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COVID-19 in Canada: Two years since first case – CTV News

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After two long years of the COVID-19 pandemic, an infectious disease expert is warning that Canada and other parts of the world may continue to experience waves of cases until the issue of vaccine inequity is addressed.

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday it is important for Canadians to not get ahead of themselves in the fight against COVID-19.

“We still have to recognize that it is a pandemic. That means that, until we satisfy the issue of vaccine inequity, which is really problematic across much of the world… it’s not going to be endemic,” Sharkawy said.

“There’s going to be more waves that we unfortunately have in store if we continue to ignore that.”

Sharkawy said bringing the pandemic to an end requires a global effort to ensure everyone has access to vaccines. Once that is achieved, he says the pandemic will change.

“[If] we can marshal the will and sincerity to help other parts of the world… then it will become endemic and at that point, we can look to this becoming something that is potentially seasonal, potentially not that much different from the annual flu vaccine,” he explained.

However, Sharkawy says “we are a ways away from that” despite high vaccine uptake in Canada, and Canadians still have “our work cut out for us” amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Reflecting on two years since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Canada, Sharkawy said he feels “some degree of resignation.”

“It’s a bit surreal that I’m here almost two years later on a COVID ward,” he said. “That’s very disappointing in the sense that I think we knew what tools we had available in terms of vaccines, in terms of improving ventilation, in terms of better masks and testing, and unfortunately, we’re still here.”

It was the evening of Jan. 23, 2020, when the team at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre decided to admit a 56-year-old patient who came into the hospital ER with what seemed to be mild pneumonia.

While the patient wasn’t that sick and might otherwise have been sent home, his chest X-rays were unusual and he had just returned from China, where the novel coronavirus was rapidly spreading.

Less than two days after admission to Sunnybrook, the man would become “Patient Zero” — the first COVID-19 case in Canada.

Since then, Canada has logged nearly three million infections and more than 32,000 deaths, according to data tracked by CTVNews.ca.

Despite this, Sharkawy says he is hopeful for the year ahead, given “how incredibly effective vaccines” have shown at keeping Canadians out of hospitals, as well as the ongoing development of monoclonal antibodies and other therapy treatments in the fight against COVID-19.

According to data tracked by CTVNews.ca, more than 82 per cent of Canada’s eligible population was fully vaccinated as of Tuesday.

LESSONS LEARNED

Since Canada’s first case of COVID-19, Sharkawy says the country has learned a lot not only about the virus itself, but also its impact on vulnerable communities, such as those in long-term care, homeless populations, and racialized groups.

“This pandemic has really been an eye-opener in terms of all of the frailty that exists in those populations and it’s time to finally invest in them and take care of them the right way,” he said.

Sharkawy said the pandemic has shown that health care and community networks in Canada need to be “restructured” to better help these groups moving forward.

“When we get ahead of the game, and we try to target at-risk populations and we do things like… [vaccine] programs that meet people in need and do it with limited barriers in place, we can see tremendous success,” he said.

Sharkawy noted lessons have also been learned in how a proactive response to implementing public health measures can help save lives.

“Waiting for problems to arise, like multiple outbreaks or hospitalizations and ICU admissions and deaths is not the way to go, and unfortunately, we’ve been guilty of that a lot,” he said.

Moving forward, Sharkawy says governments need to invest more in the health-care system and its staff to ensure hospitals don’t become overwhelmed in the case of another, future pandemic.

He added that further messaging needs to refrain from judgment in continuing to increase vaccine uptake for those who may be hesitant.

“I think the lesson here is that we need to help each other, we need to cast aside partisanship and hyperpolarized discourse as that doesn’t help,” Sharkawy said.

“When we break down barriers and not look at people as labels, not saying people are fear mongers versus anti-vaxxers, but instead just meet them as people… there’s a lot to be gained.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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The Gender War amongst Us

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The United Nations define gender-based violence as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and other persons, including threats of acts of violence, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Gender-Based Violence is a global public health problem that challenges and affects the morbidity and mortality of women and the LGBTQ Community. It is estimated that 30% of women and 85% of The LGBTQ have experienced at least one form of GBV in their lifetime since the age of 15. The United Nations study among Women of reproductive age revealed that Intimate Partner Violence(IVP) ranged from 15% in Urban Regions(ie Japan) to 71% in Rural Regions (ie Ethiopia)Evidence reveals that this problem is most prominent in developing nations where socioeconomic status is low and education limited, especially in sub-Saharan Africa countries.
Gender Prejudice and Violence directed towards Women and The LGBTQ Community is globally widespread, even within the well-educated populations of the developed world.

Gender-Based Violence is a common practice in Africa, Asia and developing nations in Latin America. Most African Cultural beliefs and traditions promote men’s hierarchical roles in sexual relationships and especially in marriage. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the African population live in rural settings which increases the difficulty to access basic amenities and communities are isolated from the influence of central governments or the laws that prohibit GBV. Despite legislative advances, GBV remains pervasive and a daily reality for Women, Girls and THE LGBTQ Communities. Within Rwanda, many Women and Girls experience multiple and intersecting forms of violence and oppression including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, early and forced marriages, genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Gender Biased Violence directed towards The LGBTQ Community is high within African society, where their lifestyle may appear as a challenge to other males’ masculinity or gender understanding. Within the Latin Community, such violence exists but is far less felt than in areas within Africa. The Latin Worlds’ understanding of masculinity seems to vary, appearing to be more accepting of “the different”. Many Latin Males have multiple gender partners even within marriage. African attitudes are far more conservative and unyielding.

