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Canadians have racked up $5.8M in coronavirus fines, report says – Global News



The number of Canadians who’ve received tickets or been charged as part of COVID-19 enforcement has topped 4,500, per a new report from Policing the Pandemic.

The bill? $5.8 million and counting.

“We were shocked,” said Alex Luscombe, a PhD student in criminology at the University of Toronto and co-creator of Policing the Pandemic, a mapping project launched a month ago to track the ways in which COVID-19 orders are being enforced nationwide.

“It’s a hell of a lot of money to try to extract from people that are under financial distress right now.”

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Since early April, physical-distancing enforcement blitzes have prompted people to go public with stories of receiving tickets for playing basketball, standing in a park or walking their dogs. Academics, criminologists and human rights organizations have sounded the alarm over the impact on people’s rights and freedoms while questioning whether fines actually serve as a deterrent.

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And while Luscombe says some of the early concerns over Ontario- and Quebec-style enforcement being adopted by other provinces hasn’t materialized, the fact that the total fine tally is approaching $6 million is staggering.

“It’s clearly adding up,” Luscombe says. “At a time when people are being laid off, struggling to make rent and buy groceries and need to be doing everything they can to prepare to survive this indefinitely, I don’t see how adding a $900 or $2,000 fine is going to help.”

COVID-19: Lethbridge police say ‘no tickets yet,’ opt for warnings

COVID-19: Lethbridge police say ‘no tickets yet,’ opt for warnings

Quebec leads the way so far, with more than 3,000 fines, per the report. Ontario comes second with 930 reported fines, followed by Nova Scotia with 516 and Alberta with 44.

A government spokesperson for Quebec acknowledged but did not immediately respond to questions about its enforcement strategies, including questions about how it determined the cost of coronavirus-related fines.

Stephen Warner, press secretary for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, said: “Local enforcement personnel are encouraged to exercise discretion and use a graduated approach when enforcing provincial emergency orders.”

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Warner did not respond to a question about the rationale for fining people at a time when many are applying in record numbers for federal support to pay their bills, except to say the decision was based on the recommendation of the chief medical officer of health to declare a provincial emergency.

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When asked by Global News how he reconciles federal support for cash-strapped Canadians with provinces doling out tickets, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not answer.

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Instead, he reiterated the importance of social distancing and staying home while noting that “different jurisdictions have different, more specific rules suitable for their own jurisdictions.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau leaving concerns about COVID-19 fines, arrests up to the provinces

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau leaving concerns about COVID-19 fines, arrests up to the provinces

The fines are “absurdly disproportionate to the alleged offence,” says Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

And if $5.8 million seems high, Bryant says the total figure is likely even higher, but it’s hard to know exactly because not all governments and police departments are disclosing the extent of their enforcement.

The one exception, he says, appears to be Winnipeg, which provides updates online about where in the city officials are warning people and how many people they’re warning every single day.

“The government rightly tells people all the good things it’s doing, but it needs to disclose this information, too,” Bryant says.

“Some will think this is great and should be higher, some like us will think that it’s fundamentally misguided and unconstitutional.”

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In the vacuum left by the lack of information, Bryant says confusion persists.

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Aurora, Ont., in particular, he says, has been continuing to enforce the 15-day window for a person to pay their ticket despite the province saying the typical, non-pandemic deadlines do not currently apply. A spokesperson for the Town of Aurora said “officers are aware of this change in process and it has been re-communicated to them to ensure consistency and compliance.”

That clarity is important, says Bryant.

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Just the fact that cities started ticketing before setting up systems to manage these new types of fines might render them invalid, he says, on the basis that the tickets themselves display out-of-date information about deadlines and procedures for challenging them in court.

“Arguably, all the tickets are invalid, every single one of them.”

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In many cases, Bryant says the CCLA will be pushing for amnesty for some tickets — particularly those given to people experiencing homelessness.

It’s not surprising that laws and regulations enacted in a state of emergency are not entirely well thought out, says Vincent Wong, the William C. Graham research associate for the international human rights program at the University of Toronto’s law school.

Nor, he notes, is it surprising to see policing front and centre; it’s par for the course in an emergency.

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“Our immediate response is ‘Well, we need more laws and more policing,’ so many of these powers are rammed through without any kind of consultation, and they’re couched in overbroad and vague terms only dubiously related to public health objectives,” he says.

