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Canada's border agency says it's ready to enforce U.K. travel restrictions at airports – CBC.ca

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The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is upping its presence at Canadian airports to enforce new restrictions on travel from the United Kingdom, warning that people who attempt to circumvent the rules could face hefty fines.

In an emailed response to questions from CBC News, the border force said agents will be asking additional questions to travellers if it’s believed they may be lying about how they arrived in Canada. That judgment will be made based on officers’ training, the statement said.

All travellers arriving in Canada will be asked if they have been in Europe in the two weeks prior to entering the country, and those who answer yes will be asked if they were in Britain during that period. Travellers who again answer yes will be referred to an official from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for further screening and questioning, the CBSA said.

The federal government temporarily halted flights from the U.K. on Sunday in an attempt to stop the spread of a new, potentially more transmissible strain of COVID-19 to Canada. These restrictions are in place for 72 hours but may be “extended or enhanced” beyond then, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.

WATCH | Multiple countries, including Canada, halt travel to and from the U.K.:

With a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England, several EU countries have stopped travel to and from the U.K. 3:27

New restrictions also carry penalty of fines, jail time

The CBSA statement also noted that failing to comply with the restrictions is an offence and could lead to six months in jail or $750,000 in fines. “Willfully and recklessly” contravening the rules could land you $1 million in fines, up to three years in prison or both.

The border agency said non-citizens who provide false information in response to questions may face consequences when it comes to immigration status.

PHAC said in a statement on Sunday that passengers who arrive in Canada from the U.K. are now subject to enhanced screening measures, including stronger scrutiny of their quarantine plans.

The agency said Canada’s health community was “actively evaluating these mutations to better understand the potential implications in terms of transmission, clinical presentation and vaccine development.”

PHAC also said it was analyzing known COVID-19 cases to see if the variant has already appeared in Canada.

The new restrictions are on top of now-standard travel rules in place since the spring. All travellers entering Canada are subject to screening measures and must quarantine for two weeks once they arrive.

Ontario plans tests at Toronto airport

Ontario Premier Doug Ford harshly criticized the federal government’s management of the decision on Monday, saying Ottawa was “ignoring” the province when it comes to testing for COVID-19 at airports.

“At Pearson International Airport, there is no roof, it’s coming pouring in,” Ford said.

WATCH | Ontario premier calls on federal government to secure borders:

Premier Doug Ford called for COVID-19 testing upon arrival for international passengers arriving at Canadian airports. 1:14

“We will be doing tests at Pearson airport” with or without federal co-operation, he added. Ford made the comments at a news conference at which he announced strict new lockdown measures that will come into effect across Ontario on Dec. 26.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng, speaking Monday on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, said it was still too early to determine whether the restrictions would need to continue beyond the already announced three-day window.

Ng also noted that while the federal government continues to work with provinces on testing at entry points, international travel is not a major cause of the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. She said procedures for international travel were “very stringent.”

International Trade Minister Mary Ng, shown in November, says that while the federal government continues to work with provinces on testing at entry points, international travel is not a major cause of the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

“We have additional federal border agents that are doing this screening, working with local public health to make sure that there is the right followup to ensure that Canadians are following the quarantine requirement,” she said.

In a statement, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she was “surprised” by Ford’s remarks, noting that discussions on a testing pilot project at Pearson airport were underway. But she said she was concerned by the shortened quarantine period involved.

Meanwhile, the Alberta government strongly urged travellers coming from the U.K. to be tested for COVID-19 after they land in the province.

The response from the provincial level follows criticism from the federal Conservatives on Sunday. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called for more information about the new variant of COVID-19 and for more information about the decision on travel restrictions.

“The ties between our two countries are extremely close, with many Canadians’ families overseas…. If the Trudeau government is considering a similar travel ban, they need to clearly communicate this to Canadians and their rationale for doing so as soon as possible.”

NDP MP Don Davies said Monday he approved of the government’s decision on the U.K. restrictions, calling it “the cautious and prudent thing to do,” but he questioned whether the three-day window was enough time to gather information.

“I think it’s better to err on the caution,” he said.

New plan for mass cancellations

Also on Monday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the government would be developing new regulations to protect passengers should mass cancellations again occur as a result of a catastrophic event.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a gap in the air passenger protection framework,” Garneau said in a statement. “In the event of a future situation that causes similar large-scale flight cancellations, this gap needs to be closed so that travellers are treated fairly.”

The regulations would affect how refunds are issued to passengers when flights are cancelled for reasons outside of an airline’s control.

