ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Tahothoratie Cross remembers his first semester of college as being filled with feelings of isolation. But now he will soon be graduating as a student ambassador who has spent the last four years leading changes at Champlain College Saint-Lambert near Montreal. He hopes it has become a welcoming place for Indigenous students."I want to provide these opportunities to students that are coming up so that they don't have to go through those types of experiences of isolation," said Cross, who is a Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) student from Kahnawake, Que."It's important for us to do the work while we're here to make sure that students have the best experience that they can."Cross is a founding member of the Indigenous ambassadors program, which has provided Indigenous students with peer support, mentorship, leadership, and advocacy opportunities since 2016.It started after he wore a Boston Bruins jersey to class and was stopped in the hallway by David Persons, the financial aid officer at the college's student services. A conversation about hockey jumped to the struggles of isolation Cross was facing, and soon snowballed into gathering a group of other Kahnawake students to discuss improving support on campus.The program has since grown to include faculty, staff, and community partnerships. Quebec's First Nations Adult Education School Council provides guidance and support.Tanu Lusignan, executive director of the First Nations Adult Education School Council, said he heard challenges of isolation, barriers linked to the French language, and experiences with faculty and classmates who knew little about about Indigenous people as a whole."There was a sense of disconnect," said Lusignan."We wanted to reinforce and engage in ensuring that the services available at Champlain were meeting the needs of Indigenous students."Advocacy on campusThrough the program, the student ambassadors have provided input on curriculum, hosted presentations, organized awareness events, and shared experiences with faculty during professional development training. It's work that they're now paid to do as a result of a partnership with Kahnawake's economic development commission. But, for the students, it's not about the money. They're motivated to see change."We were actually given the chance to work with teachers on curriculum and other types of work, which is something that not many students actually get to do," said Cross."I think it was something important that as Indigenous students, we were able to voice our opinions on what was actually being taught to students."For Iekenhnhenhá:wi Alexa Montour, it's about the opportunity to spread awareness of her culture and language. She helped organize a two-week Indigenous awareness event that included a mural, hoop dancing, and guest speakers."Sometimes it's hard speaking to people and trying to teach them about us because I'm not a professional in that way. But it's also not hard because I'm so passionate about it," said Montour."It comes out from the heart. That's what motivates me to keep doing this."The efforts of the ambassadors led Champlain College to give a land acknowledgement for the first time at its convocation ceremony, and provide a space for an Indigenous resource centre, along with other long-term commitments."The first real success that we had was getting an Indigenous resource centre that was ours. We made it into what we wanted," said Cross."We felt that as Indigenous students, one of the things that really lacked at the school was a place for us to feel safe, a place for us to go hang out and be with people that we can connect to."Hannah McGregor-Pelletier, who is now an Indigenous ambassador from Kahnawake, said the program made an impact on her life as a student."I came in knowing that this program was happening, so I felt more comfortable and it helped me grow as a person and has helped me to be more involved," she said."It was really nice having fellow community members where I don't have to be on that much alone as I was in classrooms."Currently, only students from Kahnawake have actively been involved with the program but Cross hopes that expands in the future."We've made big strides in changing the culture of Champlain through administration and the teachers, and I hope that continues. But, I think the ultimate goal is that the ambassadors program spreads to the other English colleges in the area," he said."I just want to keep seeing it grow and grow. The more Indigenous people that we make feel comfortable in their systems is really beneficial. And the more non-Indigenous people that we can make aware of exactly who we are, I think that's the ultimate goal."
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand authorities have approved tech billionaire Sean Parker’s purchase of a one-third stake in film director Peter Jackson’s visual effects studio.Parker needed special permission from the Overseas Investment Office because he isn’t a New Zealand resident and the Weta Digital studio is worth more than 100 million New Zealand dollars ($71 million).In a decision published on its website this week, the office said Parker and his business associates had the relevant experience and were “of good character.” It said Weta Digital was raising money to grow its business.Parker, who co-founded the file-sharing service Napster and is a former president of Facebook, said in June there was a huge, unmet demand for high-quality animated content.“I have been a Weta superfan for the past two decades — I recall my sense of wonder when I first saw the character of Gollum brought to life, and later the surreal feeling of being transported to the alternate reality of Pandora," Parker said, referring to the work Weta did on Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and James Cameron's “Avatar."Parker's representative said Wednesday he had no further comment on the purchase.Weta employs about 1,550 people and is based in New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Company records indicate Jackson and collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens own just over two-thirds of the company. Weta will issue new shares for Parker, diluting Jackson's stake.Jackson could not be reached for comment.In June, Weta appointed Parker's business associate Prem Akkaraju as chief executive and said it would begin producing original content for the first time in its 25-year history.In 2016, Parker and Akkaraju founded a video-on-demand startup called Screening Room, which this year relaunched as SR Labs.Nick Perry, The Associated Press
This holiday season is going to look different for everyone, but as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, seniors across the Durham Region are especially at risk of significant challenges associated with isolation. In years past, Home Instead has lifted the spirits of seniors, making them feel remembered and cherished, with its Be a Santa to a Senior program, in which the community can purchase gifts for seniors. Community members would grab an ornament from Christmas trees located in retailers, purchase a gift and return it to be wrapped and gifted to a senior. However, due to the pandemic, Cathy Dow, owner of Home Instead for Oshawa and the surrounding area, says they had to pivot the program and offer the program in a virtual capacity by partnering with Amazon Business. “Recognizing the program’s importance, and particularly this year, and with the need to keep everyone safe, Home Instead partnered with Amazon for the first time,” she says. “We have still developed great relationships with local non-profits and organizations to facilitate the purchasing and distribution of gifts on the wish list – which is all done virtually.” She says this year’s focus is on older adults who are living in long term care, as most are with restrictions and accessibility is very limited. “It spreads holiday cheer and brightens the lives of our older adults who are alone or financially challenged during this season,” Dow adds, noting through this global pandemic, the feelings of isolation are amplified. “Providing gifts and sense of community… that has always been there and so I think this year particularly will be very comforting to many.” To help a senior this season, members of the community can visit the BeASantatoaSenior.com website and enter their postal code to view wish lists for local seniors on Amazon. A personalized greeting can be included with the gift which will be shipped directly to the senior. Since the program began in 2003, Be a Santa to a Senior has provided approximately 2.1 million gifts and brightened the holiday season for more than 750,000 seniors nationwide. “We need the community’s help more than ever to make sure seniors feel connected this year,” Dow says. “This year we knew we had to find a way to spread holiday cheer to seniors, and we are grateful for the community’s participation.”Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express
Do “self-cleaning” elevator buttons really work?Without rigorous independent studies, experts say it’s hard to verify claims of “self-cleaning” or “antiviral" surfaces that have popped up during the pandemic.But they also say you shouldn’t worry too much about how well such features really work.COVID-19 is an airborne disease. Research suggests it would be difficult to catch the virus from surfaces like an elevator button.“You get it through what you breathe, not through what you touch,” said Emanuel Goldman, who studies viruses at Rutgers University.Studies showing the virus can survive several hours on plastic or metal surfaces do not mimic real-life conditions, said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford Health Care.Companies are selling antibacterial and antiviral elevator button or door handle covers. But building or office managers looking to protect employees or tenants would be better off buying hand-sanitizing stations instead, Winslow said.And anyone wanting to avoid the virus should continue taking regular public health precautions: mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding indoor events, bars, dining and gyms.Routine hand washing is also recommended, whether there's a pandemic or not, Goldman said.___The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.Read previous Viral Questions:Are dining tents a safe way to eat out during the pandemic?Do masks with antiviral coating offer more protection?Will social distancing weaken my immune system?The Associated Press
With two old rivals facing off in Ghana's presidential election on Dec. 7 amid familiar economic woes, many voters are paying more attention to a new element in the political mix - the first ever female vice-presidential candidate for a major party. Former education minister Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman hopes that the decision of Ghana's main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to nominate her as its candidate for vice-president will inspire other women to enter politics.
