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American man not allowed into Canada to visit dying mother because he isn't considered 'immediate family' – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
A group of about 5,000 strangers, divided by borders but united in their shared grief and frustration over rigid travel restrictions, are calling for changes that would allow loved ones to enter Canada while still adhering to safety measures put in place at the height of the pandemic.

But for Mary House Goldman, a 60-year-old Toronto resident, the regulatory changes may not come in time.

Goldman has been trying to help her 62-year-old brother cross the U.S.-Canada border so that he can say goodbye to their mother, who is currently in palliative care.

She told CTV News Toronto that last weekend, her 85-year-old mother had difficulty swallowing and was brought to the hospital. After a number of tests were conducted, it was determined that she has a “large mass” on the left side of her brain.

The family was told she had months, maybe weeks to live.

“Now it’s even more urgent that my brother comes here now,” Goldman said. “He would very much like to see my mom before she passes.”

Goldman said that her brother is an American citizen and has been living in relative self-isolation for months after undergoing a spinal cord surgery in February. She has been trying to contact officials at the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) as well as her local MP in order to get a travel exemption.

“It’s been tough for him, emotionally and psychologically, because he’s had to heal from a traumatic surgery without his family around him,” Goldman said. “Then he’s had to deal with the idea that my mom might pass and he may not get to see her before she passes. And he may not be able to grieve with us either.”

Under the current exemptions, which were put in place by the federal government in June, immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents can enter Canada. Those eligible under the exemption include spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and their children, parents, as well as legal guardians or “tutors.”

Committed partners who may not apply for common-law status, as well as adult children and siblings, are not included under the exemption.

Goldman is one of thousands who are asking the federal government to change those rules. She is part of “Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border,” a group that has released a policy proposal and family reunification quarantine plan they hope will convince officials to make slight tweaks to the rules so that family members are able to see each other.

‘We are not asking for open borders’

Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border” was co-founded by 34-year-old Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon after his partner arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport only to be sent back home to Dublin, Ireland.

Poon was living in Dublin when the pandemic was declared. The couple had contacted numerous embassies in order to ensure they would be considered as common-law partners and had the right documentation to travel. Poon said they were told there shouldn’t be any problems and that they would be exempt from the travel restrictions put in place.

In March, Poon travelled back to Canada with the expectation that his partner, Alexandria Aquino, who is a nurse, would follow in April.

That was the last time Poon saw her.

Aquino managed to get to Toronto Pearson Airport with her documentation–including a negative COVID-19 test, proof the couple had lived together and a specialized document saying she was exempt from the travel restrictions–but when she arrived, a border agent said that she didn’t meet their criteria for a common-law relationship.

She was told to get back on a plane that same day.

Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon and Alexandria Aquino

“That broke my heart,” Poon said on the phone, his voice shaking as he added that there are people so much worse off.

“She and I are lucky. I don’t, knock on wood, I don’t have cancer. She’s not a breastfeeding mother. But so many people are. And that’s why she and I co-founded ‘Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border,’ because this is wrong.”

He mentioned the case of Sarah Campbell, who lives in Stratford, Ont. and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Her fiancé is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Poon said he has been denied an exemption to go see her.

Campbell, who as a Canadian citizen, could travel to the U.K. under federal rules but is stuck in Canada while she undergoes treatment. She had surgery last week.

Poon made it clear that the advocacy group does not want to open up borders to non-essential or “discretionary” travel. They just want to change the exemptions, with added public health measures in place, to ensure safe reunification of families.

“Our motto is: ‘We are not asking for open borders, we are just asking to come together,’” Poon said.

