One Canadian military member is dead and five others are missing after a helicopter serving with a NATO naval task force crashed in international waters between Greece and Italy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed today.
Four Royal Canadian Air Force members and two Royal Canadian Navy members were on board at the time.
“All of them are heroes. Each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled,” Trudeau said.
Nova Scotia Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer originally from Toronto, is confirmed dead.
Later on Thursday, the defence department identified those still missing:
Capt. Brenden MacDonald, a pilot originally from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
Capt. Kevin Hagen, a pilot originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec.
Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval warfare officer originally from Truro, Nova Scotia.
Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator originally from Guelph, Ontario.
Trudeau acknowledged that today is another “very hard day” for Nova Scotia — still grieving the victims of a gun massacre — and for all Canadians.
The six members were on a six-month deployment that began in January.
There will be many questions in the coming days about how the tragedy occurred, Trudeau said.
“I can assure you, we will get answers in due course.”
Ships from Canada, Italy and Turkey, with air support from Greece and the U.S., are searching for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.
Rear Admiral Craig Baines, maritime commander for the Royal Canadian Navy, thanked allies for their “steadfast” support as he provided an update on rescue efforts late Thursday.
Watch: Royal Canadian Navy maritime commander provides update on search efforts
Baines said the search will continue through the night. He said weather conditions have been good so far, but the process becomes more challenging as the search area widens.
“A search on the ocean is always very difficult, even in relatively calm conditions. Very small objects in the water are very difficult to find over long periods of time as wind and current expands the search area,” he said.
“So even in perfect conditions it is a difficult thing to do a search on the water. But they are continuing, and they will continue to search as long as they still believe there is an opportunity to find survivors.”
Baines said some debris related to the chopper has been found but it’s too early to say what may have happened.
Watch: Trudeau responds to Canadian military helicopter crash near Greece
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said the Cyclone fleet has been put on “operational pause” temporarily to allow flight safety teams to investigate and rule out any fleet-wide problems. He added the helicopter fleet is modern and has “state-of-the-art” technology.
“We have a lot of confidence in this fleet,” he said.
“These are … superbly trained crews, pilots, electronic systems operators and so on. It’s a powerful helicopter with fantastic sensing capability and it’s about to go through a second block of upgrades to integrate that sensing capability.”
Location of wreckage not known
Vance said the crash’s debris area is large and the exact position of the wreckage is not yet known. The cockpit voice and flight data recorders broke away from the helicopter with a beacon and have been retrieved, he said.
They will brought to the National Research Council for analysis.
Vance said the helicopter was returning to HMCS Fredericton when it crashed. At about 6:52 p.m. local time, the ship lost contact with the air crew. A few minutes later, automatic flares were spotted in the water.
“This is a time of agony for all families, friends, and fellow crew members. There is nothing worse than sending your shipmates over the horizon and losing contact,” he said.
Watch: Gen. Jonathan Vance provides details on the fatal navy helicopter crash
Vance said the goal of the operation is to warn Russia and other adversaries not to interfere with European or North Atlantic security, and to assure allies “that we are all in this together.”
At the time of the accident, the group was conducting training – not surveillance or targeted operations, he said.
“We can’t rule anything out, but I’m quite certain from a military situation, this was not a function of contact or a shootdown. I want to make that abundantly clear,” he said.
Cause of crash unknown
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the cause of the crash remains unknown.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with the secretary general of NATO. We remain in contact with Italy, Greece, the United States and Turkey, who are assisting us in the search and rescue efforts to help us find the Canadian Armed Forces members who were on the helicopter,” he said.
Sajjan said an investigative team is en route to the region to get answers.
The helicopter was based on HMCS Fredericton, which recently sailed from Souda, Greece, as part of a “mission of maritime situational awareness in the Mediterranean,” including exercises with the Turkish Navy and Greece’s Hellenic Navy and Air Force this past week, NATO said.
“As announced, 1 CAF member is deceased & 5 missing following a helicopter crash in the Ionian Sea. On behalf of the entire CAF I send our deepest condolences to her family, friends & shipmates. May her memory be a source of comfort & inspiration to us all. We will remember.” JV <a href=”https://t.co/liB5KFnBgE”>pic.twitter.com/liB5KFnBgE</a>
Vance said the military has been in touch with next of kin.
“In a season of grief – a time of hardship, heartbreak and loss for so many Canadians – the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces stand tall,” he said. “Bearing the maple leaf on their shoulders, they are known around the world as beacons of civility, compassion and courage.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer expressed his condolences to family members and the military community.
“Any loss of life within Canada’s proud military is a tragic event, one that is deeply felt by all Canadians. I don’t doubt, though, that this loss will be particularly difficult for Nova Scotians, as HMCS Fredericton is based out of Halifax,” he said in a media statement.