Scotland just passed a law to make sanitary products free for all. What have other countries done for women around the world?
A Markham, Ont. man who rented a dozen luxury homes and turned them into rooming houses has been ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution to the landlords within 10 days or he'll be arrested and jailed for four months.The penalty comes after Arif Adnan Syed was found in contempt of court last month for failing to comply with an Ontario Superior Court of Justice order compelling him to turn all of the properties back into single-family residences.In a scathing nine-page decision, Justice Mark Edwards made it clear that he didn't accept Syed's assertion that he was struggling financially or that Syed had tried his best to empty the houses of occupants."The fact that Syed continued to accept rent is a further reflection of his real intentions," Edwards said. "Syed had no intention to restore the residences to their former status as single-family residences until he was staring down the barrel of a contempt motion."In terms of finances, the Superior Court judge said that Syed's own evidence shows he's not struggling. Syed testified that he received an average of $500 a month for each room he rented and so could have been making roughly $40,000 a month across the properties when he had 90 renters.$208K deposited to bank account in 1 monthSyed's bank account statements also show total monthly deposits ranging from roughly $30,000 to $208,000 and total monthly withdrawals as high as $216,000 during the months he was leasing at least some of the luxury homes."What the bank account statements do seem to reveal are substantial cash withdrawals during the currency of Syed's fraud that he has perpetrated on the plaintiffs," Edwards said.WATCH | Landlords who rented their homes inspect the damage:One regular transaction the judge considered notable was a monthly $5,123 lease payment, which Edwards said was "presumably the monthly lease of Syed's Lamborghini sports car.""The fact that Syed is leasing a Lamborghini sports car does not measure up with his assertion that he is 'struggling,'" the judge said.In a phone interview after Wednesday's hearing, Syed told CBC News that he is struggling financially now but wasn't at the time of the bank statements."I respect the court decision, and I have started working on it," he said. "And I will try my best to have the restitution paid out within 10 days."Landlords say homes sustained up to $1M in damage Despite the strong words, the decision by Edwards is all bark and no bite in the eyes of at least one of the landlords.> "We're going to be paid less than [Syed] pays every single month to lease his precious Lamborghini." \- John DaviesJohn Davies said the $36,000 the judge awarded in restitution is "ludicrous" given how little each of the 12 landlords will get to help restore their homes once the funds are split among them. "[The judge] said that he's going to award substantial damages, and we get insulted with a payment of $3,000 a house," Davies said. "We're going to be paid less than [Syed] pays every single month to lease his precious Lamborghini."CBC News previously reported on efforts by Davies and the other landlords to reclaim their luxury homes after Edwards voided their leases in late September. The landlords say the illegal rooming houses have caused up to $1 million in damage across their 12 properties in Richmond Hill, Markham and Thornhill, all in the Greater Toronto Area.The remaining occupants in three of the 12 houses are set to be evicted on Thursday.Syed is also facing 17 fraud-related criminal charges for allegedly using fake identification documents in his applications to rent the houses. None of the charges have been proven in court. Penalty means 'nefarious activities' will continueDavies told CBC News that Syed owes him $40,000 — a year's worth of rent — and estimates that it will cost $70,000 to $80,000 to repair the damage the rooming house caused to his Thornhill home."This is a recipe for the courts encouraging criminals to carry on with their nefarious activities," he said. "Other people are going to say, 'My goodness, I can do that, too. I can start doing that because I can get away with it.'"In his decision Edwards said the restitution money is to give the landlords "a means to clean up and begin the repair of their homes," since it was "impossible" to determine how much damage was done to all of the properties based on the evidence in the contempt hearing.The judge said damage claims will have to be made "as the action proceeds."Along with the $36,000 in restitution, Edwards also ordered Syed to pay $65,000 in legal costs for the proceeding, including an overdue $15,000 payment he had been ordered to make previously.Syed told CBC News he's working on paying the restitution first and will then turn to the legal costs.Davies said he doesn't think that Syed will pay those costs. But even if they are paid, the landlord said it won't cover all of the legal fees he and other landlords have accrued trying to get their houses back."How the hell can somebody get away with this level of fraud, dishonesty and criminal activity — and it's the innocent that have to pay for it?" he said.
