As health officials around the world work to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, some in the international community have called for an independent, global investigation into China and the origins of the virus.
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“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne told the country’s ABC television.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also been critical of China’s handling of the outbreak, telling reporters on Saturday that the country should face consequences if it is “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.
The call for an international investigation came just days after the city of Wuhan, China revised its COVID-19 statistics. On Friday officials in Wuhan raised the official death toll in Wuhan by 50 per cent to 3,869 deaths.
What could an international investigation reveal and should Canada take part?
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What has Canada said?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said that while it’s important to find out what happened, Canada’s primary focus right now is the safety of its residents.
“I think it’s extremely important that we understand exactly what happened and ask really tough questions of all countries involved, including China,” he said. “This is something that we need to pursue.
“But my priority right now and the priority for countries around the world needs to be doing everything we can to keep our people safe and make sure that we have the resources necessary to protect our citizens and get through this.”
Trudeau said that “will always be” his focus.
Investigation could lead to important lessons
Craig Janes, director of the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, said the origins of the virus should “definitely be investigated.”
“There’s no question about that,” he said.
But Janes said if the calls for an international investigation are political, with the goal of assigning blame, that is “less helpful.”
“There will be plenty of time to point fingers after all this is over,” he said.
“I think the real important scientific question here is what happened that caused this, or what were the conditions that allowed this wild virus to jump from bats, through pangolins, into human populations?”
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Janes explained researchers need a “clear understanding of the circumstances that lead to this kind of zoonotic disease transmission.”
But beyond just determining the origin of the virus, Janes said an international investigation could also look into surveillance and how the virus was first detected.
He added this could help health officials develop and implement surveillance systems in areas where viruses are likely to emerge, such as places with large populations, where wildlife habitats have been disturbed or where people are close in contact with animals.
Will Canada get involved?
While there are important lessons to be learned from an investigation, Canada would have to carefully choose its approach.
Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier institute, Charles Burton, echoed Janes’ remarks, saying he believes there is a “strong basis” for an international investigation into China’s handling of the COVID-19.
“And also how the [World Health Organization] transmitted information from the government of the People’s Republic of China to the rest of the global community, which then informed their response,” he said.
Burton said, though, that Canada should avoid doing anything “provocative,” adding that the country is sourcing much of its desperately needed personal protective equipment from China.
“We know that the People’s Republic of China engages in trade retaliation for political reasons,” he said.
“So from that point of view, of course, we don’t want to to do anything that will cause the Chinese to block the export to Canada [of] badly-needed medical supplies.”
However, Burton said Canada should not allow this to deter from engaging in a “meaningful and full investigation” of the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus.
“If we decided that we would not support an international investigation of what went on in Wuhan and how the matter was handled by the government of China, we would in effect be giving in to a form of diplomatic and trade blackmail that would clearly not be in Canada’s a longer term interest in maintaining the international rules-based order,” he said.
He said holding back from “trying to seek the truth” over concerns it could impact trade or diplomatic relations “just wouldn’t be a correct moral or ethical decision.”
What we know so far about how the outbreak started
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was first detected in Wuhan, China in late December. It is believed to have emerged from a “wet market” where both farmed and exotic animals are tied up or stacked in cages.
Some experts believe the virus originated in bats, but the research is ongoing.
More recent evidence suggests the virus could have been circulating in China as early as November 2019, but was not detected until December.
Last week, the U.S. announced it would be investigating the possibility that the virus made its way into the human population due to a leak at a laboratory in Wuhan.
According to U.S. media reports, cables from the U.S. State Department suggest Embassy officials visited a research facility in 2018 which was conducting studies on coronaviruses. After their visit, officials expressed concerns about inadequate safety measures at the facility.
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But according to Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest the theory that this novel coronavirus escaped from a lab.
“Indeed, accidental laboratory exposures and escapes have occurred in the past, including the influenza virus and SARS-CoV,” Kindrachuk wrote in an Op-Ed in Forbes.
“However, this week the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff echoed that the weight of evidence continued to suggest natural rather than accidental emergence for SARS-CoV-2.”
Kindrachuk said there has been “no other science supporting the escape theory.”
What has China said?
Meanwhile on Monday, China dismissed Australia’s call for an investigation, saying it was groundless.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Payne’s remarks were “entirely without factual basis,” and said questioning China’s transparency was unfounded and showed a lack of respect for the sacrifices of its people.
