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Canada won’t be welcoming unvaccinated tourists any time soon: Trudeau – Global News



With COVID-19 numbers dipping across the country and several provinces gradually easing back to normalcy, many Canadians have been wondering when it will be OK for unvaccinated people to travel freely once again. Putting a rest to this notion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday clarified that it is “not going to happen for quite a while.”

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“We need to continue to ensure that the safety of Canadians, of all the sacrifices that so many people have made over the past many, many months are not for nothing,” Trudeau said at a press conference in British Columbia.

Click to play video: 'Canadian travel restrictions ease for fully vaccinated passengers'

Canadian travel restrictions ease for fully vaccinated passengers

Canadian travel restrictions ease for fully vaccinated passengers

“If you are wondering when unvaccinated tourists can come to Canada, I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while.”

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Fully vaccinated but left out: Canada’s new border rules put some in a conundrum

The prime minister’s comments come after the government this week waived off quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated citizens. However, non-essential foreign travelers are still not allowed to enter Canada despite pressure from the country’s hurting tourism sector.

The United States does not have vaccine requirements for visitors. However, for Canada, talks about lifting border restrictions at this point are focused entirely on fully vaccinated travellers, Trudeau said.

“The next step we’ll be looking at what measures we can allow for international travellers who are fully vaccinated,” he said. “We will have more to say in the coming weeks.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Canada’s new border rules leave out some fully vaccinated'

COVID-19: Canada’s new border rules leave out some fully vaccinated

COVID-19: Canada’s new border rules leave out some fully vaccinated

Trudeau has previously said authorities are looking closely at domestic vaccination rates, the spread of variants of concern, and how the rest of the world deals with COVID-19.

He said the focus right now is “on supporting Canadians and continuing to go through this pandemic and continuing to recover our economies.”

“I know how difficult this past year and a half has been for our tourism sector,” he said, acknowledging how trying the pandemic has been for small and large businesses alike.

“We were there for them and we will continue to do everything we can to reopen everything safely and rapidly,” he added.

Click to play video: 'Demand for domestic travel ramps up'

Demand for domestic travel ramps up

Demand for domestic travel ramps up

Meanwhile, vaccinated Canadians are still confused about vaccine protocols they may face on their flight or cruise or at their resort or hotel should they decide to go on vacation. According to travel agents, some Canadians who are fully vaccinated are looking for assurances that their fellow travellers will be too.

“There’s a group of travellers that are just so happy to be able to travel again that they’re not going to be as concerned,” said Allison Wallace, Vancouver-based spokeswoman for Flight Centre Travel Group. “But there’s definitely a portion of the population that’s very concerned.”

Already, some tourism operators have come up with their own protocols to give vaccinated travellers peace of mind.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced this spring it would require full proof of vaccination from travellers before they board. Royal Caribbean has taken a different approach by establishing a two-tiered system on one of its ships this summer. Passengers who can’t provide proof of vaccination will not be allowed to access certain areas of the ship, like the spa and casino, and will also have to eat at different times than fully vaccinated passengers.

Wallace said enforcing separate rules for different categories of passengers could prove problematic.

“We’ve already seen people in just regular businesses and stores who don’t think they have to abide by the rules. I think you’re going to have a lot of confrontations and there’s going to be a lot of frustration,” she said.

Click to play video: 'How wealthy Canadians travelled during COVID-19'

How wealthy Canadians travelled during COVID-19

How wealthy Canadians travelled during COVID-19

Still, Wallace said travellers are likely to encounter vaccine-based privileges and restrictions for a while, at least until the tourism industry recovers from the economic blows of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The industry as a whole understands that confidence is key. And if there’s big outbreak at a resort or a cruise line, the negative connotations that go along with that . . . can really hurt businesses,” she said.

Ken Stewart, owner of Crowfoot Travel Solutions in Calgary, said he is facing a lot of questions about travelling with children who are still too young to have their vaccinations. He said the answers vary depending on the destination, and he can usually only provide a “best guess” as to what the situation will be next month, or even next week.

“Things change on a daily basis, and sometimes I’m as confused as my clients,” Stewart.

However, one thing is clear, Stewart said, and that is in the immediate future, travelling is going to be much easier for those who are vaccinated than those who aren’t.

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Want to skip Canada’s quarantine hotels? Depends on which COVID-19 vaccine you got

Lesley Keyter, founder and chief executive of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, agrees.

“I heard a story yesterday about some people, unvaccinated, who headed off to Greece on holiday and then couldn’t get into any restaurants because they had to show proof of vaccination,” she said. “You have to be so careful checking all the requirements before you leave. It’s all about the fine details.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canadian governments OK settlement with Purdue Pharma over opioid addictions



VANCOUVER — A proposed $150-million settlement with Purdue Pharma Canada covering all provinces and territories has been reached for the recovery of health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medication.

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said Wednesday that it’s the largest settlement of a governmental health-care cost claim in Canadian history.