Kim Zavesky is desperate to return to her home in Golden, B.C.After retiring last year, she and her husband — both Americans — sold their house in Chandler, Ariz., and moved most of their belongings to their second home in Golden, in southeastern British Columbia.The plan was to rent a place in the United States for the first part of the year and spend the rest of the year in Golden. But then the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential traffic in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, blocking the couple from accessing their Canadian property."All my stuff is there, all my documents except for my passport," Zavesky said. "It's like not being able to go home."Adding to her frustration is the fact that, despite the border closure, Canadians can still fly to the U.S for leisure travel. That includes snowbirds who are currently flocking to the Sunbelt states."The unfairness of it really bothers me," Zavesky said. "Whatever the rules are, I just feel like it should be the same."Although Canada and the U.S. agreed to close their shared border to non-essential travel during the pandemic, they each crafted their own policies. That has sparked some confusion and frustration because the rules vary — depending on which border you're crossing.Political scientist Don Abelson said the different rules between the two countries isn't surprising."You're still dealing with two sovereign countries who have jurisdiction over their own border, and they certainly have jurisdiction and responsibility for developing their own policies," said Abelson, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. Snowbirds OK to fly southThe Canada-U.S. land border is set to stay closed until Dec. 21, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implied on Tuesday that the date could be extended."The [COVID-19] situation in the United States continues to be extremely serious," he said on CBC Radio's The Current.Since the start of the border closure, the Canadian government has barred Americans from entering for non-essential travel by all modes of transport.But while the U.S. has barred Canadian travellers from crossing by land, it still allows them to fly into the country. The U.S. has declined to tell CBC News why it made this decision, but in general, its air travel restrictions are less stringent than Canada's.Despite soaring COVID-19 infections in the U.S., a number of Canadians have taken advantage of the flying exemption, including snowbirds who are heading south to escape the Canadian winter."No way in hell we're staying here," said Claudine Durand of Lachine, Que.If the land border is still closed when Durand and her husband head to Florida in late January, they plan to use a new service offered by Transport KMC. The Quebec company flies snowbirds — and transports their vehicles — across the Quebec-New York border."Basically, it solves our problem because we want to take our RV down," Durand said, adding that she plans to take all COVID-19 safety precautions while in Florida.The federal government advises Canadians not to travel abroad for non-essential travel during the pandemic but says it can't prevent people from leaving.Those who do must quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Canada.Family exemptionsCanada and the U.S. also have different rules for family member exemptions.Following protests from families separated by the border shutdown, the Canadian government loosened its travel restrictions in June to allow Americans with certain immediate family in Canada to enter the country for any reason by both land and air.In October, the government further widened the exemptions to include additional family members, as well as couples who've been together for at least a year.Conversely, the U.S. offers no exemptions for Canadians crossing into the country by land to visit family, unless they're tending to a sick relative.U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders suggests the U.S. hasn't bothered to loosen the restrictions as the pandemic drags on because separated family members can still fly to the country."There's a huge alternative," said Saunders, who's based in Blaine, Wash. "There's no restrictions on flying."WATCH | Some Canadians decide to spend winter in U.S. amid COVID-19:One affected group that has found no way around the federal government's travel restrictions are Americans who own property in Canada. Some of them argue they, too, should get an exemption to enter the country."I pay [property] taxes. I would more than live by the rules," said Zavesky, who points out she has a place where she can quarantine for 14 days — her home in Golden, B.C.Mark Brosch of Atlanta owns a cottage in Muskoka Lakes, Ont. He said he believes he should be allowed to enter Canada so he can check on a property that has sat vacant for 10 months."I get across the border and I go to my cottage and quarantine for 14 days," he said. "I am less of a risk to the public in Muskoka than the people that travel back and forth from Toronto every weekend."When asked about property owners, the Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News in an email that U.S. visitors will be allowed to re-enter Canada when it's deemed safe to do so."Travel into Canada for tourism and recreation purposes is currently prohibited, regardless of the ability of the traveller to quarantine for the full 14 days upon arrival," spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said.
Ask around in Montreal, and you will likely find someone who was brought into this world by Dr. Alice Benjamin.She has delivered more than 10,000 babies over the course of her career. She has delivered babies, and then delivered those babies' babies. In one family, she has been obstetrician to a mother, her grown daughter and soon, she will deliver the granddaughter's baby.In more than 40 years as an obstetrician, she has seen difficult labours and struggles."But you never get tired of a birth, and that good outcome, and that first cry. You always wait to hear it. The whole room is silent. Didn't you hear that first cry, the most joyous thing?"Half of medicine, Benjamin says, is common sense, not just following what's in the textbooks.But many will say medicine is also about connecting with patients and making them feel heard and safe, something she has done countless times during her career.Last week, Benjamin, an attending obstetrician at the Royal Victoria Hospital, was appointed to the Order of Canada as an officer, "a recognition of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation," for her work in the field of maternal-fetal medicine. She follows women with high-risk pregnancies.'A special privilege'Benjamin was born in Piravom, India, and went to medical school at the University of Delhi before coming to Canada in 1971. She was interested in internal medicine, but decided to pursue obstetrics because it gave her "the privilege" of taking care of two patients — mother and child.She started out in Toronto and eventually made her way to Montreal when her husband was transferred here, snagging the last residency spot at McGill.She knew no one but says she felt welcomed from the start.WATCH | Dr. Alice Benjamin reflects on 40 years of deliveriesHer accomplishments are many: she established a high-risk obstetrics day centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital and created clinics for diabetic and renal patients that helped reduce stillbirths and miscarriages. She delivered a baby whose cord-blood stem cells were harvested and used for a bone-marrow transplant that saved the mother's life.She is a knight of the Order of Quebec. A foundation named after her helps send McGill University students and residents to developing countries to observe how obstetrics is practised there.To her patients, the soft-spoken 75-year-old, affectionately known as Dr. B, is deserving of every accolade she's received because she goes above and beyond at a time when they are often feeling vulnerable.She said she believes patients make the doctor, and the relationship she has with her patients is very sacred. She sees it as a nine-month trust-building process that, hopefully, culminates in a healthy baby."It is a special privilege to participate in that life-changing event of that couple. I don't take that for granted."Cosmically connectedNearly 29 years ago, Benjamin was there when Kelly Laparé was born. Laparé's mother's pregnancy was high-risk due to a genetic condition, and Benjamin was her doctor.Laparé has that same condition, and in a matter of weeks, Benjamin will be the one to deliver Laparé's first baby, who has the condition as well."There's no separating us really, on a cosmic level," Laparé said.As she counts the days until her Dec. 30 delivery date, Laparé said she is grateful to be under Benjamin's care. Due to the pandemic, her fiancé hasn't been able to enter the hospital for her appointments."If I didn't know that I was being followed by the best of the best — if he didn't know —I think we probably would have been much more uncomfortable with the situation. It's just an added level of relief."Cinzia Tartaglia first met Benjamin in 2010. Tartaglia was referred to Benjamin's clinic by her surgeon after having a cyst removed from her ovary and being diagnosed with endometriosis.The first few months of her pregnancy were tough, and she had to see the doctor quite a bit. Even with a waiting room full of patients, Tartaglia said as soon as she entered the examination room, it was like no one else existed.Her first daughter was born that October, and the delivery didn't go smoothly. Tartaglia remembers that Benjamin took the time to check on her afterward."I've encountered many doctors in my life, and her gift of humanity and her humility is just — it's something you can't put into words."For the first part of his life, Dr. Roy Eappen, an endocrinologist at St. Mary's Hospital, called Benjamin "Auntie Alice" — she was friends with his mother, and she came from the same part of India as his parents.He said she is an "amazing, amazing lady" whom everyone always thought very highly of.Benjamin delivered many members of their community and helped others get pregnant, he said, but she was also always there if people needed financial or other kinds of medical help too.Later, she was his teacher in medical school."I had already admired her before, but I saw how great she was with her patients and I tried to emulate her," he said.Almost all his female physician friends have been Benjamin's patients — a sign of how confident people are in her, he said.Eappen said he believes the Order of Canada honour is long overdue, but he also knows Benjamin would never say she deserves the praise she receives."She really is humble. I think that's one of the reasons why everyone likes her so much. She doesn't put on airs, and she could if she wanted to."An honour to be nationally recognizedBenjamin says she is honoured that she was named to the Order of Canada, but she doesn't feel like she did anything special to deserve it."I'm surprised that my name is even included there along with all these important people, to be honest," she said."I enjoy what I've been doing all these years."She was the only woman in her class when she first started at McGill, which she has watched change over the years.Starting in January, Benjamin will take a step back. She will see patients at the clinic, but their babies will be delivered by the doctor on call.Even though she knows it might be hard for her in the beginning, she wants to leave the deliveries to the younger generation. When she teaches, she tells her students to do the same thing she did to prove herself, as a girl in a class of boys, all those years ago."The advice I have, and I tell all my residents, is work hard and do it with passion."
