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Canada poised to end pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for travellers: sources – Global News



UPDATED – March 17 – Canada announced pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers would be removed. 

Canada is expected to announce an end to pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for vaccinated travellers, two federal government sources told Global News.

The requirement will be dropped by the end of March, the sources said. The formal announcement to the change is set to come on Thursday.

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‘A huge, huge moment’: Toronto board of trade reacts as pre-arrival testing for travellers set to end

In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed that Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, Randy Boissonnault, along with other government officials, will hold a news conference on Thursday, 10.30 a.m. ET, to announce updates to border measures.

Currently, travellers entering Canada are required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours of their flight or arrival at the country’s border.

Click to play video: 'Federal government to announce end of pre-arrival COVID-19 tests'

Federal government to announce end of pre-arrival COVID-19 tests

Federal government to announce end of pre-arrival COVID-19 tests

They also have the option to provide a PCR test taken within 72 hours of their flight or arrival.

The move comes as tourism and business groups have been calling on the federal government to remove COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers.

The measure is no longer necessary at this point in the pandemic, they say.

“Businesses are becoming more confident that we are past the need to rely on restrictive measures like lockdowns to manage the virus,” said Lindsay Broadhead, the senior vice-president of communications and public affairs at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, during a press conference last week.

“Travel and tourism are massive economic drivers in our province and many businesses in Toronto and across the country depend on international travellers, particularly business travellers,” Broadhead said.

Click to play video: 'Easing of travel restrictions signals a new pandemic phase'

Easing of travel restrictions signals a new pandemic phase

Easing of travel restrictions signals a new pandemic phase – Feb 28, 2022

Nancy Tudorache from the Global Business Travel Association agreed.

“The current travel measures in place are a barrier to travel. These measures simply do not permit flexibility or schedule changes,” Tudorache said.

“They add tremendous uncertainty, they hurt corporate productivity, create financial burdens for businesses looking to send their employees into Canada or returning back to Canada.”

Click to play video: 'Travel industry, tourists welcome elimination of COVID-19 testing to enter Canada'

Travel industry, tourists welcome elimination of COVID-19 testing to enter Canada

Travel industry, tourists welcome elimination of COVID-19 testing to enter Canada

At the end of February, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced that those coming to Canada would be able to present a negative rapid-antigen test at the border as a substitute to a more costly and time-consuming molecular test.

Read more:

Tourism, business groups call on Canada to lift COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers

Click to play video: 'Some COVID-19 travel measures being eased at border'

Some COVID-19 travel measures being eased at border

Some COVID-19 travel measures being eased at border – Feb 28, 2022

He said, at the time, that he would consider easing COVID-19 travel restrictions further if the epidemiological situation continued to get better, hospitalizations declined and Canadians continued to get their booster shots.

He also said the government would move away from strict restrictions now that Canada has more tools to deal with the pandemic.

Over the last several weeks, Canada’s grip on COVID-19 cases has been improving, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says rates have begun to creep up in various parts of the world.

New infections jumped by eight per cent globally compared to the previous week, with 11 million new cases and just over 43,000 new deaths reported from March 7-13, the WHO said Wednesday. It is the first rise since the end of January.

Click to play video: 'End of COVID-19 restrictions causing anxiety for some'

End of COVID-19 restrictions causing anxiety for some

End of COVID-19 restrictions causing anxiety for some

Experts have begun to warn that more countries could soon see a similar wave to that seen in Europe, potentially driven by the BA.2 variant, the lifting of restrictions and potential waning immunity from vaccines given several months ago.

“I agree with the easing of restrictions, because you can’t think of it as an emergency after two years,” said Antonella Viola, professor of immunology at Italy’s University of Padua.

“We just have to avoid thinking that COVID is no longer there. And therefore maintain the strictly necessary measures, which are essentially the continuous monitoring and tracking of cases, and the maintenance of the obligation to wear a mask in closed or very crowded places.”

— with files from Marc-Andre Cossette, Ryan Rocca and Reuters 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Instant action plan’: More than 100 evacuated from nursing home amid flood



As floodwaters poured into a Mississauga long-term care home –submerging much of the ground floor – rescue crews worked to rapidly get residents into inflatable rafts to evacuate the property while others worked on stopping the water from rising further.