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In the early days of the pandemic, Wong notes, some people were quick to position COVID-19 as the great equalizer, rendering everyone — white or black or Indigenous, rich and poor, housed or homeless — on equal footing.

But they’re not. It’s more accurate to paint the pandemic as “the great revealer,” Wong says.

“It reveals so much about the underbelly of how our society functions,” he says. “The care workers, the cleaners, the people that work in agriculture and who are treated to essentially horrible conditions and horrible pay are the people who have to keep working in order for us to survive.”

Mental health during the pandemic

Mental health during the pandemic

Yet, he says, enforcement measures are quickly passed with little discussion about how they might cause harm, as people are told “it’s not the time to do intersectional analysis because we are facing an emergency.”

But failing to do so isn’t without repercussions, says Wong, who works closely with Butterfly, a Toronto-based Asian and migrant sex worker support network.

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One woman has been sleeping in her closed shop to better protect her elderly, immunocompromised parents with whom she typically shares a very small apartment.

3 in 10 Canadians couldn’t pay bills if they lost job due to coronavirus, per Ipsos survey

She’s received five tickets to date for opening her shop (which she hasn’t), Wong says, an example of “how punitive this kind of aggressive law enforcement fine and ticketing regime is for migrant, racialized workers and how these campaigns can actually be counterproductive to the objectives of public health.”

Ultimately, Luscombe says, if ticketing is to persist, government officials and police owe the public an explanation about what their strategy is and what evidence it’s based on.

“People just assume this is going to be effective, and I don’t think that’s good enough,” he says.

“It’s extremely contradictory logic to be trying to help people on the one hand while at the same time causing harm and taking money away from them on the other.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What's happening across Canada on Saturday –



The latest:

As efforts continue to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, where the number of reported cases has surpassed 89,000, a cluster of cases in Quebec’s elementary schools is shining a light on the cost of reopening the hardest hit provinces.

At least 41 staff and students tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened, the province’s education department says.

“It’s normal that by having the daycare, the school being open to the community, there can be cases,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health.

WATCH | Wastewater samples point to where COVID-19 cases are:

Wastewater samples from sewage are being used to determine the existence of COVID-19 in communities and could give advance warning of where a second wave is taking shape. 2:03

“The advantage in those areas is that they’re young children, and we didn’t put any personnel who was high-risk (in the classroom).”

The numbers came from a survey of school boards conducted May 25, which found that 19 students and 22 staff members were infected. Twelve of the province’s 72 school boards did not offer up data.

News of the outbreaks came as Quebec reported another 530 cases of the virus on Friday, pushing its total above the 50,000 mark. The death toll climbed by 61, to 4,363.

In Ontario, meanwhile, where officials announced the case count had surged by 344 for a total of 27,210 with 2,230 deaths, Premier Doug Ford said he was looking at reopening the province region by region.

“The reality on the ground is different in every part of the province,” Ford said.

Two-thirds of the province’s cases are in the Greater Toronto Area, while some other public health agencies say they have few or no current patients.

New Brunswick, which didn’t report any new cases of the virus for the two weeks leading up to May 21, continued to grapple with a new outbreak of eight cases in the Campbellton area. Two of those infected are in intensive care, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

WATCH | N.B.’s chief medical officer of health responds to new cluster of COVID-19 cases:

Dr. Jennifer Russell calls for people to reserve judgment until an investigation into an outbreak in Campbellton linked to a doctor who didn’t self-isolate is complete. 12:15

As of 6:00 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had 89,418 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 47,533 of them considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 7,046.

Russell said over the next four to five days, teams will be doing “a lot” of testing.

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It’s another blow to the tourism industry, which is already struggling because of COVID-19 cancellations, closures, and travel bans. 1:58

Russell urged people to be patient and understanding as public health officials work to trace contacts and complete tests. The Campbellton region has been pushed back a level in terms of reopening, which has meant some businesses that were getting ready to open their doors will now wait at least another week.

Statistics Canada, meanwhile, has announced that gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 8.2 per cent in the first three months of 2020 — the worst quarterly showing since 2009 — even though efforts to contain the novel coronavirus by shuttering businesses and schools didn’t begin in earnest until March.

Many of those businesses are now reopening in a bid to re-employ some of the three million people who lost their jobs, putting workers and clients in close proximity and lending new urgency to the testing and tracing process.

