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Alberta man in Costa Rica defies orders to come home to helps orphaned monkeys

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TORONTO —
Despite calls for Canadians abroad to return home, one Alberta man decided to stay in Costa Rica for the time being, where he is volunteering at an animal shelter for monkeys.

Matthew Halfacre of Edmonton travelled to Cabuya, Costa Rica in early February for a planned months-long trip to volunteer at the Wild Sun Rescue Center, which works to rehabilitate and release wild animals — including monkeys, iguanas and birds — back into the wild.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in North America, Halfacre watched as several volunteers decided to head home, while few people remained to take care of the orphaned animals.

“Costa Rica closed their borders and we weren’t able to get any more volunteers,” he told CTV News.

It was then that the 26-year-old decided — despite the Canadian government’s urging and his family’s concern — that he would stay behind and help out the shelter.

“My family did message me but I just told them the animals need care,” he said.

The Wild Sun Rescue Center is now down to just nine volunteers and with Costa Rica closing off its borders, reinforcements aren’t expected any time soon. Before the local airport closed, the centre even offered free flights to those interested in helping out.

The facility specializes in monkey rehabilitation, with around 30 currently in their care. Many of these monkeys were electrocuted after climbing around on uninsulated power lines.

Baby monkeys that arrive at the centre typically need to stay until they are about three years old, before they can be released into the wild.

“We get a lot of babies,” said Natasha Hamilton, manager of the Wild Sun Rescue Center. “Their mothers have been electrocuted while they were still small and holding onto her body. She will more often than not take the brunt of the shock and be killed.”

The centre also reintroduced 10 scarlet macaws back into the wild last year after 50 years of near extinction in the area.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the rehabilitation centre has found it increasingly difficult to feed the animals, as they had previously relied on food scraps from restaurants that are now closed.

“We’ve had to go forgaging…but it is mango season, so we’re quite a few mangoes,” Halfacre said.

Money has also become an issue. The centre relied upon charging volunteers to stay at their on-site hotel, but those who decided to stay and help have been offered free housing as a thanks.

“We’re just indebted to those people,”  Hamilton said. “They have such a passion for this project and these animals.”

As of Sunday, Costa Rica has 660 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths.

updated on April 20, 2020

By Harry Miller

Credit: ctvnews.ca
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Internal documents show CBSA scenarios to decide who gets across the border — and who doesn't – CBC.ca

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Internal documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada give insight into how Canadian border officials are deciding who to let into the country —  and who to turn away — during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Canadian families have told CBC News of the heartbreak they have experienced being separated due to restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border.

Among them are a young Canadian woman who has to organize the family’s move to another city on her own because her American husband was not allowed to enter Canada; a Canadian man in his 50s who suffers from panic attacks and has been forced to live without the support of his American spouse since March 25; and a pregnant Canadian woman whose American husband was banned from crossing the border.

Some Americans have been denied entry at the border even though the Order in Council issued by the federal government on March 26 that was in effect at the time stipulated that immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents were allowed to enter Canada unless “the purpose of their trip is optional or discretionary, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment.”

Internal documents from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) illustrate how border agents arrived at their decisions about what is essential travel and is “discretionary/optional.”

62 scenarios

One of the internal CBSA documents contains a list of 62 different scenarios. The fictitious cases are considered plausible to occur at the border and include individual circumstances an officer must take into account when making a decision about who can and cannot cross into the country.

Some of the scenarios involving family reunification have nuances and exceptions: many have the notation “dependent/depends on circumstances.” A specific detail can sometimes mean the difference between someone allowed entry into the country or being refused, according to explanations within the document.