The province launched a proposed class-action lawsuit in 2018 against more than 40 drug companies on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments with the aim of recovering health-care costs for the “wrongful conduct of opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants.”

Eby said the proposed settlement was accepted by governments across Canada and a plan is being worked on to determine how the money will be divided, based on the impact on each province.

“The money will be going to supporting provincial programs to fight the opioid epidemic that we believe Purdue’s actions contributed to through their deceptive marketing,” he said.

Over 27,000 people died across the country from toxic street drugs between 2016 and September 2021.

“We took this action to recover health-care costs and to hold opioid companies to account for their part in allegedly engaging in deceptive marketing tactics to increase sales, which led to increased rates of addiction and overdose,” Eby told a news conference.

He said the B.C. government is “committed to aggressively pursuing litigation against the other manufacturers and distributors that put profits before people.”

The cost of the opioid epidemic on provincial health-care systems is “likely in the billions of dollars,” Eby said.

“In the United States, the claims amount to trillions of dollars, and have resulted in the bankruptcy of Purdue’s arm in the United States.”

He said Canada faced the possibility of being grouped into a number of unsecured creditor claims within the U.S. bankruptcy proceeding, where the amount available to the entire group is just $15 million.

The B.C. sanctions allowed Canadian jurisdictions to prevent Purdue from liquidating their Canadian operations to pay American claims, which would have left Canada with nothing after U.S. bankruptcy proceedings, he said.

“So in that respect, this is a remarkable accomplishment for British Columbia and all the provinces in Canada to ensure that Canadians see some proceeds from Purdue’s actions in deceptively marketing.”

In the United States, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by governments, unions, hospitals and other entities in an effort to make drug companies, pharmacies and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.

American businesses, mostly those that sold or made the drugs, have already faced settlements, judgments and civil and criminal penalties totalling more than $47 billion.

British Columbia’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister, Sheila Malcolmson, called the settlement “an important step forward” in the effort to end the province’s toxic drug emergency.

“We know the settlement will not make up for the lives lost, the terrible loss of loved ones in our communities, so our government remains steadfast in its commitment to end the public health emergency,” she said.

Eby said there are many manufacturers, distributors and their consultants that remain named in the litigation.

“And they are on notice by this settlement that we will be pursuing them aggressively.”

Health Canada said the federalgovernment is exploring “all appropriate options to hold companies accountable for (their) role in the overdose crisis if they acted inappropriately in the marketing and distribution of opioids.”

To limit the marketing of opioids directed at health professionals, all opioid advertising material must be vetted by an advertising preclearance agency before it can be used.

“As of June 2019, all promotional materials are required to follow exactly what is in the product monograph. Health Canada is also identifying non-compliant marketing practices and rigorously enforcing the laws as they exist today,” Health Canada said in a written statement.

British Columbia’s application for certification of its class-action lawsuit has been scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court in the fall 2023.

The province said certification could open the door to further settlements to recover health-care costs.

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


Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

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Anti-hate group launches online booklet to combat hate among young people



A few weeks ago, Toronto teacher Nigel Barriffe said he spoke to a young, Black colleague who had entered a classroom after lunch to find a racial slur and swastika etched on a school locker.

“We know that many of our Jewish students and families have had racist epithets thrown at them. We know our Muslim students and families have been under attack for years,” Barriffe said Wednesday.

Barriffe and members of the Canadian Anti-Hate Networktold a news conference about scenarios that are described in a new online booklet that aims to educate parents, teachers and students on how to identify and confront various forms of hate in classrooms and online.

The booklet was created by the network, a group that monitors hate groups and researches extremism in the country. It includes examples from educators and community members across Canada and provides steps on how to support impressionable children.

It describes the ways a parent or teacher can intervene when they believe a student is being radicalized by a hate group. It also includes workshops and defines various extremist ideologies.

Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the network, said the scenarios increase in severity as you flip through the document.

“Everything in the tool kit is real examples that we have found,” she said.

“You start with anonymous, hate promotion so that could be graffiti, that could be the swastika on the desk. You don’t know who’s behind it, but it’s happening and you have to deal with it.

“Then it escalates all the way to overt (hate groups recruiting students and) organizing within the school community and outside the school community.”

The federal government is spending $35 million on 175 anti-racism projects across the country, including the booklet.

Bernie Farber, chair of the network, said hate crimes involving children and adults have surged and silence is no longer an option.

He said there have been recent hate attacks involving youth, including the beating of a Black Edmonton student allegedly by seven other students who were screaming racial slurs. There have also been numerous cases of students distributing hate-promoting flyers.

“I had a meeting today with the York Region School Board (in Ontario) who indicated to me racial incidents … have gone up to heights that they have not seen before,” said Farber.

“Three times in the last year, pride flags were stolen from school properties and burned, the latest of which occurred only a few weeks ago in Windsor, Ont. Then there are the children who marched across the playground in North Bay, Ont., shouting, ‘Heil Hitler!’”