“I would like to thank all the men and women serving during Operation Reassurance, Canada’s largest current international military operation, who are helping make Central and Eastern Europe more stable and secure.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he’s saddened by the news and sends his love and support to the family and friends of Cowbrough and the missing military members.
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison called it “devastating” news for the military community and for all Canadians.
“Today, we mourn the loss of Ms. Abbigail Cowbrough and send our support to her family during this difficult time. To the families of those still unaccounted for: You are in our thoughts. We’re hopeful that the investigation into this tragedy happens quickly and efficiently so that you can have the answers you need,” he said.
Lt-Gen. Al Meinzinger, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, issued a joint statement Thursday afternoon,
“There are no words to describe a loss as tragic as this,” the statement reads.
“This incident serves as a difficult reminder of the sacrifice that our brave men and women face daily while defending and representing our nation, both at home and abroad.
“It also serves to remind us all how dangerous even routine operations at-sea and in the air can be. In the face of these realities, the sailors and aviators aboard Navy frigates operate as one team – one family – a family that today mourns together.”
Greece expresses grief
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about the crash in the nation’s parliament Thursday.
“I express my grief over the crash of the Canadian helicopter in the Ionian Sea last night,” he said.
Mitsotakis said he would contact Trudeau personally to express his condolences.
Watch: Gen. Jonathan Vance describes the emotional impact of the Cyclone crash on serving members
The crash occurred in the Ionian Sea about 80 kilometres off the Greek resort island of Cephalonia.
The Cyclone is a militarized version of the Sikorsky S-92 utility helicopter.
The Cyclones replaced the air force’s five-decade-old CH-124 Sea Kings, which were gradually retired from service over the last few years. The crash of a Cyclone represents a major blow, given how long the military had to wait for the aircraft to be developed.
Originally ordered in 2004, the Cyclone program faced delays and cost escalations — to the point where former auditor general Sheila Fraser slammed the federal government’s handling of the project in 2010.
The Cyclone routinely flies with a crew of four: two pilots, a tactical operator and a sensor operator. It also has room for several passengers. The helicopter’s primary mission is hunting submarines, but it has a sophisticated surveillance suite and is also outfitted for search-and-rescue.
Since coming into service, the Cyclone has been deployed on five overseas missions with the navy, including previous NATO stints.
The air force has praised the aircraft’s capabilities repeatedly — although it was involved in at least one shipboard accident while serving with HMCS Regina and the resupply ship MV Asterix in the Pacific Ocean last year.
A Cyclone suffered what defence officials described at the time as a “hard landing” aboard the Asterix on Feb. 18, 2019.
Vance said today that incident was caused by a strong gust of wind, not a mechanical issue.
Canada has an army of volunteers ready to help fight COVID-19 — so why aren't we using them? – CBC.ca
Thousands of Canadians have volunteered their time to help track COVID-19 cases across the country, but even Canada’s hardest-hit provinces haven’t used them.
The National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign was launched by the federal government in early April, calling on Canadians from coast-to-coast to step up and help.
“We need you!” the campaign urgently stated.
“We are building an inventory of volunteers from which provincial and territorial governments can draw upon as needed. We welcome ALL volunteers as we are looking for a wide variety of experiences and expertise.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, tweeted the campaign on April 12 to Canadians wondering how they could help with the COVID-19 response.
Wondering how you can help with Canada’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> response? Check out the National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign if you can help with: <br><br>- case tracking<br>- contact tracing<br>- health system surge capacity<br>- case data collection and reporting<a href=”https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6″>https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6</a>
Volunteers were called on to help with three key areas: case tracking and contact tracing, assessing health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting.
Health Canada and The Public Health Agency of Canada said 53,769 people signed up to assist in the effort by the time the posting closed on April 24.
But weeks later, the volunteer database does not appear to have been used in any province or territory — even in Ontario and Quebec, where 90 per cent of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are now occurring.
“As contact tracing responsibilities fall under each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, they are determining when and how they will train and deploy volunteers to meet their evolving needs,” a spokesperson for Health Canada and PHAC said.
CBC News reached out to every provincial and territorial health ministry in the country and none could confirm they had used any of the volunteers.
Health Canada said it also shared names from the volunteer database with the Canadian Red Cross to help personnel in long-term care facilities.
But a spokesperson for the organization said they have only “recently started the initial process of reaching out to some of the individuals who submitted their names.”
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Canadians ready to help
Toronto teacher Shalini Basu found herself unexpectedly unemployed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, after her contract ended in March and schools across Ontario closed for the remainder of the school year.
“I read about volunteers for the database on Twitter and thought it would be a great way to use my time and be useful, seeing as though I have a lot of free time these days,” she said.
