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Canada welcoming vaccinated American citizens back across border as U.S. demurs – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
The United States will remain on the sidelines for now as Canada gamely welcomes back fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents.

As of midnight Sunday night, non-essential U.S. travellers who have had a full course of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine will again be allowed on Canadian soil.

To be eligible, travellers must live in the U.S., have allowed at least 14 days to pass since their last dose and show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old.

They are also required to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.

Denis Vinette, vice-president of the travellers branch of the Canada Border Services Agency, says the agency learned a lot when fully vaccinated Canadian citizens were allowed to return last month.

Vinette says about half had to be turned away during the first week because they hadn’t received one of the four vaccines approved by Health Canada, or had not waited the full 14 days after their last shot.

“We found that many travellers — while they believed they met the full vaccination requirements — in fact did not, for one of two reasons,” Vinette said in an interview.

“One, it had not been a full 14 days since they’d received their second vaccination shot, and secondly, there were a lot of individuals who received a non-Health Canada vaccine who believed they would have been exempt from the quarantine requirements.”

Canada has approved four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, also known as Covishield, and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson option.

“We had a lot of individuals who didn’t have a full understanding of what applies and what does not apply,” Vinette said. “I expect the same here. I think that from a vaccination perspective, the vaccines being administered in the U.S. are approved in Canada, so I would expect that might be a lesser issue.”

The U.S., for its part, has been mum on when it might begin to ease its own restrictions on non-essential Canadian travellers at land crossings. Air and sea travellers are exempt, though passengers by rail, ferry and pleasure boat are not.

The White House did say last week that it is exploring whether to require discretionary visitors to be fully vaccinated when the time comes to ease restrictions, although it remains unclear whether that discussion specifically includes Canadian travellers.

The U.S. has maintained stringent travel limits on a number of foreign countries, including China, India, Ireland, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and the 26 European countries without border controls, known as the Schengen group.

The borders with Canada and Mexico, however, are widely seen as falling into a different category, in part because of the close trade ties between the three countries as well as the fact that visitors can enter without the help of a private-sector company like an airline or cruise ship operator.

Observers also detect a measure of unease in the White House at the idea of allowing travel to resume from Canada without doing so at the southern border, where an ever-present flow of would-be refugees continues to pose a political challenge for President Joe Biden.

While a short-lived labour dispute with Canadian border agents was resolved promptly last week, travellers looking to enter the country after Sunday would still be wise to pack some patience, given the likelihood that a lot of people will be getting turned away.

Some people “will not have perhaps the totality of information they require to be able to present themselves to enter the country for a discretionary purpose,” Vinette said.

“They’ll be denied entry to the country; they’ll simply be sent back to the U.S., then they can choose to comply with all requirements and then seek re-entry after that case.”

Travellers arriving by air can also expect delays, given that it already takes a lot of time.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, one of four in Canada that has been allowed to accept flights from outside the country, has been warning people that the international arrivals process could take more than three hours.

Canadians are growing more comfortable with air travel, which means more people in the airport, all of them dealing with augmented security and health checks thanks to COVID restrictions, said Pearson spokeswoman Beverly MacDonald.

“There are a variety of factors that impact wait times upon arrival, including additional health screening due to government travel requirements, vaccination status, immigration processing, multiple flights arriving at the same time and more,” MacDonald said in a statement.

Pearson saw nearly double the amount of passengers in the second quarter than during the same months in 2020 — though at an average of 11,500 a day it’s still significantly down from that quarter in 2019, when an average of 140,000 passengers flowed through the airport.

In June, the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport saw about 10 per cent of its 2019 volumes, which rose to 20 per cent in July, and they expect to see around 30 per cent in August.

“Even if we are used to attending to a far larger number of passengers in our facilities, there are longer wait times to be expected especially at the international arrivals level, depending on the time of the day,” said spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel.

The federal government is currently planning to allow vaccinated visitors from outside the U.S. to return to Canada for non-essential reasons as of Sept. 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2021.

