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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – Jimmys Post

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The latest:

  • More than 203,000 have died globally, Johns Hopkins University researchers say, as cases of COVID-19 approach three million.
  • Canada’s cases top 45,000.  
  • Health Canada cautions against use of malaria drugs to treat COVID-19.
  • Canada’s top doctor warns against relying on herd immunity to reopen economy.
  • Trudeau says reopening economy hinges on sectors having enough personal protective equipment. 
  • INTERACTIVE | See the latest data on coronavirus cases in Canada.
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca

Global deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 203,000 and reported cases worldwide are approaching three million, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada rose Saturday to 45,354, and the number of deaths hit 2,555 deaths, not including two deaths abroad, according to a CBC News tally. 

Despite the ongoing coronavirus carnage, provinces such as New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are moving ahead with plans to cautiously begin reopening their locked-down economies.

Ontario and Quebec are both expected to unveil their initial plans this week.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who talked to the premiers on Friday about their recovery strategies, stressed Saturday that none of them hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 more than once.

He said it is too soon to talk about so called “immunity passports” for Canadians who’ve been infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, because the science is still unclear about whether those who have recovered from the illness are protected from catching the virus again.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the federal government has set up an immunity task force that will investigate how people’s immune systems are responding to COVID-19.

“The idea of … generating natural immunity is actually not something that should be undertaken,” Tam said Saturday, urging people to be “extremely cautious” about the concept.

WATCH | Tam says it’s ‘premature’ to consider immunity passports:

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said that without a clear understanding of immunity tests for COVID-19, it’s too early to think about issuing passes for those who might be protected. 0:53

Trudeau said the focus remains on preventing the spread of the virus through physical distancing and personal protective equipment.

He is not scheduled to speak today.

In Toronto Saturday, dozens of protesters rallied on the grounds of the Ontario legislature, defying physical distancing rules and demanding an immediate end to the COVID-19 lockdown — some even calling the pandemic a hoax.

Ontario protesters are selfish ‘yahoos,’ Ford says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was quick with a strong rebuke, calling the demonstrators a “reckless” and “selfish” bunch of “yahoos,” who were breaking the law and putting others, including health-care workers, in jeopardy.

Ford said Friday that his government will offer some details early next week about its reopening plans.

A protester demands the removal of the provincial COVID-19 restrictions outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Meanwhile, Health Canada cautioned on Saturday against the use of malaria drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, to prevent or treat COVID-19.

The Canadian health department said the two drugs may cause serious side effects, including serious heart rhythm problems. It advised use of the two drugs only if prescribed by a doctor.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also cautioned against the use of malaria drugs in COVID-19 patients on Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump had repeatedly promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

At his regular news conference at Rideau Cottage on Saturday, Trudeau said any plans to reopen the economy will be based on science, data and expert advice.

Trudeau said Canada shouldn’t be reopening any sector without a plan to protect workers, which hinges on adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). He says planeloads of PPE are expected in the coming weeks, and domestic production will be on line soon.

WATCH | Trudeau details joint guidelines to reopen economy:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed how Canada’s provinces are working on a jointly-drafted set of guidelines to establish principles for reopening the country’s economy. 0:42

In addition to multiphase plans unveiled by New Brunswick and Saskatchewan this week, the federal government has circulated a set of draft guidelines that could form the basis of the joint document. The federal guidelines were prepared largely by the Public Health Agency of Canada and include feedback from provincial medical officers.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called for a national plan, expressing concern about a “possible patchwork approach across the country.”

$62.5M for fish and seafood sector

Also Saturday, Trudeau announced $62.5 million to support fish and seafood processors.

The prime minister said the money will help processors buy PPEs, adapt to new health protocols and support physical distancing.

