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Canadian, American tour boats at Niagara Falls become symbol of COVID-19 contrast – CTV News



To some observers, a pair of tour boats at Canada’s landmark Niagara Falls have become a symbol for how the country’s COVID-19 response compares to the virus-ravaged United States.

It’s a tale of two countries as shown by capacity levels on board the Hornblower Cruise on the Canadian side of the falls, and the famed Maid of the Mist on the American side.

Images shared on social media of the two boats passing each other — the American vessel carrying hundreds of guest while the Canadian watercraft holds just half a dozen — have led some to point to the Maid of the Mist as proof of pandemic failures in the U.S.

“Is looking at a big waterfall really worth risking your life and spreading a deadly virus?” wrote one Twitter user on Tuesday.

The United States has logged close to 3.9 million known cases of COVID-19 — the most in the world — while Canada has recorded 111,697 as of Tuesday evening. U.S. officials have faced criticism for not enforcing lockdown measures while countries like Canada have been able to keep new cases of the virus low. For many, the juxtaposed tour boats were a symbol of that North American contrast.

“I think it’s all about making money for the Americans, so they’re more relaxed about controls,” one man told CTV National News on Tuesday.

The Hornblower, which can usually hold about 700 guests, has been restricted to just six passengers since the start of July, while the Maid of the Mist is operating with 200 guests, or half its capacity. Both businesses are doing health screenings, require passengers to wear masks and encourage physical distancing.

For Hornblower operator Mory DiMaurizio, the Ontario restrictions go too far and the business is losing money. On Friday, Niagara moves into the next stage of reopening, which will allow up to 100 passengers per voyage on the Canadian side. But that’s still only 15 per cent of the company’s usual capacity. DiMaurizio says they could operate with double that.

“It’s ridiculous actually, I mean, it’s not about safety. We are beyond safe,” said DiMaurizio, vice president and general manager at Hornblower Niagara Cruises. “I think it could have been handled a bit differently but nevertheless we support the province in keeping us safe.”

The Hornblower has even tailored the experience to a more VIP excursion to raise prices. A ride of the boat now comes with a meal, but the company is charging $70 for a ticket, more than double the typical price.

One family from Quebec who spoke with CTV National News said that they’d rather the boat be fuller with a cheaper ticket.

“I would have opted for more people on board because we had to pay more expensive [rates],” said one man.

But 10-year-old Maria Wilson loved her ride on the boat with so few other tourists.

“It was great, because usually when there’s a lot of people you can’t even move to have a great view,” she said. 

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Grieving family says Canada abandoned son in Florida prison – CTV News



Sacha Bond’s family was looking forward to 2022, when, after more than 15 years in the United States, he would finally return to Canada. Instead, his mother is by his side at a hospital in Tallahassee, Fla., watching him die.

Bond, who turns 36 at the end of August, has been an inmate at Apalachee Correctional Institution for nearly half his life. Now chained to a hospital bed and supervised by armed guards 24/7 while in a coma, this is not what Sacha’s family wants for his final days. They blame the Canadian government for not doing enough years earlier — and for not doing more now.

Sacha was found with a fever of 40.5 C around 8:30 a.m. on July 13 after having spent almost three months in confinement, according to his mother, Diane Levesque, and brother, Eric Bond.

“There’s nothing we can do at this point because his brain is completely gone. He’s gone through so much cruelty at that place, and basically now my mom is risking her life … in the worst place in the world for COVID,” Eric Bond told

“It is really, really heartbreaking.”

When he was taken out of the cell, he collapsed and never woke up, Eric Bond said. Sacha’s temperature had climbed to 41 C by the time he was admitted into the hospital, where he was put on life support. Scans revealed severe, irreparable brain damage. His kidneys and lungs were failing and he had a blood infection.

But the family, who live in Quebec, said they would not have even known Sacha was dying in a hospital had Levesque not been in regular contact with him and the Canadian government.

She had called the consulate to ask when they would be visiting her son and was told they couldn’t because he was in the hospital, Eric Bond said. When she tried to find out which hospital he was being treated at, she was met with further roadblocks. A sympathetic staff member at the prison eventually told her.

