With the United Nations poised to announce whether the vote on non-permanent Security Council seats will go ahead as scheduled in June, Canada is doubling down on its bid for a seat — and adjusting its pitch to take the COVID-19 crisis into account.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long trip in February to woo African countries for their votes is now a distant memory, as is his cancelled plan to attend the CARICOM summit in Barbados that same month. But the pandemic and the subsequent global economic shutdown have not slowed down Canada’s efforts to secure a seat at the UN table.
The bid instead has been redirected toward organizing or chairing virtual global conferences the Trudeau government sees as demonstrating Canada’s global leadership in a way that could win more votes.
“The best campaign is when we don’t need to campaign, when we just show our leadership, that this is the type of voice that you would want at the Security Council,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne told CBC News.
A close contest
Canada is in a tight fight with Norway and Ireland for the two non-permanent seats out of 10 on the 15-member council that are reserved for Western countries.
Most experts think Norway has a lock on one of those seats, leaving Ireland and Canada to duke it out for the other one (even though Canada entered the race late).
But the Liberal government now sees an opportunity. Champagne said he believes Canada’s international standing has grown in 2020, and not only because of its response to the pandemic. The minister also is banking on a boosted profile because of Canada’s role in coordinating efforts to investigate the destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down over Iran in January, killing all 176 passengers and crew.
Champagne points to the fact Canada is a member of both the G7 and G20, unlike its competitors, and argues that status allows the government to bring other leaders together and “amplify the voice of other nations” that are more vulnerable in the current health crisis.
And the pandemic itself also could cut the cost of Canada’s campaign for a Security Council seat, which already has set the government back $2 million.
“We do a lot of things virtually these days, so it allows us to reach more people without having to go very far,” Champagne said.
Critics were questioning the Trudeau government’s Security Council campaign even before the global pandemic upended government agendas around the world. Now, the government is saying Canada needs to be at the big table to have a say in how the world recovers from the pandemic — even though the Security Council has been relatively silent on the crisis to date.
It’s still a long shot
“It’s also in our very selfish national interests that the recovery in other parts of the world is as strong as possible,” said Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations Marc-André Blanchard, who has been working behind the scenes on the campaign.
“This is a table where the entire world wants to be, because when you’re around that table you’re more influential and you’re more relevant.”
Still, the factors that made Canada’s bid look like a long shot before the pandemic arrived are still in play: a faltering peacekeeping commitment and relatively low foreign aid commitments.
“Ireland has been peacekeeping since 1958. It’s never stopped,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN who is closely following the race.
“Our failure on that front is our most serious Achilles heel in seeking the seat.”
The pandemic has allowed Canada to boost its presence on the international stage. Trudeau participated Monday in an online pledging conference to raise funds for vaccine development, spearheaded by the European Union. While Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged more than $1 billion US for vaccine development and eventual distribution, Trudeau pointed to $850 million Cdn Canada already had committed to accelerated vaccine development.
That $850 million includes $74 million that’s part of the $159.5 million foreign aid package Canada’s international development minister announced in April. Ottawa says it’s only a beginning.
“This takes a global effort,” Trudeau said Monday at his daily briefing. “There will be more to come as the world grapples with this pandemic.”
Rhetoric vs. reality
Still, Lewis said Canada’s international funding commitment maintains the same level of aid Canada has always offered, and the Liberal government needs to work harder to match its “rhetoric with performance,” particularly when it comes to the pandemic.
Canada gives about 0.26 per cent of its GDP in foreign aid. Norway, the world’s most generous donor, gives 1 per cent of its GDP.
The old way of winning a Security Council seat — having the prime minister or other high-profile ministers show up in foreign capitals to schmooze — is “a bit of a sham,” said Lewis. The vote is a secret ballot and the ambassadors who cast the votes don’t always follow orders from the top.
Lewis said the popularity of Canada’s ambassador could tip the scales, however.
“Marc-André Blanchard is the real key to this [campaign],” he said. “He’s really first-rate and that does not happen often.”
