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Anand says Conservative COVID-19 motion could endanger Canada’s ability to procure vaccines, PPE

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s relationships with companies supplying protective gear and possible COVID-19 vaccines will be endangered if the latest Conservative request for what could be thousands of pages of pandemic documents is passed, says Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

However, the federal Conservatives were quick to balk at this assertion, insisting their demands are entirely legitimate and necessary.

If this latest Conservative opposition day motion passes, Canadians could have access to hundreds if not thousands of pages of internal health-focused policy documents related to the federal government’s COVID-19 response so far, as part of a health committee study on the Liberals’ response to the pandemic to-date.

In a Monday morning press conference Anand argued that passing the motion as drafted would undermine ongoing contract negotiations and threaten Canada’s ability to procure future COVID-19 supplies and could dissuade leading medical firms from doing business in this country, in a final attempt to convince opposition parties to vote down the motion.

“If this motion passes, it is my grave concern that those contracts are at risk, those negotiations are at risk, and suppliers will then as a result be hesitant to contract with the federal government. And that chill on our supplier relationships then undermines and perhaps negates our ability to procure additional PPE, buy additional vaccines, and additional rapid test kits,” Anand said.

“What is on the table here is the lives of Canadians. That’s the end goal of our procurements, that is what we are trying to protect… These procurements did not happen overnight. They were not easy. It was an incredibly difficult summer, and we managed to come through it with these procurements for Canadians. It hurts my heart to think that they would be jeopardized if this motion passes,” Anand said.

On the heels of Anand’s press conference, sponsor of the motion Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called the minister’s remarks “hyperbolic” and “fear-mongering,” and said if the Liberals have genuine concerns there are parliamentary avenues to pursue changes to the proposal.

“These are pieces of information that the Canadian public needs to know to have stability, these are reasonable questions for Parliament to ask,” Rempel Garner said. “When you’re seeing the numbers of COVID cases this weekend, this motion needs to pass. I mean that’s even more evidence to me that Parliament needs to be looking at a calm, rational questioning of the government’s approach to this pandemic which is what this motion is designed to do.”

From the moment it was proposed, the Liberals have rejected the motion, stating that not only was it a cumbersome request, but it would take department resources off the day-to-day response to the still-surging COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals have also said that they feel they have been transparent in regularly updating Canadians on progress with procurements and on pursuing new testing and treatment options.

“This is not about politics. As we are in the middle of the second wave, and the number of COVID cases continues to increase, this is not the time for this motion to be passed. This is not the time to threaten and weaken our relationships with our suppliers, on whom Canadians’ health and safety depends,” she said, adding that she agrees that MPs should study the federal COVID-19 response but it shouldn’t include this level of disclosure.

If the vote on Monday afternoon goes as anticipated, it’s set to pass despite the Liberals’ objections as the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats have voiced their support for the motion. However, it’s possible these recent concerns could prompt a change of position or, at least, spark a push for amendments to the motion.

STAKEHOLDERS ‘VERY’ CONCERNED

Over the last few days stakeholders have been speaking out about concerns they have with the release of the information the Conservatives are calling for.

On Friday, in letters to the government from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and the federal vaccine task force voiced their fears that if the disclosures include confidential, proprietary, or sensitive business information is made public it will have “very” serious negative impacts on the work and procurements currently underway.

In one letter, CME President Dennis Darby said many Canadian producers who re-tooled to help supply the country with much-needed personal protective equipment did so “under the assumption that any shared sensitive business information would be kept confidential.”

“The desire to now publish this information undermines the efforts put into the response by manufacturers and could do irreparable harm to Canada’s manufacturing businesses and international reputation as a good place to do business. Simply put, if companies cannot trust that their information will be kept confidential, a chill will set in on private enterprise seeking out government procurement contracts generally. We must avoid this scenario at all costs,” Darby said in a letter that was also sent to Conservative and NDP critics.

Major pharmaceutical company Pfizer has also joined the list of those speaking out against the Conservative motion. In a letter to Health Canada officials sent over the weekend, Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow said he is “deeply concerned with the implications and likely unintended consequences should this motion receive the support of enough parliamentarians.”

Pinnow said that the vetting process to release these documents “could interfere with contractual negotiations.”

Pfizer Canada is calling on MPs to consider amending the motion to include stronger language to safeguard scientific and commercially-sensitive information, and to explicitly direct the parliamentary law clerk who would be doing any redactions, to consult any impacted third parties about the information being released, as is standard under current access to information procedures.

WHAT’S BEING REQUESTED?

