British supermarket giant Tesco suspended a Chinese supplier of Christmas cards on Sunday after a press report said a customer found a message written inside a card saying it had been packed by foreign prisoners who were victims of forced labour.
“We abhor the use of prison labour and would never allow it in our supply chain,” a Tesco spokesperson said on Sunday.
“We were shocked by these allegations and immediately suspended the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation. We have also withdrawn these cards from sale whilst we investigate.”
Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, donates £300,000 ($520,000 Cdn) a year from the sale of the cards to the charities British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.
The Sunday Times said the message inside the card read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.
“Use the link to contact Mr Peter Humphrey.”
Contact information for British man
Peter Humphrey is a British former journalist and corporate fraud investigator.
Humphrey and his American wife, Yu Yingzeng, were both sentenced in China in 2014 for illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. The couple were deported from China in June 2015 after their jail terms were reduced.
The message inside the card was found by a six-year-old girl, Florence Widdicombe, in London, the Sunday Times said. Her father contacted Humphrey via the LinkedIn social network.
“We didn’t open them on the day that we got them. We opened them about a week ago. We were writing on them, and on my sixth or eighth card somebody had already written in it,” Florence told Reuters.
Florence’s father, Ben Widdicombe, said he felt shocked after his child found the note, “but I also felt the responsibility to pass it on to Peter Humphrey as the authors asked me to do.”
Writing in the Sunday Times, Humphrey said he did not know the identities or the nationalities of the prisoners who put the note into the card, but he “had no doubt they are Qingpu prisoners who knew me before my release in June 2015 from the suburban prison where I spent 23 months.”
Tesco said it had a comprehensive auditing process in place.
Tesco auditing process
“This supplier was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest they had broken our rule banning the use of prison labour,” the spokesman said.
“If a supplier breaches these rules, we will immediately and permanently de-list them.”
The cards were produced at the Zheijiang Yunguang Printing factory, which is about 100 kilometres from Shanghai Qingpu prison, Tesco said.
The company, which prints cards and books for food and pharmaceutical companies, says on its website it supplies Tesco.
Two phone calls and one emailed request for comment to the company went unanswered after usual business hours on Sunday.
Humphrey and his wife said in their trial they had not thought they were doing anything illegal in their activities in China.
Cells taken from aborted fetuses for COVID-19 vaccines cause moral dilemma for some Canadian Catholics – 680 News
Many Catholics in Canada are facing a moral dilemma over COVID-19 vaccinations.
Moira McQueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute tells CityNews some of the vaccines being produced were developed by using products of cells that were initially taken from aborted fetuses.
“The AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson ones are both unethical vaccines by Catholic standards,” McQueen says, “if you’re really serious about sort of anti-abortion, pro-life point of view, you don’t want to utilize anything that is, you know, that’s using those kind of cell lines if there’s something else available.”
In December, the Vatican said despite the links to abortions, it is morally acceptable to get a vaccine, but recently the Archdiocese of New Orleans advised its members not to use the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The Archdiocese of Toronto says it hasn’t made a decision on the Johnson & Johnson shot, while others are urging governments to allow people to ask for an alternative vaccine if they have a moral objection.
Health officials advise Canadians to take whichever vaccine is available to them.
Here’s what the provinces, territories have said about AstraZeneca’s vaccine and seniors – Global News
Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in adults 18 and older on Friday. However, on Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued new guidance, recommending the shot not be administered to people over the age of 65.
In the new guidelines, NACI cited “limited information” about its effectiveness in older people as the reason it’s not recommending the shot be used in seniors.
However, it is ultimately up to the provinces and territories to decide how to dole out the vaccines.
Who will be the recipient of those AstraZeneca shots? Here’s a closer look at what each region has said.
A spokesperson for the department of health and wellness in Nova Scotia told Global News the province is “actively looking at what the next use of this vaccine is for Nova Scotia.”
“No decisions have been made,” an emailed statement read.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said the province has been offered an initial shipment of 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will expire in a month.