The group’s policy proposal, entitled “Love is not Tourism,” hinges on four specific changes that would allow foreign nationals to reunite with their families in a way that is both safe and accessible. Following the expansion of the definition of immediate family member, they propose the following:

  • The Canadian family member must sign a legally-binding affidavit attesting to the familial relationship and taking legal and financial responsibility for the actions of the foreign national coming into the country. The group argues that this can be enforced by fines and/or incarceration if necessary,
  • Foreign nationals must provide proof of health coverage or travel insurance to cross the border or the Canadian party will have to agree to be financially responsible for any health-related costs, such as taking a COVID-19 tests, they may incur.
  • If feasible, the foreign national would take a COVID-19 test and if it comes up positive, they shall voluntarily and without question withdraw their application to enter Canada.
  • The Order in Council mandating that foreign nationals need to come to Canada for a minimum of 15 days to allow for 14 days of self-isolation should be changed to allow for shorter visits, as long as the visitor remains in self-isolation for the entirety of their trip. However, the Canadian family member in contact with the foreign national would continue to quarantine for the full 14 days as a precaution.

The policy proposal argues that the current exemptions are discriminatory based on marital status and that the mandated 14-day quarantine period may not be feasible for many due to their economic situations or familial responsibilities.

Poon said he has heard very little from the federal government about his proposal, despite the fact that they have an official petition signed by 5,338 Canadian citizens or permanent residents expected to be presented to the House of Commons this week.

Is the plan safe?

The policy proposal was created in consultation with Toronto epidemiologist and assistant professor at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Colin Furness.

Furness said the proposal put forward by Poon “is very sound,” adding that there is always going to be an element of risk when crossing a border amid the pandemic.

“I think it’s a big blind spot,” he said of the government’s limited family exemptions. “I don’t think anyone made a conscious decision that non-common law spouses … can’t reunite, I really think they fell through the cracks.”

“I’m not going to say travel is safe,” he added. “But it’s not for me to say that family shouldn’t be reunited.”

The idea of having the Canadian family member sign a legally-binding document attesting to their relationship and taking responsibility that the visitor will follow quarantine rules is a game changer, Furness argued, and should encourage legitimate travel. He also added that the changes to the quarantine rules—allowing a foreign national to leave the country earlier than 15 days while the Canadian family remains in self-isolation—doesn’t seem like “a dilution” of the current policy and “maintains the spirit of what the 14 days is supposed to do.”

The ban on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States was first introduced in March and has been continuously extended every month. The previous extension expires on Aug. 21.

Furness said that because the Canadian government is deciding to keep borders closed on a month-to-month basis, they may not be looking at the long-term ramifications of keeping the border closed.

“If you’re thinking that way, you don’t need to make provisions for separated families because it’s only going to be a month or more,” he said. “ But the reality, the unspoken reality, is that this is going to be a year or more. And when you have that kind of timeline, you need to start thinking about hardship, hardship from separation.”

Decisions made ‘at the discretion of the border services officer’

According to a CBSA spokesperson, the final decision of whether or not someone’s reason for crossing the border is “non-discretionary” or whether a relationship is considered common-law, is “made by a border services officer at the port of entry with the information presented upon time of entry to Canada.

“We recognize that these are difficult situations for some, however these are unprecedented times, and the measures imposed were done so in light of potential public health risks and to help reduce and manage the number of foreign travel-related cases of COVID-19,” Rebecca Purdy said.

Ontario U.S. border

Examples of non-discretionary travel provided by Purdy include economic services and supply chains, critical infrastructure and health supports, safety and security, the safety of an individual or family, and “other activities at the discretion of the border services officer.”

For those claiming they are in a common-law relationship, the onus is on the traveller to provide proof such as a joint lease, shared utility bills or other official documents with the same place of residence listed.

“There’s no consistent method of screening,” Poon said.

The inconsistency and lack of clarity in terms of the family exemptions is why Goldman’s brother hasn’t simply shown up at the border in an attempt to come into Canada—although it’s not something they are ruling out.

“Basically, they say, ‘well it’s up to the border agent,’” Goldman said. “If you get a compassionate one, you get through. If you get a, you know, a hard-ass one, you’re not.”

“We’re about to put together the whole package for him because he has to come to the border with all the documentation proving his family.”

Poon said that not everyone can afford to try their hand at crossing the border, especially those who have to take a plane to get into the country.