“There are too many stories about swastikas in high schools to count.”

Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of diversity and inclusion, said the booklet is available for free online and has been distributed to some schools that conducted workshops on racism.

“Inclusion is a choice that we must make and inclusion is something that we must fight for every single day,” Hussen said.

“As much as we would like to as parents, we can’t shield our children from everything. But we can give them the tools to make the right decisions when they react to real-life situations, whether in person or online.”

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

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Response to mass shootings should be ‘political and immediate,’ survivor says



OTTAWA — Former public safety minister Bill Blair was asked yet again Wednesday about whether his government interfered in the investigation into the April 2020 shooting spree in Nova Scotia — a question that has grabbed political attention in Ottawa for over a week.

Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office are accused of pressuring RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to release details about the type of weapons used by the gunman, with two RCMP officials alleging Lucki told them that information was connected to upcoming gun legislation.

The government announced a ban on assault-style weapons on May 1, 2020, after cabinet approved an order-in-council enacting the changes.

The Conservatives have accused the Liberals of using a tragedy to further their agenda. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement last week that it’s completely unacceptable for a government to “use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for their gun policy.”

But that’s not how a survivor of another mass shooting sees it.

Heidi Rathjen was a student at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in December 1989 when a gunman murdered 14 women and injured 14 others at the school.

She said the response to mass shootings should be “political and immediate.”

“The Conservatives and the gun lobby have been falling over themselves claiming that the (orders-in-council) were some kind of devious self-serving political move that exploited a tragedy, while for the majority of Canadians banning assault weapons is the right thing to do to prevent mass shootings,” she said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“If it took a tragedy to prompt the government into long-awaited action on gun control, that may be a sad commentary on politics, but it is surely beneficial for public safety.”

Rathjen, who leads an advocacy group called PolySeSouvient, said it “would have loved” for the government to respond immediately to what happened at Polytechnique.

“Unfortunately, it took six years of advocacy before a reasonable gun control law was passed, and victims’ families are still fighting for a complete ban on assault weapons — three decades later.”

Blair said his office worked with the RCMP on the list of banned weapons for months before the announcement, but those conversations had “no nexus” with discussions about the shooting spree.

“The RCMP of course were involved in those discussions from the outset because they are responsible for administering the Canadian Firearms Program,” he said.

Allegations of government interference came to light through evidence released by the public inquiry into the shootings, in written notes from Supt. Darren Campbell and a letter to Lucki written by RCMP strategic communications director Lia Scanlan about a meeting held 10 days after the shootings.

Scanlan’s letter, which was written nearly a year later, said Lucki mentioned “pressures and conversations with Minister Blair, which we clearly understood was related to the upcoming passing of gun legislation.” Scanlan’s perception that the commissioner was under political pressure left her feeling disgusted.

“It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and extremely belittling,” Scanlan wrote.

Lucki has acknowledged she did “express frustration with the flow of information” in the meeting.

Blair and Lucki have denied there was any pressure to release a list of the weapons used in the shooting, and neither they nor the Nova Scotia RCMP revealed that information to the public before it was reported by the media in November 2020.

Former police officer Michael Arntfield says if the alleged interference happened, it’s unclear how it would have impacted operations or the investigation.

But more importantly, he says, the “juicy political scandal” is distracting from what is supposed to be an inquiry into why and how a man disguised as a police officer and armed with illegal weapons was able to evade police and continue killing for more than 13 hours.

“The larger conversation about systemic problems in the RCMP operationally, administratively, has been paved over,” he said.

Blair said he did have questions for Lucki when they spoke, and made a point to note that the government “did hear very clearly concerns from the people of Nova Scotia” about the RCMP’s actions.

He said that’s why the public inquiry — which he initially opposed calling — has been tasked with exploring the RCMP’s communication.

The force released limited information to the public on Twitter during the shootings.

It sent a single tweet on April 18 warning of a “firearms complaint” in Portapique, even though the communications officer on call that night was aware there were multiple people dead and that the gunman’s whereabouts were unknown.

Thirteen people were killed that night and several buildings burned to the ground. The next morning, the gunman took another nine lives as he drove through rural parts of the province, evading police until just before noon.

The inquiry has heard it took 27 minutes to get Scanlan’s approval that morning for a tweet warning the public that the gunman was driving a mock RCMP cruiser and wearing a police uniform.

During that time, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien were murdered on the side of the highway in Debert, N.S. Beaton was pregnant when she was killed. Her husband, Nick Beaton, and O’Brien’s daughter, Darcy Dobson, led the calls for a public inquiry into what went wrong in July 2020.

“When you pulled the oxygen out of (an inquiry) that was assembled at the behest of bereaved families to get answers about what’s wrong with the RCMP, it distracts from the original motivation of the inquiry,” Arntfield said, adding the questions about what went wrong are of “life and death interest to Canadians.”

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


Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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