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s disaster authority and the U.S. Geological Survey say a 5.0 magnitude earthquake has struck Siirt in southeastern Turkey.The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, or AFAD, said Thursday there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the quake that hit at a depth of 20 kilometres (12 miles) at 8:45 a.m. (0545 GMT).Turkey is crisscrossed by fault lines and was hit by two strong tremors this year -- one that hit the western port city of Izmir last month, killing 117 people, and another in Elazig province, killing 41 people.At least 17,000 people died in a powerful earthquake in northwest Turkey in 1999.The Associated Press
Annamie Paul made history two months ago when she became the first Black permanent leader of a federal party in Canada — but polls suggest she has yet to make an impact on support for the Green Party she leads.When Elizabeth May resigned as Green leader after the 2019 election, she gave up her spot as the longest-serving leader of any Canadian party with seats in a provincial legislature or the House of Commons.That change at the top doesn't seem to have registered with the average Canadian. Not yet, at least.When Paul took over the Greens on Oct. 3, the party had the support of 6.1 per cent of Canadians, according to the CBC's Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data. Today, support for the Green Party is one-tenth of a percentage point lower — essentially unchanged.Support for the Greens has been stable in every part of the country, with shifts of no more than 0.3 percentage points in the Poll Tracker over the last two months in every region except Atlantic Canada and British Columbia.WATCH: Green Party Leader Annamie Paul reacts to the Trudeau government's fiscal updateB.C. and Atlantic Canada are the only places where the federal Greens have seats, making them very important places for the party. But the Greens' position has only improved marginally in both regions — up 0.9 points in B.C. and 1.1 points in Atlantic Canada.While that's a (small) positive trend for Paul, it still puts her well below the party's performance in the 2019 election, when the Greens took just over 12 per cent of the vote in B.C. and Atlantic Canada. Today, the party still stands at under 10 per cent in the two regions.The Greens' two seats in B.C. are not in much danger. May, who intends to run again, won her seat of Saanich–Gulf Islands by a margin of 29 points last year. Running as an incumbent MP, rather than a national leader, is not likely to put much of a dent in May's support.Paul Manly won the neighbouring riding of Nanaimo–Ladysmith for the Greens by just under nine points.The third Green seat — Jenica Atwin's in Fredericton — might be somewhat at risk if the Greens don't increase their support in Atlantic Canada. She won the riding by 3.3 points — but the Greens are scoring 3.4 points lower in the region as a whole now than they did in last year's election.Paul needs to become better knownNew leaders can enjoy a bit of a honeymoon after being installed in their new posts. But that doesn't always happen — especially when a new leader was relatively unknown before taking the job.When Justin Trudeau took over the Liberals in 2013, he already had a high public profile and his party got a boost in the polls that lasted for two years.The comparatively unknown Andrew Scheer got no such immediate boost when he became Conservative leader in 2017. Under their new leader Erin O'Toole, who just marked his 100th day as Scheer's replacement, the Conservatives stand only one percentage point higher in the polls than they did before O'Toole won the leadership at the end of August.Paul has a similarly low profile. A recent poll by Abacus Data found that just 29 per cent of Canadians had a strong enough view of Paul to form either a positive or a negative impression of her. Those opinions were split down the middle — 15 per cent positive to 14 per cent negative.Another 32 per cent said they had a neutral opinion of her, while 40 per cent admitted they didn't know enough about her to say either way.That combined 72 per cent who were either neutral or didn't know enough about Paul is higher than such ratings for other party leaders, according to Abacus Data. When O'Toole became leader, 56 per cent of Canadians had either a neutral opinion of him or none at all. That number was 57 per cent for the NDP's Jagmeet Singh and 61 per cent for Scheer when they both became party leaders in 2017. It was just 36 per cent for Trudeau in 2013.It's clear that Paul hasn't yet made much of a personal impression with voters. Just 1.8 per cent of Canadians think Paul would make the best prime minister, according to the latest results from Nanos Research. Over the past few years, May never scored below two per cent.Can the Greens repeat their Toronto Centre performance?These are just polls, though. How do they square with the Greens' impressive performance in the Toronto Centre byelection on Oct. 26?Reprising her candidacy in the riding in the 2019 election, Paul increased her share of the vote by 25.6 points, closing the gap on the Liberals' Marci Ien to less than 10 points. That was quite a showing in a solid Liberal seat where the Greens have little history of strong results.Paul can take credit for that. The Green vote share in nearby York Centre, which also held a byelection on Oct. 26, fell 0.7 points from the last election. That boost in Toronto Centre was because of Paul.The danger for the Greens, however, is that they might take the wrong lesson from those results.It's easier for candidates to have more influence in a byelection — when turnout is low and voters are more attuned to who is on the ballot — than in a general election. Paul is from Toronto and her gains were impressive, but she will need another big lift to take the seat during a national campaign when her attention — and that of voters — might be elsewhere.The Greens would be better advised to find Paul a seat with a pre-existing base of Green support upon which she can build. There are ridings in B.C., southwestern Ontario and Prince Edward Island that could fit the bill. May did that in 2011 when she decamped to Vancouver Island after failing to win a seat in 2008 in Nova Scotia, where she grew up.As the head of a small party without official status in the House of Commons, it's not easy for a Green leader to build a national profile. Paul still has her work cut out for her — at least until the next general election campaign gives her more of the spotlight.