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Canada adds 7,563 new coronavirus infections as more variant cases found – Global News

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Canada added 7,563 coronavirus cases Thursday and 154 deaths as the second detection of the South African variant of the virus was reported in the country.

There are now 688,891 cases in total and 17,537 deaths in the country.

The new variant case was found in British Columbia’s Vancouver Coastal Health region after the first case was reported last week in Alberta.

Read more:
Police can’t randomly stop people under coronavirus stay-at-home order, Ontario government says

The new B.C. case has not been known to have travelled or been in contact with someone who travelled recently.

An investigation is underway to see how the case was contracted.

The variation appears to spread more easily and has not been found to be immune to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

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B.C. also reported a fourth case of the U.K. variant of the virus, this one not related to the same family to which the first three were connected.


Click to play video 'B.C. detects 1st case of South African variant, 4th case of U.K. variant of COVID-19'



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B.C. detects 1st case of South African variant, 4th case of U.K. variant of COVID-19


B.C. detects 1st case of South African variant, 4th case of U.K. variant of COVID-19

Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing logistical planning for Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts, also outlined the future of the country’s rollout on Thursday.

He said that one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will arrive in Canada by April, with 20 million doses planned between April and the end of June.

“This will signal our transition into this ramp-up phase,” he said.

Read more:
No plans for ‘divisive’ vaccine passports for Canadians, Trudeau says

For the time being, Ontario announced 3,326 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday and 62 more deaths.

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The province has enacted a new stay-at-home order that requires everyone to not leave their homes unless for essential trips and requires non-essential businesses to close by 8 p.m.

The province currently has 1,657 hospitalizations related to COVID-19, with 388 of them in intensive care.

In Quebec, the province reported 2,132 new cases and 64 more deaths, 15 of which occurred in the last 24 hours. The province now has 1,523 people in hospital due to the virus, with 230 of them in intensive care.

The province also announced a new vaccine strategy of waiting at least 90 days between an initial shot and the necessary second dose. The policy is meant to reduce pressure on the health-care system until more vaccine doses arrive.


Click to play video 'Quebec to deliver second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days'



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Quebec to deliver second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days


Quebec to deliver second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days

However, Canada’s vaccine advisory council recommends the second dose be given no later than 42 days after the first.

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Over in B.C., the province announced 536 new cases of the coronavirus and seven more deaths. The province has 362 hospitalizations total, with 74 people in intensive care.

Alberta reported 967 new coronavirus cases Thursday and 21 more deaths, as the province also announced it would ease restrictions by now allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people. Personal wellness businesses, such as barbershops and salons, will also be able to open Monday with one-on-one appointments.

The province currently has 806 hospitalizations with 136 in ICU.

Read more:
Alberta COVID-19 rules will ease Monday for outdoor gatherings, personal wellness services

Saskatchewan reported 312 new cases and no new deaths as its hospitalizations rose to a new high of 206, with 33 in intensive care.

Manitoba reported 261 more cases and two new deaths.

In the Atlantic bubble, New Brunswick reported 23 more cases and one more death, Nova Scotia has six more cases, and P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador each have one more case respectively.

There have been 93,044,567 cases worldwide so far and 1,991,921 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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

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B.C. billionaire given the green light to sue Twitter over 'Pizzagate' tweets – CBC.ca

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West Vancouver billionaire Frank Giustra has been given the go-ahead to sue Twitter in a B.C. courtroom over the social media giant’s publication of a series of tweets tying him to baseless conspiracy theories involving pedophile rings and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In a ruling released Thursday, Justice Elliott Myers found that Giustra’s history and presence in British Columbia, combined with the possibility the tweets may have been seen by as many as 500,000 B.C. Twitter users, meant a B.C. court should have jurisdiction over the case.

It’s a victory not only for Giustra — whose philanthropic activities have earned him membership in both the Orders of Canada and B.C. — but for Canadian plaintiffs trying to hold U.S.-based internet platforms responsible for border-crossing content.

‘I believe that words do matter’

In a statement, Giustra said he was looking forward to pursuing the case in the province where he built his reputation as the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment.

“I hope this lawsuit will help raise public awareness of the real harm to society if social media platforms are not held responsible for the content posted and published on their sites,” Giustra said.

“I believe that words do matter, and recent events have demonstrated that hate speech can incite violence with deadly consequences.”

In this June 21, 2007 file photo, Frank Giustra speaks as Bill Clinton looks on during a news conference in New York to announce the Clinton Foundation’s launching of a new sustainable development initiative in Latin America. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

Giustra filed the defamation lawsuit in April 2019, seeking an order to force Twitter to remove tweets he claimed painted him as “corrupt” and “criminal.”