— With files from Allison Jones and Elena De Luigi in Toronto

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Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of decision granting Quebec woman third murder trial

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal of a decision that ordered a third trial for a woman who has twice been convicted of killing her two daughters.

The Crown had been seeking leave to appeal a Quebec Court of Appeal decision that overturned Adèle Sorella’s 2019 second-degree murder conviction in the deaths of her daughters, Amanda and Sabrina.

Sorella was first convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder in the deaths of the girls, who were eight and nine years old, but that ruling was overturned on appeal in 2017.

At her second trial in 2019, a jury convicted her on two counts of second-degree murder, but that decision was overturned in March after the Appeal Court faulted the trial judge for refusing to accept an argument that organized crime could have played a part in the deaths.

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for dismissing the appeal Thursday, as is customary.

The Quebec Crown prosecutor’s office confirmed that a third murder trial will take place, likely between September and December 2023. The case returns to court Oct. 21 to determine the next steps before trial, prosecutor Audrey Roy-Cloutier said in an email.

The girls were found dead in their playroom on March 31, 2009. Their bodies bore no signs of violence and the cause of their death has never been determined. Sorella’s husband and the girls’ father was Giuseppe De Vito, a man with ties to organized crime who died in prison in 2013 after being poisoned.

Sorella had been granted bail in July 2020 while awaiting the outcome of her appeal.

During the previous trial, she pleaded not guilty due to a mental disorder.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M

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OTTAWA — The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.

“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.

Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.

More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.

Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.

“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.

“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”

On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.

That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.

Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.

Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.

Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.

“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.

“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”

Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.

He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.

That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.

Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.

When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.

“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.

She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”

NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.

She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.

“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.

The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.

“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.

“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear appeals in Alberta coal project case

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OTTAWA — Canada’s top court won’t hear an appeal of a regulatory decision that blocked development of an open-pit coal mine in the Alberta Rockies.

In a decision released Thursday, the Supreme Court turned down requests from a coal miner and two First Nations for leave to appeal a decision from Alberta’s energy regulator that found the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine in the province’s Crowsnest Pass region was not in the public interest.

The dismissed applications were from the Stoney Nakoda and Piikani First Nations and Benga Mining, which had proposed to resume mining for steelmaking coal at a site that had been previously mined.

But in June 2021, a joint federal-provincial review panel said the mine’s likely environmental effects on fish and water quality would outweigh what it called the low-to-moderate economic impacts of the project. Alberta’s regulatory agency denied Benga’s permit application and the federal government soon followed.

Both Benga and the two First Nations, which had signed benefits agreements with the company, first asked the Alberta Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the decision. When they were turned down, they applied to the Supreme Court.

Benga argued the joint federal-provincial review panel erred by ignoring evidence from the company on water quality, fish habitat and the project’s economics. The Piikani and Stoney Nakoda argued the panel didn’t adequately consult them on economic matters related to the exercise of their constitutional rights.

As is usual, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons for denying leave to appeal.

However, the Alberta court had found the applicants were asking justices to reconsider evidence, not correct an error in law. Justice Bernette Ho wrote that Benga was simply asking the court to prefer Benga’s expert evidence to other evidence presented.

Regulators are within their rights to decide which evidence to accept or reject, she wrote.

The Alberta decision also found the panel had plenty of information on Indigenous economic benefits and pointed out both First Nations had been free to file whatever information on those benefits they wanted.

The regulator’s decision on Benga was the first in series of decisions that has severely cramped the United Conservative government’s initial plans for a huge expansion of open-pit steelmaking coal mining in Alberta’s beloved Rockies and foothills.

Thousands of hectares were leased for exploration and several mines were proposed. Loud and near-universal public condemnation of the plans forced the government to back down and issue an order reinstating protections for the region.

That, however, has brought its own legal issues.

The province is now facing two lawsuits from coal companies affected by that reversal.

Atrum Coal Co. argues the government’s move damaged its share price, deprived its shareholders of value and made worthless millions of dollars worth of exploration work already completed. Cabin Ridge Coal, which is privately held, argues the government’s new policy amounts to expropriation of their assets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

 

The Canadian Press

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