Shuang said Beijing has been open and transparent, despite growing skepticism about the accuracy of its official death toll.
“China expresses deep concern and resolute opposition to this,” Shuang told reporters.
In the months since it was first detected, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 2,420,400 people across the globe and has claimed more than 166,200 lives.
— With files from Reuters
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
We need to get all Canadian students online quickly in the face of pandemic uncertainty – CBC.ca
This column is an opinion by David Fowler, vice-president of marketing and communications at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) in Ottawa. He currently serves on the board of directors for Media Smarts and CENTR. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
What would you do if your internet connection suddenly stopped working? What if you couldn’t get back online for months? With millions of students across Canada forced to do their schooling from home due to COVID-19, internet access has never been more important.
Unfortunately, high-quality internet connections remain too expensive for some Canadians or are simply unavailable where they live. Meanwhile, students who need the internet more than ever have lost their sources of reliable connection through schools or public libraries.
In 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband internet a basic service and set ambitious speed targets that internet service providers (ISPs) have to make available to all Canadians.
Four years later, CRTC data shows that 11 per cent of Canadian households still do not have internet access at home. For those who that do have connections, there are massive disparities between the speeds that rural and urban households receive.
Imagine how difficult online learning, applying for college, or staying in touch with friends and family would be without a high-quality internet connection in your house. Some families and communities have had to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure their kids don’t fall behind.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, for example, has told students to hunker down in school parking lots to access free Wi-Fi if they don’t have the internet at home.
In Alberta, rural schools have set up outdoor bins for students who have no internet access to pick up and drop off hard copy assignments.
In Manitoba, the northern Garden Hill First Nation was forced to cancel the remainder of its school year, citing poor internet connectivity and lack of household computer adoption as contributing factors.
Not only are kids without reliable internet access at risk of falling behind in their education, they are putting themselves and their families’ health at risk by venturing out into the world to find an open wi-fi hotspot or pick up school work.
Obviously, education during COVID-19 would be much easier if every child had access to a high-quality internet connection. Unfortunately, connectivity isn’t the only challenge families are facing.
When it comes to bridging the digital divide, getting one internet-connected device per household is tough for many families. Getting one device per child comes at significant financial cost that is often out of reach.
Educators in rural Alberta, for example, report that access to internet-connected devices like laptops, desktop computers and phones is far from universal.
Thankfully schools, school districts, charitable organizations, and various levels of government are stepping up to deliver laptops, tablets, and other devices to students in need.
The Winnipeg School Division estimates that 40 per cent of its students don’t have access to an internet-enabled device at home, and it is looking at lending devices to students until the social distancing restrictions are relaxed.
The city of London, Ont., has distributed more than 10,000 iPads and Chromebooks to students since the pandemic began.
Before the CRTC’s landmark decision in 2016, a lot of public discussion centred on whether the internet was truly a basic service like water or electricity. At the time, skeptics said that videoconferencing and food delivery apps amounted to little more than luxuries.
Flash forward to 2020, and it’s clear that the internet is the key infrastructure holding our education system, economy, and social lives together. From this vantage point, it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has settled the “is the internet a basic service?” debate once and for all.
With concerns that widespread social distancing could continue for up to a year and that future waves of the disease could force more school closures down the road, it is essential that we do everything in our power to get all our kids online before a generation is set back.
Closing the digital divide during COVID-19 is a litmus test for internet service providers, educational institutions, and all levels of government across this country. Our children have never needed the internet more to succeed.
Canada sees lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months, 759 new cases – Globalnews.ca
The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed 31 more lives across Canada, yet the number represents the lowest daily death toll in two months.
Monday also saw just 759 new confirmed infections across only six provinces — nearly matching Sunday’s number of new cases and marking a full week with numbers below 1,000.
Canada has now seen 91,694 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Of those, 7,326 people have died and 49,739 patients have since recovered from the illness.
The last day the country saw a death toll as low as Monday’s was on April 2, when 27 people died. The number of new deaths has trended downward since Saturday, after weeks that saw an average of 100 people and more dying daily.
While the number of new cases has been trending downward since the beginning of May, the past week has seen a sharper decline since May 26, when fewer than 1,000 infections were confirmed for the first time since March 29.