Here are some of the scenarios, and the reasons CBSA may or may not allow entry:

  • Foreign national coming to Canada to temporarily reside with spouse or immediate family during the pandemic: CBSA says it considers circumstances such as whether the individual is trying to avoid the pandemic in the U.S. or trying to ensure their partner’s health and well-being.
  • Coming to visit Canadian spouse during days off: CBSA deems this non-essential/discretionary.
  • Coming to be a caregiver for a Canadian family member (pregnancy, disabilities or elderly): CBSA says it considers factors such as whether there are other options for caring for the family member.
  • Coming to Canada for the birth of a child: CBSA says it takes into account factors such as Canadian hospital restrictions on visitation, which may prohibit a visitor who has travelled outside the country in the past 14 days.
  • A spouse or child crossing the border with a truck driver transporting essential goods may be admitted if they have no other way home or if they are a co-driver, but may be turned away if they do have alternate ways to return home.

A lack of clear guidelines can lead to arbitrary decisions, says Negar Achtari, an immigration lawyer in Ottawa who read over the various scenarios.

“Quite a few of these scenarios fall into the ‘it depends’ category, which means that ultimately the interpretation of the situation is up to the border officer,” she said in a French-language interview. “So a person travelling to Canada has no guarantee, cannot know if they are going to be admitted.”

She said simple and clear directives are necessary for both border officers and travellers to be able to navigate the current conditions, and she wants family reunification to be recognized as a valid reason for essential travel. 

When contacted by CBC/Radio-Canada, the CBSA did not address the issue of interpretation of the guidelines but said that agents are acting to stem the spread of the virus. 

“Border services officers at Canada’s international ports of entry apply additional measures required at the border to prevent the spread of serious communicable diseases in Canada,” CBSA wrote in a statement to Radio-Canada.

Possible changes coming

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was considering easing the rules at the U.S. border to allow immediate family members to reconnect.

WATCH | Trudeau questioned about the U.S border and family reunification

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters on Friday. 1:45

“We have been looking at ways at perhaps allowing close family members — children, spouses or parents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents — to be able to reunite under strict conditions through a slight modification of the directives for the Canadian Border Services Agency.”

However, Trudeau acknowledged that the proposed relaxation of the rules wasn’t welcomed by all provinces. 

For now, the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until June 21.

Read the CBSA’s document of sample scenarios for determining entry from the U.S.

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Anticipating 'mass vaccinations', Canada ordering millions of syringes – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The federal government has begun procuring the supplies that will be essential for “mass vaccinations” in the event that a vaccine is found for COVID-19, starting with signing a contract for 37 million syringes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced that the government was adding syringes on to the list of essential COVID-19 supplies that are being procured, and later Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that the contract has been signed with Canadian company Becton Dickinson Canada to supply the essential tool in delivering vaccines.  

“We are also continuing to work to procure the other supplies needed for eventual mass vaccinations on a systemic level. We are making sure that when a viable vaccine is discovered, Canada will be ready for its administration,” Anand said.

Anand didn’t offer a timeline on when the syringes will be delivered, noting that the need at the moment is not as pressing.

“We need to plan ahead for that eventuality,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, adding that work is also underway around how administering an eventual vaccine would be prioritized to certain segments of the population.

“We do account for the maximum number of Canadians who may wish to be vaccinated,” Tam said.  

In mid-May, Health Canada announced that it had given the green light to a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine in this country, and Canada is also involved in trials ongoing around the world, too. 

It could still be some time before any possible treatment is deemed safe and stable enough for mass-vaccination, though the federal government is funding research and development for various options. This is being done in an effort to offset what Trudeau has flagged as an area where there will likely also be a supply and demand struggle. 

Infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News Channel that, while not as nearly pressing a need, “if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that preparedness is much better than reactionary responses to a given situation.”

“But if we want to get on top of that there’s certainly no harm,” he said.

FRONT-LINE SUPPLY CHALLENGES PERSIST 

During his Rideau Cottage address on federal COVID-19 response efforts, Trudeau provided an update on the ongoing efforts to procure personal protective equipment.