WATCH | Trudeau says new funds will help industry adapt to COVID-19 challenges:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that new funds for Canada’s fish and seafood processors will help them adapt to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 0:58

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the United States and around the world.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia reported two new deaths on Saturday, including the province’s first death related to COVID-19 in a First Nations community. B.C. also reported 95 new cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said part of the reason for the dramatic spike in cases is additional testing related to outbreaks at a federal prison and a poultry processing plant. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney warned the government cannot save every business, with the province likely to hit a deficit of around $20 billion. The province reported 216 new cases on Saturday, for a total of 4,233. The death toll increased by one to 73. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta. 

Saskatchewan is reporting that seven of its eight new COVID-19 cases are in the province’s far north. In total, there were 349 cases in Saskatchewan on Saturday, and four people have died. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

WATCH | See how Saskatchewan plans to handle a phased reopening:

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe unveiled the province’s plan to start easing COVID-19 restrictions starting in May. 2:03

Manitoba is set to ramp up surgeries after a month of postponements due to COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to be low enough that health officials say they can pivot some of the system’s resources back toward surgeries. The province reported four new cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 267. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba. 

Ontario’s premier says front-line workers, including people working at shelters and long-term care homes, will receive a raise of $4 per hour for the next four months as they help in the fight against COVID-19. Ford says eligible workers will also receive an extra payment of $250 per month if they work more than 100 hours in a month. The provincial government says 350,000 workers will be eligible for the pay premium. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Demonstrators gather during a protest to end the shutdown due to COVID-19 at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Saturday. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda has changed his guidance on masks, now recommending people wear them if they anticipate being in a situation where distancing isn’t possible. He said people should closely follow guidelines the government released yesterday for masks, including washing hands before putting one on and removing them. Arruda said people could make their own masks, as long as they are clean and have at least two layers of fabric. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

A paramedic opens the doors of an ambulance outside Notre-Dame-des-Anges seniors residence in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick has gone a week without any new cases of COVID-19. Only four people remain hospitalized, with none in intensive care. The province has already begun relaxing its lockdown, with outings allowed at golf courses, parks and beaches, as long as physical distancing remains in place. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

The driving range at Carman Creek Golf Course in Fredericton was busy on Saturday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Nova Scotia is reporting six more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total to 22. Five deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality, while a man in his 80s with underlying medical conditions died in the Western Zone of the province. He was not a resident of a long-term care home. The province is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 865 confirmed cases. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island is working on a plan to begin easing COVID-19 restrictions in May, but gatherings with people outside of one’s household still are not permitted for now, said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer. More details on P.E.I.’s plan to ease restrictions are expected in the coming week, said Premier Dennis King. P.E.I. has not reported a new case of COVID-19 since April 15. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced one new case on Saturday, after going a full week without any new COVID-19 cases. Five people are in hospital, including two people in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

The Northwest Territories government is putting $5.1 million toward child-care support for health-care workers, front-line staff and essential workers responding to COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

Hawaii extended its stay-at-home order until the end of May, and California police closed a park because it got too crowded as U.S. states took divergent paths on when to reopen their economies and communities.

Even as aides develop plans to shift President Trump’s public emphasis from the virus to addressing the economic crisis it has caused, Dr. Anthony Fauci at the U.S. National Institutes of Health warned against moving too quickly.

“You hear a lot about the need and the desire to get back to normal. That’s understandable,” he said. “If we don’t get control of it, we will never get back to normal. I know we will, but we’ve got to do it correctly.”

Hawaii Gov. David Ige extended both the stay-at-home order and a mandatory quarantine for visitors through May 31. He warned of undoing progress if public places open up too early.

“This was not an easy decision. I know this has been difficult for everyone. Businesses need to reopen. People want to end this self-isolation, and we want to return to normal,” he said in a statement.

A spring heat wave drove an uptick of people to California beaches, golf courses and trails. Police in Pacific Grove, about 135 kilometres south of San Francisco, said they had to close the picturesque Lovers Point Park and Beach because of a lack of physical distancing.

Officers on horseback patrolled closed Los Angeles beaches, trails and playgrounds to enforce distancing rules.