He claimed he was targeted by a group who vilified him “for political purposes” in relation to the 2016 U.S. election and his work in support of the Clinton Foundation. 

The online attacks allegedly included death threats and links to “pizzagate” — a “false, discredited and malicious conspiracy theory in which [Giustra] was labelled as a ‘pedophile,'” the claim stated.

Thorny questions

Twitter has not filed a response to Giustra’s claim itself — applying instead to have the case tossed because of jurisdiction.

The California-based company said it does not do business in B.C. and that Giustra was only relying on his B.C. roots to file the case in Canada because it would be a non-starter in the U.S., where the First Amendment protects free speech.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India, Nov. 12, 2018. That same year, Giustra wrote to Dorsey asking him to investigate the ‘past and ongoing attacks’ against him. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

The company claimed he would have been mostly affected in the U.S. where he spends much of his time, owns extensive property and has substantial interests in the entertainment industry — meaning B.C. is only tangentially connected to the matter.

In essence, Myers said, Twitter claimed it was only a platform for others to post comment, and couldn’t be expected to face defamation cases every place people felt aggrieved.

The judge said the case presented some difficult — if timely — questions.

“This case illustrates the jurisdictional difficulties with internet defamation where the publication of the defamatory comments takes place in multiple countries where the plaintiff has a reputation to protect,” Myers wrote.

“The presumption is that a defendant should be sued in only one jurisdiction for an alleged wrong, but that is not a simple goal to achieve fairly for internet defamation.”

‘Strong ties to the province’

Myers found Giustra’s connection to B.C. undeniable.

“There can be no dispute that Mr. Giustra has a significant reputation in British Columbia. He also has strong ties to the province,” he wrote.

“The fact that he has a reputation in or connections to other jurisdictions does not detract from that.”

The judge said Giustra had also done what he needed to do to show his reputation in B.C. might have been affected.

“I do not agree with Twitter who argues that of all places in the world, the Plaintiff’s reputation has not been harmed in B.C.,” Myers wrote.

In its application, Twitter drew on a 2018 Supreme Court of Canada judgment in which a Canadian billionaire with substantial interests in Israel was denied his bid to sue an Israeli newspaper in Ontario over an article that appeared online.

In that case, the court ruled that Israel would be the more appropriate place to hold a trial because the billionaire was better known there, he hadn’t limited his suit to damages suffered in Canada and most of the witnesses would also be in Israel.

But Myers found that many of the tweets referred to B.C. and went beyond the kind of business articles that were at the heart of the Supreme Court of Canada case.

“Here the tweets refer to Mr. Giustra’s personal characteristics alleging, for example, pedophilia,” Myers wrote.

Despite the lawsuit, Giustra maintains a Twitter account.

The court filings include a letter he wrote to Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey in April 2018, asking him to make his case a priority.

“As Twitter’s CEO, I ask that you now investigate the source of these past and ongoing attacks against me — whether they are the result of individuals, a group, bots, or a combination of all three,” Giustra wrote.

“I do not want to cancel my Twitter account — that would be a victory of those who are turning this incredible communication tool into a conduit for slander and hate.”

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1,500 flights and rising as Canadians seek sunny escapes despite surging COVID-19 crisis – CBC.ca

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Thousands of Canadians are thumbing their noses at government advice to stay home and hopping international flights to sunny destinations even as the COVID-19 crisis worsens in many parts of the country, CBC News has found.

Canadian air carriers operated more than 1,500 flights between Canada and 18 popular vacation destinations since Oct. 1, even as caseloads rise and the health crisis deepens.

It has prompted many questions from Canadians about why there is no outright travel ban, especially given recent high-profile resignations and firings involving politicians, doctors and civic leaders who’ve taken vacations outside the country

“With the new state of emergency and recent lockdown measures, why hasn’t the government considered restrictions for airline travel either international or even Canadian travel between provinces?” asked Brenda LacLaurin of Ottawa, who contacted CBC News.

“How are people still travelling for leisure?” asked another audience member. “Every official says it saves lives to stay home, yet people can get on a plane and fly to Florida? WHY is the airport not closed to outgoing travel?”

While international travel is permitted, the federal government has been advising Canadians for nearly a year to avoid all “non-essential travel” outside the country without offering a clear definition or tools for authorities to prevent it. 

Mexico, Jamaica top the list

CBC News tracked Canadian non-stop flights to and from popular resort destinations using data from Flightradar24.com between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 16, 2021.

Of the 1,516 flights analyzed, some of the most popular routes departing from Canada included 214 flights between Toronto and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 183 flights between Montreal and Cancun, Mexico.