Doctors diagnosed Bond with serotonin syndrome and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), his family said, both of which are triggered by certain types of medication. Over the last year or so, the prison had been changing his medication for his bipolar disorder, Eric Bond said, changes that were affecting his serotonin levels. The family had asked doctors at the prison to stop making the drug switches because the ones he was taking were working well, he added.

NMS is a very rare reaction to drugs that treat mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder.

Bond had been on life support for about two weeks by the time Levesque, who had power-of-attorney, made it to Florida. She was shocked by the severity of his condition. He was taken off life support two days later.

He is surviving longer than doctors expected because his lower brain stem, which was not damaged, is helping him breathe on his own, his family said.

“How can his soul leave his body when he’s stuck, chained to the bed?” Levesque asked in an interview.

“Canada does nothing. They’re standing by … He’ll be another statistic – that a Canadian died in a U.S. prison. You know what? He’s a human being, he’s my son.”

Neither the Florida Department of Corrections nor the warden for Apalachee Correctional Institution responded to questions about prisoner hospital policies and requests for comment from


Bond was 19 when he got into a drunken fight at a bar during a January 2004 trip to Florida. He returned to the bar with a gun and tried to fire, but there were no bullets in those chambers, according to the family and media reports on the case. He was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years.

He was set to be released on Sept.25, 2022, according to public inmate records from the Florida Department of Corrections.

His family tried many times over the years to transfer him to a Canadian prison under the International Transfer of Offenders Act, where they hoped he could get better treatment for his bipolar disorder, diagnosed just six months before his arrest. Canada approved the transfer twice, but U.S. authorities denied the request each time, Levesque said.

“Canada has made no effort to work with the U.S. government in order to have them send my boy back home,” she said. They sent the family funeral home pamphlets following their most recent pleas, saying there was nothing they could do, she added.

Global Affairs Canada told they are aware a Canadian citizen is being detained in Florida and said they continue to provide consular services to both the individual and their family.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and consular officials are in regular contact with local authorities to ensure he is provided the necessary medical care,” spokesman Jason Kung said via email. Citing the Privacy Act, Global Affairs said it could not disclose any further information.

Correctional Service Canada, which oversees international transfers, did not immediately respond to questions regarding the case.


Prison had “broken” Bond and made him a changed person, his family said. Still, in Levesque’s last phone conversation with him, “he was OK, he wasn’t sick … He was fine, happy, laughed,” she said. But he was very concerned and scared about the COVID-19 situation at the prison, where he said social distancing was non-existent.

The Apalachee East Unit is a large, dormitory-like space that holds some 150 inmates, according to Levesque, with cots set up side-by-side and just enough room to get in and out of bed.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, there have been 152 positive COVID-19 tests among inmates, 25 among staff, and no deaths reported at that facility. Staff are provided with protective equipment including surgical-grade and N95 masks and Tyvek suits. Inmates are required to wear “cloth face coverings” and are monitored by medical staff with temperature checks conducted throughout the day.

Bond tried to ask for “protective management” on health and safety grounds — which would segregate him from other inmates — but his mother said that request was denied. They put him in 45 days of confinement instead, which placed him in a cell with one other inmate, she said.

When the 45 days were over, Bond refused the order to go back to the general prison area, so he was given another 21 days of confinement, this time in a different type of cell that had no bars on the solid doors, a small window with no sunlight, and no ventilation. Phone calls were not allowed.

“My brother was sending letters to all the consulates saying, ‘This is insane, I’m going freaking nuts, I have a rash from head to toe. I can’t even breathe in here,’” Eric Bond said.

Levesque was also exchanging daily letters with Bond during this period, but after his first 45 days, she got a call: “Sacha wants me to pass you a message — stop writing in French because they’re keeping all these letters. He’s not getting them.”

In his last letter to his mother, Bond said he was breathing in black mould all day long, had a body rash and was sweating 24/7. He fell into a coma 10 days later.

Now, Levesque keeps him company in the hospital room day and night, sleeping in a chair and holding his hands under the watchful eye of two prison guards who stay in the small room with them. She is no longer allowed to keep a phone inside the room to connect with her other son, who worries he will not be able to see his brother’s last moments.