“I follow the news very closely and it seemed like there was an urgent need for volunteers.”
She filled out an extensive questionnaire online and was excited to help at a time when there wasn’t much else she could do for others — aside from staying home.
But Basu still hasn’t heard anything.
Volunteers said they were extensively questioned on whether they had medical experience, military experience and even veterinary experience to gauge where they could be best put to use.
But despite calling on people with a “wide variety of expertise,” many volunteers are left wondering who exactly the federal government was hoping to use.
“I hope by not being called it also means that a lot of Canadians applied and they filled their quota,” Basu said.
“I’ve been wondering how much this initiative actually got underway.”
Paul Baker also wanted to help.
The retired Guelph, Ont., senior has a background in marketing and felt he could be put to use reaching out to confirmed COVID-19 cases by phone to help track their close contacts.
“There is that first step that’s got to be taken in contact tracing, which is calling the person that’s positive and they know they’re positive, so it’s not going to be a stressful situation,” he said.
“Then you turn that over to somebody who’s got more training in how to actually call somebody and say, ‘You might be COVID positive.'”
Baker spent 45 minutes filling out the questionnaire, and hoped to be called on to help in other areas of the province or the country that had a high volume of new cases or outbreaks in long-term care homes.
But weeks later, he hasn’t received an update.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says the motivation for the campaign was commendable and compared it to a “wartime effort.”
“Congratulations to the government for having that initiative up front, because they recognize contact tracing would be a big part of this,” he said.
“But there clearly wasn’t a subsequent plan to use the roster in a strategic way and there wasn’t a subsequent plan to navigate the federal-provincial divide.”
Because each province and territory has individual public health units that allocate resources and make decisions at a local level, Deonandan says a national database of volunteers would be challenging to roll out effectively.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said.
Even one of his PhD students in epidemiology volunteered and never heard back, Deonandan said.
“What needs to happen, obviously, is for the provinces to take over the contact tracing capacity in a meaningful way and maybe even restart the volunteer rostering process — because I’m still getting people contacting me asking how they can get involved.”
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, has been calling on Ontario to step up contact tracing as the province continues to move toward reopening despite a steady stream of high caseloads.
“Anyone who knows what it’s like to go after something, can use a telephone and has a high school education can be trained to do the work,” he said. Both his parents — one of whom is a university professor — had volunteered and never heard back.
“I think public health is so overwhelmed that even managing a bunch of new people, whether they’re hired or volunteers, is probably something they can’t handle.”
Contact tracing key to stopping spread
A recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found isolating positive cases and contact tracing played a key role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Shenzen, China.
Patients that were found to have COVID-19 because they reported symptoms of the disease were identified at an average of 4.6 days after they reported getting sick.
But contact tracing of those close to them, such as in the same household, reduced that time to just 2.7 days on average.
Another recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the first 100 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Taiwan and found they were most infectious in the days leading up to showing symptoms and in the five days after.
That study stresses the need to identify potential cases that may have been unknowingly exposed, but not know they’re sick yet, to effectively contain the spread of the disease.
“These findings underscore the pressing public health need for accurate and comprehensive contact tracing and testing,” Robert Steinbrook wrote in an editor’s note. “Testing only those people who are symptomatic will miss many infections and render contact tracing less effective.”
The World Health Organization also says contact tracing is “an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks” that can “break the chains of transmission” of COVID-19.
Volunteers could help not only with tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients, but also with cutting down the time it takes to notify public health units of positive cases, Warner said.
“One of the biggest sources of a lag in effective contact tracing is the time it takes from the moment the patient is swabbed to the time that piece of paper arrives in the fax machine at the public health office,” he said.
“We’ve got we’ve got people on the bench willing to work, but they probably don’t even have the capacity to open that list and look at those names because they can’t even do the job they’ve been tasked to do.”
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Provincial border bans during pandemic anger barred Canadians, spark lawsuits – CBC.ca
Lesley Shannon of Vancouver was infuriated when New Brunswick rejected her request last month to enter the province to attend her mother’s burial.
“I’m mystified, heartbroken and angry,” said Shannon on Wednesday. “They’re basically saying my mother’s life has no value.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and the three territories have temporarily barred Canadian visitors from entering their borders unless they meet specific criteria, such as travelling for medical treatment.
The provinces and territories say the extreme measures are necessary to protect their residents from the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
But the border bans have fuelled criticism from civil rights advocates who argue barring fellow Canadians is unconstitutional. The travel restrictions have also angered Canadians denied entry for travel they believe is crucial.
“I’m not trying to go to my aunt’s or cousin’s funeral. This is my mother, my last living parent,” said Shannon, who grew up in Rothesay, N.B.