Georgia and Oklahoma allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen, while Alaska cleared the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. Some Alaska municipalities chose to keep stricter rules.

Russ Anderson, who owns four tattoo studios in south Georgia, said he “couldn’t get up out of my chair quick enough” when restrictions were lifted. His main shop served 50 or 60 customers Friday when it reopened, with customers and tattoo artists wearing masks, he said.

But Shawn Gingrich, CEO and founder of Lion’s Den Fitness, decided his Atlanta gym would remain closed for now.

“We’ve sacrificed so much already,” he said. “I feel like if we do this too soon, we’ll see a spike in cases, and we’re back to square one.”

People enjoy the beach amid the coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Saturday. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

In Texas, Allison Scott said most customers of her women’s clothing store in a Dallas shopping mall seem to feel more comfortable having their purchases shipped.

“I want to be open more than anything, but I don’t think that society is ready to come out either,” she said.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, reported cases in the U.S. will soon surpass 940,000 and the death toll will hit 54,000.

A survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans overwhelmingly support stay-at-home measures and other efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

Australia‘s government launched a controversial coronavirus tracing app on Sunday and promised to legislate privacy protections around it as authorities try to get the country and the economy back onto more normal footing.

The app, which is based on Singapore’s TraceTogether software, uses Bluetooth signals to log when people have been 
close to one another. It has been criticized by civil liberties groups as an invasion of privacy.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work Monday, two weeks after he was discharged from a London hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.

Johnson, 55, spent a week at St Thomas’ Hospital, including three nights in intensive care, where he was given oxygen and watched around the clock by medical staff.

After he was released April 12, he recorded a video message thanking staff at the hospital for saving his life.

Johnson has not been seen in public since then, as he recovered at the prime minister’s country retreat outside London.

A man walks past graffiti in London on Saturday. (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, now has no remaining cases in its hospitals, a health official told reporters on Sunday.

The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan and first emerged in late December before spreading quickly worldwide. 

The city had reported 46,452 cases, 56 per cent of the national total. It saw 3,869 fatalities, or 84 per cent of China’s total.

The focus in China has since shifted to the northeast border province of Heilongjiang, which has seen large numbers of imported COVID-19 cases entering from Russia.

A resident talks with other people outside a makeshift barricade, which was built to control entry and exit to a residential compound on Saturday in Wuhan, China. (Getty Images)

Spain has reported its lowest daily death count for coronavirus infections in five weeks as its strict lockdown restrictions begin to pay dividends.

Spanish health authorities said Sunday that 288 people died from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 23,190 since the start of the outbreak. It is the first time the daily death toll has fallen below 300 fatalities since March 20.

Shrieks of joy rang out in the country’s streets Sunday as children were allowed to leave their homes for the first time in six weeks.

A woman and three children pose for a photo in Valencia, Spain, on Sunday. (Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images)

Animals at two mink farms in the Netherlands have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture said Sunday that some staff at the two farms had earlier displayed symptoms of the disease “so it is assumed that these are human-to-animal infections.”

As a precaution, authorities are closing roads within 400 metres of the affected farms in North Brabant, which is the Dutch region the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

The minks are not the first animals infected with the virus. The findings come after positive tests in two pet cats in New York state and in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adding to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide.

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Canada now has more than 95,000 coronavirus cases — more than 34K are active – Globalnews.ca

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More than 720 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Canada on Saturday — all but 41 of them from Ontario and Quebec.

As Canada surged past 95,000 cases of COVID-19, the two most populous provinces continued to account for the vast majority of new cases and deaths reported daily.

Nearly 53,000 people around the country are considered recovered.


READ MORE:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Ontario saw 455 new cases — but only 387 of them were new since Friday — while Quebec reported 226 new infections. Quebec has more than 52,000 cases so far, while Ontario has seen more than 30,000.

Quebec has seen nearly 5,000 deaths so far, accounting for almost 64 per cent of the national death toll. Ontario has the second highest number of deaths, at just over 2,400.

