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Canada's top doctor calls for 'structural change' to address COVID-19 inequities – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is calling for “structural change” across health, social, and economic sectors in the wake of COVID-19, in a new report highlighting the successes and shortfalls in the country’s pandemic response to date.

“I do see COVID-19 as a catalyst for collaboration between health, social, and economic sectors, and I have observed at the federal level, but also from local levels, and provincial levels,” she told reporters during a press conference discussing the report.

Tam said that while there are examples of decisions taken that begin to address some of these shortcomings—such as increasing affordable housing availability and financial supports for low-income and precarious workers—these policies should be extended past the emergency phase of the pandemic.

“What I’m really, really keen to see is that this continues… The report is calling for this to be a more sustained approach,” she said. “Why can’t we have those governance structures beyond the crisis and into recovery?”

In the Public Health Agency’s annual report made public on Wednesday, Tam offers new insights and statistics related to Canada’s battle against the novel coronavirus over the last several months and the “serious threat” the virus continues to pose. 

For example, in Canada:

  • 80 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths have been residents of long-term care facilities;
  • 19 per cent of national cases are among health-care workers; and
  • 92 per cent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had at least one underlying health condition.

The annual report is entitled “From Risk to Resilience: An Equity Approach to COVID-19,” and it gives an overview of COVID-19’s consequences so far, such as the disproportionate health impacts experienced by workers who provide essential services, racialized populations, people living with disabilities or mental illnesses, and women. 

It also includes recommendations on how to improve the country’s pandemic preparedness, response, and recovery. 

The report says the “structural change” should include improving employment conditions and conditions inside long-term care homes, increasing access to housing, as well as enhancing Canadians’ ability to access social and health services both in-person and online. 

Tam said she hopes that in future pandemic planning, “it can’t just be health and public health making it known that all other departments and different sectors, and different aspects of societies need to be part of the response. We need to sort of build it in explicitly so that, you know, future pandemics and health crises have those other supports come into play immediately.”

As Tam argues, Canadians’ health depends on their social and economic well-being and the severity of COVID-19 illness may be influenced by their access to these kinds of supports. 

“No one is protected until everyone is protected,” says Tam in the report. 

Tam’s overall recommendations are distilled into three calls:

  • Sustaining governance at all levels for “structural change” in health, social, and economic sectors. The report notes that the health of people in Canada was not equal before COVID-19, but that the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing shortcomings. Tam suggests that more data needs to be collected and used to inform policy decisions to eliminate inequities and mitigate some potential long-term pandemic impacts;
  • Harnessing “the power of social cohesion” to control and minimize the virus’ spread. She suggests this can be done by leaders sharing evidence and information to provide Canadians with confidence in taking public health precautions such as mask-wearing; and
  • Strengthening public health capacity. Tam says that more work is needed to ensure Canada’s public health system is able to handle case surges while having the capacity to deal with non-COVID-19 health issues, including re-evaluating “what sustained investments and the future of public health would look like.”

GLOBAL COMPARISONS 

The report also goes over the timeline from the first confirmed case in Canada and when community transmission began, to the various rolling restrictions and travel advisories imposed. 

From a global perspective, according to the report, Canada ranked 79th out of 210 countries with respect to total cases per million inhabitants, and 26th for total deaths per million, as of Aug. 22. The outbreaks in Canadian long-term care homes are cited as a driving factor in why Canada is so high on the list of countries when it comes to deaths. 

“Pandemic preparedness did not extend into these settings leaving residents vulnerable to the introduction, spread and impact of a novel virus,” the report states. 

Further, analysis of international travel-related cases between January and March found that 35 per cent of cases entered Canada from the United States, 10 per cent from the U.K. and France, and 1.4 per cent from China. Once travel restrictions were imposed, 91 per cent of reported cases by August originated in Canada.

COMMUNICATION STRUGGLES 

The report notes that in the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, individual and collective public health measures need to be taken to control the pandemic. However, “accurate, timely and clear communication” has been a challenge. 

Tam notes that there have been “a number” of issues on this front, such as Canadians being exposed to a vast amount and varying quality of information and the confusion spawning from the frequently-moving goal posts when it comes to public health advice due to the evolving science. 

“Information needs to be tailored and locally contextualized, while at the same time balanced with consistent key messaging being shared across the country,” the report states. 

Tam is advising that as long as the virus is uncontrolled, public health officials and governments need to be transparent and provide regular updates on COVID-19 and up-to-date guidance. 