The operation that unfolded over the course of 12 hours on Tuesday following torrential rains eventually saw more than 100 residents safely moved out of the nursing home, some by raft and others on foot once the water receded.

Mississauga Fire Captain Dan Herd said the evacuation of the Tyndall Seniors Village, which saw multiple emergency services from across the Greater Toronto Area come together, was on a scale he hadn’t seen before.

“There was water inside the building, the first floor – in between probably three to four feet high on the walls – and some windows were broken, damaged,” Herd said, adding that the parking lot was inundated by water at one point.

“We set up an instant action plan, and we started to move thousands of litres of water at a time … the water rescue team was using their rescue boats to assist the removal of ambulatory patients and occupants.”

The flooding began after incredibly heavy rains on Tuesday caused the nearby Etobicoke Creek to overflow, Herd said.

Once enough floodwater had been pumped out of the home, some residents were able to walk out of the building, he said. Those who were unable to walk were carried down stairs and out of the building by first responders using lifting equipment, Herd said.

“This is my first personal experience of something to this size,” he said of the operation.

None of the residents were injured, said Tom Kukolic, acting deputy chief for Peel Region’s paramedics service.

Once first responders determined that none of the 116 residents needed emergency care, efforts then shifted to a “safe extrication and relocation” operation, Kukolic said, with residents eventually taken to two long-term care homes and two hotels.

“Once the paramedics and firefighters were able to bring the residents out of the home and move them to the triage area, we then had assistance from Peel Wheel-Trans, Toronto TTC Wheel-Trans, and Mississauga Transit,” Kukolic said.

The relocation effort was “a seamless transition” thanks to the collaboration of several emergency response teams, including York Region and Toronto paramedics, he said.

“Extricating people, it’s very difficult. It is very laborious work … however, what we do from a paramedic practice perspective, is ensure that we have enough people to safely move residents,” Kukolic said.

Tuesday’s massive downpour caused chaos across Toronto and its surrounding communities, with flooding shutting down several major routes and terminals and knocking out power to thousands.

Mississauga Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi called the response at the nursing home “a great example” of how multiple agencies across the Greater Toronto Area can work together.

“We are there to work collaboratively together, to address the incident to achieve a common goal, which in this case, it was to evacuate the residents safely,” he said.

For Kukolic, the full-day operation showed how preparation can help first responders deal with large-scale responses triggered by sudden events such as Tuesday’s flooding.

“I was proud to be a member of paramedic services and a first responder,” he said.

“It was really great to see how everybody came together to ensure that our most vulnerable were taken care of.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Alberta law society clears former cabinet minister Tyler Shandro of misconduct



EDMONTON – The Law Society of Alberta has cleared Tyler Shandro of professional misconduct after he confronted a physician at the edge of his driveway four years ago over a social media post, when Shandro was the province’s health minister.

In a decision released Thursday, the law society panel found Shandro not guilty on three citations surrounding his conduct.

Regarding the citation over the driveway dispute, two of the three society panel members said Shandro’s actions that day were as a family man and did not reflect his role as a lawyer. Shandro was not practising law at the time.

“It is clear that Mr. Shandro attended at the home of (Dr. Mukarram Zaidi) as a father and husband, and not principally as the minister of health,” wrote committee members Bud Melnyk and Grant Vogeli.

On that committee member Edith Kloberdanz dissented.

In the report, she said she would find Shandro guilty for his behaviour during the confrontation, saying he didn’t need to visit the doctor’s home uninvited in an emotional state to resolve his concerns.

“The public’s trust and confidence in lawyers is based on the ability of lawyers to manage their behaviour in highly stressful situations and circumstances,” she wrote.

Kloberdanz said the impact on Zaidi and his family “was not given sufficient weight” by the majority, and that she was troubled Zaidi’s children were present for at least some of the incident.

The incident dates back to March 21, 2020. It was a turbulent time. The province had just invalidated its master working agreement with physicians, and COVID-19 was taking hold around the world.