Protecting health of its citizens
On Thursday, shortly after CBC News asked for comment on Shannon’s case, the New Brunswick government announced it will reopen its borders starting June 19 to Canadian travellers with immediate family or property in New Brunswick. It also plans to grant entry to people attending a close family member’s funeral or burial.
The province’s Campbellton region, however, remains off limits.
Shannon was happy to hear the news, but is unsure at this point if she’ll be allowed to enter the province in time for her mother’s burial. She would first have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, as required the province, and the cemetery holding her mother’s body told her the burial must happen soon.
“I’m just hoping that [permission comes] fast enough for me.”
New Brunswick told CBC News that restricting out-of-province visitors has served as a key way to protect the health of its citizens.
“It’s necessary because of the threat posed by travel: all but a handful of New Brunswick’s [COVID-19] cases are travel cases,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, in an email.
Kim Taylor of Halifax was so upset over being denied entry in early May to attend her mother’s funeral in Newfoundland and Labrador she launched a lawsuit against the province.
“I certainly feel like the government has let me and my family down,” she said.
It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens.– John Drover, lawyer
Shortly after speaking publicly about her case, Taylor got permission to enter the province —11 days after initially being rejected. But the court challenge is still going ahead — on principle.
“It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens,” alleged Taylor’s lawyer, John Drover.
Violates charter, CCLA says
The CCLA argues provinces and territories barring Canadians violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any province.
The CCLA said if a province or territory limits those rights, its reasons must be justified.
“So far, what we’ve seen from these governments hasn’t convinced us that there is good evidence that these limits are reasonable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program.
“The existence of a virus in and of itself is not enough of a reason.”
Newfoundland and Labrador also face a proposed class-action lawsuit launched this month, representing Canadians denied entry who own property in the province.
“The issue that our clients take is that this [restriction] is explicitly on geographic grounds and that seems to be contrary to the Charter of Rights,” said Geoff Budden, a lawyer with the suit, which has not yet been certified.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government told CBC News it’s reviewing the lawsuits. They have both been filed in the province’s Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball defended the province’s travel restrictions, arguing they remain necessary to avoid spreading the virus.
“This is put in place to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; it’s not about shutting people out,” he said.
WATCH | Inside the fight against COVID-19:
What about a 14-day isolation?
The rest of Canada’s provinces have each advised against non-essential travel for now but are still allowing Canadian visitors to enter their province. Nova Scotia and Manitoba, however, require that visitors self-isolate for 14 days. CCLA’s Zwibel said that rule may be a less restrictive way for a province to protect its residents during the pandemic.
“The Charter of Rights does require that if governments do place limits on rights, they do so in a way that impairs them as little as possible,” she said.
Back in Vancouver, a frustrated Shannon points out that New Brunswick is already allowing temporary foreign workers into the province — as long as they self-isolate for 14 days. However, her invitation is still pending.
“It’s very upsetting to think I’m less welcome in New Brunswick than somebody who was not even born in Canada,” she said.
Ontario, Quebec continue to account for majority of Canada’s new novel coronavirus cases – Globalnews.ca
Despite hundreds of new novel coronavirus cases still being reported in Ontario and Quebec, the number of overall cases across Canada continued to trend downward Friday.
More than 600 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday raised the national tally past 94,000 cases overall. More than 52,000 people are considered recovered, with more than 1.9 million tests conducted.
The national death toll went up by 66 deaths, for a total of 7,703.
Quebec accounted for the majority of the daily death toll once again. The province has been the hardest-hit region in Canada for the past few weeks, with 55 per cent of the national caseload and nearly 5,000 deaths (more than 60 per cent of Canada’s death toll).
Quebec reported 50 new deaths and 255 new cases on Friday. More than 17,700 people are deemed recovered in the province.
Ontario reported 344 new cases and 15 new deaths, leaving the province with nearly 30,000 cases and more than 2,300 deaths. More than 23,000 people have recovered from the virus.
Coronavirus: Ontario resumes short-term rentals
B.C. reported one new case and one new death, for a total of 2,628 cases and 167 deaths. The province has seen 2,272 people recover so far.
The Prairie provinces recorded new cases in the single digits. Alberta saw seven new cases — the lowest daily number recorded by the province since March 12.
All four Atlantic provinces reported no new cases or deaths on Friday. Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases have been resolved for weeks now, Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases left out of 261 cases and three deaths, and Nova Scotia, where 61 people have died so far, saw bars and restaurants reopen.
New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday and has mandated face coverings in public buildings. Out of 136 cases, 121 are recovered.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked why his government didn’t collect race-based data
The Northwest Territories and the Yukon continue to see no new cases, having resolved all their cases for some time. Nunavut remain the only region in Canada that hasn’t reported a positive case of COVID-19 so far.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 6.7 million cases and nearly 394,000 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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