It’s a part of Tam’s mandate to provide Health Minister Patty Hajdu with a report on the state of public health in Canada annually, which then is tabled in Parliament.

The report is based on Canadian data available from January to the end of August, and notes that because the virus and evidence around it continues to rapidly evolve, “the report was written with the knowledge that the story of this pandemic is continuing to change every day.”

TIMELINE OF KEY MILESTONES

  • December 31, 2019: PHAC was notified of a pneumonia-like illness of unknown cause originating in Wuhan, China.
  • January 22, 2020: Canada implements novel coronavirus screening requirements for travellers returning from China. Residents are asked additional screening questions to determine if they have visited the city of Wuhan, China.
  • January 25, 2020: First presumptive confirmed case of 2019-nCoV related to travel to Wuhan, China confirmed in Ontario.
  • February 20, 2020: First COVID-19 case in Canada from travel outside mainland China, from Iran, reported in British Columbia.
  • February 23, 2020: First recorded COVID-19 case in Canada linked to community transmission.
  • February 24, 2020: Alberta records first COVID-19 case in Canada linked to travel to the U.S.
  • March 7, 2020: First COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care home in Vancouver, British Columbia involving 79 cases.
  • March 11, 2020: Canada surpasses 100 reported COVID-19 cases.
  • March 12-22, 2020: Physical distancing measures are implemented across the country. All provinces and territories declare a state of emergency and/or public health emergency. Non-essential businesses close or have significantly reduced capacity; gatherings are restricted; schools close; advisory issued for those who can, to work from home.
  • March 13, 2020: The Government of Canada recommends avoiding non-essential travel outside of Canada,
  • March 16, 2020: Government of Canada advises all travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • March 18–19, 2020: Additional international travel advisories and border restrictions are implemented: Entry to Canada by air is prohibited to all foreign nationals (except those from the United States); Canada and the United States agree to temporarily restrict non-essential travel across the Canada-US border; International flights are redirected to only 4 airports.
  • March 28, 2020: First reported outbreak among temporary foreign workers in an agricultural setting, involving 23 people.
  • April 7, 2020: Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health issue a statement supportive of wearing non-medical masks as an additional layer of protection for other people in close proximity.
  • April 14, 2020: Largest known COVID-19 outbreak reported at homeless shelter in Toronto, Ontario, involving 164 cases.
  • April 15, 2020: Lockdown in response to largest known outbreak at a correctional facility in Laval, Quebec involving 162 cases.
  • April 17, 2020: First reported COVID-19 outbreak in an isolated northern community in Saskatchewan, affecting 117 residents.
  • April 24, 2020: New Brunswick is the first province to ease physical distancing restrictions.
  • May 6, 2020: Alberta reports a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing plant, which becomes the largest outbreak at a single location in Canada (by the end of August) with 1,560 people confirmed.
  • June 17, 2020: First COVID-19 outbreak in a religious-cultural community declared in Saskatchewan, involving 285 people.   

Timeline source: Public Health Agency of Canada. 

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Saint John police officers ordered not to wear thin blue line patches – CBC.ca

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The Saint John Police Force has ordered its officers to stop wearing thin blue line patches following social media posts of officers sporting the controversial patch. 

Tweets posted on Thursday show Saint John police officers wearing the patches at King’s Square on July 3, while present at a protest being held by members of the community.

The patch has acquired various connotations, with some supporters saying wearing the patch is a sign of solidarity between officers while critics say it fosters a dangerous attitude of opposition between police officers and civilians.  

Community members say the protest on July 3 was about bringing awareness to the damage being done by colonialism, following ongoing news of the graves of Indigenous children being found at the sites of former residential schools.

It also followed the vandalization of the statue of Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley in the square. 

Saint John police declined an interview request and instead directed CBC News to its Twitter post

The post states that uniform standards have been discussed with officers.

“[The Saint John Police Force] has uniform standards that only allow issued items on the uniform — the thin blue line patch is not issued by the [the Saint John Police Force] thus is not part of our uniform and not authorized to wear,” the post said.

Cheryl Johnson is a Saint John resident who was at the protest and took the photos. She was alerted by a friend later in the month, who upon closer inspection, noticed some officers wearing the patches. 

“It was horrifying to discover that,” said Johnson in an interview. 

Johnson said she considered informing Saint John police about the patches, but had concerns that the matter would be neglected, so she posted the photos to social media. 

“I find that through Twitter, it can be very effective in quickly getting the message across and I was also interested to see what other folks thought about it,” said Johnson.

“We know that in policing, there is a history of violence and abuse, assault, so trying to publicly double down on the concept of us versus them makes me feel incredibly unsafe.”