Global Affairs Canada is campaigning as though the vote will go ahead on June 17, but there is pressure from some nations to postpone it until the fall, given the logistics involved in having 193 representatives of member states vote online.
‘They’re targeting us’: Why some advocates want to defund Canadian police – Global News
In recent days, protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality have erupted across the U.S. and Canada in response to the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Now, some advocates are calling for police forces to be defunded and taxpayer money to be redirected — a conversation that is also happening in Canada, stemming from the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman who fell from her Toronto apartment balcony after police entered the unit.
Police claim they were responding to a reported assault, but the family has questioned the role of the police in her death. The Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s police watchdog, is currently investigating.
Defunding the police means redirecting the budget for Canada’s police forces to other services that focus on social supports, mental health and even spaces like transit, said Sandy Hudson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a law student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“There’s no reason why we can’t start a service that is another emergency response service where people can call a number and have someone who is trained in de-escalation,” Hudson said.
Now, with more incidents of police brutality in the news, calls for defunding the police both in the U.S. and Canada are louder than ever.
The history of police in Canada
This is hardly the first time defunding the police has been talked about in Canada, experts told Global News.
Examining the way police uphold and participate in anti-Black racism and violence towards Black and Indigenous communities in Canada has been a discussion for decades, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
“Part of it is discrimination within policing — both implicit and explicit — but then the other parts of it are how the police operate and what we’re asking police to do,” he said.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence
The origins of policing in the southern United States were based on preserving the slavery system, as Time magazine reports, and police were primarily tasked with being “slave patrols” to prevent Black slaves from escaping. After the Civil War ended, these patrols still existed to uphold segregation and discrimination towards Black people.
Police in Canada were historically also tasked with “clearing the land” to steal the property of Indigenous Peoples, said Hudson.
“Those two focuses of the police, Indigenous and Black people, controlling us … there’s a through line to today and how the police interact with our communities,” she said.
Policing has been used to enforce the dominant narrative in Canada, which is colonization, said Alicia Boatswain-Kyte, a social work professor at McGill University whose research examines systemic oppression.
“These institutions are a product of (colonialism); they stem from that,” she said. “Right now we’re seeing what it looks like at this stage … and it gets manifested in the form of police brutality.”
Mental health, homelessness and other social issues
Experts are concerned that police in Canada are tasked with issues related to poverty, mental health and homelessness, and they are “ill-equipped and an inappropriate resource to be addressing those issues,” Owusu-Bempah said.
A 2018 report on racial profiling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fating shooting by Toronto police. The report was the result of an inquiry launched after Andrew Loku, a father of five who was experiencing mental health issues, died after being shot by police.
A coroner’s inquest ruled that Loku’s death was the result of a homicide and recommended that police are better trained if they are to deal with mental health calls.
“The violence we see inflicted by the police are often happening with people who are having a mental health crisis,” said Hudson.
Shifting the money to fund organizations that understand the nuances of mental health issues and the challenges faced by racialized communities would be a better use of taxpayers’ money, she said.
How racism affects Black mental health
Out of the nearly one million calls the force responds to, Toronto police respond to about 30,000 mental health calls every year, spokeswoman Meaghan Gray told the Canadian Press.
The force’s mobile crisis intervention teams — which include a trained officer and a mental health nurse — attend only 6,000 of those calls each year because they do not go to calls where a weapon may be involved.
Annual training for the force includes courses on communication and deescalation techniques, said Gray.
“The Toronto Police Service believes that mental health is a complex issue that requires the involvement of multiple entities, including but not limited to community support, public health, and all levels of government, to render any meaningful change,” she said.
It would be better if a mental health nurse or some other trained expert was always present, Boatswain-Kyte said.
“Are they (police) really the ones that are best suited?” she said.
“Social workers, for instance, go to school to understand how to form relationships, to understand how people are excluded and what factors contribute to their exclusion.”
By making police the body available to provide help in these situations, Boatswain-Kyte said, it sends a message that people with those health issues aren’t welcome in our society.
“Regardless of the amount of training … the implicit bias as a result of what (police) have been socialized to believe and understand about the ‘dangers’ of Black and brown bodies is going to influence them at the time when they have to make a decision.”