“Therefore, we would need to have a plan to use them immediately,” he said. “So we’re actively looking at what is the best use of this AstraZeneca vaccine at this time for Nova Scotia.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials are still reviewing evidence regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“As this approval is still recent, we are reviewing the evidence from a provincial perspective to determine where the vaccine will fit in our strategy,” the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told a press conference on Monday.
Coronavirus: Canada to receive 945,000 vaccine doses this week, procurement minister says
As of Monday, Fitzgerald said they had not yet received a definitive date as to when the AstraZeneca vaccines could land in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“My understanding is we’re still waiting on information at the national level there,” she said.
Prince Edward Island
At a press conference on Tuesday, Prince Edward Island’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said when the province confirms how many of the AstraZeneca vaccines it will receive, they will be targeting the shots to “healthy, younger individuals” who are working in “certain front line, essential services.”
“And that would be our plan and offering it to them and knowing that people will have a choice,” she said. “But AstraZeneca is showing good evidence around decreasing severe illness and hospitalization.”
B.C. health officials considering vaccinating essential workers
Morrison said once they know how many doses the province will receive, they will know exactly which groups to target.
“But that certainly is our current thinking,” she said.
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Health said the province expects to receive 10,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month.
“We are examining Health Canada’s approval and the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to decide how best to employ this vaccine once it does arrive in New Brunswick,” the statement read.
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services said the province is expecting to receive guidance from its immunization committee very soon.
“This notice will specify the target groups for this vaccine,” the email read in French. “We will adapt our vaccination strategy in the light of this advice.”
Confusion arises in Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine recommendations for seniors
Ontario, meanwhile, has decided it will not administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to seniors.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told The Canadian Press that the province plans to follow the advice of NACI.
She said, though, that it is a “very versatile” vaccine because it does not need to be stored at freezing temperatures.
For that reason, Elliot said the shots could be used elsewhere, like at correctional facilities.
AstraZeneca vaccine won’t be administered to Ontarians aged 65+: health minister
Elliott said an updated vaccination plan that factors in expected AstraZeneca supply will be shared soon.
“There’s a lot that is in the mix right now, but we expect that to be finalized very shortly and we will be making a public announcement of the plan very soon,” she said.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, told reporters on Tuesday the AstraZeneca vaccine is a “welcome addition to the vaccine repertoire that we have.”
“You know, our goal is to protect as many Manitobans as quickly as possible,” he said. “And right now the rate limiting step is just access to vaccine doses, and for the specific cell that the vaccine task force discussed that, but it’s a welcome addition for sure.”
Global News sent a request for comment to Manitoba to clarify whether the province plans to deliver the AstraZeneca to its senior population, but was not answered by time of publication.
Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saquib Shahab said he anticipates the province will receive “very limited amounts of AstraZeneca next week,” around 15,000 doses.
“And (we) will probably use it for specific age groups up to age 64,” he said. “And we will clarify which specific age groups in a few days.”
Shahab said as the province receives more vaccines from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, the shots will need to be incorporated into the vaccination schedule “depending on NACI recommendations.”
“And we have to remember, by the time AstraZeneca and Johnson supplies pick up, we hopefully will already have done everyone 65 and older anyway with Pfizer and Moderna,” he said.
On Monday, Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province will not be providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over the age of 65.
Doctor weighs in on AstraZeneca vaccine approval
Shandro said how that will impact the administration for those who are in phase two is “still yet to be determined.”
“We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon,” he said. “But you’re right that it has been recommended for the AstraZeneca vaccine to not be provided for those who are 65 and older.”
Meanwhile, the British Columbia Ministry of Health told Global News that once the province knows how many doses of the AstraZeneca shots it will be receiving and when, it will be able to further expand who is receiving the vaccine, including to essential workers, many of whom are under the age of 65.
The ministry said due to the clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under the age of 65, the province will need to adjust its plan to include these vaccines, adding that the province’s immunization committee will be looking at how best to do that based on science, data and ethical analysis.
