Canada will spend millions to help the world’s most desperate people fight COVID-19 because it is in the country’s long-term security interest as well as being the right thing to do, says International Development Minister Karina Gould.
Gould says that’s why Canada has earmarked $50 million, part of its response to today’s launch of the United Nations COVID-19 humanitarian response plan.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Gould rebutted criticism in some quarters that the government ought to be focusing instead on Canadians hunkering down at home to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“The world is connected … Whatever happens over there, far away, is something that can very easily come to our doorstep,” she said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a $2-billion global appeal Wednesday morning, calling for a co-ordinated response to help the world’s war-torn, displaced and most destitute people, who are facing new misery because of the pandemic. The appeal is targeting the spread of the virus in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
“COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity — and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,” Guterres said in a statement.
Gould said the government needs to help Canadians at home with an $82-billion spending package, but it must also spend $50 million globally to protect Canada’s future security and economic prosperity from a virus that knows no borders.
Last week, Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole criticized the government for the overseas spending, saying on Twitter: “Foreign aid can wait. Right now, the Trudeau government should prioritize Canadians.”
Gould didn’t mention O’Toole by name, but she addressed the underlying sentiment of his tweet.
“Canada absolutely has to protect our own citizens, but part of protecting our own citizens is being part of that global response,” she said.
“It’s a bit of an enlightened self-interest,” Gould added. “We absolutely need to be thinking about the world’s poorest and most vulnerable because if we’re not thinking about them, we’re also putting ourselves at risk.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone on Wednesday to the presidents of Rwanda and Senegal and pledged “Canada’s support through advice and international assistance” on COVID-19, said a statement from his office.
The government has earmarked $8 million of the $50 million spending package to groups such as the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help them fight the pandemic.
Gould said she is speaking with numerous UN agencies and other international organizations to target where the rest of the money should be spent.
There is no shortage of options, including the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh where 700,000 Rohingya exiles from Myanmar are crammed into squalid conditions and where preventative hand-washing and social distancing are next to impossible. There are also overcrowded refugee camps on Greek islands and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and armed conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
One message Gould said she is hearing is that there can be no cuts to current aid spending. Otherwise, the world could face outbreaks of diseases that have already been contained such as polio, tuberculosis and malaria. She also doesn’t want to see money diverted from helping improve the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women.
Gould said many lessons can be learned from past African Ebola outbreaks. She noted that while the 2019 outbreak in Congo killed 3,000 people, another 6,000 children died from a measles outbreak that couldn’t be contained at the same time.
Gould said she’s stressing the need for “a fierce commitment” to preserving development and humanitarian programs in all her international conversations.
“If we were to take a step back from those, the collateral damage and the generation of children that could be left behind because of this is even greater than the risk that we face with COVID.”
Gould said she’s worried about how isolation and quarantines can lead to an increase in domestic and gender-based violence.
Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative, said Gould spoke with her organization’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi Tuesday about doing more for the Rohingya in Bangladesh, and the need to scale up responses to sexual and gender-based violence.
“Canada has already done quite a bit and we hope to see more coming from them when the appeal is launched,” she said in an interview.
“We know that no matter what measures you take here, nationally, to prevent the spread of the virus, as long as you have situations around the world with weak health systems and an inability to cope with the demands that are placed on them with this pandemic, the virus knows no boundaries.”
David Morley, the president of UNICEF Canada, said millions of uprooted children in war zones are dying from preventable causes and not getting essential vaccines.
“With COVID-19 cases hitting Syria and Gaza, it is only a matter of time before we see the spread throughout refugee camps and these vulnerable populations,” Morley said.
UNICEF is concerned about refugee children on the Greek islands, where there are more than 41,000 refugees, including 13,000 children. A reception centre designed to hold 3,000 people has now swelled to 20,000, he said.
Though European borders are shut, Morley said UNICEF is stepping up its call to try to relocate children to Germany, Finland and other countries that have committed to take them.
“People in developing contexts care for their family members just like we do here,” said Michael Messenger, the president of World Vision Canada. “We can focus both on responses here at home, as well the world’s most vulnerable. That’s the Canadian way.”
How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting food security in Canada – Global News
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Canada, officials are struggling to provide aid to those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
And experts say organizations tasked with combating food insecurity are already feeling the strain as more and more people seek assistance.
Here’s a look at what’s going on.
How many people are food insecure in Canada?
A study released earlier this month from PROOF, an interdisciplinary research program investigating household food insecurity in Canada, found that one in eight households across the country is food insecure.
“This represents 4.4 million people, the largest number recorded since Canada began monitoring food insecurity,” the report said.
The report added this number — reflective of 103,500 households from Statistics Canada’s 2017-18 Canadian Community Health Survey — is an underestimate, as it did not include people living on First Nations reserves, some remote northern areas, or the homeless.
The report also found that 17 per cent of children under the age of 18 — more than one in six — live in a family experiencing food insecurity.
Gisèle Yasmeen, executive director at Food Secure Canada, said even before the coronavirus outbreak, food insecurity in Canada was already “trending in the wrong direction.”
