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Canadian drivers with U.S. licence plates harassed by fellow Canadians – CBC.ca

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Some Canadians driving cars with U.S. licence plates say they’ve endured vandalism, harassment and even a minor assault from fellow Canadians convinced that they’re Americans illegally in Canada. 

Lisa Watt said she was harassed twice in Calgary last month — she believes because of her Texas licence plates. 

In one incident, she said a driver stopped right behind her car in a parking lot and glared at her, and in another situation, a driver tailgated her car for several kilometres before pulling up beside her and flipping her the finger. 

“It made me angry,” said Watt, a Canadian citizen who moved to Houston in 2000 for work. She drove to Calgary in June to visit her 84-year-old mother, who was feeling isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m here to help my mother. I have every right to be here.”

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential traffic. As a result, some Canadians are alarmed when they spot cars with U.S. licence plates, especially as COVID-19 cases south of the border escalate.

There is reason for concern. Alberta RCMP said that since mid-June, they have fined 10 Americans $1,200 each after they sneaked in to Banff National Park. 

RCMP have issued 10 tickets to Americans since mid-June at Banff National Park. There are legitimate reasons for a U.S.-plated vehicle in Canada during the pandemic but stopping to see the sights is not one of them. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Americans are allowed to drive straight through Canada to Alaska for work or to return home, but they can’t stop in Banff — or anywhere else — to see the sights.

However, not all drivers of cars with U.S. plates in Canada are breaking the rules. 

Watt wants Albertans to know she’s a patriotic Canadian who’s taking every precaution while in the country. She self-quarantined for 14 days when arriving in Calgary and wears a face mask in stores. 

She said both incidents of harassment happened on June 21, the day she finished her quarantine and headed to town to run errands.

Watt, right, and her mother, Maureen, pictured in Calgary. (Submitted by Maureen Watt)

‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’

As a result of her experiences, Watt started driving her mother’s car — which has Alberta plates. 

“I’m a little afraid to leave my car parked anywhere for fear somebody does something to it,” she said. “I’d like people to understand that people with U.S. licence plates have legitimate reasons for being here.”

Mayor Phil Harding of the Township of Muskoka Lakes also wants to spread that message. 

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Harding, whose township is part of the Muskoka region, a vacation hot spot in Ontario. 

The mayor said he recently heard from several Canadians with U.S.-plated cars in the region, who claimed they were accused of being Americans unlawfully in Canada.

“‘You shouldn’t be here. Americans aren’t allowed. How did you get across the border?'” said Harding, about the types of accusations the drivers have fielded from local residents. 

Car keyed at marina

In one case, a woman reported that her husband’s car — which has Michigan plates — was scratched with a key, said the mayor. 

CBC News confirmed the incident with the woman who said the approximately metre-long scratch appeared after the car had been parked at a marina on June 6. 

The woman said she and her husband are Canadian but that her husband works for an American company and drives a company car with U.S. plates. The woman asked that their names be kept confidential because her husband doesn’t want his workplace associated with this story. 

“We think it’s terrible and are really aware that we are a target with our U.S.-plated company vehicle,” said the woman about the incident in an email. “This makes you aware that the cross-border tension is building.”

WATCH | COVID-19 could close Canada-U.S. border for a year, expert says:

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness predicts the Canada-U.S. border will only open if a COVID-19 vaccine is created or if enough people have been infected with the virus and build herd immunity. 9:17

Snowbird accosted

In another incident in Huntsville, also in the Muskoka region, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said a Canadian filed a police report after he was allegedly accosted by two men upset over the Florida plates on his car. 

OPP spokesperson Jason Folz said the incident happened on June 12 at a car wash. 

“They harassed him, and the assault was they poked him in the chest, demanding to know why he was in Canada.”

Folz said the man is a snowbird who spends winters in Florida and owns a car with Florida plates. 

“People are stressed [about COVID-19], and it comes out in strange ways. This is perhaps one of those ways,” said Folz about the incident. 

Lawyer avoids crossing border

U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders said several of his clients — who are dual Canadian-U.S. citizens or essential workers crossing the border — have complained of mean looks when driving their U.S.-plated car in Canada. 

As a result, Saunders said he avoids crossing the border, even though he can as an essential worker and a dual citizen. 

“I’m concerned about being socially shamed up there in B.C., driving a U.S.-plated car because I’ve heard from multiple clients, stories of dirty looks,” said Saunders, whose office sits close to the British Columbia border in Blaine, Wash.

He said he can understand why some Canadians get upset when spotting U.S. licence plates in the country, considering COVID-19 cases are spiking in some U.S. states.

But they must remember that many people driving U.S.-plated cars in Canada are there for a valid reason, Saunders said. 

“They really have to look at the big picture before they pass judgment.”

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U.S. Thousand Islands businesses feel the loss of Canadian customers – CTV Edmonton

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KINGSTON, ONT. —
As the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, business owners on the American side say they feeling the loss of their Canadian customers.

Kassi Pharoah is a server at Buster’s Restaurant in Ogdensburg, New York, located right near the Ogdensburg International Airport.

She says it’s common for people from places like Ottawa and eastern Ontario to treat the American city as their own.

“A lot of Canadian customers, taking their animals to the vet, coming in to catch a flight, getting their cars fixed,” explains Pharoah. “Sometimes the men would go golfing and the wives would go shopping. We don’t see that anymore.”

In fact, Pharoah says Canadians accounted for about 40 per cent of their business. Over the years, some even became friends.

“Our regular customers, when some of the girls have gone on to have kids, they’ve come over with baby shower gifts. We talk about different trips we know they’re going on, we see them on the way out for their vacations, we see them on the way back as well,” she explains. “We absolutely miss them.”

While she says she understands why they’re not visiting, the loss is felt, as hours and staff are cut.

Non-essential travel restrictions have been in place across the Canada-US border since March because of COVID-19.

Corey Fram, Director of Tourism with the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, says data from Statistics Canada show that in April of 2019, about 18,000 Canadians drove across the border for day trips.

This year, with the border closed, places like Ogdensburg, Watertown, and Syracuse are feeling the effects.

“It’s a little bit difficult to kind of continue to look at this region at this time as a truly bi-national area,” he says. “So many folks are relatives, cousins, teammates, and right now we’re separated.”

Fram says businesses understand why the closures are happening, but are hoping for a way to move forward.

“These two countries rely on each other and, in particular, these two regions rely on each other,” he says. “How are we going to get back there, and when?”

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Made-in-Canada vaccine passes animal testing hurdle, seeks government funding – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A Canadian drugmaker says it has produced “compelling” early results from animal testing of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, but the government hasn’t responded to its application for funding that would allow it to advance to human clinical trials.

Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics, which designs cancer drugs using a technique called mRNA, announced Wednesday that the “preclinical” data from testing in mice showed more promising results than other notable COVID-19 research conducted with mRNA vaccines.

“I would gladly test our vaccine head-to-head against any out there,” said Chief Scientific Officer Eric Marcusson in a press release. “It is always difficult to compare preclinical results, however, I believe our results compare extremely favorably to preclinical results reported by other companies.”

Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted tests on mice and found that the vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B produced “robust” neutralizing antibodies, which are needed to defend cells from invading pathogens such as the novel coronavirus.

“The results coming from our first animal experiment showed that the vaccines are resulting in a strong immune response,” said Dr. Mario Ostrowski, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “In particular, the vaccine against the S protein produced neutralizing antibodies at higher titers than the results announced by other mRNA vaccine manufacturers.”

Brad Sorenson, president and CEO of Providence Therapeutics, told CTV News that these results show their vaccine has shown to be “equivalent or better” than those from much larger firms in the vaccine race. 

“We expected that it would work, but the results were even greater than we expected, so we were very pleased about that,” he said. “We’re very anxious to repeat this in real-life patients.”

Another notable mRNA vaccine is by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna, which has received hundreds of millions in funding from the U.S. government and entered final-stage testing last month when the first of some 30,000 Americans received the shot.

But Providence, which says it’s one of Canada’s leading mRNA vaccine producers, hasn’t heard from the government since late May and has yet to receive funding for the next stages of its testing after it submitted a $35-million proposal in April. That same month, the federal government committed more than $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, including clinical trials. Among projects already funded as part of that pledge is a partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Sorenson said his company is expecting to be able to produce 5 million vaccines by next summer, but without help from the federal government, they are hamstrung.

“The challenge that we’re facing is, we’re not a large pharma company,” he said. “We have really good technology, fantastic scientists … but for us to go into human trials, we either need to raise more money — which we can do if we’ve got a government that is indicated that they’re interested in what we’re producing — or we need a government to sponsor those clinical trials.”

Sorenson added that if the Canadian government does not help fund their human trials, they might have to find another government that will.

“We’re at a point in a company that if the Canadian government doesn’t want to do it, we’re going to start looking elsewhere, and that’s just the reality,” he said. “We’ve got a world-class vaccine and if it’s not going to be for Canadians, it’s going to be for somebody else.”

Sorenson said he has already had “preliminary discussions” with other governments about their vaccine, primarily from individual provinces.

Meanwhile, health professionals and politicians alike are urging the government to speed its funding process for homegrown vaccines so that Canadians won’t have to wait in line for another country’s COVID-19 shot. Among those adding their voice was Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who said pressure should be kept on the government to act.

“I see the commitment that’s being made by the European and American governments to this identical technology and I’m saying, ‘Hmm, why in the name of goodness aren’t we pursuing this aggressively in Canada?’” he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. “No stone should be left unturned in pursuit of a made-in-Canada COVID solution.”

Industry Canada, which is charge of administering the $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, has not responded to a CTV News request for comment.

With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins

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Canada sending up to $5M in humanitarian aid to Lebanon after Beirut explosion – CBC.ca

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Canada will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to help Lebanon and its people recover from the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port.

An initial $1.5 million of that funding will go to the Lebanese Red Cross to provide emergency medical services, shelter and food for those affected.

In an interview with CBC News, International Development Minister Karina Gould said the money represents Canada’s initial commitment and that it could grow in the coming days and weeks as the scale of the disaster becomes more clear.

“This is about saving lives in the next 48 hours and then making sure that people have access to emergency shelter, food, health care and medicine,” Gould said.

The explosion happened Tuesday when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, which had been stored for years at the port, ignited, sending shock waves across the Lebanese capital. 

Around 135 people died, about 5,000 were injured and another 300,000 people have been left without a place to live. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the injured.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told Al Hadath TV that collective economic losses due to the blast might reach $13 billion to $20 billion, saying the estimate included both direct and indirect losses related to business.

Other countries have also mobilized to provide help. Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to help find survivors trapped beneath rubble while Russia sent a plane carrying relief teams, doctors and medical equipment.

France is sending two planes with aid and 55 workers, including disaster response experts, emergency nurses, doctors and firefighters.

Gould said it’s possible Canada may provide support in other forms other than humanitarian funding, but wouldn’t say whether Canada’s disaster response team, DART, will be mobilized.

“Nothing is off the table right now in terms of Canada’s response,” she said. “We want to make sure that what we’re sending is indeed what is needed.”

Lebanese government under fire

Experts say the need for rapid assistance and the complexities of Lebanon’s political system — which is characterized by widespread corruption, sectarianism and a weak state — mean that non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross are best placed to provide immediate help.

“There are a lot of local organizations — some small, some really large — who have the capacity to implement significant humanitarian assistance programs and who have the capacity to really help the population with no political manoeuvring, with no political consequences,” said Ruby Dagher, an international development professor at the University of Ottawa who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon.

“We should look at those first for the humanitarian assistance before we turn our attention to working through the government.”

Public anger against the Lebanese government was already at historic highs after months of sustained protests amid a long-running financial crisis intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. That anger has only grown since it emerged that the highly explosive fertilizer that caused Tuesday’s explosion had been stored at Beirut’s port for six years while port officials did nothing about it.

Lama Mourad, a professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said any aid provided through the Lebanese government will help legitimize a ruling class that has lost the trust of its people.

“[The government of Canada would] be effectively supporting a government that has no legitimacy in the eyes of citizens,” Mourad said. “Giving money to this government or any of the ruling elite… will only serve to support and strengthen their power, rather than necessarily go to the people who need it most.”

Rex Brynen, a political scientist at McGill University, said after the immediate humanitarian crisis is over, Canada could play a role in strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese government. 

He cited the possible negligence at the Beirut port as a sign that the Lebanese state has a regulatory management problem at the port.

“That’s an issue which in the longer term needs to be addressed in Lebanon and outside partners can play a role in trying to strengthen government capacity,” Brynen said.

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