Neither the Northwest Territories or the Yukon are anticipating receiving any AstraZeneca vaccines.
Instead, they will be vaccinating their populations with the vaccine from Moderna.
Global News reached out to Nunavut to determine whether the territory expects to receive an allotment of AstraZeneca vaccines and if they will be administered to those over 65, but did not hear back by time of publication.
— With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore and The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Jordan Press and Craig Wong, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 2, 2021 9:01AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 2, 2021 8:20PM EST
OTTAWA – The Canadian economy sprinted to the finish line of 2020 with nearly double-digit growth in the fourth quarter, ending its worst year on record on a strong note that has continued into the start of 2021.
The economy grew at an annualized rate of 9.6 per cent over the last three months of 2020, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday, down from an annualized growth rate of 40.6 per cent in the third quarter when the country fully emerged from the near-shutdown last spring.
Despite the better-than-expected result for the quarter as a whole, growth slowed in December with a 0.1 per cent increase for the month, which followed a 0.8 per cent increase in November.
Looking to January, Statistics Canada said its early estimate was for growth in the economy of 0.5 per cent.
“Lots of small businesses – your local barbers, your local restaurant or stores – may have had to shut down through the restrictions, but a lot of other areas did manage to keep grinding through,” said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter.
“The sectors that did get closed down in the second wave, when they’re able to open up, we think the economy will have a big step up, and then we’ll have another, even bigger step up when the vast majority of the population is vaccinated.”
CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a note that the early January figure should set aside fears of an outright downturn in the first quarter of 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to trip up the economy after the virus’s spread shuttered businesses and led to millions out of work. The question was how bad would it be.
The answer the statistics agency provided Tuesday was that real gross domestic product shrank 5.4 per cent, the steepest annual decline since comparable data was first recorded in 1961.
The drop for the year was due to the shutdown of large swaths of the economy in March and April.
Economic activity slowly and steadily grew between May and November, though renewed lockdowns in some areas and a subdued holiday retail season in December saw the final month of the year buck taht trend.
Federal spending has also cushioned the blow. Statistics Canada reported on Monday that government aid has more than made up for losses in salaries and wages, particularly for low-income households.
Savings skyrocketed: RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen said households accumulated $212 billion in savings last year, about $184 billion above pre-shock trends, which could give a jolt to the economy as the year rolls on.
“Once containment measures ease, there is a lot of pent-up demand out there for spending on things like travel and hospitality services,” Janzen said.
The different impacts on sectors and the shift in online shopping, among other effects, make GDP an imperfect measure of what the economy went through.
Economist Armine Yalnizyan said an acceleration to digital sales in the retail industry could further disrupt the key economic indicator if technological shifts drive down prices and wages, ultimately affecting tax revenues.
“Even if you’re better off in terms of purchasing power, you may find your quality of life squeezed if we need to raise taxes to offer the same level of services,” said Yalnizyan, a fellow on the future of workers at the Atkinson Foundation.
“That’s why GDP is no longer as robust a measure of progress — because of digital.”
The Liberals have spoken more about employment levels as a key metric of recovery. It’s why experts say Tuesday’s GDP figures likely won’t change federal spending plans the Liberals are set to outline in the coming weeks as part of a budget the government has said would include up to $100 billion in stimulus measures over a three-year period.
“The government has no plan, but they talk about building back better,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. “And that really means they’re going to be leaving some people in some sectors that they don’t like out of the economic recovery.”
O’Toole didn’t offer specifics of his own, saying the Opposition Conservatives would have a detailed recovery plan before the next federal election.
The Liberals are reviewing a laundry list of budget ideas to help manage through the rest of the pandemic, and aid in a recovery.
Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said support should be targeted in the medium-term to the hardest-hit businesses suffering under a debt load that is fast becoming unsustainable.
Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, wrote in an open letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland that the government should invest in skills training, trade-enhancing infrastructure and research and development to raise productivity.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.
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