“The urgency, or the concern, is that a situation that was already concerning in a wealthy country like Canada is getting worse as a result of this crisis,” she said.
How will COVID-19 affect food insecurity in Canada?
Nick Saul, CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, said many who were already food insecure are considered “very precariously employed.”
“Not enough hours, not enough benefits, only one salary carrying a whole family, and that salary just doesn’t pay enough,” he explained. “So when you have something like COVID, hit in the midst of that stress and uncertainty and anxiety, those ranks are only going to grow.”
While COVID-19 continues to spread in Canada, provincial governments have ordered non-essential businesses to close, forcing mass lay-offs.
As a result, since mid-March more than one million Canadians have applied for unemployment insurance.
Alberta’s food supply chain remains strong, officials say no need to panic buy
Saul said this means more people will be accessing assistance at more than 200 locations across the country.
“All of those people are going to be very worried about their food. So more and more people coming to the community, food centres, the good food organizations that we run across this country,” he said. “So it’s going to be busy and the stress will be high.”
Saul added centres are already seeing an increase in demand.
“I can absolutely tell you that more and more people are showing up at the doors of those centres,” he said. “And that’s a significant concern.”
But, Saul said these organizations don’t have the capacity to deal with the surge, saying that even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the charitable sector was “not coming close” to addressing the need.
“Many of us who are on the frontlines of this were saying we need to increase minimum wages, we need to build more affordable housing,” he said.
“So now there is a new wave of people who are joining those ranks and the numbers are just going to continue to grow.”
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Saul said the COVID-19 pandemic is putting extra strain on those who were already food insecure before the outbreak.
He explained those receiving social assistance already have difficulty navigating food, shelter and transportation, without the extra stress of a pandemic.
“And that’s a deep concern that, as a society, we have to face up to and do better going forward,” he said.
An ‘opening for transformative change’
The federal government announced last month it would spend up to $82 billion to support Canadians affected by COVID-19, including $55 billion to meet the liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals. The total amount of support was later increased to $107 billion.
The government has also said all companies will get 75 per cent of salaries covered, if they’ve lost 30 per cent of their revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said business of all sizes, charities and non-profits are eligible for the emergency wage subsidy. Trudeau also urged Canadians to continue to donate to charitable organizations amid the pandemic so they can continue to operate.
Saul said he is glad the government is working to provide support to businesses to keep people employed, adding that he hopes the money is disseminated quickly.
“The government has responded as well on the emergency side, flowing money out to our sector,” he said. “So that’s good, that’s really good and important.”
Saul said the economic measures announced by the government are “really important medium-term responses,” but said once the pandemic is over, “we have to get back to talking about the structural inequalities that exist in our society because they were massive and they’ve only been exacerbated by the current COVID crisis.”
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Yasmeen echoed Saul’s remarks, saying Canada needs to address the urgent crisis, but that the situation should also be used as an “opening for transformative change.”
She said they have been calling for a “more integrated, better social safety net” and for a universal basic income in Canada in order to address food insecurity.
“We have a patchwork of social programs, both federally, provincially, etc.,” she said. “So it’s really time to not just invest in an emergency type way, but transform our system so that we don’t have these people falling through the cracks.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus has ‘unprecedented’ number of Canadians making a will – Global News
More Canadians are thinking of end-of-life planning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of Canadians making wills and signing powers of attorney has spiked in the past two weeks, according to companies that help with the process.
For Willful, a service that allows Canadians to create their own legal documents online, sales since March 16 have been 160 per cent higher than they were in the first two weeks of the month. Traffic to the website went up 80 per cent over the same time period.
Erin Bury, the CEO of Willful, explained the pandemic has a lot of people thinking about their emergency plans — or lack of.
“When we’re faced with something like a pandemic, obviously it causes people to think more about their own mortality plans,” she told Global News.
She noted the increase in usage may also be because many Canadians are at home and aren’t able to visit lawyers to draft wills in person.
“They have more time to get to those tasks that might have fallen to the bottom of the list previously,” she added.
Expert says people should include digital assets in their wills
Bury noted, however, that even wills created online must be printed and signed by two witnesses to be legally binding.
A similar uptick in usage is occurring at another online legal document creation company called Canadian Legal Wills.
Tim Hewson, the co-founder and president of the company, said the rise in demand has been “unprecedented” across the company’s operations in Canada, United States and the United Kingdom.
Hewson noted the company generally sees increases around the beginning of the year and then during tax season — but that’s “nothing” compared to traffic amid the pandemic.
“We’re seeing probably three to four times the normal traffic,” he said. “This is absolutely unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like this kind of interest in will writing.”
Both companies found that Canadians on the website are looking for more than wills — they’re also filling out powers of attorney.
“A power of attorney comes into effect when you’re still alive, but you are unable to communicate, maybe you’re in an accident or you are incapacitated,” Bury said. “That appoints someone who can pay your bills and make medical decisions on your behalf.”
Bury noted that powers of attorney are important for any Canadian adult, whether they’re young or older.
Navigating rent and loans during the COVID-19 outbreak
The same applies for wills, Hewson said.
