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Canada's test requirement for travellers is gone, but other hurdles remain – CBC News

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A big and costly burden has been lifted for fully vaccinated travellers: as of Friday, they no longer must take a COVID-19 test to enter Canada.

“It’s about time,” said Emil Kamel at Toronto’s Pearson airport on Friday, on his way to Egypt. 

“Having to find a PCR test in a foreign country can get quite expensive and inconvenient,” he said. “We appreciate being able to come home and not worry about those things.”

However, the pandemic isn’t over, and there are other things travellers may have to worry about, such as test requirements to enter other countries, and the threat of another COVID-19 wave.

Here’s what to keep in mind when planning your vacation.

Traveller Emil Kamel says he’s glad he won’t have to take a COVID-19 test when he returns from Egypt.. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Some rules remain

Vaccinated travellers may not be entirely off the hook for the test requirement if they’re travelling with unvaccinated children. That’s because unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people over age four must still show proof of a negative antigen or molecular test to enter Canada.

And all travellers — vaccinated or not — must still submit their travel information using the ArriveCAN app or by registering online within 72 hours before arriving in Canada. 

Although they no longer have to worry about taking a pre-entry test, vaccinated travellers may be randomly selected to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. 

“The positive news for those that are randomly selected is that there is no need to quarantine while you’re awaiting your results,” said Darryl Dalton, who is chief of operations at Pearson airport with the Canada Border Services Agency.

The bad news is that those who test positive must comply with federal rules and isolate for 10 days — even if they’re in a province which has reduced the isolation period to five days for people infected with COVID-19. 

Some countries still want a test

Vaccinated Canadians will still have to book — and pay for — a COVID-19 test if they’re visiting a country that requires one upon entry. 

Popular destinations such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom have no COVID-19 entry restrictions for Canadians, but many other hotspots, such as Jamaica and the United States (when travelling by air) demand proof of a negative antigen or molecular test.

“I suggest that travellers do their due diligence and research the location that they’re going to, to see what the requirements are,” said Dalton.

Seema Shirali of Markham, Ont., says she’s surprised the United States hasn’t dropped its COVID-19 test requirement for travellers. (Submitted by Seema Shirali)

Seema Shirali of Markham, Ont., has a daughter in New York City. She says she’s disappointed — and surprised — the U.S. hasn’t followed Canada’s lead and dropped the pre-arrival test requirement for international air passengers. 

“Canada was always stringent,” with COVID-19 restrictions, she said. “[The U.S.] opened up way before we have and yet they have this test, which seems really weird to me.”

U.S. Airlines and other travel industry groups have pressured the Biden administration to drop the test requirement, but the government has given no indication it plans to nix the rule.

People do not need a COVID-19 test to enter the U.S. by land. Foreign travellers entering the country must be fully vaccinated

Another COVID-19 wave?

On the same day Canada dropped its test requirement for travellers, federal health officials said they anticipate an increase in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, driven by the infectious Omicron subvariant BA.2.

“Don’t be complacent in thinking this is over,” said Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at a news conference on Friday. “There will likely be more bumps along the way.”

Quebec and Ontario are already entering a sixth wave as infections surge in both provinces. Case numbers are also climbing in Europe and China

So what does this mean for people making travel plans? 

Toronto emergency physician Dr Kashif Pirzada advises Canadians to sit tight. 

“I don’t think now’s a good time to travel,” he said. “This is a time to sort of batten down the hatches, put up your shields and be careful.”

However, he said we should see another lull in cases soon.

“Once this wave passes, it’ll be fine again — until another variant comes.”

WATCH | Concerns mount amid 6th wave’s arrival: 

Worry over hands-off approach to 6th wave in Canada

2 days ago

Duration 2:02

Ontario and Quebec are entering a sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting concern that governments aren’t doing enough when it comes to restrictions to curb the rise in case counts. 2:02

A rise in cases could also mean a return to stricter travel rules. When the government announced last month it was dropping the test requirement, it warned that nothing was set in stone.

“All measures are subject to review,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. “We will continue to adjust them as the epidemiological situation here in Canada and abroad evolve.”