Police forces across the country have distanced themselves from the patch.

The RCMP advised its officers to stop wearing the patches last fall, citing it was not an approved symbol or officially part of the uniform.

Ottawa police have also been banned from wearing the patches, while Montreal and Toronto police having been spotted wearing the patches this year.

Saint John Coun. David Hickey said he was disappointed to learn city police officers were wearing the patches. 

“What it comes down to is promoting that us versus them mentality and rhetoric that is becoming apparent in policing and I don’t want to see that,” said  Hickey.

David Hickey is the ward 3 city councilor for Saint John and the chair of the public safety committee. (David Hickey/Facebook)

He added that city officials have a duty to ensure Saint John residents feel comfortable interacting with their police department, but a shared level of respect needs to be achieved.

The wearing of thin blue line patches is facing additional scrutiny following protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing criticism toward the Blue Lives Matter counter movement, which began in the United States purporting the importance of valuing police officers’ lives. 

El Jones is an assistant professor of political studies at Mount Saint Vincent University and a community activist based in Halifax. 

Jones said the patches migrated from the United States, with the messaging behind the thin blue line being that the police are the only thing standing between order and chaos.

“You see a kind of imagining of society that’s quite dystopian…. You’re always in danger and the only thing keeping you safe is policing,” she said in an interview.

El Jones is an assistant professor of political studies at Mount Saint Vincent University and a community activist based in Halifax.  (Submitted by El Jones)

When looking at things through a lens of supposed order and chaos, Jones said often times policing punishes those who are already marginalized by society.

One of the most troubling connotations behind the patches, Jones noted, is them being worn in solidarity with officers accused of police brutality. 

“Particularly to Black people, it is quite frightening because it’s putting on your uniform, a sign of my solidarity with my fellow officers, and not with the idea of law and order,” said Jones.

The patch has also served as conduit for racist ideology, with authorities acknowledging that white nationalist groups have taken an interest in adopting the patch as a symbol.

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RCMP spied on Canadian nationalist committee over communist concerns – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s spy service closely monitored the burgeoning nationalist movement in the 1960s and ’70s, poring over pamphlets, collecting reports from confidential sources and warily watching for signs of Communist infiltration, once-secret records reveal.

The RCMP’s security branch, responsible for sniffing out subversives at the time, quietly tracked the rise of the Committee for an Independent Canada, seeing it as ripe for “exploitation or manipulation” by radicals.

The committee, which attracted numerous political and cultural luminaries, pushed for greater Canadian control of the industrial, media and foreign policy spheres in an era of profound American dominance.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the RCMP’s four-volume, 538-page dossier on the committee as well as a file on a forerunner organization from Library and Archives Canada. Some passages, though more than 60 years old, were withheld from release.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which assumed counter-subversion duties from the RCMP in 1984, transferred the records to the National Archives, given their historical significance.

The Mounties’ interest was piqued in the spring of 1960 when author Farley Mowat gathered neighbours at his home in Palgrave, Ont., to form what would soon become the Committee for Canadian Independence.

Mowat was instantly spurred into action upon reading journalist James Minifie’s book “Peacemaker or Powder-Monkey: Canada’s Role in a Revolutionary World,” rattled by its concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

The fledgling committee advocated distancing Canada from western military alliances and reasserting the country’s control over its airspace and territorial waters.

In August 1960, as the RCMP opened a file on the committee, a sergeant surmised the Communist party “must certainly be joyous” at the development given it had long espoused similar ideas. However, the Mounties had uncovered no information to suggest the group was “Communist inspired.”

While Mowat’s effort faded from the public conversation, hand-wringing about Canadian independence persisted.

Early in 1970, Toronto Daily Star editor Peter C. Newman, former Liberal cabinet minister Walter Gordon and economist Abe Rotstein hatched plans for the Committee for an Independent Canada during a meeting at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.

A statement of purpose published by the committee that September said it realized the benefits of Canada being neighbour to the most powerful nation in the world and rejected the idea of closing the taps of needed foreign capital.

“But our land won’t be our own much longer if we allow it to continue to be sold out to foreign owners. Not if we allow another culture to dominate our information media. Not if we allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another country’s foreign policy.”

A month later an RCMP corporal in the security service’s Toronto detachment warned in a two-page memo the publicity the committee had garnered made it a “vulnerable target for subversive penetration.”

Gordon, a longtime economic nationalist, was honorary chairman of the committee, with publisher Jack McClelland and Claude Ryan, director of influential Montreal newspaper Le Devoir, serving as co-chairmen.