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2:03
Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines


Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines

Out of 70 new deaths reported on Saturday, Ontario and Quebec both reported 35 fatalities each. Quebec saw hospitalizations go down, and only 22 of the 35 deaths were classified as new.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Alberta recorded 40 new cases and no new deaths, bringing its figures to more than 7,100 cases and 146 deaths. This was a sharp uptick from a day earlier, when the province reported just seven new cases. More than 6,600 people are deemed recovered.


READ MORE:
Pool testing for COVID-19 could help Canada reopen. Here’s what it is

Saskatchewan reported one new case, for a total of 650 cases. Eleven people have died so far, and more than 610 are considered recovered.

No new cases

For the second day in a row, all of the Atlantic provinces saw no new cases or deaths on Saturday. Nova Scotia has the most number of cases — 1,058, including 61 deaths. Most of New Brunswick’s 136 cases have recovered as it battles an outbreak in the Campbellton region — one person in the province has died.

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2:00
Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities


Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities

Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases, and is set to allow travel within the province starting June 8 (Monday). Prince Edward Island has seen no new infections since all 27 of its cases have recovered.

The Northwest Territories and the Yukon remain COVID-19 free, with all their cases having recovered weeks ago. Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that hasn’t seen a case yet.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus outbreak: Canada could see up to 9,400 total deaths by June 15, new modelling shows

Manitoba also reported no new cases on Saturday, leaving it with nine active cases and more than 280 recoveries. Seven people have died in the province so far.

British Columbia had no new figures to report on Saturday. The province has seen more than 2,600 cases so far and 167 deaths.

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The novel coronavirus has resulted in more than 6.8 million cases around the world and more than 398,000 deaths, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

— With files by The Canadian Press

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

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Anti-black racism protests, vigils planned across Canada – CBC.ca

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Canadians continued to rally and demonstrate against anti-black racism and police brutality on Saturday, a day after thousands attended protests and vigils across the country.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minn. A police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Many are calling for police reform and an end to systemic racism.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Friday urged demonstrators to “take care of themselves” and follow public health guidelines such as physical distancing as much as possible and using hand sanitizers.

Read on to see what’s happening around Canada.

Toronto

Thousands demonstrated in two separate protests in Toronto against anti-black racism. The first protest began at Nathan Phillips Square, while the second began at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Twanna Lewis, a Toronto resident at Trinity Bellwoods Park, said she was protesting for the first time on Saturday because she felt the need to take a stand for people who are voiceless. She has an 18-year-old black son, cousins, uncles and a brother.

“It’s 2020 and we need to be doing better,” Lewis told CBC Toronto. “It’s a shame that we have to be having this conversation in this day and age, when we think that we have gone so far.”

WATCH | Hand sanitizer, masks handed out at Toronto protest:

CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp reports from inside a peaceful protest march Saturday where hand sanitizer and masks were being handed out 3:09

At Nathan Phillips Square, demonstrators chanted, held placards and posters, and listened to speakers. Then the protesters marched to the U.S. consulate and onward to Yonge-Dundas Square.

“I can’t breathe,” the crowd chanted at one point at Nathan Phillips Square, in a reference to some of Floyd’s last words before his death on May 25.

People held up signs that read “No Justice No Peace” and “Yes it’s here too Ford.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford had said Canada doesn’t have the “systemic, deep roots” of racism as the U.S.

WATCH | Protesters, police speak at Toronto demonstration:

Action for injustice group behind march through downtown: CBC’s Natalie Nanowski reports from the scene at Nathan Phillips Square 4:01

St. John’s 

Thousands of people kneeled on the lawn of Confederation Building in St. John’s during a rally in support of the Black Lives Matter.

The rally, organized by newly established Black Lives Matter NL, featured speeches and performances from members of the area’s black community sharing their own stories of racism.

Crowds were able to physically distance during the rally, spreading themselves across the lawn of Confederation Building. There was a small police presence, but no incidents were reported.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter rally at the Confederation Building in St. John’s on Saturday. (Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada)

Zainab Jerrett, who came to Newfoundland in the 1990s and is a professor at Memorial University, was one of the speakers on stage and was overwhelmed by the public support.

“That shows that this problem is effecting everybody, and everyone wants to chip in to bring a solution,” Jerrett said. “I almost got emotional because there’s so many people … young people of all cultures in Newfoundland.”

“This is an awakening. The people are interested in listening to the black community” she added. “[But] we are all the same. The more we come together as a human race, the better.”

Calgary

A vigil is scheduled for 4 p.m. MT outside Calgary’s Olympic Plaza in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“We must all come together to speak against murders by police officers and the institutions defending them,” organizers said in a Facebook post.

They also encourage attendees to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines like wearing masks and physical distancing.

Thousands attended a similar demonstration in Calgary on Wednesday.

Fort McMurray, Alta.

Elsewhere in Alberta, a Black Lives Matter rally was held at Fort McMurray City Hall.

The rally comes as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says Wood Buffalo RCMP officers beat and arrested him in a Fort McMurray parking lot earlier this year. 

People gather outside city hall for a Black Lives Matter Rally in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Saturday. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

London, Ont.

In London, Ont., hundreds gathered at Victoria Park for an anti-racism rally.

Mayor Ed Holder said he supports the purpose behind the rally but declined to attend in person to comply with physical distancing rules recommended by health authorities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Guelph, Ont.

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph, Ont., as thousands of demonstrators descended upon city hall. Organizer took COVID-19 precautions after health officials urged protesters to adhere to public health protocols.

A similar demonstration in Kitchener on Wednesday saw thousands of people walk through the downtown core holding signs. 

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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‘They’re targeting us’: Why some advocates want to defund Canadian police – Global News

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In recent days, protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality have erupted across the U.S. and Canada in response to the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

Now, some advocates are calling for police forces to be defunded and taxpayer money to be redirected — a conversation that is also happening in Canada, stemming from the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman who fell from her Toronto apartment balcony after police entered the unit.

Police claim they were responding to a reported assault, but the family has questioned the role of the police in her death. The Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s police watchdog, is currently investigating.

READ MORE: Advocates call plan to boost Black history B.C. school curriculum ‘long overdue’

Defunding the police means redirecting the budget for Canada’s police forces to other services that focus on social supports, mental health and even spaces like transit, said Sandy Hudson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a law student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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“There’s no reason why we can’t start a service that is another emergency response service where people can call a number and have someone who is trained in de-escalation,” Hudson said.

Now, with more incidents of police brutality in the news, calls for defunding the police both in the U.S. and Canada are louder than ever.

The history of police in Canada

This is hardly the first time defunding the police has been talked about in Canada, experts told Global News.

Examining the way police uphold and participate in anti-Black racism and violence towards Black and Indigenous communities in Canada has been a discussion for decades, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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“Part of it is discrimination within policing — both implicit and explicit — but then the other parts of it are how the police operate and what we’re asking police to do,” he said.






0:54
Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence


Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence

The origins of policing in the southern United States were based on preserving the slavery system, as Time magazine reports, and police were primarily tasked with being “slave patrols” to prevent Black slaves from escaping. After the Civil War ended, these patrols still existed to uphold segregation and discrimination towards Black people.

Police in Canada were historically also tasked with “clearing the land” to steal the property of Indigenous Peoples, said Hudson.

“Those two focuses of the police, Indigenous and Black people, controlling us … there’s a through line to today and how the police interact with our communities,” she said.

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READ MORE: The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people. Can the relationship be reset?

Policing has been used to enforce the dominant narrative in Canada, which is colonization, said Alicia Boatswain-Kyte, a social work professor at McGill University whose research examines systemic oppression.

“These institutions are a product of (colonialism); they stem from that,” she said. “Right now we’re seeing what it looks like at this stage … and it gets manifested in the form of police brutality.”

Mental health, homelessness and other social issues

Experts are concerned that police in Canada are tasked with issues related to poverty, mental health and homelessness, and they are “ill-equipped and an inappropriate resource to be addressing those issues,” Owusu-Bempah said.

A 2018 report on racial profiling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fating shooting by Toronto police. The report was the result of an inquiry launched after Andrew Loku, a father of five who was experiencing mental health issues, died after being shot by police.

A coroner’s inquest ruled that Loku’s death was the result of a homicide and recommended that police are better trained if they are to deal with mental health calls.

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“The violence we see inflicted by the police are often happening with people who are having a mental health crisis,” said Hudson.

Shifting the money to fund organizations that understand the nuances of mental health issues and the challenges faced by racialized communities would be a better use of taxpayers’ money, she said.






4:29
How racism affects Black mental health


How racism affects Black mental health

Out of the nearly one million calls the force responds to, Toronto police respond to about 30,000 mental health calls every year, spokeswoman Meaghan Gray told the Canadian Press.

The force’s mobile crisis intervention teams ⁠— which include a trained officer and a mental health nurse ⁠— attend only 6,000 of those calls each year because they do not go to calls where a weapon may be involved.

Annual training for the force includes courses on communication and deescalation techniques, said Gray.

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“The Toronto Police Service believes that mental health is a complex issue that requires the involvement of multiple entities, including but not limited to community support, public health, and all levels of government, to render any meaningful change,” she said.

READ MORE: Marches in Toronto, Ottawa to honour Black lives lost at hands of police officers

It would be better if a mental health nurse or some other trained expert was always present, Boatswain-Kyte said.

“Are they (police) really the ones that are best suited?” she said.

“Social workers, for instance, go to school to understand how to form relationships, to understand how people are excluded and what factors contribute to their exclusion.”

READ MORE: George Floyd death draws scruitiny on police use of force. What’s Canada’s protocol?

By making police the body available to provide help in these situations, Boatswain-Kyte said, it sends a message that people with those health issues aren’t welcome in our society.

“Regardless of the amount of training … the implicit bias as a result of what (police) have been socialized to believe and understand about the ‘dangers’ of Black and brown bodies is going to influence them at the time when they have to make a decision.”

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Boatswain-Kyte points to a study published in May from Columbia University that found there is “no evidence that enhanced police training focused on mental health crises” can reduce fatal shootings towards those having a mental health crisis, or racialized people in general.

By the numbers

In Toronto, the largest portion of a resident’s property tax bill — around $700 out of an average bill of $3,020 — goes to the Toronto Police Service. The lowest portion of property taxes goes to children’s services, Toronto employment and social services and economic development and culture.

The situation is similar elsewhere in the country, as the Vancouver police budget has grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, representing about one-fifth of the city’s $1.6-billion 2020 operating budget.






2:34
Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada


Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada

A 2014 report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that policing budgets in Canada had doubled compared to the GDP since 2004, even though the public calls to police have “remained stable.”

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“Police associations have been happy to stoke public fears about safety, but the correlation between numbers of officers, crime rates and response times has long been shown to be spurious,” the report said, authored by Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University and Royal Military College.

Police work that is essentially unrelated to policing could be done by other groups, Leuprecht explains.

Moving forward

Owusu-Bempah is calling on city mayors like Toronto Mayor John Tory to review which roles and functions we want the police to provide and which should be provided by other agencies.

“Then we need a lot of (the) funding currently spent on police … given to other organizations” that are better equipped to help with issues like homelessness and mental illness, he said.

Given the recent incidents of anti-Black racism and brutality perpetuated by police, Hudson says defunding the police would also give agency and safety to Black communities.

READ MORE: George Floyd’s death still a homicide despite evidence of medical issues: experts

“How could the body that is ostensibly meant to provide safety for our communities … be one of the the the the reasons we keep getting hurt?” Hudson said.

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“Most people don’t have to interact with police at all … but for our communities, they’re targeting us.

“We just want to live like everybody else.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

Olivia.Bowden@globalnews.ca

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

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