Shandro told the committee that he and his family had been facing serious threats.

The incident began after Zaidi posted on social media a message critical of Shandro while referencing his wife’s company.

That day, Shandro, a Calgary legislature member at the time, went to the Calgary home of Zaidi, asking two boys playing basketball on the driveway to get their father.

Zaidi told the committee that Shandro was crying and “emotionally charged” during a conversation that lasted less than two minutes.

“(It) was a very intimidating experience, seeing the Crown’s representative and a lawyer attending at my house to tell me to delete a post,” Zaidi said, describing Shandro as “his ultimate boss.”

Shandro remembered the incident differently.

The social media post was personal, since it referenced his wife’s business, and the conversation came out of a concern for the safety of his wife, Shandro said, adding he was not yelling or crying.

Shandro testified that Zaidi looked “embarrassed” and asked, “What do I do? Delete the post?”

Shandro said he replied: “You have to decide that for yourself.”

Then-premier Jason Kenney defended his minister at the time, saying it’s understandable that a husband or wife will get passionate when their spouse is being attacked, threatened or defamed.

The committee also looked into Shandro’s decision around that time to phone two other doctors who had been critical of government policy, and to use his government email to respond to a member of the public who had sent his wife’s company a complaint email.

Law society lawyers argued the incidents were examples of inappropriate and intimidating behaviour by Shandro meant to muzzle public dissent.

On those two counts the panel unanimously ruled that while Shandro’s behaviour was at times inappropriate, it did not rise to the level of sanction.

Shandro lost his seat in the legislature in last year’s general election and has returned to practising law. He has been a law society member since 2005.

In January, he was appointed to the board of directors of Covenant Health, a publicly funded provincial health provider.

In an emailed statement to The Canadian Press, Shandro said he was pleased to be exonerated.

“These complaints were the culmination of years of politically fuelled personal attacks on me and my family,” he wrote.

“These complaints were also based on false allegations, and I have maintained the allegations were baseless and frivolous.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

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Saskatchewan food bank says it’s prepared to reduce hampers by half



MOOSE JAW, SASK. – Jason Moore recently took stock of the inventory at the food bank in Moose Jaw, Sask., and realized nothing would be left in two weeks.

To keep the shelves from going bare, the food bank’s executive director says it’s prepared to cut its hampers in half. That means one hamper per month for clients instead of two, starting in August.

“By still giving out two hampers for the remainder of July, we’ll be bare bones by the end of the month,” Moore said Thursday.

“We get to know our clients, and we know the struggles they’re facing. Not being able to help them is absolutely devastating.”

Moore said in past years, there would be enough food to last into the fall, just in time for the big annual Halloween drive to replenish pantries at the food bank west of Regina.

But this year is not like the last, or the one before, as more and more clients continue to access services.

Moore said the food bank helps about 800 households a month, double from two years ago. Donations have not increased at the same rate, he added.

The spike in demand is due to higher grocery prices, rent increases and other pressures affecting the cost of living, he said.

“It’s a crisis,” Moore said.

“Sadly, our government keeps asking food banks and our communities to carry this load, and yet they offer very little for aid.”

Food banks across the country have said they’re being pushed to the brink due to inflationary pressures.

John Bailey, CEO of Regina’s food bank, said Moose Jaw’s struggles point to a larger trend in Canada of food banks unable to keep up with demand.

He said while the Regina agency has been able to manage the influx, it has still put a strain on operations. The food bank served about 9,000 people five years ago. It expects to help roughly 20,000 this year.

“It’s folks who never expected to be accessing a food bank who now use it on a regular basis. It’s just spiking demand.”

Bailey said addressing underlying issues — with more affordable housing, a living wage and disability supports — is necessary to reduce food bank usage.

Without more of those programs, he said, strain on the food bank will keep growing, though staff will “continue to work tirelessly to meet the needs of our community.”

Moore said he has reached out to Moose Jaw residents and businesses, along with other food banks in the country, to ask for donations so he doesn’t have to cut the hampers.

“I think we are all responsible for feeding the hungry people in our communities,” he said.

“They are our brothers and sisters and our neighbours.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

— By Jeremy Simes in Regina

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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