“We think everybody should have a will, every adult should have a will,” he said. “You shouldn’t feel that you need a will just if your demise is imminent. Everybody should have a will as part of responsible financial planning.”
Hewson noted that wills aren’t a one-time document, but can and should be changed throughout one’s life so they’re up to date, accounting for things like family growth and new assets.
But many Canadians don’t have a will, according to an Angus Reid Institute survey from January 2018. The survey found that 51 per cent of Canadians had no last will or testament, while 35 per cent of Canadians had one that wasn’t up to date.
That’s quite a problem, according to Nicole Ewing, a Canadian strategist with Edward Jones.
Ewing told Global News that not having proper paperwork in place before death can have serious consequences for loved ones left behind.
“There’s legislation in each province that would dictate what happens in the event that an individual doesn’t have a will,” she said. “So there are rules that will apply and they might not be the ones he would want to apply to yourself and your family.”
Ewing noted having a will is about protecting loved ones, minors and beneficiaries. Dying without a will can leave behind a trail of unpaid bills, taxes and courtroom battles for those who survive you. Not to mention that you don’t get a say in who gets what.
Your questions about coronavirus and your finances, answered
She said the rules across Canada can differ on some critical matters. For example, provinces have varying rules on common-law couples. In several provinces, only married spouses are automatically granted a claim to your inheritance.
While more Canadians are looking online to make wills, Ewing cautioned that individualized advice from lawyers may be more reliable. She said that Canadians should also consider coordinating wills with their financial advisors and accountants.
“I think they should be all partnering together to help put the best document in place, because we want to ensure that your planning is coordinated,” she said, adding that a beneficiary listed on a bank account, for example, should be in line with what is on the will.
— With files from Global News’ Erica Alini
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
How long will coronavirus measures last in Canada? Experts say June or July – Global News
Canadians hunkered down in their homes should expect the strict public health measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus to last until the summer, according to federal and provincial health officials.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to give a specific timeline on when the lockdowns and quarantines might be lifted but said Wednesday the measures could last for “weeks or even months.”
“We know [these measures] are going to be in place a number of more weeks, perhaps even months. But everything depends on how Canadians behave,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday. “The choices you make to stay at home, to self-isolate, not to go to six different grocery stores… these sorts of things are what will arrest the spread and the increase of this virus.”
“As I have often said, we look at all kinds of different scenarios,” Trudeau said. “It might last longer, it might last less time.”
Sources within the federal government and the City of Ottawa tell Global News the current pandemic-related restrictions are expected to be in place until at least June in a “best-case scenario.”
A report from the National Post citing a document from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on March 30 projects that “current measures” will continue until at least July.
“Current GoC [Government Operations Centre] modelling suggests as a best-case scenario that current measures continue until at least July,” the document said. Global News reached out to the IRCC for comment but did not receive a response.
However, the IRCC document did not specify whether all or some measures — like social distancing, mandatory self-isolation for recent travellers and the closure of the Canadian border to most foreigners — would remain in place.
The closure of the Canadian border to non-essential travel, for example, will last until at least June 30, according to the federal government.
There were over 9,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of the new coronavirus in Canada, with 108 deaths, as of 11 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Provinces across the country have declared states of emergency, banning public gatherings and closing non-essential businesses and schools.
The measures, while necessary to halt the spread of the deadly virus, have crippled Canada’s economy.
A projection from the parliamentary budget watchdog suggests the unemployment rate could skyrocket to 15 per cent by the end of the year, and federal agencies are preparing for an influx of four million people filing for a new emergency fund that will pay $2,000 a month to workers who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provincial and local health officials have also warned that the country might be in this for the long haul.
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the measures imposed by the city, including limiting outings for groceries and supplies to just once a week, could be in place for up to 12 weeks.
“How long these measures need to be in place, how successful we are in terms of controlling virus spread is entirely in our hands,” de Villa said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
“The more we are able to put these measures into place, the more we are able as a community to adhere to these measures, to adhere to the recommendations, the shorter will be the duration of these measures and the more effective we will be, most importantly, at reducing the loss of lives in our community.”
B.C. health officials say COVID-19 restrictions will last until ‘at least the summer’
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the current COVID-19 restrictions will likely remain in place until at least the summer.
“It’s more and more [unlikely] that we’re going to be able to get back to full normal life — which I miss a lot — before at least the summer,” Henry told reporters. “And then we need to start preparing ourselves for the potential of a second wave in the fall.”
Dawn Bowdish, Canada Research Chair in aging and immunity at McMaster University, said that based on the models of other countries, like South Korea or Taiwan, Canadians should be prepared for at least three more months of staying at home and limiting public gatherings.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we may be able to start some back to work or some very limited lifts on social distancing [until July],”
Bowdish told Global News. “But honestly, it all depends on how proactive we are today.”
She said the virus will continue to be a public health risk until a vaccine is developed or there is broad herd immunity. Experts have estimated a vaccine is still 18 months away.
“If everyone could stay at home today, that will shorten that prediction,” Bowdish said. “But I think July is about right.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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