“We’re a very strong family. Sacha stayed in prison, did his time for 17 years and we just wanted him to come out of that tunnel … There is zero per cent chance of him pulling out of this and the prison is insisting on chaining his body to that bed,” said Eric Bond.

“I’m 100 per cent going to lose my brother. I’m really scared of losing my mother in this whole process.”

The guards’ presence has made things especially tense, said Levesque.

“The hospital is the best, co-operative and very empathetic, sympathetic, you know. But that prison? They want to control him up to the last minute,” she said, adding that the guards told her: “‘He’s still ours. He still belongs to us.’”

Her presence in the room outside of visitation hours was also questioned, even though she received permission from the hospital to remain with her son.

“There was no way I wasn’t coming over here, even though COVID is like a cesspool down here,” Levesque said. “It’s one of the worst places, but that’s where my son is. That’s where I need to be.”

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School starts in a month, but Canada's most populous province still doesn't know what that will look like –



Back to school is imminent for Ontario students, but important elements of exactly how that will look during the COVID-19 pandemic remain up in the air. 

Many questions remain about the province’s $309 million plan to reopen K-12 schools this fall, with new protocols to be implemented and scores of new staff including teachers, school nurses and custodians who need to be brought on board, trained and deployed.

One notable part of the plan is a $50-million commitment to hire up to 500 school-focused public health nurses. But midway into August, that process is still in the “call-out” stage, Premier Doug Ford admitted on Wednesday.

“We have a call-out right now for nurses. We want to make sure we fulfil the 500 positions without draining from the system,” Ford said during his daily news conference.

“Let’s get them in the classrooms as soon as possible — even if it takes a couple extra weeks … as long as the 500 nurses are coming.”

Details around school nurses still to be ironed out

Details about who is hiring these nurses and where they will be embedded need ironing out, according to Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Grinspun, who is among those consulting the province about this part of the plan, welcomes the initiative as a whole, calling the new hires a public health necessity for schools given the complex health concerns that are facing students and teachers going forward.

A Japanese student has his temperature taken by a school nurse in June. Beyond helping with COVID-19 concerns, experts say public health nurses hired in Ontario schools can also address issues such as bullying, addiction, anxiety and depression. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

“We need to be prepared for an outbreak in a school. We need to be prepared for preventing an outbreak,” she said. 

These nurses, who Grinspun notes would ideally be registered nurses with baccalaureate degrees, would have the expertise to tackle a wide range of issues. 

Not only would they adapt to potentially changing COVID-19 conditions this fall and winter, as well as liaise with local public health authorities, but would also tackle flu season and address concerns such as bullying, addiction, anxiety and depression — conditions that may already be exacerbated by the pandemic, Grinspun added.

“This is not only about donning and doffing [masks] … This is about much more than that,” she said. “Solving problems [on an ongoing basis], in the context of reopening of schools, it’s not simple at all.”

Tying this new wave of school nurses to local public health units across the province is also vital, Grinspun said, “to fit the teams on those units and … blend with the rest of the programs” already underway for specific communities.

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, believes the nurses are a public health necessity for schools, given the complex health concerns facing students and teachers. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Custodial staffing levels an ongoing issue, unions say

Another major component of Ontario’s plan is $75 million for hiring more than 900 additional custodians and buying cleaning supplies.

But it doesn’t go far enough, according to Laura Walton, president of Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents 55,000 education workers including custodians and cleaning staff.

“Nine-hundred custodians seems like a lot of people. But you’re talking about 4,800 [public elementary and secondary] schools across the province,” she said. 

A custodian cleans a classroom in Brubaker Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. Not having enough staff to clean and maintain Ontario public schools was an issue even before COVID-19, according to the Ontario School Board Council of Unions. (Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press)

“That’s not enough for the amount of cleaning that we need to do for our students,” Walton said, adding that the issue of too few staffers to clean and maintain Ontario public schools has been a perennial issue and was raised during contract negotiations last year. 

Walton said she has heard from OSBCU locals about custodial job postings going up in various regions.

She also predicts that, as a first measure, school boards likely will tap their existing casual supply lists to offer those workers permanent employment. 

“These are decent paying jobs and so hopefully we will have folks come forward interested,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of work.”