Boatswain-Kyte points to a study published in May from Columbia University that found there is “no evidence that enhanced police training focused on mental health crises” can reduce fatal shootings towards those having a mental health crisis, or racialized people in general.
By the numbers
In Toronto, the largest portion of a resident’s property tax bill — around $700 out of an average bill of $3,020 — goes to the Toronto Police Service. The lowest portion of property taxes goes to children’s services, Toronto employment and social services and economic development and culture.
The situation is similar elsewhere in the country, as the Vancouver police budget has grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, representing about one-fifth of the city’s $1.6-billion 2020 operating budget.
Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada
A 2014 report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that policing budgets in Canada had doubled compared to the GDP since 2004, even though the public calls to police have “remained stable.”
“Police associations have been happy to stoke public fears about safety, but the correlation between numbers of officers, crime rates and response times has long been shown to be spurious,” the report said, authored by Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University and Royal Military College.
Police work that is essentially unrelated to policing could be done by other groups, Leuprecht explains.
Owusu-Bempah is calling on city mayors like Toronto Mayor John Tory to review which roles and functions we want the police to provide and which should be provided by other agencies.
“Then we need a lot of (the) funding currently spent on police … given to other organizations” that are better equipped to help with issues like homelessness and mental illness, he said.
Given the recent incidents of anti-Black racism and brutality perpetuated by police, Hudson says defunding the police would also give agency and safety to Black communities.
“How could the body that is ostensibly meant to provide safety for our communities … be one of the the the the reasons we keep getting hurt?” Hudson said.
“Most people don’t have to interact with police at all … but for our communities, they’re targeting us.
“We just want to live like everybody else.”
— With files from the Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario extends emergency orders to June 19, as province reports 455 new COVID-19 cases – CBC.ca
Ontario is extending its emergency orders for another 10 days, the same day the province reported an additional 455 cases, 68 of which were the result of a reporting delay.
The province’s emergency orders had been set to expire June 9 but Ontario announced Saturday that they are being extended until June 19.
Those orders include banning people from dining in bars and restaurants, and gathering in groups larger than five.
They also include the closure of child-care centres, though Premier Doug Ford has said that a phased reopening plan for them will be announced early next week.
Extending the emergency orders also means the continued closure of bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery, libraries except for curbside pickup or delivery, and theatres.
Ontarians looking to use playgrounds, or beat the heat at public pools and splash pads are also out of luck as a result of the extended orders.
“Extending these emergency orders will give employers of frontline care providers the necessary flexibility to respond to COVID-19 and protect vulnerable people and the public as the province gradually and safely reopens,” the Ontario government said in a release issued Saturday morning.
Additionally, the province says it is extending the suspension of limitation periods and time periods for legal proceedings until Sept. 11, ensuring people “will not experience legal consequences” if the original time requirements of their case are not met while this order is in effect.
This news comes after Ontario’s state of emergency, which permits the government to issue emergency orders like these, was extended earlier this week to June 30.
Ontario’s cumulative cases surpass 30,000
Meanwhile, the province reported 387 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, as well as 68 others that were impacted by a reporting delay.
According to new data released by Ontario’s Ministry of Health, the lag in reporting was the result of a “laboratory-to-public health reporting delay.”
That delay stemmed from a “breakdown in communication” between an assessment centre and a hospital lab where a number of positive tests were not communicated to the public health units, Public Health Ontario told CBC Toronto in an email.
When combined, those 455 newly reported cases represent a 1.5 per cent increase in total cases, a spike when compared to increases in new cases seen earlier this week, which hovered around 1.2 per cent.
The province’s cumulative number of cases now sits at 30,202. Some 23,947 of those cases are considered resolved.
Ontario’s network of about 20 labs processed some 23,105 tests on Friday, the most on any single day since the outbreak began in late January and the first time that figure has surpassed 23,000.
Ontario has now broken its record number of tests processed for the third straight day, though the province’s partnership of about 20 public, commercial and hospital labs have capacity to handle up to 25,000 samples per day.