Among the information the motion would compel departments to turn over:

  • The approval process, procurement plans and protocol for distribution related to rapid and at-home testing as well as vaccines;
  • federal public health guidelines and the data being used to inform them, including current long-term care facility COVID-19 protocols as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communication strategy;
  • the availability of therapeutics and treatment devices for Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as the availability of personal protective equipment;
  • the government’s progress in evaluating pre- and post-arrival rapid testing for travellers as well as the impact of delaying the closure of Canada’s borders;
  • the development, efficacy and use of data related to the government’s COVID Alert application as well as the government’s contact tracing protocol; and
  • Canada’s level of preparedness to respond to another pandemic.

The motion calls on the government to disclose a host of emails, documents, notes, and other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as from cabinet ministers’ offices since mid-March related to the COVID-19 response as well as related to discussions with the World Health Organization.

The current limitation on the request only excludes personal privacy information and national security concerns.

Further, the Conservatives want the study to start within a week and the government to provide “comprehensive” responses to all of the above issues within a month, a compromise from the initial 15-day window proposed.

And, once the documents are submitted, the committee would have the ability to call a slate of cabinet ministers to testify, for three hours each.

Source: – CTV News

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Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years – CBC.ca

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Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures.

Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to figures released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be “safe countries” for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first.

The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration.

The federal government is appealing a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found the STCA infringed Charter rights.

The figures provided to Kwan show there was a spike in the number of asylum seekers turned back at the border after Trump was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017.

In 2016 there were 742 people turned back at the border. That figure jumped to 1,992 in 2017. There were 744 denied entry in 2018 and 663 in 2019.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23 this year — a period which captures the height of the first wave of COVID-19 — 259 people were turned back at the border.

‘Even more precarious’

Kwan called that “really disturbing.”

“In the face of a pandemic, things are even more precarious for people who need to get to safety and Canada actually did not hesitate to turn people back,” she said.

Kwan said the Trump administration imposed detention and deportation policies that violated international human rights and provoked widespread fear among refugees. By turning away asylum seekers, Canada is “complicit” in the violation of their rights, she said.

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump. The number of attempts by asylum seekers to enter Canada from the U.S. spiked in the year following Trump’s election. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Kwan said Canada should immediately suspend the STCA and work to negotiate a new agreement with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that addresses human rights issues. But she said the “aggressive and intense” detention policies could linger.

“I think even with the Biden administration, that policy may still continue to exist, and even if the Biden administration wants to make changes, it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said the government appealed the Federal Court ruling because it believes there were errors in key findings of fact and law.

She said the decision mistakenly suggests that all asylum claimants who are ineligible under the STCA and turned back to the U.S. are automatically detained as a penalty. She also noted that the U.S. remains a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Refugee pact ‘fair, compassionate’: Blair spokesperson

“The STCA, which has served Canada well for 16 years, ensures that those whose lives are in danger are able to claim asylum at the very first opportunity in a safe country,” she said. 

“We are in continuous discussions with the U.S. government on issues related to our shared border. We believe that the STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle for the fair, compassionate and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries.”

As for the spike in numbers in 2017, Power said that 2017-2018 recorded the highest number of globally displaced individuals since the Second World War.

Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said a number of factors could have driven that sharp increase, including global patterns and Trump’s policies.

He said Canada should be fulfilling its international obligations under international refugee law at all times — even during a pandemic, when safety concerns are heightened.

Mohammed pointed to exemptions made for students, family reunification and other immigration classes that allow people to arrive in Canada despite travel restrictions.

“Why are refugees being excluded from that? They’re able to quarantine or be required to have a quarantine plan just like anyone else … so why is there not the ability to be able to provide protection?” he said.

Partial picture

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the 2020 figures represent only a partial picture of the people turned back to the U.S. because of added restrictions after the border closed March 20.

At that time, refugee claimants were denied entry on public health grounds whether they arrived at an official point of entry or at another crossing — such as Roxham Road in Quebec — where the STCA does not normally apply.

Despite assurances the Canadian government says it received from the U.S. that refugee claimants directed back would not be subject to enforcement such as detention or removal, Dench said refugee advocates in Canada know of at least two people who were detained in the U.S. after being directed back.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the Liberal record on administering the refugee and asylum system was one of “mismanagement, years-long backlogs and failure,” even before the pandemic.

“Conservatives have long been calling on the government to close illegal border crossings and work with their American counterparts to close the longstanding loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that refugee and asylum seekers have a fair, compassionate and effective pathway to come to Canada,” she said in a statement.

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Canada will not be doing another repatriation amid coronavirus pandemic: Champagne – Global News

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The federal government will not be repatriating any more travelling Canadians as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, the country’s foreign affairs minister said.

