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Canada's largest mental health hospital calls for removal of police from front lines for people in crisis – CBC.ca

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Canada’s largest psychiatric facility is throwing its support behind mounting calls to remove officers from the front lines for people in mental health emergencies.

“It’s clear we need a new way forward,” the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto said Tuesday.

The move follows a string of deaths involving people in crisis, including Ejaz Choudry — a 62-year-old father of four with schizophrenia killed by police in Mississauga, Ont., after his family called a non-emergency line.

Choudry was the third Canadian in crisis to be killed by police over the past month. On June 4, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, was shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Eight days later, Rodney Levi, 48, was fatally shot by the RCMP in New Brunswick. The chief of his First Nation community later described him as troubled but not violent.

D’Andre Campbell, 26, was fatally shot in April in Brampton, Ont., after his family says he called 911 for help.

“For too long, the health-care system has relied on police to respond to mental health crises in the community,” CAMH said in its statement.

“Mental Health is health. This means that people experiencing a mental health crisis need health care.

“Police should not be first responders. Police are not trained in crisis care and should not be expected to lead this important work.”

Racism compounds crisis interactions, giving rise to the “tragic outcomes” Canada has seen recently, CAMH added.

In Toronto, mobile mental health teams consist of a registered nurse and police officer, but are mandated only to provide secondary responses. Police officers alone remain the first responders, particularly for calls involving a weapon.

WATCH | Ontario shooting death raises questions about sending armed officers to mental health calls:

Serious questions are being raised about sending armed police officers to respond to mental health crises after a Mississauga, Ont., man was shot to death over the weekend. The man’s family is now demanding a public inquiry, and the officer’s firing. 1:48

That was the case in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year old Black woman who fell to her death in Toronto after police were called to her home for reports of an assault involving a knife.

In the days afterward, police chief Mark Saunders said: “There’s no way I would send a nurse into a knife fight.”

Nearby Peel Region has a similar model: the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team, launched in January, deploys from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. every day. But whether the teams serve as first responders or take a secondary role depends on the nature of the call, the force told CBC News. 

John Sewell, former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says his organization has called on the Toronto Police Services Board to have a mental health nurse paired with a plainclothes officer respond to calls for people in crisis.

At every turn, he says, he’s been met with resistance.

‘The result is that people get killed’

“The board has consistently refused and said we’ve got to send the armed, uniformed officers first,” he told CBC News. “Well, the result is that people get killed.”

As for the argument that armed officers are needed because a situation might be violent, Sewell says trained mental health professionals handle such situations regularly and are trained in de-escalation — something that police aren’t primarily trained to do.

John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, has been at the forefront of a push to restructure the system responding to people in crisis. (CBC)

“When someone has had experiences with people in uniform that involved in some way being restrained or tackled… there might be a certain amount of scar tissue so to speak when they’re put into a similar situation,” said David Gratzer, staff psychiatrist at CAMH, emphasizing the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent.

“Mental health professionals deal with agitated patients frequently and they understand that certain techniques can be highly successful.”

Alok Mukherjee, the former chair of Toronto’s police board from 2005 to 2015, says he was encouraged to see more mobile crisis units added during his time there, but says the program falls short because they don’t operate around the clock and aren’t designated as first responders.

“That’s where we hit a road block,” he said.  

Board ‘willing to explore’ other models

Of the nearly one million phone calls Toronto police receive every year, about 30,000 are mental health related, the force has said. Across Canada, from 2000 to 2017, a CBC News investigation previously found, 70 per cent of the people who died in police encounters struggled with mental health issues, substance abuse or both.

In an email to CBC News, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart said the board remains “very supportive” of the existing mobile crisis team program, but that it is “committed to working to explore enhancements of and alternatives to this concept.

“The board is also willing to explore and consider other models that would provide better service to those in our community experiencing mental health or addiction issues; these models may include these services delivered by mental health experts without police,” Hart said. 

Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantel Moore both died after police were called to do wellness checks on them. (Facebook)

All of the above cases are being investigated by the relevant police oversight agencies.

In a statement, the Peel Regional Police Board said while it couldn’t comment on individual cases, “these deaths are a tragic reminder that there is much work to be done,” adding that the incidents will inform the board’s work on key issues including community engagement, strategic planning and the upcoming budget.

As Ontario’s police watchdog has itself pointed out, however, officers at the centre of cases involving serious injury or death of civilians cannot be compelled to turn over their notes or participate in interviews with the Special Investigations Unit.

Some say that means the SIU itself lacks the teeth to fully investigate allegations of police wrongdoing.

