The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (April 13)
The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (April 13)
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
Glenn Waddingham can barely contain his frustration. "This is a terrible way to do business," he said. "How is this even allowed to happen?" The 62-year-old from Victoria Harbour, Ont., is referring to the fact that unlike other large Canadian airlines, Sunwing is still not offering refunds for flights it cancelled due to the pandemic. Some of those flights were cancelled more than a year ago, leaving many customers in the same frustrating situation as Waddingham. He and his wife had planned a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip to the Margaritaville resort on Grand Cayman Island for March 2020, but the airline cancelled the flight after Ottawa warned against non-essential international travel. Sunwing, a low-cost carrier based in Toronto that flies to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, has offered travel credit vouchers to affected passengers. But Waddingham said he doesn't need a voucher; he needs the $3,600 he paid for the trip. "I want a refund. I'm unemployed. I could use the money," he said. "I'm shocked that the Better Business Bureau and the federal government is allowing one tour operator to act in this manner." Other airlines issue refunds Hundreds of Sunwing customers who want refunds are part of a Facebook group called Sunwing Complaints. Many are angry that the airline has still not refunded its customers for flights cancelled because of the pandemic despite accepting federal loans that were contingent on such refunds. They point out that both Air Canada and Air Transat began issuing refunds as soon as they received hundreds of millions of dollars from Ottawa in April. But Sunwing is sticking to its credit-voucher-only policy despite having accepted a $375-million financing deal from Ottawa in February. Like several other large Canadian employers, such as GoodLife Fitness, Gateway Casinos, Air Canada and Air Transat, the company was able to secure a loan through a special pandemic-related program called the large employer emergency financing facility (LEEFF). Sunwing did not reply to the CBC's email and telephone requests for comment. Glenn Waddingham and his wife had booked a trip to Grand Cayman Island for March 2020. Now unemployed due to the pandemic, Waddingham says he doesn't want a travel voucher from Sunwing; he wants his money back. (Submitted by Glenn Waddingham) Jillian Wilson, 30, of Stratford, Ont., isn't impressed with the airline. "To hear that they've gotten a government fund or bailout and are still refusing to give refunds is very, very disappointing," she said. She and her partner were married by a justice of the peace in February 2020 and planned to celebrate with friends and family at a beach wedding ceremony in the Dominican Republic a month later. They estimate their group of 40 guests is out of pocket about $70,000 altogether because their flights were cancelled. "My husband likes to call it an interest-free loan to Sunwing," she said. Wilson is as baffled as many other customers about why the airline hasn't followed Air Canada and Air Transat in refunding customers for flights cancelled due to COVID-19. Special loans for the other airlines There is a difference, however, between the federal aid Air Canada and Air Transat have received and what Sunwing has negotiated so far. The other airlines arranged additional loans from the government specifically to fund passenger refunds, on top of their LEEFF loans. However, the government says it actually imposed conditions on Sunwing's LEEFF loan: the airline had to agree to set aside the money it had received from customers for tickets to ensure they could eventually be refunded. No timeline was set for paying customers back. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a punishing financial toll on Canada's airline industry. (Fred Hutton/CBC) A statement sent to CBC News from the office of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says, "As part of the LEEFF loan that Sunwing received in February 2021, Sunwing committed to refunding its customers for pandemic-related cancellations." The email sent by press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas also says, "As an industry-wide refund process is now in place, the federal government fully expects Sunwing to uphold its commitment to refund customers and conversations continue with the airline to ensure this happens." Asked why it's taking so long for customers to receive those refunds, especially since Sunwing was told to set the money aside, Cuplinskas said that's a question for the airline. The delay could be due in part to the fact Sunwing and the government are currently negotiating a separate refund loan, an indication of the government's concern about the financial health of Sunwing and belief that more help is required. The expectation is the airlines will start repaying the loans once travel picks up after the pandemic is under control. Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), says he is sympathetic to the plight of all airlines, including Sunwing, but the carrier should offer refunds promptly to customers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic.(Stephane Richer/CBC) Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a retail leisure travel vendor, said the situation with Sunwing is unfair to customers. "Arguably, Sunwing has had a bit of a double benefit here. They've got the government loans and they've got all that customers' money," said Jack, who serves as a consumer advocate for issues related to transportation. He also acknowledges that Sunwing, like all airlines, is in a tough spot. "Nobody would want to be trying to run an airline these days," he said. "And certainly over the past year or so, we have to have some sympathy for a carrier that's just been sideswiped and almost had its business shut down." Customer concerns Even so, he said, Sunwing customers have had to wait far too long for refunds. "It's really unconscionable how long this has taken. It's been over a year now since the skies were originally shut down due to COVID. The government needs to revisit this with Sunwing and say to them, 'Look, get the money flowing.'" Glenn Waddingham is nervous about whether that will happen. "My fear is that Sunwing is going to go bankrupt and then we're going to be part of their debtors and we're getting nothing."