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, predicts boards will offer permanent employment to custodial staff already on casual supply lists. (CBC)

‘Trying to put a puzzle together’ 

Boards have been working on reopening scenarios for months. 

“We’ve been at this since really, the beginning of May,” noted Peter Sovran, associate director of learning services for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and chair of its back-to-school planning group. 

His team has been planning how to reopen following the latest pandemic guidelines as well as the board’s standard budget allocation from the province.

Sovran says they’ve been guided by a number of key principles, including student and staff safety, minimizing disruption to regular school routines and flexibility between conventional, adaptive or remote learning if COVID conditions change quickly.

WATCH l Epidemiologist answers questions about heading back to school:

Dr. Christopher Labos says there is little value in testing every child for the coronavirus before school starts and he speaks to concerns about keeping kids apart in the classroom. 5:43

They’ve also looked at the financial support needed for scenarios such as reducing class sizes. 

Since the province announced its decision to keep elementary class sizes at pre-COVID levels, various health officials, parents and educators have reiterated the call for a drastic reduction to facilitate in-class physical distancing.

However, with just weeks to go before school starts, a major reduction to class sizes across HWDSB elementary schools alone would be a complex endeavour, Sovran explained.

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board associate director Peter Sovran likened the school reopening process to trying to put together a puzzle with missing pieces. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

According to an updated HWDSB report released Monday, 15-student classes would require about 900 additional teachers at the cost of approximately $76 million. The province has thus far pledged $30 million for the hiring of additional teachers across all of Ontario. 

Funding for new teachers aside, Sovran said other logistical considerations if class sizes were reduced include identifying additional classroom spaces, implementing health and safety requirements for those locations and putting necessary resources into them, as well as figuring out which students will be reassigned to what schools and how to get them there.

While HWDSB has already learned of some additional provincial funding headed its way — $1.2 million to hire more custodians, for instance — officials are still awaiting many more details. 

“It’s trying to put a puzzle together and sometimes all the pieces aren’t there or partway through, the pieces of the puzzle change. Trying to fit them together sometimes is a real challenge,” Sovran said. 

“Has it been stressful? Probably like no other time in any of our careers.”

No perfect solution, Ford says

Amid ongoing criticism of Ontario’s back-to-school plan, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce have repeatedly cited the need for flexibility to remain “responsive” to COVID conditions across the province. 

“We have to be flexible when it comes to education … it doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect,” Ford noted on Wednesday.

An announcement regarding “improvements” to the back-to-school plan is forthcoming, Ford said, adding there would be no significant changes.

“We’re just going to continue working at the process and always improving it. I’ve never believed in just saying ‘OK, that’s it. Here, it’s done.’ “

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Details emerge of lawsuit over government's coronavirus response –



CBC News has obtained an unredacted copy of a lawsuit launched by an anti-vaccination advocacy group against the government response to the coronavirus crisis, the details of which can now be independently verified and publicly reported for the first time. 

The lawsuit was filed by Aylmer, Ont.-based Vaccine Choice Canada and seven individuals in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on July 6. The legal action is a challenge under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the country’s pandemic response measures, including compulsory face masks, the closure of businesses and the enforcement of physical distancing. 

The plaintiffs are suing the governments of Canada and Ontario, the City of Toronto, senior politicians, a number of local Ontario health authorities, health officials and the CBC over their response to the pandemic. 

The suit states that the closure of businesses to prevent the spread of the virus was “extreme, unwarranted and unjustified,” that self-isolation measures imposed on individuals were “not scientific, nor medically based nor proven” and that the mandatory wearing of face coverings in some public spaces imposes “physical and psychological harm.”

The lawsuit alleges that the measures violate Sections 2 (right of association), 7 (life, liberty and security of the person), 8 (unlawful search and seizure), 9 (arbitrary detention of enforcement officers) and 15 (equality before and under the law) of the charter. 

“The measures … are further not in accordance with the tenets of fundamental justice in their overbreadth, nor are they justified under S.1 of the charter in that they are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” the lawsuit states.  

Names of plaintiffs redacted for fear of harassment

While copies of the 191-page statement of claim exist online, the names and stories of some of the individual plaintiffs have been redacted on the documents by the plaintiffs themselves. Social media posts from Rocco Galati, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said it was done out of precaution to protect the individuals from harassment. 