“If flying in from anywhere else in the world you’re spending $1,000 to gamble at the border and that is completely inappropriate and is completely inequitable to those who do not have the financial resources.”

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Snowbirds debate winter plans as temperatures drop and COVID-19 cases rise – CTV News

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TORONTO —
As temperatures begin to cool down in Canada, some snowbirds are considering toughing out the winter months north of the border, while others hope border restrictions ease so they can make the trip south.

Jack Deneboom is among the estimated 350,000 Canadians who spend between three and six months in Florida. He and his wife are still unsure if they will try to head to their winter home in Naples, Fla. this winter.

“Too many people are not taking it seriously and down there we see a very politicized situation,” he told CTV News.

On Monday, the state of Florida reported 1,701 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing their overall total to 685,439 cases since the pandemic began. Canada reported 1,308 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, hitting a total of 145,418 confirmed cases of the virus.

While the Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel until Oct. 21 and may be extended, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Canadian air passengers can still enter the country, provided they haven’t visited Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or countries in the Schengen Area in the 14 days prior.

Depending on the state, Canadians entering the U.S. may have to self-isolate upon arrival.

Joanne Atherton faces a similar decision. She spends hers summers at a gated RV resort in Peterborough County, Ont. but drives down to Northport, Fla. every winter.

Atherton said she isn’t comfortable taking a flight, meaning she may have to stay with family members this year if the border isn’t opened sometime soon.

“I don’t think I’m COVID crazy,” she said. “I’m cautious.”

COMPANIES NOW PROVIDE COVID-19 INSURANCE

Due to the growing demand for international travel, several insurance companies have begun offering COVID-19 medical coverage as part of their travel insurance.

Medipac, a service with ties to the Canadian Snowbirds Association, offers four months of coverage for less than $900, provided the customer is below the age of 70 and in good health.

“There was a large outcry from Canadian snowbirds at the beginning of this travel season, asking if there was going to be coverage for COVID-19 related illness,” said Christopher Davidge, Medipac vice president of sales and marketing.

Manulife announced a similar service last week, designed to provide medical coverage for COVID-19 infections and some coverage in the event a trip is cancelled or interrupted.

While the Canadian government continues to advise against all non-essential travel, there are several destinations Canadians can fly to with few, if any, restrictions, including Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and much of Europe.

Experts do point out, however, that many of the attractions may be limited or closed down as countries experience a second wave of cases.

Upon return from any international travel, Canadians must still self isolate for 14 days.

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Survey finds working Canadians are better off financially, more stressed about money – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new survey has found that Canadians who’ve been able to continue working through the pandemic are in a better spot financially than they were a year ago, but are more stressed about money.

The survey from the Canadian Payroll Association shows 62 per cent of working Canadians were able to save more than five per cent of their paycheque so far in 2020, compared to 59 per cent last year

Additionally, 37 per cent of Canadians reported living paycheque-to-paycheque, a decline of six percentage points from 2019 and the lowest in the 12-year history of the survey.

The researchers hypothesize that less commuting, not having to pay for child care and saving on lunches contributed to the improved financial well-being of working Canadians through the pandemic.

However, the survey also found 43 per cent of Canadians are financially stressed, and just 22 per cent consider themselves “comfortable.” The results had previously remained steady at about 33 per cent in each category since 2009.

The Canadian Payroll Association believes this jump is above the historical trends, meaning there is an outside factor impacting this stress, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While it’s not a surprise that more Canadian workers are financially stressed, the variance between this year’s results and what was expected based on the historical trends, caught us off guard,” Dr. Adam Metzler, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of the survey leads, said in a news release.

“The algorithm recognized that, despite remaining on payroll and being in a measurably better financial position right now, financial stress this year was impacted by a complex combination of new factors — including those that are more psychological than financial in nature.”

The survey also found the majority of Canadians are concerned about inflation, their ability to retire, their job security and a possible recession.

Additionally, 69 per cent of Canadians said they spent time at work thinking about their personal finances, which the association estimates represents $20.3 billion in lost productivity.