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.
The province says virtual learning will remain in place until it can reach a consensus with public health units, teachers' unions and health officials on reopening schools safely — even though Ontario's COVID-19 case counts are trending downward and school-aged children will be eligible for vaccine appointments by the end of the month, The message came from Premier Doug Ford at a news conference on Thursday alongside Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health. "On the one hand, we have some doctors saying they want to open the schools. On the other hand, we have the teachers' unions saying we can't do that right now," Ford said. "We need public health doctors, teachers and labour partners to agree on the best path forward ... And we simply don't have that right now." Last week, the province announced it will offer online learning for the entirety of the 2021-2022 school year, but made no mention about whether or not students might return to in-person classes this spring. At Thursday's news conference, Williams said he is in discussions with public health units and the Ministry of Education to determine "when's the best time, the right time" to reopen. "We want [schools] to open and stay open because we feel it's very important to have our children back in the schools and to maintain the safety record we've had up to now," he said. In the meantime, the province said it will work to vaccinate as many teachers and students as possible given the expansion of vaccine eligibility to younger Ontarians. Starting May 31, youths aged 12 to 17 will be eligible to receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the province announced on Thursday. Prepare for all scenarios, Ministry of Education says Meanwhile, in a memo sent home to parents Wednesday night, Canada's largest school board announced it is bringing back the "quadmester" model next school year for its secondary students under recent direction from the Ministry of Education. Under this model, students with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) take two courses at a time during four separate academic semesters instead of four classes during two semesters. "We have to make sure that if you're taking X number of classes that students are able to be spaced out ... The bottom line is to reduce that student-to-student contact," said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Education said it has asked school boards to "prepare for all scenarios" given the expansion of vaccine eligibility. In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Education says it has asked school boards to 'prepare for all scenarios' given that younger people will soon be eligible for vaccines.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) "The arrival of a more stable vaccine supply and recent Health Canada approval of vaccinations for youth aged 12-17 will enable more flexibility and allow for a more normal in-class learning experience," the ministry said. But a change in direction come September would be a challenge, Bird said, citing the preparation already underway to accommodate the schedules of 70 to 80,000 students. "When you're planning for tens of thousands of students and their course selections, to go from one model to another is not fun. It will be challenging. It will be complex," Bird said. "We can do it, but it will take some time." Still many unknowns, doctor says For infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji, having kids vaccinated is critical for a safe return to in-person learning. "Having the kids vaccinated means less outbreaks, less opening and closures, less uncertainty," she said. While there are still many questions about what ensures a safe reopening of schools, Banerji is hopeful things will be better come the fall. "It depends on case rate. It depends on the variants," she said. "If kids get two vaccines and they seem to be responsive to the circulating variants there, then I don't see why we can't start thinking about normalizing in school ... But there's a lot of things between here and there that we don't know." On Wednesday, Ottawa public health officials and the city's mayor called on Ontario to conduct a regional approach to reopening schools, with the city's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches saying the decline of COVID-19 indicators shows the schools in the nation's capital are on a path toward reopening within a matter of weeks. On Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said: 'We want to get kids in school,' but he added that Williams has not yet changed the current set of restrictions forcing in-person classes to close.
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
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
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
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
Alberta MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes have been expelled from the United Conservative Party caucus over allegations they divided the party and undermined government leadership. Barnes, the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, has become a prolific critic of Premier Jason Kenney's decisions during the pandemic. Loewen, the MLA for Central Peace-Notley, went public with his dissatisfaction in a letter released early Thursday morning. The backbenchers' expulsions came after the 62-member caucus met for hours Thursday afternoon. The results were released at 7:30 p.m. MT. "Members recognize the need for government caucus to remain strong and united behind our leader, Premier Jason Kenney, as we continue to fight through what looks to be the final stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," UCP caucus whip Mike Ellis said in an email. "There is simply no room in our caucus for those to continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership, especially at this critical juncture for our province." Loewen's letter was the latest sign of public discord within the UCP caucus. Last month, 16 MLAs signed a public letter criticizing Kenney's COVID-19 public health restrictions for being too stringent. MLAs in smaller Alberta cities and rural areas are facing backlash from UCP supporters over business closures and masking orders they say are too strict. Last month, 16 MLAs signed a public letter criticizing Premier Jason Kenney's COVID-19 public health measures for being too strict.