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Canada's public health leaders navigate choppy waters as pandemic drags on – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
The abrupt departure of Quebec’s public health director last week was further evidence of the rocky road being navigated by the country’s chief medical officers as the Omicron wave pushes the pandemic fight toward a third year.

Quebec’s Dr. Horacio Arruda, who had been public health director since 2012, cited criticism about the government’s handling of the latest wave as he abruptly resigned Monday after 22 months overseeing the province’s pandemic response.

“Recent comments about the credibility of our opinions and our scientific rigour are undoubtedly causing a certain erosion of public support,” Arruda wrote in a letter offering his resignation.

It was a far cry from March 2020, when Arruda was among the group of top provincial health officers on the job when the pandemic hit. Arruda and the others, including B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry, Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Nova Scotia’s Dr. Robert Strang, rose to prominence almost overnight, offering reassuring voices in a time of crisis.

“In the beginning, when we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and there was a great deal of uncertainty, the chief medical officer played an incredibly useful role, as they are intended to do — to be the public face of government and explain what is going on,” said Patrick Fafard, a University of Ottawa professor of public and international affairs who has been studying the role of the country’s medical officers.

“Their status in media terms or public opinion has declined — some of that is inevitable, but it’s also because of the tensions and contradictions in the role.”

Fafard said while the medical officers play an advisory role, each province views the role differently. In an extended pandemic, when the scientific evidence is evolving quickly, they’ve had to reconcile diverging views and governments that don’t make decisions based on science alone. They are often left to explain the policies, even though the decisions ultimately lie with the politicians.

Most of those on the job in 2020 remain in place, with the exception of Arruda and Ontario’s Dr. David Williams, who had been subject to criticism before he retired last year.

In British Columbia, Henry has become known for her signature saying, “Be kind, be calm, be safe,” which has been emblazoned on posters, T-shirts, masks and even a “Dr. Henry shoe” designed in her honour. Lauded as an effective communicator for her encouraging tone during briefings, Henry has also faced criticism for steadfastly defending her stance against the widespread use of rapid tests.

In Alberta, Hinshaw, has gone from being lionized to harshly criticized. In early 2020, her visage was etched on clothing and designer prints as she became the face of a prudent provincial government implementing health restrictions to protect Albertans and their health system.

But in subsequent waves, as Premier Jason Kenney’s government delayed implementing new restrictions and the health system threatened to buckle, Hinshaw got caught up in the whipsaw between Albertans who wanted more restrictions and those who wanted fewer. The nadir came last summer in the fourth wave, when thousands of surgeries were cancelled and the Armed Forces were called in to help.

Kenney and Hinshaw conceded they helped set the stage by ending health restrictions too soon in June, despite the rise of the Delta variant. Kenney took responsibility for the mistake but also said he would have taken action if Hinshaw had recommended it.

“Sometimes politicians are not helping, because they refer to the advice they receive from their public health officials,” said Daniel Beland, a McGill University political science professor. “In the end, it’s important to understand the responsibility for these decisions lies with the elected officials, not the civil servants.”

The distinction is not always understood by the public, and amid tougher measures in Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, medical officers there have seen protests in front of their homes. Some have even faced death threats.

“They are scientists, they are civil servants, they are experts, but they are surrounded by politics,” said Beland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. “It’s a very, very tough situation when you’re really under pressure, you receive death threats, you receive insults on a regular basis. It’s tough.”

In Quebec, some commentators had felt Arruda, who kept his role as an assistant deputy minister, was too closely aligned with the government of Premier Francois Legault. The opposition parties as well as Quebec’s College of Physicians have called for the next director to be given greater independence.

Fafard said that after the pandemic, it would be wise to revisit the role across jurisdictions as part of a larger post-mortem. But it’s important not to lose sight of who is ultimately making decisions.

“The bottom line is, we have to hold our governments … accountable, not these people,” Fafard said. “Let’s keep the focus on the politicians we elect to make the choices, not unelected public servants.”