Gender Politics have shaped our world, moving from ancient acceptance of the power and influence of Womanhood to a place where religion became the excuse to oppress Women and other elements of society like the LGBTQ Community. Humanities’ move toward freedom and self-expression has been squashed by the manipulative, powerful masculinity of Mankind. Impressions of a controlling, protective society show us what we are to believe and how we are to live our lives.

Equality, self-determination and self-expression for Women and the LGBTQ Community still remain important aspects of the developed world’s policymaking and implementation. Within the continents of Africa, Central and Latin America, and some Asian nations government policymakers attempt to legally establish the necessary laws to protect their populations, but cultural, political and societal traditions and prejudices have entangled themselves within these nations’ evolutionary movement towards equal rights and gender democracy. A Gender War remains among us, within us, allowing prejudice, fear and hate to shape our society. Like all wars, there are many casualties, but with education, determination and the hand of justice applied, this war can be won.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Journalists in Canada face 'alarming' levels of stress, trauma and harassment, report suggests – CBC.ca

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Members of Canada’s news industry are suffering “alarming” levels of work-related stress and trauma, a new report suggests, and researchers are calling for better supports to help journalists cope with covering COVID-19 and other crises.

The findings, based on 1,251 voluntary responses to an online survey conducted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 18, 2021, showed that media workers have dealt with high rates of mental health conditions over the past four years.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents reported anxiety, 46 per cent said they had depression, and 15 per cent said they experienced post-traumatic stress injury.

The lead researchers on the project said the report underscores how the upheaval of a pandemic-accelerated news cycle has exacerbated the pressures of working in a profession steeped in competition and tragedy.

“Our findings confirm our worst fears and suspicions about the industry,” Carleton University journalism professor Matthew Pearson said at a news conference on Parliament Hill on Wednesday.

“The onus is now on all of us — from the front lines, to newsroom leaders, executives and journalism educators — to grasp the gravity of this situation and meaningfully address it to reduce the harms Canadian media workers are suffering on the job.”

Co-author Dave Seglins, a CBC News journalist and mental health advocate, said the information age has ramped up stress for journalists facing more demanding workloads and perilous job security, while also opening the floodgates for online misinformation and harassment.

More than half of participants surveyed said they had experienced online harassment and threats, and 35 per cent said they had encountered harassment in the field.

The harms of harassment were particularly pronounced among women, transgender and non-binary journalists, the report said. Black, Arab, South Asian and Filipino journalists reported higher rates of online harassment. Workers who were more identifiable as members of the media, such as video journalists and photographers, were more likely to be targeted in the field.

The survey also indicated that exposure to trauma is taking a toll on media workers, with 80 per cent of participants saying they’ve experienced burnout as a result of reporting on stories about death, injury and suffering. Some participants also reported experiencing other emotional and psychological side effects, such as suicidal thoughts or “numbing out” by using alcohol or other substances.

More than half of participants said they had sought medical help to deal with work stress and mental health, while 85 per cent of those surveyed said they had never received training on mental health and trauma at work.

The “suck it up” culture of many newsrooms deters journalists from seeking help to manage their struggles due to fears about how speaking up could impact their careers, Seglins said, and many employers lack the expertise, resources and benefits needed to support journalists’ well-being.

He urged news organizations to collaborate with workers to identify and redress these gaps to ensure the proper functioning of the Fourth Estate.

“All of this is having a profound impact on the health of people who work in the news industry — the watchdogs of our democracy,” Seglins said.

The Canadian Press provided images for the report, and the survey was distributed to Canadian Press employees.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error.

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Canada donates $1 million to probe sexual violence by Russian troops in Ukraine

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OTTAWA — Canada is committing an extra $1 million to help the international community investigate sex crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Canada would give the extra funds to the International Criminal Court to help it investigate sexual violence toward women, and also crimes against children.

Ten RCMP officers, and Canadian civilian law enforcement experts, are helping to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, including sexual violence by Russian troops.

Global Affairs Canada said the extra money could be used to help fund specialist sexual violence investigations and to protect victims who may be witnesses in war-crimes cases.

The funds may also be used to provide psychological support for victims.

Joly said it was important that Russian troops who have used sexual violence against Ukrainians be brought to justice.

“Canada condemns in the strongest terms the use of conflict-related sexual violence and we will continue to work with partners such as the ICC to end impunity for these heinous crimes,” she said in a statement.

“Those who commit sexual violence in conflict situations must be held to account.”

At a meeting in Ottawa earlier this month with Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, Joly discussed the need to treat Russian troops using sexual violence as a weapon as war criminals.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Joly said 10 RCMP officers would help gather evidence of rape and sexual violence by the Russian military.

Linde said Sweden has also sent “experts on investigating sexual and gender-based crime” to help the ICC with its war crimes investigation. They are interviewing refugees — “mainly women and girls and children,” she said — as witnesses.

Ukraine’s ambassador designate to Canada told members of Parliament earlier this month that Russia is using sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war.

Yulia Kovaliv told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on May 2 that Ukraine is compiling “horrific documented evidence” of war crimes.

“The horror is that children are victims of these sexual crimes, which are done (before) the eyes of their parents,” Kovaliv said. “Sexual crimes is part of the Russian weapon (against) Ukraine.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published 26, May, 2022.

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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