Two Rohingya told Reuters their names appeared on lists compiled by government-appointed local leaders without their consent, while aid workers said officials used threats and enticements to pressure people into going. Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the relocation was voluntary. Police escorted the first group of 1,000 refugees in buses from Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and then on to Bhasan Char – a flood-prone Bay of Bengal island that emerged from the sea 20 years ago.
Regina– When the COVID-19 vaccine comes, Saskatchewan will be ready. That’s according to Minister of Health Paul Merriman, who started the Dec. 2 COVID-19 update talking about upcoming vaccines, the first of which, made by Pfizer, received emergency approval in the United Kingdom on that very day. “Near the start of this pandemic, I remember Premier Moe saying, ‘This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon,’” Merriman said. “That is still true today. And we still have a long way to go in this marathon. Even marathons have a finish line. And now we know where that finish line is. “The finish line is when we have delivered a safe, effective vaccine to a significant number of Saskatchewan residents. That's where life can truly start getting back to normal. “Saskatchewan Health and the SHA (Saskatchewan Health Authority) have already done a lot of work, getting ready to deliver this vaccine. They will have a more detailed presentation on that plan sometime next week. For now, I want everybody to know: We in Saskatchewan are ready to go. “As soon as the federal government is able to start delivering the vaccine to us, we will be ready to deliver that to Saskatchewan people quickly and safely. “This is a huge undertaking involving thousands of healthcare workers, and other support staff, transportation, storage, and many other logistical issues. But let me assure you, we will be ready. Healthcare workers, elderly first Merriman continued, “Premier Moe and I have directed all necessary resources be directed to this effort. Based on the advice of public health officials, we will be prioritizing who will receive it first. There'll be more detail on this presentation next week. But it's no surprise that we expect healthcare workers, and the residents in our long-term care and personal care homes to receive the first vaccines. “We do not yet have an exact timeline on when we will be receiving these vaccines. The federal government is now saying the first deliveries will be early in the new year. Saskatchewan’s per capita share that we should be receiving in the first quarter of 2021 is about 180,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 90,000 people. This is just based on the deliveries from Pfizer and Moderna, who have applied for their vaccine approvals. In the last few days two more companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have also applied to have their vaccines approved. This could result in more vaccines being delivered, even quicker. When that occurs, we will be ready to start receiving the shipments. And we will also be ready to go. “This is how we get back to normal in Saskatchewan. This is how our health system will get back to normal. This is how our economy will get back to normal. This is how our lives will get back to normal. It is quite literally the shot in the arm that Saskatchewan needs. And be ready to deliver that shot in the arm, as soon as the federal government starts getting us that vaccine. Until then, we all have to keep following the public orders and guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Keep physical distancing. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Limit your close contacts and stay home, if you're not feeling well. And follow the other good practices that we know to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It's how we keep ourselves, and those around us safe,” Merriman said. New Democratic Party Leader Ryan Meili told reporters, “I was concerned that the minister didn't understand his responsibility yesterday. This government should be talking about vaccine readiness and encouraging people to learn about the vaccine and get ready to take it, ready to protect each other. “They failed when it came to masks, getting people ready and promoting that early. They helped create this anti-mask pushback that we see in the in the province, with their mixed messages. They need to be ready and be promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, because it is essential, if we're going to get past this. And we're going to need more than the vaccine. It's not enough to wait to the vaccine and have a terrible December and January, and who knows when we actually get it. We need to act now. But we also need to act now, to get people ready for when the vaccine is here.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 41 confirmed COVID-19 patients, took the highly competitive university entrance exam Thursday despite a viral resurgence that forced authorities to toughen social distancing rules.About 426,340 students were taking the one-day exam at about 1,380 sites across the nation, including hospitals and other medical facilities where the 41 virus patients and hundreds of other test-takers in self-quarantine sat separately from others, according to the Education Ministry.The annual exam, called “Suneung,” or College Scholastic Ability Test, is crucial in the education-obsessed country, where job prospects, social standing and even who you marry can often depend on which university you attend.Defence and land ministries said they temporarily banned military exercises and stopped air traffic to reduce noise during the English-language listening parts of Thursday’s exam, as they did in past years. Government offices and many private companies asked their employees to come in late, and the country’s stock market delayed its opening to clear roads for test-takers.This year’s exam had been originally scheduled for November but was delayed due to the virus outbreak. Experts say on-and-off online classes have widened the gap between high achievers and low performing students due to reduced interaction with teachers, digital distractions and technical difficulties.“If the exam had been delayed again, our kids would have felt much more psychological pressure ... I think it’s fortunate the exam is taking place now,” said Kim Sun-wha, the mother of a test-taker. “I hope everyone will avoid making mistakes, do their best and get good results.”Mothers hugged their children and patted their backs before they entered a temporary exam site set up at a high school in Seoul. One shouted, “Don’t be nervous! Do Well!” and another screamed “Cheer up!”Students were required to have their temperature taken before entering the test sites, wear masks throughout the exam and maintain their distance from each other. They had to bring their own water and lunch because they weren't allowed to use water purifiers or drinking fountains at the sites or go outside to get meals. Those with a fever were to go to separate testing areas. There were a total of 1,383 sites, an increase of 198 from last year, according to the Education Ministry.In recent days, the government has urged the public to stay home and avoid social gatherings as much as possible to provide a safe environment for those taking the exams. Park Yu-mi, an anti-virus official in Seoul, said authorities asked companies to have at least one-third of their employees work from home.There are worries that the nationwide exam could accelerate the spread of the virus.During a briefing Thursday, health official Lee Sang-won said he felt “really sorry” that he had to ask students to be vigilant and avoid gatherings even after the exam is over.“I’d like to offer words of consolation to test-takers who have studied and come to take the exam under a particularly difficult situation,” Lee said. “I want to tell you to put aside stress and enjoy yourselves fully (after the test), but it’s regrettable that I can’t say that under the current situation.”South Korea has relatively successfully contained previous viral outbreaks this year thanks to its internationally acclaimed rapid tracing, testing and treatment strategy, combined with the widespread public use of masks. But it’s now grappling with a spike in infections after it eased distancing rules in October. Authorities last week restored stringent distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.On Thursday, South Korea reported 540 new cases, taking the total to 35,703 with 529 deaths.___Associated Press journalists Kim Tong-hyung and Kim Yong Ho contributed to this report.Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press
