Marking a national day of observance to commemorate those who died due to COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says March 11, 2020 will be remembered as the day when life in Canada changed.
Delivering a speech in the House of Commons on Thursday, Trudeau said in a “heartbreaking” year with much loss, Canadians have showed persistence, solidarity, and compassion.
“Every Canadian we lost to this virus will be remembered. Every shift done by a frontline nurse, every mask made by a Canadian worker will not be forgotten. We are stronger together, today, tomorrow and always,” said Trudeau.
Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Worldwide, 118 million people have contracted COVID-19, and nearly three million people have died. Canada has reported more than 896,000 COVID-19 cases to date, with more than 22,000 related deaths.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also honoured lives lost in his own speech to Parliament and recognized the unintended mental health and economic consequences of the pandemic.
“Youth mental health presenting as anxiety or eating disorders are alarmingly on the rise. The true cost of this pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of Canadians of all walks of life has been staggering,” O’Toole said.
He also thanked frontline health care workers who he said helped him personally. O’Toole and his wife tested positive for the virus in September, 2020.
The Conservative leader took issue with the pace of vaccine rollout in Canada, stating that businesses deserve to know when they can open up shop again. So far, more than two million Canadians have received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to CTV News’ vaccine tracker, Canada ranks 55th in the world in population vaccinations.
“Like many Canadians, we’re frustrated by the slower pace of vaccines than elsewhere, but we want the government to succeed for the health and well-being of Canadians so we can get our lives back to normal,” said.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet used his time to also recognize teachers, health care and child care workers, and the most vulnerable.
“The pandemic has made the most vulnerable among us even more vulnerable. People who are isolated, who live in poverty, who suffer from anxiety are suffering even more,” he said speaking in French.
“Seniors are distressed in many ways as well, they are the most fragile among us.”
It was a sentiment shared by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh who has long advocated for better conditions for seniors living in long-term care, where COVID-19 hit hard and made an already grim situation worse.
“It is with great sadness when we reflect on who felt this pandemic the most and who bore the brunt of this pandemic, we come up with the answer that [it was] our seniors, particularly seniors living in long-term care,” he said. “It’s a national shame that’s the case.”
According to November data from Statistics Canada, Canadians age 85 and older have accounted for more than half of the excess deaths reported amid the pandemic.
HEALTH OFFICIALS REFLECT
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who has become a trusted face since the pandemic began, providing almost daily updates about Canada’s fight to contain the virus, released a statement on Thursday noting how challenging the year has been.
“We have all made many sacrifices and have faced exceptional challenges, from balancing multiple roles and providing critical supports to Canadians in need, to financial uncertainty and experiencing a sense of loneliness and isolation; some have lost family and friends to COVID-19,” the statement reads.
Days earlier, Tam expressed optimism about Canada’s vaccination efforts following Health Canada’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military general in charge of the logistical end of the vaccine rollout, told reporters on Wednesday that Canada was moving into its ramp-up phase in the national mass immunization campaign.
In total, by the end of June Canada is on track to receive 36.5 million doses and by the end of September a total of 117.9 million doses of currently-approved vaccines.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV News Channel on Thursday that the past year has given Canada the opportunity to consider revising its approach when faced with a future pandemic.
“If something like this happens again, what can we do better? And I think one of the big things is we used a blunt tool – lockdown — and clearly that didn’t address all the very important structural inequities such as occupational health and [the pandemic] hitting marginalized people much harder than the rest of the population. It’s very important we address that,” he said.
Chakrabarti said the pandemic won’t completely expire anytime soon but he expects it will eventually take a different form.
“Especially in a place like Canada, where we have a temperate climate, we’ll likely see it in the winter time similar to influenza but it’s not going to be something that’s disruptive to our lives.”
With a file from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello
Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.
Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.
The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.
The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.
“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).
While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.
Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.
($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara
OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.
Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.
“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.
Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.
In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”
Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.
The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)
Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits
By Liz Hampton
DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.
The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.
As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.
Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.
“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.
In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.
Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.
By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.
Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)