Francois-Philippe Champagne made the remarks ahead of Question Period on Monday, saying that the government’s “travel advisory is very clear.”

“You know you see COVID around the world, you see second waves in many places and we’ve been very clear to Canadians. I think the (Prime Minister) has spoken, (and) has been very, very clear: We are not going to be doing another repatriation,” he said.

Read more:
How risky is going home for the holidays amid coronavirus? There’s a tool for that

Champagne said people should “be thinking twice [about] whether they have insurance coverage, where they’re going,” and what the COVID-19 situation is at their destination.

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“If COVID has taught us anything over the last six to nine months it’s that things can change rapidly and dramatically,” he continued.

“I think Canadians this year should really take extreme caution, and the best way is to follow, obviously, public health advice.”

Champagne said he doesn’t think travelling this year is “appropriate,” adding that staying home is the “right thing to do when you’re looking at the COVID situation around the world.”


Click to play video 'Canada’s prime minister and top doctor warn of massive spike in COVID-19 cases'



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Canada’s prime minister and top doctor warn of massive spike in COVID-19 cases


Canada’s prime minister and top doctor warn of massive spike in COVID-19 cases

Travel Canada has for months been advising Canadians to “avoid all non-essential travel” outside of the country and avoid travelling on cruise ships “until further notice.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“As foreign governments implement strict travel restrictions and as fewer international transportation options are available, you may have difficulty returning to Canada or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period,” the advisory reads.

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The agency’s website says there are “no plans to offer additional repatriation flights.”

“Should you decide to travel despite our advisories, know that you might have to remain abroad longer than you expected.”

Read more:
Coronavirus Christmas: Canadians should celebrate outdoors, virtually, experts say

The agency also says it may have “limited capacity” to offer consular services to those abroad.

In the first few months of the pandemic, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) coordinated with commercial airlines and the leaders of other countries to repatriate Canadians who found themselves stranded outside of the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Global News reached out to GAC to determine the total number of Canadians who have been repatriated as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but did not hear back by time of publication.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: New projection says Canada could see 20,000 daily cases by end of December'



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Coronavirus: New projection says Canada could see 20,000 daily cases by end of December


Coronavirus: New projection says Canada could see 20,000 daily cases by end of December

Champagne’s remarks come as the country continues to struggle to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By 5:30 p.m. ET, on Monday, the country had seen a total of 335,320 confirmed cases of the virus. 

To date, 11,500 have died in Canada after testing positive for the respiratory illness. 

Meanwhile, globally, the total number of COVID-19 infections has topped 59 million.

Since the virus was first detected, it has claimed 1,393,886 lives around the world.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Nov. 23 – CBC.ca

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Aarhus in Denmark is placing 100 waste bins around the city that can hold about 3,000 face masks. The containers have a clamped lid, which ensures that neither birds nor wind can spread the waste. (Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters)

P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador hit pause on Atlantic travel bubble

Residents of the four Atlantic provinces have been able to travel relatively freely across each other’s borders without quarantining, but that came to a halt on Monday after announcements from Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Both provinces cited rising cases in recent days in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride … but the situation has changed,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said in announcing a two-week pause from unfettered travel.

Travel to and from Newfoundland and Labrador will only be for essential reasons, Furey said.

P.E.I. said it will re-evaluate on Dec. 7, but beginning Tuesday, those arriving on the island from the other Atlantic provinces will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Over the last number of days, it has become apparent that our neighbours in Atlantic Canada, especially Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, are experiencing a second wave,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief public health officer. “I’m concerned it may already be here with some people,” she added.

Those coming to the province from the other three Atlantic provinces will once again need to apply for entry, and students who return to P.E.I. will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

Click below to watch more from The National

Canadians’ fears about contracting COVID-19 kept many people from going to the emergency room. New data shows ER visits were down by nearly one million and there is concern about the impact on the patients who didn’t get the care they needed. 1:59

IN BRIEF

Workplace compensation claims reflect COVID-19 toll on Canadian workers

CBC News has reached out to provincial workers’ compensation boards across the country and found that more than 26,000 claims have been filed by people who contracted COVID-19 at work, the first concrete indication — though not fully complete — of how many workers are getting COVID-19.

Jeffrey Freedman, who was among those 26,000, felt he had no choice earlier in the pandemic but to work at his tile company despite the risk of infection. Freedman spent 44 days in hospital and still can’t work or drive a vehicle due to lingering health effects.

“I have brain fog. I have permanent damage to my vocal cords from the ICU and tubing for 33 days. I have constant neck and bicep pains,” he said.

In Ontario and British Columbia, the data shows that most claims have come from workers in health-care facilities and agriculture.