CBC excluded all known cancelled flights, as schedules continue to change.

WestJet announced last week it is scaling back operations, suspending several routes to sunny destinations, including flights from Edmonton and Vancouver to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, “as the airline continues to face volatile demand and instability.”

Air Canada says its overall network capacity — the number of seats it makes available for sale — is down 80 per cent compared with 2019. In an emailed statement, an airline spokesperson took exception to questions about the volume of flights resuming to vacation destinations.

“The real issue here is we need to restart travel safely in Canada as it is very important to the economy, with hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on it both directly and indirectly,” said Air Canada’s Peter Fitzpatrick.

Flight tracking by CBC News shows that despite a dramatic drop last spring, air traffic from eight Canadian airports to Mexico and the Caribbean is on the rebound.

Raywat Deonandan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, says the data suggests a small portion of the Canadian public is choosing to disregard public health advice, putting themselves and the countries they visit at risk.

“I try not to judge people. Everyone’s got their reasons,” he said. “Maybe they need, you know, some kind of stress relief.”

WATCH | Deonandan on the need to cut out travel: 

Government needs to set rules and enforce them to limit Canadians’ non-essential travel, says Raywat Deonandan of the University of Ottawa. 4:26

However, he said, for that many people to be knowingly acting against public health advice, there is likely some selfishness at play. 

“This sense that my need for recreation is greater than the need of the population to remain safe.”

Deonandan says banning travel could prompt backlash and civil disobedience, and would be a “hard sell” politically and economically, especially given an end to the pandemic is in sight with the introduction of vaccines.

But, he says, to prioritize public health, the government should have been much clearer and directed Canadians from the beginning on what does — and does not — constitute essential travel.

“I think a good rule of thumb is if the primary purpose of your travel is recreation, it should not be permitted,” he said, noting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists Caribbean vacation destinations as Level 4, or very high risk for COVID-19.

‘No formal restriction’

Health Canada provided CBC News with several links to its advice, none of which defines essential travel. 

The federal government asks Canadians to “avoid non-essential travel outside Canada,” but on its website says, “it is up to the individual to decide” what that includes.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged this week the lack of clarity on the matter is causing confusion as he laid out details of the province’s new stay-at-home rules.

“I know that essential means different things to different people. We have 15 million people in Ontario, each with their own individual circumstances,” Ford told a news conference on Tuesday.

CBC News also asked each province and territory how they define essential travel.

Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island did not respond.

Manitoba, B.C., New Brunswick and Nunavut all offered some descriptions of essential and non-essential travel, with Northwest Territories providing the clearest examples of what to avoid.

“Vacation purposes — like going to a beach or ski resort, shopping and visiting family members where there is no extenuating circumstances at-hand,” the government’s statement says.

Roving musicians Los Compas serenade a couple on the shore of Mamitas Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Mexico saw a holiday bump in tourism despite the ongoing pandemic. (Emilio Espejel/The Associated Press)

Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Alberta offered no definitions, with Alberta noting provinces are powerless to keep people home.

“There is no formal restriction prohibiting such travel or punitive measures in place at this time,” wrote a provincial spokesperson.

‘A steep gamble’

The Public Health Agency of Canada has flagged potential COVID-19 exposures on almost 500 international flights since Dec. 1, 2020. Of those, 87 flights were to or from the southern vacation destinations used in the CBC’s analysis.

While known cases in Canada linked to international travel represent only one per cent of the country’s overall case count, experts caution that still represents 4,239 exposures and contacts tied to a traveller.

Canada recently beefed up screening at airports and last week imposed a new requirement for all inbound travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Experts say those tests are not 100 per cent reliable and that people should not assume they can control their exposures abroad.

“You cannot control who is in the airplane with you. You can’t control the nature and the environment of the airport when you arrive. You can’t control the hygienic quality of the taxi that you take from the airport to your destination,” said Deonandan, who implored Canadians to think of the common good before travelling abroad.

“It is a steep, steep gamble that I don’t think is worth taking,” he said.

About the data

CBC News collected one year’s worth of data from Flightradar24.com for 169 routes between Canadian international airports and 18 destinations in popular vacation spots, mostly in Mexico and the Caribbean. Only direct, non-cancelled flights were examined. In all, 5,628 flights were analyzed, 3,042 inbound and 2,586 outbound. The data was collected on Jan. 9 and includes scheduled flights up to Jan. 16.

Although Flightradar24 is recognized as an authoritative source, there could be errors or omissions in the data, which isn’t guaranteed to be 100 per cent accurate.

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