“That estimate is a conservative one,” said Peter Tzanetakis, president of the Canadian Payroll Association. “The costs of increased absenteeism, decreased motivation, strained relationships with colleagues, and turnover that many respondents cite as consequences of financial stress, also need to be taken into account.”

As a means of lowering financial stress levels in the workplace, the association suggests employers can work with employees to establish long-term saving habits, engage with employees during a crisis and to establish a payroll continuity plan.

According to the August Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, the national unemployment rate is at 10.2 per cent. That’s an improvement of 1.4 per cent from July, but still a ways away from the 4.5 per cent unemployment rate in February, before the pandemic.

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Spouse witnessed N.S. gunman torching their cottage, court documents say – CBC.ca

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The man responsible for April’s mass shootings in Nova Scotia took a leisurely drive around a community close to his rural cottage, stopped to chat with a fellow denturist and oversaw work being done on his property in the hours before the massacre began.

The details of a seemingly mundane day leading up to the shootings are contained in sections of court records that a provincial court judge ordered released Monday following a court hearing.

The documents also say that on the evening of April 18, the gunman’s spouse was present inside as he doused the floor of the cottage they shared with gasoline — before grabbing guns and igniting the log building he’d prized. The woman, whose name is redacted from the records, later told police he said, “I’m done, I’m done. It’s too late [redacted], I’m done.”

On April 18 and 19, Gabriel Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several communities in rural Nova Scotia. He torched his own cottage and garage, and three other homes over a 13-hour period before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. after a lengthy search.

The faces of the 22 victims. The rampage that left 22 people dead unfolded over about 13 hours, before police shot and killed the gunman. (CBC)

A judge on Monday approved the release of six more of the approximately 23 judicial authorizations RCMP have obtained since the massacre — to search gunman’s properties in Portapique and Dartmouth, and for his financial records. Redacted copies of seven were previously released. 

Though the new documents are heavily redacted, each is about 90 pages long and includes information about how the gunman procured decommissioned RCMP cruisers and police equipment and about his financial transactions months prior to the attacks. All information related to the type of firearms used remains blacked out. 

Expected to head to Dartmouth

It’s unclear why the gunman “snapped,” as his spouse described it to police. The documents also offer little information about why Wortman targeted his victims, some of whom he knew. His partner told police she did not know their neighbours well. 

She also told police that, that night, she believed he was going to take her to Dartmouth, where they had another home and a clinic, to kill people or burn buildings, according to the documents. The specifics are blacked out. The woman has never spoken publicly about what she saw on April 18. Her lawyer has declined requests for comment from CBC News. 

A search warrant document says police recovered cash on the shooter’s property that he had stashed in an ammunition box. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At some point after Wortman loaded guns and ammunition into his mock cruiser, the woman escaped. She told investigators she initially hid in a truck before spending hours in a wooded area in Portapique. Though she heard someone announcing they were police on a loudspeaker, she said she feared it was her partner. Around dawn she went to the home of a neighbour who called 911.

Large cash withdrawal

RCMP have previously said Wortman liquidated his assets and stockpiled gas and food due to COVID-19 fears. A warrant that the court released in May revealed people told the investigators the gunman was paranoid and had a history of abuse.

According to the new documents, his spouse also told police in the weeks prior to the attacks he was “consumed” by the pandemic, talking about it constantly and saying he “knew he was going to die.”

She also said he feared that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would find a way to control money and that prompted him to withdraw nearly half a million dollars from his own accounts. The RCMP interviewed officials from CIBC and Brinks about a March 30 withdrawal in Dartmouth.

The gunman’s cottage in Portapique was destroyed in a fire he set, but a large deck along the shore was mostly intact. Pictured is the area under the structure. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Officials from the bank told police that Wortman asked to liquidate investments and then transferred the money to his business accounts. On March 25 at a branch in Dartmouth, he asked the bank’s director that his $475,000 be paid out in $100 bills, according to the court documents. 

The records state the bank worked with Brinks to set up a pick-up on March 30. 