For Pascal Imperato, acommunicable disease epidemiologist who in 1976 was in charge of immunizing New York City against a potential swine flu epidemic, the effort to vaccinate the population against COVID-19 feels like a familiar challenge."We were going to vaccinate six million people in six weeks," he said in a phone interview. "And we were absolutely certain we could pull it off. And we would have."Would have, because, ultimately, the largest national immunization program that had ever been undertaken in the U.S. was cut short as the epidemic never materialized, and public skepticism about the program began to mount.Still, while the COVID-19 pandemic is very real, and the population is much larger, the vaccination program of 1976 may offer some lessons as governments around the world prepare to inoculate the public at large."If the program is well organized, mobilizing all of the resources that are capable of administering this vaccine, there [shouldn't] be any problem whatsoever," Imperato said. In March 1976, the administration of then president Gerald Ford launched a $137 million US nation-wide vaccination program to immunize every American citizen by the end of the year.The diagnosis of swine flu on a New Jersey army base had led to panic among top U.S. scientists and officials who feared the disease could spread and potentially precipitate a health crisis similar to the deadly Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.Even though it was cut short, by December 1976 more than 40 million Americans — about one-fifth of the population — had been vaccinated, and about 650,000 in New York City.Utilizing volunteers, setting up sitesImperato said that on any given day they had about 900 people who were involved in getting the vaccine out to the general public. That included 500 to 600 volunteers who were recruited each day through the city's chapter of the American Red Cross.University graduates, sanitary inspectors and public health nursing assistants were also hired and trained to use automatic jet injectors and to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Sixty vaccination sites were established in places that included schools and police precincts."Anywhere we could," said Imperato, who is the founding dean and distinguished service professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health.As well, 15 mobile teams were created to vaccinate over 40,000 people in more than 200 nursing homes and about 100,000 people in 150 senior citizen centres."This required military organization, if you will, and we were able to put together a team and put into place the people that we needed to bring this about," he said.A great deal of administrative and clerical support goes into a program of this kind, he said."We have to have people register. We had to have as much information about them as possible, because we needed to know who we were vaccinating and if any of them had any reaction. We had to have teams of people checking on adverse events."Local capacity can be the 'weak link'Nationwide, however, there were some logistical problems, saidHarvey Fineberg, a physician who was tasked with co-authoring a review into the 1976 Swine flu vaccine program.The actual immunizations were quite erratic in their frequency in different communities, he said."So a lesson that's still relevant today, whether in different provinces in Canada or different states and counties and the U.S., is the local capacity," he said."That last mile, getting the immunization into the arms of the recipients, that's the weak link in the chain."What made the difference was the degree of organization and capacity of the public health departments in each community to plan and administer the vaccine, Fineberg said."So it wasn't that it was only cities or only rural, rich or poor. It boiled down to ability to deliver."WATCH | Experts discuss strategies for Canada's COVID-19 vaccine rollout Dealing with 'coincident events'But one of the more significant problems of the program was the poor job officials did in communicating to the public when headlines emerged linking potential adverse effects to the vaccine, experts say."There are definitely — and this is going to be true this coming year — there will be coincident events," Fineberg said."Preparing the public for expected coincidences simply because stuff happens every day, that's really, really key," he said.During the 1976 vaccination program, three elderly people in Pittsburgh had heart attacks after receiving their vaccine. The publicity and headlines it generated led to a handful of states suspending their vaccination programs while they investigated a potential association, said George Dehner, an associate professor of history at Witchita State Univeristy and author of Influenza: A Century of Science and Public Health.While no link to the vaccination was found, polls at the time showed a significant decrease in the number of people who said they would get the vaccine because they feared some adverse effect, Dehner said.There will be a certain expected death rate of people of a certain age on any given day, Pascal said. And what one has to look at is the death rate above the expected rate when running an immunization program."And so the CDC in this particular case did not do a good job of anticipating that and explaining that," Dehner said.But the vaccination rollout also saw dozens of people come down with the rare neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome at a much higher rate than would be expected. Unlike the heart attacks, where no link was found, a scientific review has found there was an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome after the swine flu vaccinations, according to the CDC. The exact reason for this link remains unknown.In a 2009 interview with the The Bulletin, the health journal of the World Health Organization, Fineberg said those cases wouldn't have been "a blip on the screen had there been a pandemic but, in the absence of any swine flu disease, these rare events were sufficient to end the programme." Focus on science, not politicsWhen Guillain-Barre syndrome increased, some members of the public "became very skeptical and saw the whole thing as politically based, and not science-based," said Richard Wenzel, emeritus chairman and professor of the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University."There was a concern that maybe politics was driving some public health responses," he said."One of the things that I would say we're still trying to learn is: policy should be scientifically based.... whoever gives the message has to say, 'Here's what we know; here's what we don't know; and here are the assumptions we're making currently that guide our policy.'"That sounds simple, but it's rarely done, even today."