Asked Tuesday if the province would consider amending the legislation, Jenessa Crognali, spokesperson for Ontario’s attorney general said the rules stem from “principles against self-incrimination.”

She said those rules will remain even after the current Police Services Act is replaced with the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, passed earlier this year.

As for whether police services being funded through taxpayer money means officers should be compelled to answer to an oversight body, Crognali did not answer. 

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Canadians' COVID-19 fears are rising again — and the U.S. might be to blame – CBC.ca

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As the number of new cases of COVID-19 being reported daily in Canada has declined over time, Canadians’ concerns about the spread of the disease have spiked.

The uncontrolled outbreak south of the border might be the reason why.

Since June 7, the daily tally of new cases in Canada has been 500 or less. It’s been well under 400 per day for over a week. Just over a month ago, however, health officials were reporting between 1,000 and 2,000 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this country almost every day.

The drop in cases doesn’t mean that Canada is out of the woods just yet — localized outbreaks are still popping up and hundreds of new cases are being reported daily. But the country is in a much better place than it was just a few months ago.

Nevertheless, Canadians are feeling more worried today, according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by Léger for the Association for Canadian Studies between July 3 and 5, found that 58 per cent of respondents were personally afraid of contracting COVID-19. That figure has increased seven percentage points in two weeks and is now the highest it has been in Léger’s weekly polling since mid-April.

It’s a notable shift in public opinion. Concern peaked in early April, when 64 per cent of Canadians reported being personally afraid of getting sick. At the time, Canada was reporting over 1,200 new cases every day.

From that peak, fears consistently decreased over the seven weeks that followed before falling to a low of 51 per cent. Concerns hovered around that level, with little variation from week to week, between late May and late June.

The epidemiology in Canada can’t explain this step backwards in public opinion over the last two weeks. On May 25, 1,011 new cases were reported in Canada. June 8 saw only 429 newly confirmed cases. Between July 3 and 5, when Léger was in the field, Canada was averaging 294 new cases per day.

So what explains this sudden flare-up in coronavirus fear?

Fear of an open border

While Canada’s COVID-19 trend line has been improving, the outbreak in the United States is getting worse.

At the low point in Léger’s polling on Canadians’ fears of contracting the disease, there were about 20,000 new cases being reported every day in the United States — fewer than during the peak point for Canadians’ COVID anxiety, when American health officials were reporting between 25,000 and 35,000 new cases daily.

But over the three days when Léger was last in the field, the U.S. hit new records for COVID-19, peaking at 57,000 new cases on July 3 alone. The caseload in most states is now rising.

The United States has seen a surge in new cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Polls suggest the vast majority of Canadians do not want the U.S. border re-opened soon. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

It’s clear that Canadians are watching the cautionary tale south of the border. Searches on Google Trends for “COVID” and “U.S.A.” peaked at the end of March in Canada, but had dropped off to less than half of that by the first week of June. Since then, however, web searches related to the pandemic in America have nearly doubled, while searches related to the pandemic in Canada have held steady.

Polls suggest Canadians are worried about the situation in the U.S. A Nanos Research survey for the Globe and Mail found that 81 per cent of Canadians polled want the border with the United States to stay closed for the “foreseeable future.”

Léger finds that 86 per cent of Canadians reject the idea of re-opening the border at the end of July, as is currently planned (although the border closures have been renewed and extended repeatedly in the past). Remarkably, 71 per cent of Canadians “strongly disagreed” with a re-opening of the border, suggesting a firmly held opinion.

In mid-May, Léger reported that 21 per cent of Canadians wanted the border to open by the end of June or earlier. Now, just 11 per cent agree with opening the border by the end of July.

Renewed pessimism about the future

These darkening views on the pandemic can’t be tied entirely to COVID-19’s spread in the United States. The U.S. isn’t the only country with an uncontrolled outbreak. Both Brazil and India are reporting over 20,000 new cases per day and countries as far apart as Russia, Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa are also detecting thousands of new cases on a daily basis.

But the rising caseloads in the U.S. and elsewhere offer stark warnings about what could happen here if things go wrong. The periodic flare-ups on this side of the border also act as a reminder that the disease hasn’t gone anywhere. Even Prince Edward Island, which went months without a new case, has experienced a recent uptick.

Canadians are reporting more pessimism about the future, despite the apparently improving situation here. According to the Léger poll, 82 per cent of Canadians expect a second wave — that’s up six points from early June.

