in 2014 that required a chaperone be present for all examinations of female patients. He was recently found guilty of creating false entries on the records of 13 female patients between 2014 and 2017 that stated a chaperone was present when that was not the case, according to the college. He also engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient and failed to disclose that relationship on his 2018 annual renewal form, the college said. The college says the hearing tribunal looking at the case will "reconvene at a later date to determine Dr. Ahmad's sanction."
At least 84 businesses in downtown Vancouver had to permanently close their doors during 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the State of Downtown 2020 report released on Thursday by The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, 45 per cent of businesses closed were independently owned. "There's no doubt that this has been a horrible year, 2020," Charles Gauthier, association president and CEO told CBC 's On the Coast in an interview. The report stated that Granville Street was the street the most affected by closures, as it saw at least 29 businesses shut down. "Downtown restaurants were most impacted by the pandemic and account for almost half of total street-level business closures," the report stated. Granville street saw 29 businesses close down because of the pandemic in 2020.(Ben Nelms/CBC) The report also outlined additional effects COVID-19 had on the downtown area. Working from home shrunk the daytime downtown workforce from about 116,000 people in 2019 to as few as 11,000 people in 2020. The average office occupancy in the downtown dropped as low as 10 to 30 per cent at times in 2020. Despite the challenges the pandemic has brought, Gauthier says they remain optimistic about the future. "We believe in the long term economic and social health of our downtown core and plan on working together with the City of Vancouver and other stakeholders on economic recovery initiatives," he said. The DVBIA says many downtown businesses have been able to adapt well to the current pandemic restrictions, such as restaurants which opened temporary patios when indoor dining shut down. Some downtown restaurants opened temporary patios when indoor dining shut down.(Ben Nelms/CBC) "Our downtown has fared better than a lot of North American downtowns and I believe it will come back a lot better," Gauthier said. The report also lays out suggestions for the B.C. government on how to safely reopen and welcome people back to the city. "Once restrictions are eased and it's safe to welcome people back to downtown, we need to continue to support public events and festivals," said James Anderson, a research and data analyst with the DVBIA, in a pre-recorded video presentation. With the province's vaccination plan well underway, the DVBIA says it has strong hopes for downtown Vancouver's future and expects it to bounce back better than ever. "Downtown has strong market fundamentals, a diversified economy and a robust destination brand, which makes me optimistic for the future." Gauthier said.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The Jesuit priest who presided over an inaugural Mass for President Joe Biden has resigned his position as president of Santa Clara University in Northern California, college officials said, after an investigation found he engaged in inappropriate, alcohol-fueled conversations with graduate students. The Rev. Kevin O’Brien, at the direction of Jesuit officials, has begun a therapeutic outpatient program to address personal issues, including alcohol and stress counseling. He had been president of Santa Clara University since July 2019 and was placed on leave in March. The university announced O'Brien's departure in a statement to the campus community on Wednesday that included messages from acting President Lisa Kloppenberg and board of trustees Chair John M. Sobrato. O'Brien had notified the board of his resignation Sunday and the trustees accepted it the next day. The private Jesuit institution in the Silicon Valley, founded in 1851 as the first Jesuit university in the West, is ranked as one of the top 25 schools for undergraduate teaching nationwide. California Govs. Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown are among its alumni. In a letter to the university community dated Wednesday, O’Brien wrote that he hopes to return to active ministry as a Jesuit priest after he completes the four- to six-month outpatient program. He did not give details about his conduct, writing only that there had been “accounts of my behavior over the past year in certain social settings with adults that did not meet the highest standards of decorum expected of me as a Jesuit.” “After much prayer and thought and out of deep love for Santa Clara, I have concluded that the best service I can offer to our beloved university is to step aside now," he wrote. O’Brien has known the Bidens for about 15 years; they met when he was serving at Georgetown University, another Jesuit college. O'Brien gave the service at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, one of the most prominent Catholic churches in Washington, in January for Biden, who is the nation’s second Catholic president, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, their families and elected officials before the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. He also presided over services for Biden’s inaugurations as vice president. “This is a challenging time for Santa Clara, but Fr. O’Brien has shown both generosity and freedom in wanting to do what is best for the university,” said the Rev. Scott Santarosa, head of the Jesuits West Province that conducted the investigation, in a statement. “With care for the faculty, staff, students and entire Santa Clara community, he has decided to step down.” Sobrato's statement said the investigation found that O'Brien “engaged in behaviors, consisting primarily of conversations, during a series of informal dinners with Jesuit graduate students that were inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries.” The dinners involved alcohol, Sobrato wrote, but no inappropriate behavior was discovered outside of these events. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, on Wednesday called for the Jesuits to broaden the investigation to other places O'Brien previously worked, including Georgetown University, to see if other students would come forward. “SNAP is alarmed with the limited amount of information that has been provided about the case and wants to see the probe expanded,” the statement said. The Associated Press
Ottawa has announced $2.73 million to build affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness in one of the largest Mi'kmaw communities in Nova Scotia. The 20-unit project in the Sipekne'katik First Nation will be constructed through the federal rapid housing initiative, with half of the units targeted to women and children. "This 20 that will go into our community, we're very grateful and we're happy to have," Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack said Thursday in a video conference. Sack said the contribution will help the housing crisis in Sipekne'katik, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to solve the issue. A home needs assessment completed two years ago found houses in the community needed $10 million in improvements to bring them up to standards, he said. The First Nation's housing list also indicated a need for 395 homes. A first step "This is an important investment," Kody Blois, the Liberal MP for Kings-Hants, said during the conference. "We know that this is not going to solve all issues in Sipekne'katik, but we have to start somewhere." The project received $681,340 from the Sipekne'katik First Nation, including $100,000 provided to Sipekne'katik by Indigenous Services Canada. Last month, the federal government announced $3.16 million in funding for 24 affordable housing units in the Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation and We'koqma'q First Nation as part of the rapid housing initiative. The $1-billion initiative was announced last fall to initially create up to 3,000 permanent, affordable housing units across the country. An additional $1.5 billion for the initiative was included in the recent federal budget. Original target tripled "This new funding of $1.5 billion in budget 2021 will more than triple our total target to over 9,200 units built under the rapid housing initiative," said Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of families, children and social development. "That means over 9,000 families will now have a safe and affordable place to call home." Hussen said at least 25 per cent of the new funding will go toward women-focused housing projects. All units will be constructed within 12 months of when funding is provided to the applicants. "Together we'll ensure that most vulnerable members of our communities are safe and sound," he said. HRM housing projects Last December, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said roughly $8.6 million would be used to fund rapid housing initiatives in the municipality. The funding would be shared among Adsum House, the North End Community Health Association and the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre. MORE TOP STORIES