Watch l Ontario struggles to keep COVID-19 under control:
The province’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by 35 and now sits at 2,407. A CBC News count based on data compiled directly from regional public health units puts the real toll at at least 2,434 as of Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Just over 64 per cent of COVID-19-linked deaths were residents in long-term care homes, a drop of 15 per cent from the province’s previous update.
The province has tracked outbreaks in 311 long-term care facilities, while 88 remain ongoing, a drop in 78 homes since yesterday.
Public Health Ontario that significant drop stemmed from the the fact that many long-term care outbreaks that were classified as “open” also included an “declared over” date, which signals that the outbreak is over. That error has since been rectified, Public Health Ontario said in an email.
The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 dropped by 76, down to 673.
Those being treated in intensive care units fell by one, to 117, while patients requiring a ventilator increased by three, to 97.
Despite steady new case numbers, Ford says he will reveal details next week on Ontario’s second phase of loosening pandemic restrictions.
Although Stage 2 won’t begin immediately after details are revealed, Ford says the province will give notices to businesses that will be given the green light to reopen.
“We encourage businesses to begin preparing to reopen, so when the time comes, they will be able to protect employees, consumers and the general public,” Ford said in the statement Saturday.
Meanwhile, thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Toronto Friday to protest against anti-black racism — you can read more about that here.
2nd migrant worker dies in Windsor
The Windsor region is reporting the death of a second migrant worker from COVID-19.
Windsor Regional Hospital says a 24-year-old man was first admitted to a different hospital on Monday, and died at their facility on Friday.
The hospital says they have contacted the man’s family in Mexico.
It is with regret that we confirm the death of a second migrant worker in our region due to COVID-19 and announce plans for a multi-partner commitment for mass testing of thousands of migrant workers and other vulnerable settings in our region. <a href=”https://t.co/lvxyjxnvCg”>https://t.co/lvxyjxnvCg</a>
A news release also says that local hospitals and health organizations will jointly conduct a “mass swabbing” for COVID-19 of 8,000 migrant workers in Windsor-Essex starting on Tuesday.
Another temporary foreign worker in the Windsor area who came to Canada in February and tested positive for the virus on May 21 died last weekend.
Approximately 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses — many of them from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean — and this year have been required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
Outbreaks that have affected dozens of migrant workers have been reported in Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex, Niagara Region and Elgin County.
Canada has an army of volunteers ready to help fight COVID-19 — so why aren't we using them? – CBC.ca
Thousands of Canadians have volunteered their time to help track COVID-19 cases across the country, but even Canada’s hardest-hit provinces haven’t used them.
The National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign was launched by the federal government in early April, calling on Canadians from coast-to-coast to step up and help.
“We need you!” the campaign urgently stated.
“We are building an inventory of volunteers from which provincial and territorial governments can draw upon as needed. We welcome ALL volunteers as we are looking for a wide variety of experiences and expertise.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, tweeted the campaign on April 12 to Canadians wondering how they could help with the COVID-19 response.
Wondering how you can help with Canada’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> response? Check out the National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign if you can help with: <br><br>- case tracking<br>- contact tracing<br>- health system surge capacity<br>- case data collection and reporting<a href=”https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6″>https://t.co/YkohwHSjM6</a>
Volunteers were called on to help with three key areas: case tracking and contact tracing, assessing health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting.
Health Canada and The Public Health Agency of Canada said 53,769 people signed up to assist in the effort by the time the posting closed on April 24.
But weeks later, the volunteer database does not appear to have been used in any province or territory — even in Ontario and Quebec, where 90 per cent of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are now occurring.
“As contact tracing responsibilities fall under each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, they are determining when and how they will train and deploy volunteers to meet their evolving needs,” a spokesperson for Health Canada and PHAC said.
CBC News reached out to every provincial and territorial health ministry in the country and none could confirm they had used any of the volunteers.
Health Canada said it also shared names from the volunteer database with the Canadian Red Cross to help personnel in long-term care facilities.
But a spokesperson for the organization said they have only “recently started the initial process of reaching out to some of the individuals who submitted their names.”