Just eight per cent of respondents want to see governments accelerate the pace of relaxing physical distancing and self-isolation measures, down five points since last month. The number who want to slow down the pace has increased by seven points to 28 per cent. The other 65 per cent want to maintain the current pace of re-opening.

Some restrictions have been lifted as the number of new cases in Canada drops, but polls suggest Canadians are pessimistic about the future evolution of the pandemic. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press )

The poll suggests Canadians have lost some of their late-spring optimism. The number who reported thinking that the worst is behind us peaked at 42 per cent in mid-June. That has dropped by seven points to 35 per cent, while the number who think the worst is yet to come has increased nine points to 39 per cent — its highest level since the middle of April, when the first wave of the novel coronavirus was cresting in Canada.

Polls routinely show little resistance to the imposition of mandatory mask laws and significant apprehension about attending large gatherings or embarking on international travel any time soon.

The weather has improved, the patios are open and people can get a haircut again, so things have gotten brighter. But more and more Canadians appear to be coming to the realization that this is likely to be just a temporary reprieve — and not the new normal.

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Canada’s coronavirus decline continues as cases surpass 106,000

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Newly-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada remain in a steady decline as the country’s number of infected surpassed 106,000 Tuesday.

Overall, Canada saw 18 new deaths, bringing the national death toll past 8,700.

Quebec, the province hit hardest by the virus, had an increase of 30 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, increasing the total number of infected just three short of 56,000. Officials wrote in a press release that 13 people died overnight, with the overall number at 5,590. More than 25,000 residents have recovered from the virus, while 650,516 people have been tested so far.

Ontario reported 112 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, for a total of 36,060. The death toll increased from 2,689 to 2,691. Over 1.5 million people in the province have been tested, while 31,603 have recovered.

Saskatchewan officials recorded the province’s 15th COVID-19-related death on Tuesday, and one more newly confirmed case for a total of 806. All but 69 have recovered from the virus, while 70,290 have been tested so far.

As of Tuesday evening, British Columbia’s confirmed cases rose to 2,981 after the province reported 11 new cases on Tuesday. Nine additional cases are “epi-linked,” which is when transmission is made possible after a patient may have been in contact with one or more people who tested positive with the virus.

Those cases have not been confirmed by laboratory tests. Over 203,000 have been tested in B.C. while 2,645 have recovered. There were no new deaths recorded linked to the virus.

New Brunswick has not had a new case of COVID-19 since June 23. All but three residents infected with the virus have recovered while just under 44,900 have been tested.

There were 47 new cases reported in Alberta on Tuesday, increasing the number of infected to 8,436. Two people died from the virus, raising the death toll to 157. Just shy of 494,000 people in Alberta have been tested for COVID-19 while 7,659 have recovered from the virus.

Nova Scotia is on its second consecutive day without any new cases of the new coronavirus, leaving the total at 1,065 and 63 deaths. Officials said 998 residents have recovered and 56,493 have been tested for COVID-19 in the province.

Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador had no new cases or deaths to report.

Manitoban officials reported just over 67,000 residents were tested while 307 have recovered from the virus. Seven have died.

P.E.I. hasn’t reported a new case of COVID-19 since Sunday and no deaths in the province have been linked to the virus. Over 13,200 people have recovered, while 27 have recovered.

In N.L., which has seen 261 cases, said in a statement Tuesday 258 have recovered and 19,184 residents have been tested. There have been three COVID-19-related deaths.

Neither the Northwest Territories or the Yukon have seen a newly confirmed case in months, although Nunavut is currently awaiting confirmation on what could be the territory’s first ever case.

COVID-19 cases have been surging in certain parts of the world, including the United States, which remains the epicentre of the virus. The latest data from Johns Hopkins showed the U.S. accounted for over 2.9 million of the world’s 11.7 million confirmed cases.

More evidence is emerging that COVID-19 can be spread airborne, rather than just from person-to-person or through droplets expelled from the nose or mouth.

A top official with the World Health Organization acknowledged Tuesday “the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19.”

A scientific brief summarizing what is known about COVID-19’s modes of transmission of the virus is expected to be released by the WHO in the coming days.

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'It seems crazy': They can't be together in Canada, so they're moving to Serbia – CTV News

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TORONTO —
She lives on an island where COVID-19 has never been detected. He lives on an island where every case has been resolved.

And because their countries’ border restrictions prevent either of them from travelling to the other’s home, they’re planning to meet up on another continent, in a nation where they don’t speak the language or have any ties and the novel coronavirus is a much more pressing concern.

