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Calls grow to release more federal inmates because of COVID-19 threat – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press


Published Saturday, April 18, 2020 2:46PM EDT


Last Updated Saturday, April 18, 2020 7:26PM EDT

More groups urged prisons to step up COVID-19 testing and sanitary measures to help prevent mass outbreaks among incarcerated populations, as well as to release some offenders immediately as case loads grew at several institutions.

Once COVID-19 enters a prison, “it spreads rapidly and then it can have really dire consequences,” said Emilie Coyle, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

Since April 7, the number of confirmed cases at Joliette Institution for Women in Joliette, Que., grew from 10 to 50, the association said in a statement released Saturday.

That means about 60 per cent of prisoners at the facility, about 75 kilometres north east of Montreal, are infected, the group said, as only 80 people are incarcerated there currently. The group, which advocates for federally incarcerated women, notes the number of cases could be higher due to test result delays.

Prisons are a place that can’t contain the pandemic, said Coyle, as prisoners can’t physically distance themselves from others, they receive poor health care and the facilities are not clean.

Other women’s prisons are seeing cases too.

The Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., has nine confirmed cases now, the group said, while the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in Abbostford, B.C., reported its first confirmed case Friday. Coyle said the Fraser Valley case is a staff member, not an inmate.

The outbreak isn’t limited to women’s facilities.

As of Friday, 170 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at federal correctional institutions, according to Correctional Service Canada, out of 510 people tested. One person died and 14 have recovered.

The largest outbreak appears to be at B.C.’s Mission Medium Institution where the CSC website notes 60 positive tests. On Saturday, the province’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said up to 70 people, including 60 inmates, were impacted.

There are 66 correctional officers with COVID-19, according to a statement from the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers issued Saturday.

That includes 15 at Port-Cartier Institution, 34 at Joliette, four at Federal Training Center and two at Drummond Institution all in Quebec, as well as two at Ontario’s Grand Valley Institution and nine at Mission Institution in B.C.

CAEFS is concerned Joliette is an example of what will happen at other institutions without immediate action.

Before the pandemic, the CAEFS offices received roughly 10 phone calls a week from inmates seeking support, said Coyle. Now, they receive dozens daily.

At Joliette, what were once called segregation units are being used to isolate ill prisoners, the group said it has been told – a measure the group calls cruel, punishing, lacking humanity and ineffective at containing the spread.

Prisoners have also told the association that in most cases only symptomatic people are tested.

It also hears concerns from the inmates’ families.

“Their children are worried about them. They’re worried about their children that they can’t see. Their families are worried … and feel like they can’t do anything about this,” said Coyle.

The group called for immediate action, including the safe release of as many people as possible. That group ought to include people more vulnerable to COVID-19, including those over 50 years old, pregnant, with compromised immune systems or other factors, she said.

The group’s call was echoed by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, saying in a statement Friday that it has been appealing for action for over a month.

It has heard inmates describe prison conditions that include failing to follow social distancing protocols and lacking sanitary products, among other troubles.

The congress reiterated its “call for immediate steps to address overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in federal prisons, and to immediately release low-risk and non-violent offenders, those close to the end of sentences and those with serious chronic health conditions.”

Also Friday, a coalition of rights groups in B.C. called for immediate release of as many inmates as possible following the death of a Mission Institution prisoner this week.

Coyle remains hopeful about a possible release of prisoners.

“We can’t give up hope that there will be a response to our call,” she said.

“I’m hopeful that people will see the people who are in prison as human beings.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2020.

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North American markets gain ground to start the week – BNNBloomberg.ca

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North American equity markets clawed back ground into the close of Monday’s trade, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index up 0.29 per cent, the S&P 500 gaining 0.38 per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 0.36 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index up 0.66 per cent.

Equity markets had been mixed in earlier trading, as investors weighed the competing factors of economic reopenings and the rising tensions between the United States and China.

In Toronto, four of the 11 TSX subgroups closed in positive territory, with consumer discretionary, financials and materials leading the way. Consumer staples, information technology and health care were the lead laggards.

A big part of the weakness in health care stocks was the underperformance of Canopy Growth Corp., which finished the day as the worst performer on the index after a string of analyst downgrades. The analyst community has expressed concerns over the company’s lack of a clear path to sustained profitability after it withdrew its forecast last week.