RCMP have not said how much cash police have recovered. The search warrant documents show that on April 22, investigators found cash folded in tinfoil packets inside an ammunition box discovered at the Portapique property. 

Suspicious transactions flagged 

Canada’s money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), reported on Wortman’s personal and professional financial activities after the massacre, according to the newly released documents.

The records say Wortman’s PayPal account was used to buy vehicle accessories labelled as being for police use on eBay. The court documents describe the purchases as “for items utilized in the facilitation of domestic terrorist activities.”

Police searched the Atlantic Denture Clinic in downtown Dartmouth on April 20. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

According to the court documents, the Fintrac review found that PayPal flagged suspicious transactions between March 22 and Dec. 5, 2019 — though it’s not clear from the records if that’s when they were reported as suspicious or if that’s when they occurred.

Those purchases included accessories for police vehicles such as:

  • A centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus.
  • A ram for the front bumper of a Taurus sedan.
  • Siren lights. 
  • A dashcam.
  • Thin blue line vinyl decal.
  • Hubcaps.
  • A gun rack.

Other transactions listed as suspicious include $15,045 worth of items — including decommissioned cars — purchased with credit cards from GCSurplus in Ottawa. The site is run by Public Services and Procurement Canada.

There’s also reference to cash deposits payable to Wortman from Northumberland Investments, one of his companies. The Fintrac review found three questionable transactions: two cash deposits in 2010 totalling $200,000 and another for $246,000. The transactions happened in Fredericton and Dartmouth, but the documents don’t elaborate on the circumstances.

Border crossings

What is clear is that over the years, people around the gunman knew he had a penchant for acquiring car parts and collecting motorcycles. Some also knew he had guns and one car that he’d outfitted to resemble an actual cruiser.

The documents reference interviews with two people who responded to a Kijiji ad about an off-road vehicle in the weeks prior to April’s attacks. In both cases, Wortman showed off his replica cruiser inside the large garage he had in Portapique.

Using one of his companies, he purchased the 2017 Ford Taurus used in the attacks on July 3, 2019, from the RCMP, according to the search warrant records. 

A friend of Aaron Tuck, who was one of Wortman’s victims, told police that in August 2019, Tuck told him that Wortman’s mock cruiser was indistinguishable from an actual police vehicle and that he kept a holster for a gun in the back of it. Tuck was killed alongside his wife, Jolene Oliver, and his daughter, Emily, at their home in Portapique.

Gabriel Wortman carried out his rampage using a vehicle made to look like an RCMP cruiser in every way, with the exception of the numbers police circled in this photo. (Nova Scotia RCMP)

Peter Griffon, a neighbour who was on parole and who printed the decals for the cruiser, initially lied to police about his involvement but later showed investigators images of the vehicle he kept on his phone. He did odd jobs for Wortman and on April 18 had been splitting wood for him. He last saw him around noon that day, before Wortman headed out for a drive.

Wortman also stopped and talked with a fellow denturist, who is not identified, about work and COVID-19.  

The gunman’s spouse said Wortman was constantly scouring sites for police gear which he bought in both Canada and the U.S.

Records the RCMP obtained from Canada Border Services Agency showed that Wortman crossed the U.S.-Canada border in Woodstock, N.B., 15 times over a two-year period, with his last return to Canada on March 6. He did not have permits to import supplies for his denturist business, but the CBSA said he was personally importing car parts.

Wortman appears to have had a long history of threats and violence. A former neighbour has spoken out about being harassed by Wortman after reporting to RCMP that Wortman abused his spouse. The spouse and another relative relayed to police an account of Wortman’s vicious attack on his father during a trip to the Caribbean. In 2011, someone reported to Truro police that the denturist threatened to “kill a cop.”

The documents released Monday are the second batch of search warrant documents the court has agreed to release. CBC applied in April for access to the records and seven other media outlets joined the application.

David Coles, the lawyer representing the media organizations, has filed a request for a judicial review of decisions Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie had made in the case. Halfpenny MacQuarrie will consider that request Oct. 2 in Halifax provincial court.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians. 

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