(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) In an interview with CBC News after the vote, Loewen, a two-term MLA first elected in 2015, said he was disappointed. He said the vote wasn't done via a secret ballot. Instead, MLAs texted their vote to acting caucus chair Nick Milliken, the MLA for Calgary-Currie. Once the votes were tallied, Milliken announced the results in a video call. Loewen said he found the lack of secrecy "somewhat disturbing." "We never did find out what the vote was, the numbers or anything like that," he said. "As soon as they announced that the vote was done, they cut us off [the video call] and it's done." UCP caucus communications director Tim Gerwing said Milliken was the only person aware of how MLAs cast their ballots. Gerwing said a secret paper ballot was not possible because the meeting did not take place in person. Loewen wonders if the lack of a secrecy skewed the result. "It just allows people to have that doubt in their mind when they cast their ballot that somebody will find out," he said. WATCH | Kenney faces hard choice: The vote came hours after Loewen went on Edmonton radio station 630 CHED to discuss his letter. He said the problems with Kenney's leadership go back 18 months and are threatening to destroy the party. In his letter, Loewen resigned as UCP caucus chair and called for Kenney's resignation. The letter was posted to social media. 'Symptom of an inner disease' He said the caucus and Albertans have lost confidence in Kenney's leadership. Loewen said Kenney's relationship with backbench MLAs was good in the first few months after the UCP was elected in April 2019 but has declined since then. MLAs speaking out against his leadership are a "symptom of an inner disease," Loewen said. Loewen said he will sit as an independent when the legislature resumes on May 25, but he still considers himself a UCP MLA, who has the support of his constituency association. There has been speculation other UCP MLAs would leave the caucus if Barnes and Loewen were kicked out. Loewen said he can't speak for his former colleagues, but he said he and Barnes have a lot of support in the caucus. "I don't think this is going to be helpful for caucus unity," he said. "This here drives even a deeper wedge into caucus, I believe." In a statement posted to social media, Barnes said he was saddened by not surprised by Thursday's events. He said intends to stay on as MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat. "I continue to believe Alberta can and should be the most prosperous and free jurisdiction in North America, and I will continue to use my voice to advance this cause," Barnes said.
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.
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
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 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."
OTTAWA — A homegrown mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 shows promising results in its first small trial and its maker is hoping to test it directly against the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics says its vaccine produced no serious adverse events and developed good antibodies against COVID-19 that "compare favourably" with the two mRNA vaccines already on the market from Pfizer and Moderna. "We're extremely pleased," said Providence CEO Brad Sorenson. The Phase 1 trial included 60 healthy adults between 18 and 64, with more than half of them receiving two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart. The results have not yet been peer-reviewed. Sorenson said the next step is supposed to be a Phase 2 head-to-head trial that would test the effectiveness of Providence against Pfizer. Most vaccines in Phase 2 have been tested only against a placebo, but Sorenson said in a pandemic he feels it is unethical to give someone a placebo when they could otherwise be vaccinated. But to do the trial, Providence needs 500 doses of Pfizer, which he said neither the company nor the National Research Council has been willing to provide. A spokeswoman for Pfizer said Thursday the company's focus is only on getting the vaccine to meet an "urgent public health need" and will only sell its vaccine to the federal government. "As such, we are not providing supply of our vaccine to third-parties to study the vaccine in comparative trials," said Christina Antoniou. Pfizer is the main component of Canada's vaccination campaign to date, accounting for two-thirds of the deliveries as of this week. A spokesman for Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the government has informed Providence Ottawa is willing to help fund its Phase 2 trial, and continue to work with the company. "Minister Champagne has spoken directly with Providence Therapeutics’ CEO and the chair of their board of directors to discuss our continued support for their work as they bring their vaccine candidate through the early stages of development," said John Power. A spokesman for the National Research Council said it doesn't have access to doses of Pfizer or Moderna to help Providence, but is discussing the request with other departments that might be able to help, including Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Sorenson said Providence is also discussing with the World Health Organization the possibility of doing a Phase 3 trial in a developing country. Sorenson said if Health Canada supports both trials, they could be wrapped up by the end of the year. But Sorenson said he doesn't feel supported by Ottawa and has threatened to take the business outside the country. The company has production agreements in place that should be able to produce 200 million doses a year, he said. Providence is one of six Canadian companies that received funding from the National Research Council for COVID-19 vaccines that were in early stages of development. The company received $4.9 million last October to help fund its Phase 1 trial. It also received $5 million in January from the next-generation manufacturing supercluster to help scale up its manufacturing of mRNA. Canada currently doesn't make any of the vaccines it is using — Pfizer is being made in Europe and the United States, Canada's doses of Moderna are all coming from Europe, and Oxford-AstraZeneca is coming from the United States, India and South Korea. The only Canadian-made vaccine among the seven procured by Canada for COVID-19 to date is Medicago's plant-based protein vaccine, which is now in a Phase 3 trial and could be ready for mass production before the end of the year. Medicago received $173 million in October to push its vaccine forward as well as an undisclosed sum for a contract to provide Canada at least 20 million doses if it is approved. Some of it will be made in Canada, but production will also take place in the U.S. A lack of domestic drug manufacturing hurt Canada's vaccination program, particularly early on, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is intent on fixing that ahead of the next global health crisis. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press