Oil prices fluctuated throughout the day, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate up 0.1 per cent to US$35.53 per barrel. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select was up 3.16 per cent to US$29.08 per barrel.

The Canadian dollar gained more than a full cent against its U.S. counterpart to trade at 73.68 cents U.S., though the greenback was weaker against all of its major-market peers.

1:00 p.m. ET: North American equity markets rebound, oil pares losses

North American equity markets rebounded into the midday trade, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.3 per cent each, the S&P 500 gaining 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index up 0.66 per cent.

In Toronto, only four of the 11 TSX subgroups were in positive territory, led by consumer discretionary, financials and materials stocks. Information technology, consumer staples and health care were the lead laggards.

120 of the index’s 230 members were higher with a pair of cannabis stocks bookending the composite. HEXO Corp. was the lead gainer on the TSX, up 10 per cent after Health Canada approved its facility in Bellville, Ontario. On the flip side, Canopy Growth Corp., was the biggest percentage loser, down nine per cent, after a slew of analyst downgrades after the company shelved its forecast for a path to profitability late last week.

Oil pared some of its earlier losses, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate down a little more than one-and-a-half per cent to trade at US$34.90 per barrel. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select was essentially unchanged at US$28.16 per barrel.

10 a.m. ET – North American stocks slip, oil falls as U.S.-China tensions escalate

North American equity markets kicked off the week in modestly negative territory, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index down a tenth of a per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both falling 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index down 0.2 per cent.

Markets were under that modest pressure amid signs of a re-escalation of tensions between the United States and China, with Bloomberg News reporting Beijing has ordered a halt to imports of some American farm goods. Meanwhile, the U.S. is also facing a wave of civil unrest as demonstrators take to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which has prompted some American cities to implement curfews.

Oil prices fell in the wake of those tensions, outweighing the impact of speculation the OPEC+ group of producers could be poised to implement a short extension of its output cuts in order to put some upward pressure on crude prices. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 2.5 per cent to US$34.60 per barrel, while Alberta’s Western Canadian Select dropped three per cent to US$27.34.

In Toronto, that weakness in crude weighed on the energy sector in early trading.

Another point of weakness was Canopy Growth Corp. The company’s shares fell about seven per cent after the firm was downgraded by four analysts following the cannabis producer’s disappointing quarterly results late last week.

The Canadian dollar rose a third of a cent against its American counterpart to 72.93 cents U.S., though the U.S. dollar was broadly weaker against its major global peers.

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B.C. protects small businesses from evictions – CityNews Vancouver

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VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) —  The B.C. government is banning commercial landlords who refuse to apply for federal assistance from evicting small businesses that can’t pay rent due to the pandemic.

The order is meant to support the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program and restricts the termination of lease agreements and the repossession of goods and property, says a government release.

“The federal launch of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has been a welcome step in B.C., but we heard from small businesses that they need us to help fill a gap that has left some of them unable to get the support they need,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance.

“We’re listening to small businesses and have their backs. Preventing landlords who are eligible for CECRA from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

The emergency order restricting evictions is effective immediately and will continue for as long as the federal program is in place, which is currently until the end of June.

B.C. could extend the order if the federal program is, as well, James added.

The federal program is offering forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce the rent for small business experiencing severe financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75 per cent reduction for the months of April, May, and June. The federal and B.C. governments will cover 50 per cent of the rent payments, while the tenants are responsible for 25 per cent of the rent, and landlords cover the remaining 25 per cent.

The federal program loans to landlords will be forgiven if they comply with program terms and conditions, including an agreement to not recover forgiven rent amounts when the program is over.

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Should small businesses be protected from eviction? – Poll – Castanet.net

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Small businesses in B.C. that have suffered significant revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic will be protected from eviction effective June 1.

The provincial government announced Monday new measures to protect small businesses that are eligible for federal commercial rent assistance, but are unable to access that assistance because their landlords won’t apply to the program.

“There are certainly some tenants who their landlords have been very clear that they don’t want to bother, they don’t want to take the time to apply for the federal program, and that then hurts the tenant, because the tenant doesn’t have the opportunity to be able to have that relief to help them,” said James.

“I expect that it will, I hope, make a difference in encouraging those landlords to apply now that they won’t be able to evict those tenants.”

Under an emergency act order, commercial landlords will be restricted from evicting tenants who have lost at least 70% of their revenue, and are thus eligible for Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which can only be applied to by landlords.

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