A quarter of workers in Ontario are not covered at all by the workers’ compensation system, compared with B.C., where all workers have coverage. In addition to variations across the provinces in terms of eligibility, data collection is a challenge as there is no standard accounting of how many people have fallen sick while at work due to a patchwork of provincial and federal tracking. What’s more, the system does not capture COVID-19 cases among workers who are ineligible.

Read more about what the claims tell us

National grief strategy needed for COVID-19 losses, advocacy group says

With over 11,000 Canadians dead from COVID-19, an organization called the Canadian Grief Alliance has been pushing the federal government for a national strategy to help people cope with the increased loss society is facing. The alliance hopes the government will invest $100 million over three years.

Shelly Cory, executive director of Canadian Virtual Hospice and one of the founders of the alliance, says the pandemic’s impact on Canada and the number of people who are grieving is “astounding.” The alliance is calling for a national consultation to help understand the impact and scope of the issue.

“We’ve never dealt with grief from a pandemic. We need to understand where the pressure points are and where we need to provide resources to suffering Canadians,” said Cory, who noted that grief during the pandemic doesn’t involve dealing with the death of a loved one only.

Health Canada says it has funded Wellness Together Canada, a portal that provides Canadians with access to free, credible information and supports to help reinforce mental wellness and address mental health and substance use issues.

The agency also said it has received the proposal from the Canadian Grief Alliance, and officials have been engaging with the organization to discuss its proposal.

Read more about the initiative

Distribution, national registry key issues in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The past two weeks have provided encouraging news on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, including on Monday from AstraZeneca, but there will be challenges in distributing and tracking vaccine usage in a country as vast as Canada.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called for “national criteria” to guide the country’s distribution efforts.

“Vulnerable people, and, of course, front-line workers, are going to get it first. We all agree with that. But we need to also come to a national agreement on those criteria because it isn’t going to be here all at the same time,” said Pallister.

The head of the committee advising the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on the use of vaccines also spoke to Barton. Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh says another challenge, aside from prioritizing who gets the vaccine, is that there is no national registry to oversee and track vaccination records.

“I think that most provinces have registries so that they’re able to follow up on who gets what, and it’s now the time to really be able to use it,” said Quach-Thanh.

Co-ordination and communication between levels of government will be critical. Even in the first few days after positive news regarding the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there appeared to be confusion between some provinces and the feds on how many doses were being allocated.

Read more about the distribution challenges

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

University of Guelph researchers look for answers regarding COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario are trying to determine why months after infection with COVID-19, some people are still battling crushing fatigue, lung damage and other symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Loree, a respiratory nurse in Kitchener, Ont. is a COVID-19 long-hauler. She tested positive for coronavirus in April, and eight months later she is still experiencing its effects.

“My circulation is poor. I still have bouts of nausea. I lost a great deal of my hair throughout this process, and every day is different,” she told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition. “I always have symptoms every day and it’s very difficult.”

Dr. Melanie Wills, director at the G. Magnotta Lyme Disease Research Lab at the university, said when the pandemic hit in early spring, they saw a potential similarity between COVID-19 and Lyme disease — some patients just don’t seem to get better.

“It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill with COVID now, and so my question is: if we are seeing a chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia syndrome emerging from the COVID, is that finally going to shine a spotlight on these types of diseases that have been really ignored to our own peril?” said Wills.

What researchers find will be crucial in treating those with lasting symptoms and trying to prevent new infections from lingering.

AND FINALLY…

Consistency key to adopting new fitness routines during pandemic, researchers say

A jogger runs on a track at Bear Creek Park in Surrey in June 2020. ((Ben Nelms/CBC))

With several provinces entering a more restrictive phase of lockdown that often affects gyms and recreation centres, health researchers in B.C. say it’s important to fight against apathy and still find ways to incorporate a regular fitness routine.

“It’s not something to sort of push off,” says University of Victoria Prof. Ryan Rhodes, who studies health psychology and how people approach and do exercise. “We have to accept that this is a new reality and find new routines to get our physical activity going,” he said.

Rhodes and Guy Faulkner from the University of British Columbia worked on different studies looking at how Canadians were exercising during the initial response to the pandemic. They found a noticed drop-off even among regular exercisers.

Early in the pandemic, it was learned that people with dogs more easily kept up with exercise by walking their pets. People who had exercise equipment at home, bought new equipment or even turned to YouTube for exercise videos also fared better in keeping up with a routine.

Some tips: exercising at the same time of day to build a routine; emphasizing the activities you like most; and taking a walk in the morning and at the end of the working day as a sort of faux commute.

Read more exercise and motivation tips here

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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