For his part, Strang said he’s heard criticism from some and been thanked by others.

“Whether the public is getting tired of hearing from me or not, I don’t know,” Strang told a briefing last week. “My commitment is to be here and help get Nova Scotia through this pandemic as safely as possible.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2022.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax, Dean Bennett in Edmonton and Camille Bains in Vancouver.

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Ellen DeGeneres makes her final entrance onto the Ellen Degeneres Show

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Los Angeles, United States of America (USA)- Ellen DeGeneres yesterday made her final appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show after 19 seasons.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show began back in September 2003 and has been host to various issues and people.

“Mary and Andy you have been with me since day one, and I am so grateful, I am so lucky that I have two executive producers that not only knew how to make a great show but make a great show for me because you understood me, you got me, you knew who was.

You have been with me for 25 years. We have been through everything together, 25 years, thick and thin. We have laughed, we have cried, you have been my constant source of support and love and I thank you. You are brilliant, you are talented, you are super smart, I admire you, I respect you, and I love you.

To all of you who have watched this show and supported me thank you so much for this platform and I hope that what I have been able to do over the last 19 years has made you happy and that I was able to take a little bit of pain away from a bad day or anything you are going through and I hope I have been able to inspire you to make other people happy and to do good in the world to feel like you have a purpose.

I have said it before and I will say it again if I have done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I have inspired you to be your true, authentic self and if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don’t understand. They are showing you who they are and that is the biggest gift anybody can ever give you, and by opening your heart and your mind, you are gonna be that much more compassionate and compassion is what makes the world a better place.

Thank you so much for being on this journey with me. I feel the love and I send it back to you. Bye,” said Ellen.

In May 2021, Ellen announced that the 19th season of her show would be her last. However, the show will continue to air new episodes with guest hosts and re-runs throughout the course of this year.

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US maintains it does not support Taiwan independence, China hints at chopping hands

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Washington DC, United States of America (USA)- Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has reiterated that the country’s policy on Taiwan remains resolute.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US recognizes but does not endorse, China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. While the act codifies the US’ one-China Policy, it also authorizes informal diplomatic relations with the government of Taiwan and allows Washington to provide Taipei with enough military support to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defence capabilities.

“In Taiwan, our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. As the President has said, our policy has not changed. We do not support Taiwan’s independence, and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” said Blinken.

However, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, has said some people in the US will have their hands chopped if they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question.

“We want to make it clear to some people in the US that their hands will also be chopped off when they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question. The People’s Liberation Army is ready to take all necessary measures to crush any form of Taiwan independence moves and to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The US has been continuously marginalizing and diminishing the one-China principle. It wants to use the salami-slicing tactic to play the Taiwan card to contain China and that is a complete illusion.

We request that the US stops disguising its own rules as international norms and promoting the US-style, hegemony-based order. It must accept China’s peaceful development with a rational, objective perspective, which is in the interest of Sino-US relations and the world’s peace and stability,” said the Senior Colonel.

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BBC to layoff 1 000 staff workers

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London, Britain- The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has revealed plans to layoff 1 000 of its staff within the coming few years.

According to the corporation, BBC World News and BBC News channels will merge to create a single 24-hour TV news channel serving both Britain and international audiences as part of the corporation’s wider plans.

Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge are also among the services being scrapped merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.

BBC Four and Children’s BBC will no longer be aired as traditional broadcast channels after the next few years and will end as linear TV channels and are expected to move online to the iPlayer, while Radio 4 Extra could become available on the BBC Sounds service only.

According to Tim Davie, BBC’s Director-General, the layoffs will save at least £200 million (US$252 million) annually.

“When I took this job, I said that we needed to fight for something important, public service content and services freely available universally for the good of all. This fight is intensifying, the stakes are high.

Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK (United Kingdom) and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that, we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.

This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organization for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world. Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organization which has never been seen before,” said Davie.

The move comes off the back of remarks made by Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, in January, that the licence fee will be frozen at £159 (US$201) per annum for the next two years.

 

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