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories 

British Columbia this week has had the lowest number of deaths and new cases since a public health emergency was declared on March 18.  In the past seven days, there has been a total of 56 new cases, including four announced on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta has ordered 20 million non-medical masks and plans to distribute them to residents, offering up to four masks per person at no cost. McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and A&W restaurants have partnered with the province to distribute the masks at drive-thrus. The province reported 24 new cases of coronavirus Friday, but no new deaths. There are 616 active cases in province, with 55 people in hospital, four of them in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported two more coronavirus cases on Friday, one in the south and one in the Saskatoon area. The province has 61 active cases. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

WATCH | An infectious disease specialist answers questions about COVID-19, including whether someone who has recovered can stop physical distancing:

An infectious disease specialist answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether someone who has recovered from COVID-19 can stop physical distancing. 2:46

Manitoba reported no new cases on Friday after confirming that two new cases on Thursday were related to out-of-province travel. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s considering a regional phased approach to reopening the province, an approach he had previously resisted. Ford said that the province’s expanded testing guidelines, released Friday morning, will help public health officials better understand trends and hot spots. The new strategy will focus on communities with relatively high numbers of cases and certain high-risk workplaces while also boosting Ontario’s contact-tracing work. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

WATCH | Lack of data hampers Ontario’s fight against COVID-19:

Issues continue to surround Ontario’s failure to gather and share data about COVID-19, which many say is key to controlling outbreaks. 1:44

Quebec reached a grim milestone Friday, surpassing 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly 60 per cent of all confirmed cases in Canada. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs is hoping any reopening of the border with Maine will be delayed. Higgs raised his concerns on a federal call Thursday night, where he and other premiers learned the border might be reopened soon for people in communities next to them. Higgs said the reopening for border friends and families could come in the next few weeks or even days. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported no new cases and one new recovery on Friday, bringing its case total to 1,055, with 978 considered resolved. It’s the first day with no new cases since March.The province has reported 59 deaths to date, with most linked back to the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

In Prince Edward Island, Health Minister James Aylward said more than 1,100 surgeries have been delayed because of COVID-19. The surgeries, which included almost 500 eye surgeries, were all postponed during the 10-week period in which elective surgeries were put on hold. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which again reported no new cases on Friday.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what happens when you buy or sell a house. Andrew Chang walks through what’s changed in the real estate game. 1:48

Newfoundland and Labrador will allow people to expand their household bubbles, officials said Friday. The government first allowed for bubbles of two households on April 30. Now households can expand their bubbles by up to six more people. New members of a bubble do not have to be from the same household, but cannot be changed once decided. The province, which announced a new COVID-19 case related to travel on Thursday, had no new cases on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yukon health officials say the territory is on track to allow people in July to travel freely between the territory and neighbouring B.C. That means anybody arriving in Yukon from B.C. would no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

WATCH | Italians nervous as regional borders reopen:

Many Italians are concerned about the potential for more COVID-19 spread as the country reopens its borders to free travel and people start returning to workplaces. 1:58

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COVID-19 border closures worry Americans who come to Canada to buy insulin –



When Travis Paulson drove from his home in northern Minnesota to the Canadian border last month, he thought he’d have little trouble crossing over to buy his insulin.

Paulson, a Type 1 diabetic, has made the trip many times for himself and others as the price of the lifesaving drug has skyrocketed in the United States over the last decade. A vial in Canada costs roughly $25 US, a fraction of the $350 to $400 he would be charged in his home country.

Paulson called Canada Border Services ahead of time to see if he’d still be able to come into Canada. Travel between the two countries has been restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Paulson said he was told he could still make the trip if he only went to the pharmacy and came back the same day.

But when he arrived at the border near Fort Frances, Ont., he said he was told there had been a policy change that very morning — and he couldn’t come into Canada because his trip was not deemed essential.

“It’s devastating because your life depends on it. You’re literally being denied the air that you need to breathe,” said Paulson, the director of the diabetes organization Northern Minnesota Advocacy Group.

“Every few hours you need it, every day. And that you might not be able to get it, I would say it’s a little terrifying.”

When coming to Canada, Paulson often buys insulin for himself and for others. (Submitted by Travis Paulson)

Many Americans rely on going up north to buy insulin, where it is roughly a tenth of the price. Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, a federal agency that establishes the maximum price that can be charged for patented drugs, keeps the prices affordable.

But the COVID-19 border restrictions have meant that option is no longer available.