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 Dec. 3 ... What we are watching in Canada ... The Liberal government is set to introduce long-awaited legislation today to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2019 election campaign to introduce such a bill, developed with Indigenous people, by the end of this year. The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, which the House of Commons passed two years ago. That bill stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences, and then died when Parliament dissolved. The UN declaration, which Canada endorsed in 2010, affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands. It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights. --- Also this ... The trial of a teen boy accused of sexually assaulting two fellow students at a renowned Toronto high school is set to continue today. The teen has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon in connection with two incidents at St. Michael's College School in the fall of 2018. Earlier this week, court viewed part of a video in which one of the complainants, also a teen boy, told police about an October 2018 incident in the school's locker room. In the video, the complainant recalled hearing a group of students laugh as they held back his arms and sexually assaulted him with a broom handle after football practice. The role of the accused was not specified in the portion of the video played in court, and the complainant did not mention him by name in that part of the footage. More of the video is expected to be shown in today's hearing, which is taking place in court and over video conference. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... Advocates and lawyers anticipate a flurry of clemency action from U.S. President Donald Trump in the coming weeks that could test the limits of presidential pardon power. Trump is said to be considering a slew of pardons and commutations before he leaves office, including potentially members of his family, former aides and even himself. While it is not unusual for presidents to sign controversial pardons on their way out the door, Trump has made clear that he has no qualms about intervening in the cases of friends and allies whom he believes have been treated unfairly, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The list of potential candidates is long and colourful: Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, imprisoned for financial crimes as part of the Russia investigation; George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, just like Flynn; Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. “Joe Exotic," who starred in the Netflix series “Tiger King”; and former contractors convicted in a Baghdad firefight that killed more than a dozen civilians, including women and children. Trump, long worried about potential legal exposure after he leaves office, has expressed worry to confidants in recent weeks that he, his family or his business might be targeted by president-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department, although Biden has made clear he won't be part of any such decisions. Nonetheless, Trump has had informal conversations with allies about how he might be able to protect his family, though he has not taken any steps to do so. His adult children haven't requested pardons nor do they feel they need them, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are slated to speak at the UN General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives, shattered economies, and left tens of millions of people unemployed in countries rich and poor. Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said when he took the reins of the 193-member world body in September that it would have been better to hold the high-level meeting in June. Nonetheless, he said Wednesday it "provides a historic moment for us to come together to beat COVID-19." "With news of multiple vaccines on the cusp of approval, and with trillions of dollars flowing into global recovery efforts, the international community has a unique opportunity to do this right," he said. "The world is looking to the UN for leadership. This is a test for multilateralism." When financial markets collapsed and the world faced its last great crisis in 2008, major powers worked together to restore the global economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been striking for the opposite response: no leader, no united action to stop the pandemic that has circled the globe. --- On this day in 1970 ... The "October Crisis" ended when British Trade Commissioner James Cross was released by his FLQ kidnappers in Montreal. Cross was seized from his home in October, and another FLQ cell later kidnapped and murdered Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte on Oct. 17. --- In entertainment ... William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander Capt. James T. Kirk in "Star Trek," has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal COVID-19 app rather than its own. Shatner writes, “you just need to get Alberta on board,” adding that the province cannot go its own way in a world interconnected by travel. Shatner writes Alberta’s approach is, “bizarre and dangerous,” but also says “what do I know? I’m just an actor.” Premier Jason Kenney’s government has avoided signing onto the federal app, saying it’s not as effective because Alberta’s app is connected to contact tracing rather than simply delivering notifications of close contacts. Alberta’s app has tracked down just a handful of cases in six months, but the government says the program will be more effective as more people sign on. --- ICYMI ... Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is accusing the City of St. John's of taking Christmas away from the residents of a subdivision he developed on the city's outskirts. Williams says that just as he did last year, he recently installed a 10-metre Christmas tree in the centre of a traffic roundabout in the Galway subdivision, which was developed by his company DewCor. But this year, he says the city took issue with the tree, requiring that he take out an insurance policy and asking him to keep it unlit due to traffic concerns. In a statement emailed Wednesday, city staff in the transportation engineering department say they're open to considering other locations for the tree in Galway that don't interfere with an intersection. Kevin Breen, the St. John's city manager says the tree went up last year without a permit. Meanwhile, the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl has offered to give the tree a proper home with lights, and Williams says the tree will be delivered there within the next two days. "All's well that ends well," Williams said in an interview. "It's going to the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl, and to be quite honest with you, if Galway could be part of Mount Pearl, that would be my choice." --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020 The Canadian Press
Ottawa's success at reducing its COVID-19 case count — and keeping it relatively low — over the past two months may be unique in the world, say Canadian epidemiologists."I don't know any other city like Ottawa in the world," said Doug Manuel, a physician and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital."The leader board has changed," said Manuel. "We were [among] the highest in the country not even two months ago, and now we're bucking the trend internationally."But as much as experts say Ottawans should be proud of their accomplishment, they also warn that a slip in following the rules — keeping two metres apart, wearing masks, and especially not socializing outside our own households — could rapidly lay all that hard work to waste.'It's pretty remarkable'In mid-October, Ottawa saw its COVID-19 infection rate reached 132 active cases per 100,000 residents — higher than Toronto's and many other Canadian cities. The people of Ottawa were shocked. There were official warnings, there were public scoldings and there was a four-week partial lockdown. That seemed to work, as Ottawa's COVID-19 daily case count has been generally declining for the past seven weeks.Our infection rate now sits at 29.5 per 100,000 residents, which is still serious enough to keep us in the "orange" or intermediate zone of the province's five-tier system for scoring COVID-19 severity. But our stats keep us well away from the top-level grey zone that Toronto and surrounding municipalities find themselves in.It's not that other cities aren't also seeing their COVID-19 numbers come down, said Manuel, but in other places around the globe, the cases are generally declining from a relatively high level. For example, in London, England, the number of new daily coronavirus cases has fallen by about half over the last four weeks of an economic lockdown in that country, but there are still 154 active cases per 100,000 residents."We kind of woke up and got some messages and got back together when we were about 100 to 150 cases a day," said Manuel. "I don't know anyone who's done that.… It's pretty remarkable." Great public health, white-collar populationColin Furness, an epidemiologist and assistant professor with the faculty of information at the University of Toronto, said Ottawa is "absolutely going in the opposite direction to almost everybody else," especially in the northern hemisphere.He believes Ottawa's success is due largely to the capital's demographics and its public health leadership.The relatively large proportion of government and high-tech jobs in Ottawa means that many more people are able to work from home than in other cities."You've also got a population that is educated and able and compliant and therefore equipped to respond," he said. "And so the outcome was quite positive." Furness also gives kudos to Dr. Vera Etches and the team at Ottawa Public Health for their ability to reach out to the community with the ever-shifting advice on how to keep COVID-19 at bay."You've got excellent public health leadership in Ottawa," Furness said.Etches in particular has a way of connecting with the people of Ottawa. Not many public officials would admit to showing up to work so frazzled that she forgot to put on her skirt."I think this makes a difference — we really need to be able to connect to people," said Dr. Peter Jüni, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of Toronto, and a director of research at St. Michael's Hospital.Jüni is also the scientific director of the province's Science Advisory Table.He agrees that Ottawa is "really unique" in being able to keep COVID-19 cases relatively low, but warns our success will be fleeting if we let our guard down.'Playing with fire'Some in Ottawa may be wondering why, despite our world-beating numbers, we have to follow the same restrictions as cities faring worse, especially during the upcoming holidays.Experts say those feelings are understandable, and even logical. But the COVID-19 situation is precarious — as Manuel put it, like "trying to balance a broom on your finger."Manuel pointed to the fact that the daily numbers, including the virus count in the wastewater — data that Ottawa alone makes public — have been edging up slightly in recent days. If we begin to socialize more, especially indoors, we risk the chance of a few "superspreader events" that will send COVID-19 numbers rocketing skyward."This thing is really contagious, and it is contagious, unlike SARS, when we're not symptomatic, and that makes it very challenging," Jüni said. He likened the spread of COVID-19 to throwing a match into the brush. One time, maybe the second time, nothing happens. But that third match starts a devastating blaze."So now, right now, it's just playing with fire."Furness uses a different metaphor to describe Ottawa's efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay."We're on a parachute and we're descending nice and slowly," he said. "So this is going really, really well. Who among us wants to take the parachute off now?"