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Canadians ready to help
Toronto teacher Shalini Basu found herself unexpectedly unemployed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, after her contract ended in March and schools across Ontario closed for the remainder of the school year.
“I read about volunteers for the database on Twitter and thought it would be a great way to use my time and be useful, seeing as though I have a lot of free time these days,” she said.
“I follow the news very closely and it seemed like there was an urgent need for volunteers.”
She filled out an extensive questionnaire online and was excited to help at a time when there wasn’t much else she could do for others — aside from staying home.
But Basu still hasn’t heard anything.
Volunteers said they were extensively questioned on whether they had medical experience, military experience and even veterinary experience to gauge where they could be best put to use.
But despite calling on people with a “wide variety of expertise,” many volunteers are left wondering who exactly the federal government was hoping to use.
“I hope by not being called it also means that a lot of Canadians applied and they filled their quota,” Basu said.
“I’ve been wondering how much this initiative actually got underway.”
Paul Baker also wanted to help.
The retired Guelph, Ont., senior has a background in marketing and felt he could be put to use reaching out to confirmed COVID-19 cases by phone to help track their close contacts.
“There is that first step that’s got to be taken in contact tracing, which is calling the person that’s positive and they know they’re positive, so it’s not going to be a stressful situation,” he said.
“Then you turn that over to somebody who’s got more training in how to actually call somebody and say, ‘You might be COVID positive.'”
Baker spent 45 minutes filling out the questionnaire, and hoped to be called on to help in other areas of the province or the country that had a high volume of new cases or outbreaks in long-term care homes.
But weeks later, he hasn’t received an update.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says the motivation for the campaign was commendable and compared it to a “wartime effort.”
“Congratulations to the government for having that initiative up front, because they recognize contact tracing would be a big part of this,” he said.
“But there clearly wasn’t a subsequent plan to use the roster in a strategic way and there wasn’t a subsequent plan to navigate the federal-provincial divide.”
Because each province and territory has individual public health units that allocate resources and make decisions at a local level, Deonandan says a national database of volunteers would be challenging to roll out effectively.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said.
Even one of his PhD students in epidemiology volunteered and never heard back, Deonandan said.
“What needs to happen, obviously, is for the provinces to take over the contact tracing capacity in a meaningful way and maybe even restart the volunteer rostering process — because I’m still getting people contacting me asking how they can get involved.”
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, has been calling on Ontario to step up contact tracing as the province continues to move toward reopening despite a steady stream of high caseloads.
“Anyone who knows what it’s like to go after something, can use a telephone and has a high school education can be trained to do the work,” he said. Both his parents — one of whom is a university professor — had volunteered and never heard back.
“I think public health is so overwhelmed that even managing a bunch of new people, whether they’re hired or volunteers, is probably something they can’t handle.”
Contact tracing key to stopping spread
A recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found isolating positive cases and contact tracing played a key role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Shenzen, China.
Patients that were found to have COVID-19 because they reported symptoms of the disease were identified at an average of 4.6 days after they reported getting sick.
But contact tracing of those close to them, such as in the same household, reduced that time to just 2.7 days on average.
Another recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the first 100 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Taiwan and found they were most infectious in the days leading up to showing symptoms and in the five days after.
That study stresses the need to identify potential cases that may have been unknowingly exposed, but not know they’re sick yet, to effectively contain the spread of the disease.
“These findings underscore the pressing public health need for accurate and comprehensive contact tracing and testing,” Robert Steinbrook wrote in an editor’s note. “Testing only those people who are symptomatic will miss many infections and render contact tracing less effective.”
The World Health Organization also says contact tracing is “an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks” that can “break the chains of transmission” of COVID-19.
Volunteers could help not only with tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients, but also with cutting down the time it takes to notify public health units of positive cases, Warner said.
“One of the biggest sources of a lag in effective contact tracing is the time it takes from the moment the patient is swabbed to the time that piece of paper arrives in the fax machine at the public health office,” he said.
“We’ve got we’ve got people on the bench willing to work, but they probably don’t even have the capacity to open that list and look at those names because they can’t even do the job they’ve been tasked to do.”
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