The politically non-partisan organization’s steering committee included dozens of notable members of the Canadian intelligentsia, including Mowat and fellow author Pierre Berton, publisher Mel Hurtig, poet Al Purdy, Chatelaine magazine editor Doris Anderson, lawyers Eddie Goodman and Judy LaMarsh (who had also been a Liberal cabinet minister), union activist and longtime NDP stalwart Eamon Park, and Flora MacDonald, shortly before she became a Progressive Conservative MP.

A source whose name is blacked out of a March 1971 memo provided the RCMP with committee literature including a letter from student co-ordinators Gus Abols and Michael Adams.

“The support of young Canadians is essential, because only through our united action will the government and the Canadian public generally realize the seriousness of our country’s situation and the extent of our commitment to the preservation of Canada,” the letter said.

Adams recalls being a graduate student the University of Toronto, strolling to class, when Goodman, whom he knew from Conservative political circles, pulled over his car and told the young man to jump in because “we’re going to start up something that I think you’d be interested in.”

Adams, who would go on to build Environics Research Group into a leading pollster, has fond memories of accompanying Gordon on a committee trip to London, Ont., to promote the nationalist cause to students.

As the “young guy” at committee meetings, Adams revelled in the impressive company.

“It was a wonderful group,” he said. “They were incredibly nurturing and helpful.”

For their part, however, RCMP security officers didn’t seem to know what to make of the committee.

An August 1971 memo to divisions from RCMP headquarters said the committee had taken a moderate, middle class-oriented stance rather than a radical approach. Elements of the New Left and the Communist party had shown interest in the committee, but the RCMP was not aware of “any significant degree of influence or penetration.”

Still, the Mounties would continue to eye the committee because its aims and programs “provide a potential for exploitation or manipulation by groups or individuals of a subversive nature.”

On the contrary, the committee was formed to keep the nationalist movement from falling into the hands of the Communists and the far left represented by the NDP’s Waffle initiative, said Stephen Azzi, a professor of political management at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“The RCMP intelligence unit appeared to be staffed by people with little knowledge, with scant research skills and with deep paranoia,” Azzi said in an interview.

The Mounties studiously monitored the committee through the 1970s, clipping news items and filing memos. A confidential source advised the RCMP of plans for the group’s Ottawa demonstration in January 1975, suggesting they would muster “25-30 people instead of the 60 previously planned.”

By this point, the committee was no longer a potent force in Canadian public life in any event, Azzi sai

Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister of the day, was openly skeptical of the nationalist agenda but had adroitly harnessed support for the movement to shore up electoral support, particularly in southern Ontario, he added.

Several of the committee’s ideas were realized through creation of Crown corporation Petro-Canada, the Foreign Investment Review Agency, the Canada Development Corporation to foster Canadian-controlled enterprises, and new rules for homegrown content on the airwaves.

Many effects of those policies linger today, Azzi said. “I think our sense of Canada to a large extent was shaped in that period.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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Travellers to be placed in queues based on vaccine status on arrival at Toronto Pearson airport – CBC.ca

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When travellers arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport, they’ll be split into two separate queues — vaccinated people in one, with non-vaccinated people or people who are only partially vaccinated in another.

“This is a measure to help streamline the border clearance process,” airport spokesperson Beverly MacDonald told the CBC. “There are different entry requirements for vaccinated and non/partially vaccinated travellers, which have been broadly communicated by the Government of Canada.”

As of July 5, fully vaccinated travellers permitted to enter Canada are exempted from quarantine measures and testing for COVID-19 on their eight day post-arrival.

Travellers are still required to get a pre-entry test, a quarantine plan if not granted the exemption, and an arrival test.

There is also a requirements checklist that involves providing proof of vaccination in ArriveCan — the government portal to submit vaccine information.

Passengers entering Canada from the United States or another international destination will be split into the two queues before reaching Canada Customs.

The process came into effect after the federal government introduced different entry requirements for vaccinated and non/partially vaccinated travel.

“We know that the arrivals experience is different for passengers than it was in pre-pandemic times,” MacDonald said. “We appreciate passengers’ patience as we work with all of our partners to implement Government of Canada requirements for international air travel.”

Toronto Pearson, with its Healthy Airport initiative, has mandated masks and enhanced cleaning measures and its HVAC systems. It says it continues to work with government agencies, airlines, and airports to follow safety protocols.

More information on the airports COVID-19 protocols is available at www.torontopearson.com/readytotravel

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