Throughout the pandemic Canada’s attempts to procure essential supplies has been a struggle, with the national tracker from Public Services and Procurement Canada continuing to show that just a fraction of what has been ordered has actually arrived.  

Trudeau noted that Canada has received more than 100 million surgical masks, though that is just a third of what the government has ordered. He also noted that nearly 40 million gloves have been procured, yet the government has ordered more than one billion.

Over the last two months the federal government has been providing incremental updates on the stocking-up underway and contract-signing with Canadian manufacturers that have retooled to mass produce life-saving medical supplies.

The prime minister said on Tuesday that the federal government is also funding a handful of Canadian companies that are currently working on potential “breakthrough solutions” for rapid COVID-19 testing.

 “Working with suppliers from around the world is key to keeping Canadians safe, but at the end of the day, one of the best ways to ensure we have what we need, well, it’s to make it right here at home,” Trudeau said, noting that demand is only going to increase for protective gear as more businesses and sectors reopen. 

As of Tuesday afternoon there are more than 92,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases Canada-wide, though just over a third of those are active cases. More than 7,300 people in Canada have died as a result of contracting the virus.

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Anticipating COVID-19 vaccine, Canada to begin procuring syringes: PM – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The federal government has begun procuring the supplies that will be essential for “mass vaccinations” in the event that a vaccine is found for COVID-19, starting with signing a contract for 37 million syringes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced that the government was adding syringes on to the list of essential COVID-19 supplies that are being procured, and later Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that the contract has been signed with Canadian company Becton Dickinson Canada to supply the essential tool in delivering vaccines.  

“We are also continuing to work to procure the other supplies needed for eventual mass vaccinations on a systemic level. We are making sure that when a viable vaccine is discovered, Canada will be ready for its administration,” Anand said.

Anand didn’t offer a timeline on when the syringes will be delivered, noting that the need at the moment is not as pressing.

“We need to plan ahead for that eventuality,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, adding that work is also underway around how administering an eventual vaccine would be prioritized to certain segments of the population.

“We do account for the maximum number of Canadians who may wish to be vaccinated,” Tam said.  

In mid-May, Health Canada announced that it had given the green light to a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine in this country, and Canada is also involved in trials ongoing around the world, too. 

It could still be some time before any possible treatment is deemed safe and stable enough for mass-vaccination, though the federal government is funding research and development for various options. This is being done in an effort to offset what Trudeau has flagged as an area where there will likely also be a supply and demand struggle. 

Infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News Channel that, while not as nearly pressing a need, “if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that preparedness is much better than reactionary responses to a given situation.”

“But if we want to get on top of that there’s certainly no harm,” he said.

FRONT-LINE SUPPLY CHALLENGES PERSIST 

During his Rideau Cottage address on federal COVID-19 response efforts, Trudeau provided an update on the ongoing efforts to procure personal protective equipment.

Throughout the pandemic Canada’s attempts to procure essential supplies has been a struggle, with the national tracker from Public Services and Procurement Canada continuing to show that just a fraction of what has been ordered has actually arrived.  

Trudeau noted that Canada has received more than 100 million surgical masks, though that is just a third of what the government has ordered. He also noted that nearly 40 million gloves have been procured, yet the government has ordered more than one billion.

Over the last two months the federal government has been providing incremental updates on the stocking-up underway and contract-signing with Canadian manufacturers that have retooled to mass produce life-saving medical supplies.

The prime minister said on Tuesday that the federal government is also funding a handful of Canadian companies that are currently working on potential “breakthrough solutions” for rapid COVID-19 testing.

 “Working with suppliers from around the world is key to keeping Canadians safe, but at the end of the day, one of the best ways to ensure we have what we need, well, it’s to make it right here at home,” Trudeau said, noting that demand is only going to increase for protective gear as more businesses and sectors reopen. 

As of Tuesday afternoon there are more than 92,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases Canada-wide, though just over a third of those are active cases. More than 7,300 people in Canada have died as a result of contracting the virus.

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