EASTERN SHORE – Former Moser River resident Marie Turner entered Northwood Continuing Care facility last November. While it was her first placement, it was not her first choice. When she applied, she selected Harbourview Lodge (HVL) in Sheet Harbour as her first choice, to allow her to live in the same community as her family. Turner’s sister, former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey, is unhappy her sister has not, after a year, been transferred back to her home. McCluskey looked into the policy posted on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) website. “The policy reads ‘as soon as a vacancy becomes available – you are transferred to your first choice’ – but that’s not true. She’s housed now – they have no compassion. There have been vacancies in HVL over the past year but no transfer for Marie,” she says. Turner contracted COVID-19 last spring as a Northwood resident and spent months unable to have any visits from family members, especially while she was ill. “Marie was in a room with another woman and they didn’t even move her,” complains McCluskey. “She suffered from pains in her legs and headaches. She was lucky and did not become extremely ill – and she survived.” The former politician with a 23-year history in municipal government stresses long-term care facility workers are underpaid for the work they do. “They work hard. Administration undervalues the work they do so they can have a lower pay scale. They’ve dropped the ball. COVID should never have been in there [Northwood].” Turner will turn 93 on Dec. 6 and her sister says she should have been given the opportunity months ago – before the pandemic – to transfer to HVL to spend these years near her children and grandchildren. “They don’t care,” McCluskey tells The Journal by phone. “They have such little empathy for seniors. The dear soul has already had COVID, she could have been transferred before this second wave.” McCluskey does not feel there is any hope her sister will get moved now. “They’ve closed the facilities again. They had given false hope and now there is no solution – they are not going to move anybody now,” she said. McCluskey and Turner are two of the four sisters left from a family of nine. “How little do our seniors mean? They seem to think seniors only die anyway. They built our country and deserve dignity,” McCluskey says. Arthur Turner, Marie’s son, tells The Journal how difficult it was for his family when his mom was diagnosed with coronavirus. “I feel frustration about her being there – and not here – as her choice was. The system should be in place that puts her where she chooses to live.” The last time Arthur saw his mother, in person, was this fall at Northwood. “I had all the COVID gear on and was able to hug her – but only for a second.” When Turner heard of his mother’s COVID diagnosis he felt there had been no consideration for either his mother or her family. “We might never see her again. She was quite low and we couldn’t visit and maybe had seen her for the last time….” Communication with his mother, while she lives in a facility 90 kilometres away from him, has proven to be a challenge. “We try to reach her by phone – but we usually can’t get a hold of her. It’s always an ordeal,” Arthur says. “We have to wait until the nurses are available to help us set it up and get Mom to the phone. She is in her room a lot.” Arthur remains hopeful his mother will ultimately get the transfer she desires and become a resident at Harbourview Lodge. “It would be so good for her to return to her home community. I feel she deserves it, really. You know, she taught school down here and worked for the Guild faithfully,” he shares. “She was a real good person – she was a member of the Eastern Star and helped raise a lot of money for her community. She set a good example.” Arthur’s sister, Ann Martin, is a registered nurse at HVL. “It would be wonderful for Mom to be here and have my sister so close – helping to care for her. We could all see her. I know during COVID they were not moving anybody but there have been quite a few openings here – but there always seems to be red tape,” she says. The Journal contacted NSHA to inquire about the transfer and placement policy, but did not receive a reply by press time.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Mario Roy a réalisé un rêve lorsqu’il s’est porté acquéreur il y a deux ans d’une propriété à Milan dans la MRC du Granit. Il y rêvait depuis l’âge de 12 ans. Mais ce rêve s’est déjà transformé en cauchemar à cause d’un seul élément : l’absence totale d’internet. « Quand j’ai acheté, je pensais que ça viendrait vite l’internet, ils en parlaient tout le temps, mais là mon rêve se transforme en cauchemar, souligne M. Roy. Je suis familial au coton et je ne vois plus personne. » La pandémie et le confinement ont frappé fort pour Mario Roy qui a beaucoup de difficulté à garder le contact avec ses quatre petits-enfants qui habitent à Sherbrooke. « On ne peut pas voir personne. Un moment donné ça attaque le moral. Je ne peux même pas voir mes petits enfants », mentionne-t-il visiblement submergé par les émotions. M. Roy commence même à penser à vendre sa propriété. Rien du tout M. Roy a fait venir des représentants de diverses compagnies, mais rien n’y fait. Il ne peut pas avoir accès à internet. Il a lu avec scepticisme dans La Tribune que la compagnie Xplornet voulait obtenir une subvention gouvernementale pour brancher quelque 2000 foyers en Estrie. « Xplornet ne rentre pas du tout, j’ai fait venir trois représentants et ils ont tous essayé, déplore-t-il. Je suis trop creux pour la tour LTE et par satellite je devrais couper plusieurs arbres pour recevoir le signal. Je vais briser mon terrain si je fais ça. » La fibre optique se rend jusqu’à un poteau sur son terrain, mais la connexion jusqu’à la maison est hors de prix. « J’ai achalé Câble Axion pour qu’ils me branchent et ils m’ont dit que ça allait me coûter 20 000 $, j’ai dit non. » « Juste le minimum » Mario Roy n’est pas le seul citoyen de Milan dans cette situation. Ils sont près d’une centaine dans la petite municipalité à n’avoir pas accès à internet haute vitesse selon le maire Jacques Bergeron. « C’est Câble Axion qui passe dans le village et les gens ont un excellent service, mais dans les rangs débrouille-toi, mentionne-t-il. La vitesse n’est pas acceptable par satellite. Il y a des journées où la liaison avec le satellite ne se fait pas. Tu attends ton tour. En 2020, ça n’a pas de bon sens. » Certaines zones sont même dangereuses selon lui parce que même le cellulaire ne capte pas de signal. « Tu as un problème de sécurité, tu es blessé ou tu as eu un accident et tu n’es même pas capable d’entrer en communication d’urgence, déplore le maire. C’est vraiment pauvre comme service.» Mario Roy pense aussi que le manque de réseau peut être très dangereux, surtout lors des pannes de courant. « J’ai manqué d’électricité quatre jours l’an passé durant la grosse tempête, résume-t-il. Je n’avais pas d’internet, pas de cellulaire et pas de téléphone. Si je passe au feu, je regarde ma maison brûler. » Mario Roy a interpellé le député François Jacques à ce sujet et espère que sa situation ouvre les yeux de la classe politique. « Ils diffusent du 5G dans les villes tandis que dans les campagnes, ce n’est même pas branché, résume M. Bergeron. C’est frustrant et choquant. On veut juste le minimum.»Simon Roberge, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune