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Canadians are rich, but this Thanksgiving, our well-being is trickier to measure – CBC.ca

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As we huddle in our homes, separated from friends and family by a pernicious virus, economics offers a measure of one thing Canadians have to be thankful for.

Gross domestic product, or GDP for short, a reckoning of things we make and services we sell, tells us Canada is a rich country in a poor world.

Depending on how you calculate it (there are subtle differences in methodology), as of last year, Canada as a whole was about as rich as Brazil or Russia.

But what makes Canadians really, really rich is that unlike Russia and Brazil, Canada’s enormous wealth is shared among a relatively small population. We have a high GDP per capita.

As you sit there this Thanksgiving weekend — grumbling about the politician or irresponsible age group to blame for trapping you in your home on this traditionally convivial holiday — it is easy to conclude that living in a rich country isn’t enough.

That is certainly the conclusion of Bryan Smale, director of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, a project currently located at Ontario’s University of Waterloo.

Looking for someone to blame for your Thanksgiving lockdown? That may not be good for your well-being. Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the 3M plant in Brockville, Ont., in August, after announcing the facility will be making N95 masks. (Lars Hagberg/Reuters)

As he and his team continue their efforts to find out what Canadians really care about, their research has shown that being rich — under what their system classifies as “living standards” — is only a single one of eight crucial indicators, including health, leisure and community engagement, that are most likely to make us thankful. And for many of those indicators, COVID-19 has not been kind.

“The things that are emerging as being the most significant buffers [for well-being] are the degree to which people can continue their participation in a variety of leisure activities and their perceived access to those things, both of which have been compromised right now,” Smale said.

His research shows that going out into nature or a city park can relieve a sense of social isolation, as can interacting with strangers — even at a distance.

Does anyone care?

“The other big, big factor is that people still have a sense of community,” Smale said. “That can be small in terms of connecting with neighbours or family nearby, or it can be bigger, just feeling that the community cares about them and that they will support them in times of need, like now.”

Which means this might be a perfectly good time to remind you that we at the CBC care. I care.

Families in a Toronto neighbourhood bang pots and pans in April — part of a nightly salute to health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing found that a sense of community is important. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) has a difficult task. Collecting credible amounts of data for its eight sub-indexes is expensive. Ambitious early plans for CIW to provide an alternative to GDP to offer frequent data reports that measure the environment, education and democratic engagement still seem far away.

The research group works with regional governments and NGOs to help collect and collate survey data for local use. Engage Nova Scotia has collected local quality-of-life data to show the advantages the province has well beyond its absolute wealth.

Smale and his team are currently examining the results from Yukon’s Community Well-being Survey that sampled data before and during the COVID-19 outbreak that they hope will be revealing.

Another national CIW release to update the index’s previous one in 2016 is coming in the new year.

Fraser Pond is in part of the Blue Mountain Wilderness Connector in Nova Scotia. Engage Nova Scotia has collected local quality-of-life data to show the advantages the province has well beyond its absolute wealth. (Irwin Barrett)

As a hard-nosed professor of economics at the University of Waterloo who has nothing to do with the CIW project, Mikal Skuterud is quick to leap to the defence of GDP as if critics wanted to get rid of it.

“Saying we should abolish GDP as a measure is ridiculous,” he said. “There is no single measure, surely, that is going to capture everything we care about.”

His point is that GDP is valuable and maybe essential, so long as it is not taken for more than it is. Skuterud insists that the study of economics includes many different indicators, none of which can be taken in isolation.

In the case of COVID-19, for example, while many people may be losing income, economics reminds them they are trading it for the utility of more family time, “and I think maybe that’s a nice message for Thanksgiving.”

Being rich doesn’t mean happiness

A well-known principle called the Easterlin Paradox, discovered by a U.S. economist, shows that after a certain point — somewhere near the official Canadian poverty level — we and the countries we live in don’t get happier as we get richer.

One thing GDP does not do is measure happiness. Despite supporting GDP, Skuterud said it has other flaws.

Back in the good old days in Montreal before the Thanksgiving lockdown, a bartender talks to a patron on June 22, the first day after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on restaurants. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

“The biggest problem is that it ignores the distribution of economic wealth within a population,” he said.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is in no position to supersede GDP and has no plans to try, but for people like Lisa Wolff, policy and research director at UNICEF Canada who uses the CIW tools, the effects of wealth distribution are obvious and inescapable.

Right through the pandemic, Wolff’s group has conducted twice-monthly studies called the U-Report, where people between the ages of 13 and 24 are invited to participate.

“What we are seeing is a polarization of experience in COVID where families that were already functioning pretty well are generally managing OK,” she said. Children are experiencing less bullying, feeling less pressure and enjoying family time. But that’s not universal.

“The kids that were already disadvantaged and struggling are bearing the greatest burdens,” she said.

Wolff said she fears that Canadian child and youth welfare, already shown in last month’s UNICEF Report Card to be at the bottom of the ranking among rich countries, will get even worse as the lockdown continues. Going “back to normal” just won’t be enough, she said.

UNICEF Canada is concerned that Canadian child and youth welfare, already shown in the organization’s report card last month to be at the bottom of the ranking among rich countries, will get even worse as the COVID-19 lockdown continues. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Research from other European countries shows that it is not absolute wealth but a society’s wealth disparity that leads to poor outcomes among the less advantaged, but that could be partly overcome.

If Canada could coax its most disadvantaged youth back into education and employment by increasing child and youth spending to the level of three per cent of GDP of those countries with the best results, it would be money in the bank, Wolff said.

“They’re underemployed, they use social services, they’re sicker throughout their lives, so absolutely, there are savings if we invest in kids.”

Which, if she’s right, would allow you, on a future Thanksgiving, to be thankful for being even richer. It might even make you happy.

Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – BradfordToday

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

7:30 p.m.

Health officials in B.C. are reporting new outbreaks at three long-term care facilities and 167 more new cases of COVID-19.

A statement from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says another person has died, for a total of 254 deaths.

There have been 11,854 cases diagnosed in the province, while 9,871 people who tested positive are considered recovered.

Henry says the efforts made by B.C. residents to contain COVID-19 are making a difference to help slow its spread.

4:45 p.m.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has ordered Canadian troops to keep up their guard against COVID-19 while painting a gloomy picture of how the pandemic could affect the military and country.

The order is contained in a new directive from Vance and Defence Department deputy minister Jody Thomas in which they describe complacency around physical distancing, mask wearing and other public-health measures as the greatest threat to the military when it comes to COVID-19.

At the same time, they suggest the pandemic will get worse before it gets better, with expectations it could last 12 months or longer and result in more infections among military personnel along with continued shortages of medical equipment across the country.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 109 new COVID-19 cases, with 88 of them in Winnipeg. 

Health officials are also reporting outbreaks at one school and three long-term care homes in the city. 

The greater Winnipeg region has been under stricter health orders, including mandatory mask use in public indoor areas, after numbers started climbing last month.

12:15 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his children are not going trick-or-treating for Halloween this year.

He says this is because Ottawa, where he and his family live, is considered a COVID-19 hot spot and local public health officials have advised against children going door-to-door this year.

He says his children might take part in a hunt for candy around the house instead.

Trudeau says he understands how frustrating the pandemic is for parents and children but stressed it is important to listen to the guidance of local public health officials.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has said that trick-or-treating can be done safely, but Canadians should follow the advice of local public health officials because the spread of the novel coronavirus is different across the country.

11:55 a.m.

Canada’s chief public health officer says there have been 201,437 cases of COVID-19 in Canada reported as of Monday evening.

Dr. Theresa Tam says there have been 9,778 deaths from the illness.

She says Canadians needs to keep making a collective effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

She says this includes keeping a limited number of contacts, downloading the COVID-19 Alert app and making sure to spread accurate information about the illness on social media.

11:40 a.m.

Small Business Minister Mary Ng says Ottawa is committing $12 million to a fund to help small business owners respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is to be made available through the Canada United Small Business Resilience Fund.

It will help small business owners buy personal protective equipment, renovate their spaces to respond to local public health measures and boost their ability to sell things online.

Ng also encouraged everyone to download the COVID-19 Alert app to help them learn if they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Ng says she took a COVID-19 test and received a negative result after being notified of an exposure through the app.

11:35 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 877 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials are also reporting a jump in hospitalizations of 33, for a total of 565, with 100 people in intensive care, a rise of eight.

The province said today five people died of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours while seven deaths occurred between Oct. 13 and 18.

Quebec has reported a total of 95,216 cases of COVID-19 and 6,055 deaths attributed to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Authorities say one death previously attributed to COVID-19 was unrelated while 90 cases had been incorrectly labelled as positive.

11:05 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 821 new cases of COVID-19 today, and three new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 327 cases are in Toronto, 136 in Peel Region, 79 in Ottawa, and 64 in York Region.

The province says it has a backlog of 24,129 tests, and has conducted 24,049 tests since the last daily report.

In total, 274 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19.

11 a.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer, says the case involves a woman in her 20s who is a rotational worker and who travelled outside of the Atlantic bubble.

There are currently three active cases on the Island.

Since the pandemic began, P.E.I. has seen a total of 64 cases and all have been travel related.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Armenia claims it found Canadian tech on downed Turkish drone – CBC.ca

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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged the international community today to follow Canada’s example by suspending exports of military technology to Turkey — after his defence officials claimed they had found Canadian components on a downed Turkish drone.

Pashinyan made the call a day after Armenian defence officials displayed what they claimed are parts of a Turkish combat drone and its Canadian-made optical and target acquisition systems.

A spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defence said the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone was shot down by Armenian air defence units during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday evening.

Armenian defence officials said the surveillance and attack drone was equipped with a state-of-the-art camera and target acquisition system produced by L3 Harris WESCAM in Burlington, Ont.

The WESCAM CMX-15D system was manufactured in June of this year and installed on the downed Bayraktar TB2 in September, said Shushan Stepanyan, spokesperson for the Armenian Defence Ministry.

Analysis of data from the device — which allows drone operators to designate targets on the ground and guide missiles and bombs to them — showed that it had operated for a total of 31 hours, Stepanyan said.

Fighting in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which is populated by ethnic Armenians, began on Sept. 27. It’s the most significant outburst of violence since a Russian-brokered ceasefire paused hostilities in 1994.

Armenia has repeatedly accused Turkey of supplying Azerbaijan with arms — including drones and F-16 fighter jets — as well as military advisers and jihadist Syrian mercenaries taking part in the fighting.

Claims and counter-claims

Armenian officials also have accused Azerbaijan of using the Turkish drones to not only target military forces but also to conduct strikes against civilian infrastructure across Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia proper.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied these reports and have accused Armenia of shelling civilian areas near the frontline and in the country’s second largest city of Ganja.

Officials at Global Affairs Canada said they are investigating allegations regarding possible the use of Canadian technology in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “will continue to assess the situation.”

While the investigation is ongoing, there will be no resumption of exports, officials said.

“We continue to call on both sides to refrain immediately from using force, to respect the ceasefire and protect civilians,” said a statement by Global Affairs.

Officials at the Turkish and Azerbaijani embassies did not respond to Radio Canada International’s request for comment on the latest report about the downed drone in time for publication.

Turkey says export suspension ‘unjustified’

However, in an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Oct. 6, Turkey’s Ambassador to Canada Kerim Uras would neither confirm nor deny the presence of Turkish drones in Azerbaijan.

“I would make the case that drones, by pinpoint targeting the aggressor, are actually upholding human rights,” Uras told Power & Politics, adding that Canada’s decision to suspend exports to Turkey was “unjustified.”

“We think it’s surprising … it’s hasty, it’s not in line with an allied spirit and it amounts to rewarding the aggressor,” he said.

Kelsey Gallagher is a researcher with the disarmament group Project Ploughshares who has studied Canadian exports of drone technology to Turkey. He said that while it’s not clear where exactly the drone was shot down, he has no doubt that the device presented by the Armenian military was a Canadian-made WESCAM CMX-15D system.

“This is the clearest footage we have of one of them downed anywhere,” Gallagher said. “We’ve seen Turkey export the [Bayaraktar] TB2s to Libya, certainly, in breach of the UN arms embargo, to their allies there. And we’ve seen them begin to start selling them to other countries, so it would make sense that they would send them to Azerbaijan.”

Diverting these drones to Azerbaijan without getting Canada’s permission would be illegal, Gallagher said.

Whenever a Canadian weapons system is exported abroad, it has to get an export permit approved by Global Affairs Canada — and that export permit must specify who the intended recipient is and what that weapon system would be used for, he said.

Gallagher said these WESCAM optics and target acquisition systems have been exported to Turkey in “high volumes” since 2017 but there is no indication that they were exported to Azerbaijan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has suspended the export licence for WESCAM’s exports to Turkey pending the outcome of the investigation into whether these devices were used by Azerbaijan in fighting against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking to reporters on Friday at the conclusion of his European tour — where he discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh war and Turkey’s tensions with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean with EU and NATO allies — Champagne said he was very firm with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“I think in my discussion with the foreign minister of Turkey I was very clear about the legal framework that exists in Canada when it comes to the export control regime, that Canada was party to the Arms Trade Treaty, that human rights are a core component under our legislation and I would abide by the spirit and the letter of the law,” he said.

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Federal government pushes back at online 'internment camp' disinformation targeting Health Canada – CBC.ca

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Canadians will not be forced into COVID-19 internment or containment camps, a spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday — taking aim at a disinformation campaign that has been circulating on social media for weeks.

The claim that the federal government is preparing to forcibly intern Canadians is patently false, the spokesperson said.

The federal government has announced funding for voluntary quarantine sites for some of the country’s homeless and has made plans to expand self-isolation capacity for returning international travellers without suitable places to go, but Canadians will not be compelled to leave their homes for so-called COVID “camps.”

“The answer is no, we’re not building containment or internment camps,” the spokesperson told CBC News.

“Disinformation like this is intended to deceive Canadians and cause fear and confusion. We encourage Canadians to double-check sources before sharing to avoid spreading disinformation.”

Independent Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, a vocal anti-masker who has likened the current pandemic to a bad flu season, has been warning his eastern Ontario constituents that the federal government is preparing to establish these “camps” for COVID patients.

In a recent exchange at Queen’s Park, Hillier pressed the provincial Progressive Conservative government to detail what it knows about Ottawa’s supposed plan to detain people.

“I ask this government if people should prepare for internment camps,” Hillier asked during question period on Oct. 7.

“Your government must be in negotiations and aware of these plans to potentially detain and isolate citizens and residents of our country and our province,” Hillier said in the provincial legislature on Oct. 9.

“Where will these camps be built, how many people will be detained, and for what reason, for what reasons can people be kept in these isolation camps?”

Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, speaks to reporters from Queen’s Park. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

In a subsequent email to his online followers, Hillier said “the expansion of isolation/quarantine camps in Canada is something of concern.”

Clips from Hillier’s speech were circulated on websites like Brighteon, a source that has been banned from platforms like Facebook because it pushes conspiracy theories. A meme was created comparing theoretical quarantine sites to Nazi Germany’s concentration camps during the Second World War.

“Why are FEMA type camps going into every province in Canada,” one site administrator said in posting the video to Brighteon, citing a U.S. agency that responds to disasters. “When this was asked in Parliament recently, the whistleblower was cut off.”

Hillier’s comments about these sites were reported by outlets like Life Site News, an anti-abortion website run by the Campaign for Life coalition.

Kingston, Ont. public health officials have expressed concerns about Hillier’s past comments downplaying the threat of the virus. Hillier was suspended from the Ontario PC caucus in 2019 for allegedly mocking the parents of autistic children.

CBC News has received dozens of emails from people who fear that the federal government might soon force them into camps as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“I heard there were FEMA camps across the province,” one person wrote to CBC — again using the name of a U.S. federal department. “Did you order tear gas and guillotines?”

(The Department of National Defence is looking to buy tear gas for a Saskatchewan-based facility — exclusively for training purposes.)

“They brought up the internment camps in the Ontario legislature … for the first time in my life I am afraid of my government. Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would be asking this question in Canada,” another email said.

“Mr. Prime Minister are you preparing to put us in internment camps?” asked another. “Will these internment camps also be used to persecute & jail Christians and other undesirables?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he had to personally reassure a young woman during a recent virtual meeting that his government will not remove people from their homes to put them in containment facilities. He said he told her that she should turn to public health officials for accurate information on the pandemic.

“I had to explain that as we consume increasing amounts and various sources of information, online and around us, we need to continue to be attentive to source,” Trudeau said.

WATCH: Trudeau is asked about COVID-19 disinformation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urges Canadians to listen to experts as misinformation and disinformation continue to spread online. 2:26

Trudeau said nefarious foreign actors and Canadians with an “extremist agenda” are bent on “weakening people’s confidence in our institutions and our democracy” by pushing bogus theories online without evidence.

“There is a tremendous amount of noise and and harmful misinformation about on the internet … we need to hold together and resist people who would sow chaos within our communities and our democracy,” he said.

NDP MP Charlie Angus also has said he has been “inundated” by messages from people concerned about the possibility of being put in mandatory camps as hundreds of Canadians continue to contract the novel coronavirus.

“I want to say simply that there are no secretive internment camps being built,” Angus said in a letter to his constituents.

“Government is not preparing to take people away or to impose some dark vaccine agenda.”

The genesis of this disinformation campaign was Hajdu’s announcement in September that the federal government would offer funds to the city of Toronto to help it retrofit a facility to house homeless people infected with COVID-19.

The site also could be used by other vulnerable people who do not have ready access to a safe place to self-isolate while they convalesce.

“As we work together to keep COVID-19 under control, this new site will help those for whom it’s simply not possible to limit close contacts and self-isolate effectively at home,” Hajdu said at the announcement alongside John Tory, Toronto’s mayor.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced funding for Toronto to establish a quarantine site for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

No one will be required to go to such an isolation site, Health Canada confirmed Tuesday.

In addition to such voluntary sites for vulnerable people, the federal government has a mandatory quarantine policy in place for most returning international travellers.

Canadians must isolate for 14 days after returning from abroad in a place where they can be largely alone (the government says travellers should not quarantine in a “communal living setting,” in a household with large families or many people, or in a small, shared apartment.)

Like public health agencies in Australia and India, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has set up quarantine sites across the country to accommodate international travellers who don’t have access to safe places to quarantine.

There are now such facilities in nine Canadian cities — most them hotels — with the capacity to lodge up to 1,600 travellers.

“These designated quarantine sites were established to accommodate travellers who did not have suitable isolation/quarantine plans, as well as those being repatriated at the onset of the pandemic,” a Health Canada spokesperson said.

A recent Public Health Agency of Canada request for information (RFI) — indicating that the agency may soon launch a procurement drive to acquire more lodging to house Canadians who need to quarantine after travel — has further fuelled online speculation that Canadians will be required to leave their homes.

The Health Canada spokesperson said that by soliciting other potential providers of quarantine sites, the government is taking a “proactive” approach because there may be a greater need for quarantine space with the “eventual easing of travel restrictions and increases in traveller volumes.”

Rather than manage all possible future quarantine sites, the agency is seeking information from would-be third party bidders who could fulfil such a contract. Some of the possible new locations, such as Fort Erie, Ont. and Niagara, Ont., are near U.S. land border crossings.

“The government of Canada is currently managing federal quarantine sites and the associated service contracts. Alternative options are being explored to remain flexible in adjusting to quarantine needs going forward,” a spokesperson for Health Canada said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said combating false information spread by some elected officials and bogus news sites has made the work of health officials even more difficult.

WATCH: Dr. Theresa Tam is asked about bogus COVID-19 claims

Dr. Theresa Tam answered questions today about the rise of fake news online during the pandemic. 3:12

“Information is spread faster than the virus itself,” she said. “So be media smart as well as science smart, if you like. Yes, everyone is an armchair epidemiologist and everyone should actually be media smart at this point in time.”

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