Monday saw Ontario, with 404 new cases, surpass the total reported by Quebec at 295. The last time that happened was on March 22, as Quebec has regularly topped the country in new infections — often by wide margins.
Yet both provinces recorded their lowest death tolls in weeks: Quebec saw 20 more deaths, while in Ontario, 10 people died over the past 24 hours.
Nova Scotia was the only province in Atlantic Canada to report any cases Monday, and only saw one new infection.
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In the west, Alberta announced 34 more cases, while British Columbia recorded 24 new cases — representing numbers over the past 48 hours — and one additional death. Saskatchewan also reported a new case while announcing a previously-reported case had come back negative after retesting.
Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick reported no new cases after seeing upticks in recent days. Prince Edward Island and the three northern territories have gone several weeks without new cases.
Every province and territory has now relaxed some physical distancing and economic shutdown measures, with an eye towards reopening businesses and public spaces.
The federal government is now setting its sights on contact tracing and supporting municipalities and provinces. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said Ottawa is rushing $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada’s cities.
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.25 million people and killed over 375,000 people. The United States remains the country with the most confirmed cases, at 1.8 million, while its death toll of 105,000 is also the highest globally.
Canada is currently the 14th most infected country in the world based solely on the number of cases confirmed, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Trudeau says anti-black racism is alive in Canada and 'we need to be better' – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed today to do more to end anti-black racism in Canada after days of massive street protests in U.S. and Canadian cities against police brutality.
Trudeau said racism is not a uniquely American problem and more must be done in Canada to address systemic inequalities that have long plagued black and Indigenous communities.
“We need to be better in Canada. Even though we’ve made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada,” he said. “To young black Canadians, I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry.”
He said his government has funded black community groups, supported anti-racism programming and bolstered the collection of racial data at Statistics Canada to fight against discrimination, but he promised to do more.
Watch: Justin Trudeau addresses anti-black racism
Protests have erupted in major North American cities in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Floyd, 46, died a week ago after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for just over eight minutes. His death was caught on video and swiftly went viral around the world.
All four responding officers were fired. The officer who pinned Floyd to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the video of George Floyd’s death “chilling” and “painful” and called on Canadians to channel the anger they feel over his death into action against injustice here in Canada.
Singh said Canadian police need more “de-escalation” training so routine police stops don’t turn deadly for racialized Canadians.
Singh started his political career in provincial politics and led a fight against the police policy of random street stops of minorities, known as ‘carding’.
“We need to tackle the injustice in the criminal justice system — the over-policing of black bodies and black lives,” he said.
Watch: Jagmeet Singh calls for criminal justice reform
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was “heartbroken” to see the video of Floyd’s death.
“No one should ever feel unsafe around police officers who must uphold the law for all, or feel unsafe because of the colour of their skin. We all have a responsibility to fight anti-black racism,” he said.
Watch: Andrew Scheer says he’s ‘heartbroken’
Some of the protests demanding fair treatment from police have turned violent. A number of cities have been hit by looting and rioting.
In Montreal Sunday night, vandals broke into a music store and stole guitars, while others defaced buildings with graffiti.
Trudeau condemned the violence, saying it distracts from calls for an end to institutional racism.
“They do not represent the peaceful protesters who are standing up for very real issues in Canada,” he said.
Asked whether his own history of wearing blackface diminishes his ability to provide moral leadership on the problem of anti-black racism, Trudeau said he has “spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people.”
“We need to focus on doing better every single day, regardless of what we did or hadn’t done in our past,” he added.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian, said in a tweet Sunday that he has “heard from people who have said that we should not worry about what is happening in the U.S. because that is not our problem.”
But he said racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” and he asked other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”
He said black Canadians are disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers have every reason to be anxious when they’re pulled over by a police officer.
“Check the unconscious bias around you and within you,” Hussen said.
That tweet received an angry response from Ed Ammar, a former chairperson of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, who tweeted at Hussen: “Don’t bring this to Canada you f—ing loser.”
Tweeting a video of the destruction in Montreal, Ammar, a Lebanese-Canadian immigrant, said: “Don’t bring what’s happening in the U.S. across the borders.”
Hussen addressed Ammar’s comments in an interview with CBC News Monday. “I publicly invite Mr. Ammar to call me,” he said.
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