Ottawa previously flip-flopped on the testing rule last fall when it dropped the requirement for those making short trips to the U.S., but reintroduced it less than three weeks later when Omicron hit. 

Travel insurance

People can get travel insurance to cover costs if they fall ill from COVID-19 while travelling. Most providers are also offering coverage if people test positive and must delay or cancel their trip, said Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.

But he warns that it’s unlikely travellers can get coverage if they forfeit their trip because they’re concerned about rising COVID-19 cases. 

“They won’t be able to cancel [and get reimbursed] just because they’re a little afraid that maybe there might be more cases at the destination than they had thought when they booked it,” he said. 

“If you change your mind, you don’t want to go anymore, that’s not something that’s in a typical policy.”

However, said McAleer, if Canada were suddenly to reinstate its advisory against non-essential travel abroad, insured travellers would be able to cancel their trip and get reimbursed — if the advisory were still in place at their time of their scheduled trip. 

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Why Can’t The Federal Government Eliminate Systemic Racism In The Canadian Military?

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“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system.

By Harinder Mahil

A recently released report indicates that systemic racism is rampant throughout the Canadian Armed Forces which is putting the country’s national security at risk. 
 
The report released by Defence Minister Anita Anand says that the military has not acted on dozens of previous studies and reviews on racism in the ranks over the past two decades. The report says the military is not doing enough to detect and prevent white supremacists and other extremists from infiltrating its ranks.
 
I have read numerous stories about the racism in the military over the years but never thought it was such a big problem. I am shocked at the extent of the problem as identified in the report.
 
The report concludes that more and more Canadians will have no interest in joining the military until it fixes its long-standing issues of racism, abuse of power, gender discrimination and sexual misconduct.
 
“Unless it is rapidly reined in and addressed, the impact of this toxicity will linger for years, affecting the reputation of the Defence Team to the point of repulsing Canadians from joining its workforce”
 
The report says military leadership must accept that some members will either leave or need to be removed.
 
The report comes after a yearlong review by a panel of retired Armed Forces membersand follows numerous incidents linking some military personnel with violent extremism and hate groups, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
 
“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system,” reads the report by the Minister of National Defence’s Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
 
There has been increasing pressure on the military to do more to crack down on hateful ideologies within its ranks.
 
“A common thread was evident throughout these consultations: membership in extremist groups is growing, it is becoming increasingly covert, and technological advances such as Darknet and encryption methods pose significant challenges in detecting these members,” the report said.
 
White men account for 71 per cent of Canadian military members but only 39 per cent of the country’s civilian workforce. The report notes Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and women are significantly under-represented in Canada’s armed forces.
 

Over the last two decades the military has been seeking recruits from the Indigenous and visible minority communities. Why would Indigenous and visible minority communities’ members join the military if they are discriminated against by others especially those who have links with neo-Nazis?

 
I am of the opinion that the report only scratches the surface of the problem. It talks about consultations but who is consulted. 
 
If the military is serious about dealing with the problem it should monitor the social media posts of its members and weed out those who harbour white supremacist views and recognize those who are likely to be drawn towards extremist groups.
 

Harinder Mahil is a community activist and President of the West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR).

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Government’s changing vape strategy shifts focus away from cigarettes, advocates fear

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OTTAWA — In the eight years or so since he opened his first vape shop in Ottawa, Ron Couchman said a great sense of community has been lost.

A former cigarette smoker himself, Couchman said he remembers when his store operated almost as a support group for people trying to find a healthier alternative to cigarette addiction.

“We could teach other people how to vape when people were struggling to get off cigarettes, we’d play board games and have movie nights,” Couchman said.

As provincial and federal legislation started to clamp down on those activities, he said the camaraderie has faded.

Couchman is a passionate advocate for the potential of vaping to help people leave more harmful tobacco habits behind. At one point the federal government appeared to be onside with that, he said, but that seems to be changing.

“The last few bouts of legislation (have) really swung the other way to the point that it’s serving as a disincentive to quit smoking,” he said.

The government is in the midst of its first review of the 2018 legislation that legalized vaping, and appears to be veering away from the narrow path between treating vapes as a harm reduction tool, or a danger in and of themselves.