CBC News has agreed not to name the individuals, who range from a former professor to working parents, a chiropractor and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

No date has been set for when the case will go to court, and it’s unclear whether a judge will allow it to proceed. 

The lawsuit is seeking $1 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages, plus legal costs.

No statements of defence have been filed in the case. 

Legal scholar says lawsuit has claims worth examining

Among the personal stories contained in the statement of claim is that of a 23-year-old Hamilton man with autism who has the emotional capacity of a four-year-old. His guardian claims in the suit that the man doesn’t have the capacity to understand pandemic health measures, which have “totally mentally devastated” him by depriving him of his routines and his social and emotional network. 

Another account is of a Mississauga woman who says she can’t wear a mask because it triggers a traumatic memory of having a mask forcibly held over her face during a sexual assault.

Protesters gather outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto in May to demonstrate against government actions related to the coronavirus pandemic. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The claim states the woman is often faced with a choice when she goes out in public without a mask: risk being embarrassed by disclosing her private history or be denied service at local businesses. 

“I don’t think we need to violate people’s privacy or have them disclose medical conditions, particularly in the context of a private business,” said Jacob Shelley, an assistant professor of health law and ethics at Western University in London, Ont., who examined an unredacted copy of the lawsuit provided by CBC News. 

“We need to have a discussion about what does it mean to mandate masks. What does it mean to have everyone wear masks when you’re indoors and you can’t socially distance, because I think there are going to be legitimate instances where people are going to be unable or unwilling to wear a mask for reasons that really are their own.

“There’s lucid, valid, potential issues that maybe are worth being adjudicated before the court.”

A sign encouraging physical distancing at Union Station in Toronto. The City of Toronto is one of the parties named in the suit. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Shelley said given the content of the lawsuit, a public debate over masks risks being overshadowed by other claims that aren’t supported by science. 

“The ‘pandemic’ is false, and the measures phony, designed and implemented for improper and ulterior purposes, at the behest of the WHO, controlled and directed by billionaire, corporate oligarchs,” the statement of claim says. 

“The plaintiffs state, and the fact is, that the evidence is that far many more people have died as a result of the ‘pandemic’ measures themselves than purportedly from the ‘COVID-19 deaths,’ even if one takes the deaths ’caused’ by COVID as a given.”

A sign put up by Ottawa public health authorities specifying mask rules and who is exempt from them. The lawsuit alleges that measures such as mandatory mask-wearing are ‘extreme, unwarranted and unjustified’ and some may even impose ‘physical and psychological harm.’ (Kate Porter/CBC)

Other lawsuit claims

Other claims made in the lawsuit are unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report the development of a novel way to record a patient’s vaccination history by using smartphone-readable nano crystals called ‘quantum dots,’ embedded in the skin using micro-needles. In short, a vaccine chip embedded in the body. This work and research are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” the lawsuit said. 

The statement of claim includes a timeline that begins in the year 2000 when Bill Gates steps down as the head of Microsoft to start the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It also states Gates expects a “‘twenty-fold’ return on his $10 billion vaccine investment within the next few decades.”

Included in the timeline are references to the Chinese military, 5G networks, international vaccine programs and the Rockefeller Foundation as relevant to the creation and spread of the coronavirus, but the lawsuit isn’t clear on how.

Shelley said including such references in the statement of claim without providing supporting scientific evidence could ultimately be what gets the suit dismissed before it goes to trial under Ontario’s rules of civil procedure

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, who is representing plaintiffs in the suit, initially agreed to speak to CBC News but then did not respond to follow-up requests for comment. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press)

CBC News reached out multiple times to Galati, who is listed as the spokesperson for the lawsuit in a press release issued by Vaccine Choice Canada. He spoke with a reporter last Wednesday but did not agree to an on-the-record interview. 

Galati told CBC News he would be available last Thursday for a recorded interview but did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday or the following Monday.

The CBC has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit for allegedly propagating misinformation and “false news” about the coronavirus crisis.

Vaccine Choice Canada has also issued an intent to sue the CBC over other coverage relating to the anti-vaccination and anti-mask movements.

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