“It seems crazy in my mind, for him to be leaving an island in the Caribbean … where there’s no COVID. I’m leaving our other island in Eastern Canada where there’s also no COVID, and here we go off, leaving our safe havens … and off we go to Europe for I don’t know how long,” Carly Fleet told CTVNews.ca vin a phone call on Monday from Grand Manan, N.B.

None of New Brunswick’s 165 COVID-19 cases have been traced to Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy. Grenada’s 23 patients have all recovered. But travel restrictions in both countries mean neither Fleet nor her common-law partner Sean Bodden can visit the other.

They were last together in late February, weeks before the pandemic disrupted global travel and Grenada shut its borders. Like many Caribbean nations, it delayed its reopening plans after Antigua and Barbuda announced dozens of cases within weeks of letting tourists back in. This means that Fleet, a Canadian citizen, cannot enter the country.

Less clear is what would happen if Bodden tried to get into Canada. Those looking to reunite with Canadian spouses or common-law partners have officially been allowed into the country for about a month, but many couples have reported difficulty getting the non-Canadian partner in, even when they have what they believe to be sufficient proof of their relationship.

The Canada Border Services Agency has said that there are no set criteria for a non-Canadian partner to make it across the border. Instead, individual border guards have the authority to decide who gets in “based on the information available to them at time of processing.”

While Bodden has a lease that shows he and Fleet have been together for longer than one year – meeting the government’s required length for a relationship to count as common-law – their situation is complicated by them having spent some time during that period apart, each in their own countries.

That has Fleet concerned that trying to get her partner into Canada is “like playing Russian roulette,” as she put it, because a border guard could decide they have not been together long enough to qualify.

“We’ve heard so many horror stories of married couples and all sorts of different situations where people have tried it. Some get through; some don’t,” Bodden told CTVNews.ca on Monday in a phone call from Grenada.

BORDER QUESTIONS

If Bodden is denied entry into Canada, it’s not at all clear where he could go next, as his citizenship is Trinidadian, not Grenadian – and neither country has reopened its borders.

“If I do get turned away at the border, I may not be able to get back into Grenada and I definitely will not get back into Trinidad,” he said.

Given the inability to travel between their two coronavirus-free communities, Fleet and Bodden have instead booked plane tickets to a distant land that is reporting hundreds of new COVID-19 cases a day.

On Friday, they will have their long-awaited reunion in Paris. They won’t be staying there, as Trinidad and Tobago is not one of the 14 countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the European Union bloc. Instead, they’ll fly on to Istanbul.

They’ve also booked tickets to take them from Turkey to Belgrade, Serbia, but a recent spike in COVID-19 cases there has led to some restrictions being reimposed. Fleet fears that the situation may worsen by the time her flight arrives.

“I don’t know, by the time Friday rolls around, if we’ll still be able to get into the country,” she said.

Bodden and Fleet are hardly the only half-Canadian couple separated by the border measures. Many of them are in touch with each other online, and Fleet says she’s aware of some in situations she considers worse than hers, including parents being separated from newborn children they have yet to meet and women going through high-risk pregnancies without their partners.

She says she initially understood why the rules were in place to protect public health and could live with that, but recent news that the government is guaranteeing access to professional baseball and hockey players has her wondering why that is doable for athletes but not for couples.

“I can’t stay in a country that’s going to give priority to sports over family,” she said.

“We’re certainly not advocating for open borders. We understand that the safety of Canadian citizens has to be first and foremost. We would just like some exemptions to be made for committed couples and families to be able to reunite.”

‘I’LL DO ANYTHING’

Whether they end up in Serbia, Turkey or Croatia – the very few countries that they say meet their criteria of currently accepting Canadians and Trinidadians, not requiring them to quarantine and being reachable from Paris – Fleet and Bodden will have no local ties, no understanding of the language, no accommodations booked and no idea of how long they’ll stay.

“We just thought ‘If we’re going to be together, we need to do something dramatic,’ so we started looking at countries that … let foreign nationals in,” Fleet said.

“We’ve just kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that we don’t know exactly where we’re headed.”

It isn’t their first choice. They say that since it became clear they wouldn’t be able to spend the summer together in New Brunswick, they’ve been making plan after plan after plan, only to readjust as the pandemic endures and travel restrictions are extended.

With new COVID-19 case rates again accelerating in the Balkans, they expect that Friday may not go exactly as they expect either – but they still expect to reunite in Paris, and will figure out the rest from there.

“We’ve made so many plans in the past and had doors shut in our face that we just keep on trying until we do succeed,” Bodden said.

“I’ll do anything to be with her. I don’t care where it is.”

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