The harms of vaping relative to smoking tobacco cigarettes are still something of a mystery, but the government’s website suggests it’s safer than inhaling cigarette smoke.

Advocates on both sides of the issue say regulations have become tougher on vapes and have more or less abandoned the product as an alternative to cigarettes, leaving them to wonder how the government plans to deal with cigarette smoking in Canada.

“They bet heavily on harm reduction as a way to address tobacco. It hasn’t worked for them, and they didn’t have a more comprehensive plan,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Health Canada’s goal is to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco to just five per cent by 2035, from about 14.8 per cent in 2019.

An audit of the department shows tobacco smoke is declining in popularity, but mainly because young people aren’t picking up the habit and existing smokers are dying.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada, with approximately 48,000 people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year, the government says.

Vaping remains relatively unpopular for adults over the age of 25, with just three per cent reporting that they vaped within the last month in 2020, according to the results of the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey. That’s about the same it was in the 2017 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

But vaping has spiked among youth between 15 and 19 years old, to 14 per cent in 2020 up from six per cent in 2017.

In response, the government clamped down on vaping with a range of regulations, banning promotion and advertising of the products in certain spaces and putting limits on the amount of nicotine that can be in them. It’s also expected to restrict which flavours can be sold.

In their most recent budget, the Liberals proposed an excise tax on vape products as of Oct. 1.

Now, it’s as if Health Canada is fighting the war on two fronts, Callard said.

The department has been focusing resources on youth vaping, leaving anti-smoking groups like Callard’s concerned that a tobacco strategy may be falling by the wayside.

The recent audit shows the department has been taking on projects to reduce tobacco use, but it won’t be enough to meet their own targets.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups like Rights4Vapers say smokers are being punished for making a healthier choice.

“It is probably the only addiction currently where we continue to use fear and shame to get individuals to quit,” said Maria Papaioannoy, the group’s spokesperson and a vape store owner.

The strategy does appear to be at odds with the harm-reduction approach the government has embraced when it comes to to drug use, said David Sweanor, chair of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.

“We’ve seen the success replicated numerous times simply by giving people alternatives, which is consistent with what we’ve done with things like clean needles, safe injection sites,” said Sweanor, who contributed to the 1988 Tobacco Products Control Act.

The government must table its legislative review this year. The discussion paper the department released touches almost exclusively on how to toughen vaping regulations, Sweanor said, though that’s not what the legislation was primarily set out to do.

“Is it accomplishing what it’s supposed to be accomplishing? Are there ways that you can improve it?” he said.

“Instead, what we got is a document that takes very few aspects of, primarily, their anti-vaping strategy.”

In the paper the government says the review will focus on vaping regulations because the vaping products market in Canada has changed so much in the years since the law was passed.

The review gives the opportunity to examine whether the act offers the government enough authority to address the rise in youth vaping, the paper said.

“A full assessment of whether the measures taken since the legislation was introduced in 2018 have been effective in responding to the rise in youth vaping will benefit from more time and data. Subsequent reviews will continue to monitor youth use along with other dimensions of the Act,” the document reads.

Advocates for and against using vaping as a way to transition people away from harmful cigarette smoke agree, tobacco is being left out of the conversation.

“Tobacco remains the fundamental problem,” said Callard. “It’s tobacco that continues to kill.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

 

 

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Multiple reports say Marner’s SUV was stolen in an armed carjacking in west Toronto

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There are multiple reports that an SUV belonging to Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner has been stolen in a carjacking in the city’s west end.

The Toronto Sun, Global News and City TV all quoted unnamed police sources as saying Marner’s black Range Rover was taken outside a movie theatre in Etobicoke.

Police confirmed there was a carjacking without any injuries, but would not give any information out on the victims or witnesses.

The Sun says Marner was shaken but not hurt.

Police tweeted they were called to The Queensway and Islington Avenue area around 7:46 p.m. for reports of a man robbed of his car.

Authorities are looking for three suspects armed with two handguns and a knife, who took off in the stolen vehicle.

Marner and the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday in a seventh and deciding game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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