While some pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are offering programs for cheaper insulin during the pandemic, advocates say still not enough is being done to make it affordable.

A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said Americans may be allowed to enter the country to purchase medications, but the agency offers little clarity on who will be allowed in and when.

“Entry to Canada is decided on a case-by-case basis and based on the information made available to the border services officer at the time of entry,” spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said in an email.

Until at least June 21, there is a temporary restriction on all non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. That could be further prolonged if deemed necessary, Gadbois-St-Cyr said.

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont., in March. The border closure between the two countries has been extended until at least June 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Quinn Nystrom, a long-time diabetes and affordable health-care advocate in Minnesota, said she’s received several calls since the border closures began, including one from a panicked mother.

“She said her nine-year-old son was on his last insulin pen,” Nystrom said, adding that the woman’s husband had been planning a trip to Canada in the spring to buy more.

“They were just completely distraught over it.”

Quinn Nystrom holds the insulin she bought on her trip to Canada in the spring of 2019. (Submitted by Quinn Nystrom)

Nystrom gained international attention last year for organizing and taking part in several Caravans to Canada — trips to show just how easy and affordable it is to buy insulin outside of the U.S.

A Type 1 diabetic herself, Nystrom went to her congressman, Pete Stauber, last spring, begging him to protect people with pre-existing conditions and vote to help lower the cost of insulin.

“He promised me he would do that. And after leaving his office and following up with him over the next couple of months, he unfortunately voted against those things,” she said.

“It was so unfortunate to me that I decided to file and run against him.”

On Sunday, Nystrom won the Democratic nomination in Minnesota’s 8th congressional district and will be up against Stauber on the ballot in November.

The small group drove five hours from Minnesota to Ontario to buy insulin at one-tenth the cost in the spring of 2019. Travis Paulson and Quinn Nystrom are on the left, and Nicole Smith-Holt and Lija Greensied are on the right. (Rachel Nystrom)

Access to affordable insulin can be a matter of life and death for Americans.

Nicole Smith-Holt’s son died in June 2017 at just 26 years old, less than a month after he aged off of his parents’ insurance plan. He couldn’t afford the cost at a pharmacy in Minnesota and chose instead to ration his insulin.

Smith-Holt said the border closures to Canada and Mexico put up “one more barrier” for struggling Americans, especially as many of them have lost their jobs and therefore their insurance during the pandemic.

“People are going to start rationing and people are going to suffer some very long-term health effects or possibly death,” she said.

“A Type 1 diabetic really should not be lowering their dosage or missing doses. It proved fatal for Alec and countless other people.”

But Alec Smith’s family, friends and supporters worked to make sure his death wasn’t in vain.

Nicole Smith-Holt with her son, Alec Smith, who died in 2017 from diabetes complications after rationing his insulin when he couldn’t afford it. (Submitted by Nicole Smith-Holt)

On July 1, the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will come into effect in Minnesota. It will allow people who cannot afford their insulin to access a 30-day supply at their pharmacy for just $35. 

The new law also streamlines the process to access insulin in the long-term and manufacturers can be fined up to $3.6 million for not participating in the program.

“It means that we’re going to have the ability to save lives,” Smith-Holt said. 

“People right now, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, are really struggling. It’s going to be a lifeline for people.”

Pharmaceutical companies making pandemic programs

Since the pandemic started, some pharmaceutical companies in the United States have created programs to help struggling diabetics. 

Eli Lilly, the U.S. manufacturer of fast-acting insulin Humalog, created a program in April to help those without insurance access a month’s supply for $35.

But these programs are difficult to apply for, advocates say, and often many people don’t meet the criteria to be eligible.

It’s also just a temporary solution, Nystrom said, adding that the issue of insulin affordability won’t go away when the pandemic does.

Several American groups made international headlines in 2019 for the Caravan to Canada, and launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #Insulin4all. (Submitted by Lija Greenseid)

With few options due to border restrictions, some Americans, like Paulson, are turning to online Canadian pharmacies. 

Some Canadian pharmacies will ship insulin to the U.S., but the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities in Ottawa said it’s important to verify the legitimacy of an outlet if ordering online by checking with the province’s regulating body

One of the most well-known pharmacies to Americans is Mark’s Marine Pharmacy in Vancouver, just 40 kilometres from the U.S. border. It ships insulin to people across the U.S., but requires a doctor’s prescription to do so — a requirement in America.

People also turn to GoFundMe, social media and “underground networks.”

Lija Greenseid stands at a pharmacy in Fort Frances, Ont., last spring holding insulin for her teenage daughter. Greenseid organized the Caravan to Canada on the first weekend in May 2019 to buy cheaper insulin. (Submitted by Lija Greenseid)

Lija Greenseid, an insulin advocate in St. Paul, Minn., and mother of a 14-year-old daughter who has Type 1 diabetes, said people in local diabetes Facebook groups will share extra insulin if they switch brands and even give up unused vials if someone has died.

“That’s another strange consequence of our health-care system,” said Greenseid, who organized a Caravan to Canada last spring. 

While some insurance companies have now capped their deductibles at $25 a month, the list price for insulin in the U.S. hasn’t been cut.

‘The ultimate goal is to be like Canada’

Greenseid had always been comforted by the knowledge that Canada was a short drive away. It’s an option no longer there.

“What is reassuring is knowing that there is an insulin underground network of people who get insulin and give it to people who need it. That’s always there.” Greenseid said.

Nystrom said Americans don’t want to have to rely on outside countries to get affordable medications — and she hopes to make that possible if elected in November.

“The ultimate goal is to be like Canada, where somebody can just go to a pharmacy and pick up insulin for $30 US. That’s our goal,” she said.

“So people don’t have to rely on a pharmaceutical company deciding to be charitable.”


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Students upset as some Canadian universities hike tuition fees – CTV News



Some Canadian universities are raising tuition fees for the new school year much to the consternation of students, who argue their costs should be going down, not up in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While schools argue they need an infusion of cash to deal in part with higher costs of remote teaching and learning, students say they already face challenges, such as difficulty in finding summer employment.

“Students are struggling more than ever with skyrocketing tuition increases they have faced over the years,” Sofia Descalzi, national chairwoman the Canadian Federation of Students said on Friday. “It really is disappointing to see that in a time of crisis, universities and colleges are not ensuring affordability and accessibility of their education and reducing tuition fees, but they are going the opposite way.”

For example, the University of Manitoba announced last week it would be raising tuition by an average of 3.75 per cent. Most undergrads will be paying about $250 more a year for a full course load but others will pay $640 more.

The school said provincial grants have been falling while remote teaching and learning in light of the pandemic is adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to its costs. The university said it was setting aside another $600,000 in student aid.

“We know that cost is a barrier to many, even in the best of times,” said Janice Ristock, a vice-president.

Even in Ontario, where tuition was cut and then frozen for two years last year, the University of Guelph is among schools that have raised tuition for international students, who generally pay significantly more than their Canadian counterparts.

Horeen Hassan, with the Central Student Association at the university, said students were shocked at the increases, which the school estimates at between three and 15 per cent. International students already pay on average three times more than domestic students, she said, and COVID has wrecked their employment plans, too.

“Many international students are heartbroken that an institution they love so much is putting such a financial burden on them,” Hassan said in a release.

The university said the increase that took effect this spring was similar to hikes adopted by peer institutions although its overall rates were lower than theirs. At the same time, it said it would bolster supports available to students in need.

“We understand that the increases may represent a hardship for some continuing and returning international students, particularly amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the University of Guleph said.

Similarly, the University of Toronto said tuition for international undergrads has gone up for the summer session by an average of 5.4 per cent — 4.2 per cent for graduates — and will remain at that level in the fall. The school said it has also been providing emergency relief funding for those impacted by COVID.

Students, who have long complained about the cost of post-secondary education, said the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Even with some emergency financial help from the federal government, many will have difficulty getting through the summer let alone being able to deal with more expensive education in the fall, Descalzi said.

A recent survey for the federation and the Canadian Association of University Teachers found a significant number of students were rethinking their plans. Among the reasons were lost income, limited support, and concerns about remote learning. In all, almost one-third of those asked said they might not go to school given the situation.

Descalzi said universities should resort to belt-tightening at the administration and executive levels or dip into reserves before placing a higher financial burden on those furthering their education.

“We are in times of crisis,” she said. “They should not be raising fees.”

Dalhousie University, which is raising tuition three per cent, said it was taking steps to cut costs and limit non-essential spending. The school noted that 41 per cent of its operating money comes directly from students and increases were necessary to maintain academic standards.

“This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and is even more apparent today,” spokeswoman Janet Bryson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 29, 2020

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