A new Omicron subvariant that is driving infections in India has been detected in Canada.
Known as BA.2.75, the coronavirus mutation has been found across India and in smaller numbers in at least 10 other countries, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Canada.
“As of July 6, it is estimated there are 5 detections of BA.2.75 in Canada based on the preliminary definition,” a Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson told CTVNews.ca. “These numbers may change as the definition of this sub-lineage is clarified.”
While BA.2.75 is thought to be highly contagious and capable of dodging vaccines and immunity from previous infections, it is still unknown if it causes more serious disease than other variants.
“It’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told the Associated Press. “But it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase.”
Several mutations separate BA.2.75 from its COVID-19 cousins. According to Binnicker, some of those could allow the virus to more efficiently bind to cells and escape antibodies.
First detected in May 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was tracking the subvariant earlier this month.
“In Europe and America, BA.4 and BA.5 are driving waves,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a July 6 media briefing. “In countries like India a new sub lineage of BA.2.75 has also been detected, which we’re following.”
The WHO currently lists BA.2.75 as a variant that’s “under monitoring.” As of July 12, approximately 74 per cent of cases sequenced in Canada were BA.5.
“As with all new sub-lineages of COVID-19, scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), along with national and international experts, are actively monitoring and evaluating these Omicron sub-lineages and their associated studies,” the Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson said. “When compared to BA.2, preliminary international reports have shown that BA.5, BA.4 and likely BA.2.75 have increased transmissibility and ability to potentially partially evade immune protection by prior infection and/or vaccination if it has waned over time,”
In Canada and many other countries, COVID-19 surveillance has dropped significantly in recent months, meaning true case numbers are likely much higher than official figures.
Although vaccines and boosters might not prevent COVID-19 infection, Canadian officials say they are still a strong defence against severe disease.
“Evidence indicates that the vaccines used in Canada are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” a government website says. ” A booster dose following a primary series of mRNA vaccines offers better protection against Omicron infection and severe disease than the primary series alone.”
With files from the Associated Press
Dawn Walker: Sask. woman facing charges in U.S., Canada – CTV News
Federal prosecutors in the United States have accused a Saskatoon woman of faking her own death and that of her son in what they describe as an elaborate scheme to illegally enter the country.
Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon, says 48-year-old Dawn Marie Walker is being detained as a flight risk as she faces two charges related to identity theft.
Walker was reported missing with her seven-year-old son last month. Police discovered them “safe and well” in a rental unit in Oregon City on Friday, following two weeks of search-and-rescue efforts that included scouring the South Saskatchewan River and its banks, where her pickup truck was abandoned.
Court documents filed Monday in Oregon allege Walker “went through extreme efforts to steal identities for her and her son that allowed them to unlawfully enter the United States and hide.”
The documents allege she “thoughtfully planned and engaged in an elaborate ruse in which she faked her death and that of her son.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has charged her with the felony offence of knowingly producing a passport of another person and a misdemeanour charge of possessing identification that was stolen or produced illegally.
The felony charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison if found guilty, while the misdemeanour charge carries up to six months’ imprisonment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Saskatoon police said they have charged Walker with public mischief and parental abduction in contravention of a custody order, and are looking to extradite her back to Canada.
The boy was returned to Canada on Sunday after a legal guardian picked him up, police said.
Saskatoon police said they began searching for Walker and her son on July 24 after friends reported them missing.
Her red Ford F-150 truck had been found at Chief Whitecap Park, just south of Saskatoon, along with some of her belongings.
The court documents allege Walker took the identities of a colleague and that colleague’s child to open a bank account, and she bought an SUV and drove across the border on July 23. Saskatoon police said she crossed the border south of Lethbridge, Alta., into Montana.
An affidavit from Clinton Lindsly, a special agent with Homeland Security, says Walker and her son’s biological father had been engaged in a lengthy custody dispute and she was supposed to return the boy on July 25.
Lindsly says in the document he told Walker, after her arrest, that “people presumed that she and her son died in the river, to which she spontaneously stated, ‘He doesn’t want to be with his father.”‘
The court documents further allege Walker “put a lot of time and effort in planning her crime.”
The documents say officers found a series of notebooks and handwritten notes in Walker’s SUV that included a checklist: dye hair, cover tattoo, pack car, get toys, throw phone in water, ditch car by bridge, possibly buy fishing rod and find the nearest border.
The documents say Walker has no ties to the U.S. and allege she funded her scheme through hidden financial accounts and assets totalling over $100,000.
“The defendant’s kidnapping of her child is extremely serious. While the child has been safely rescued there are no assurances that if the defendant were released she would not try once again to kidnap her child,” say the court documents.
Walker, who remains in custody, is to next appear in court in Oregon on Sept. 7. A defence lawyer believed to be representing Walker could not be reached for comment.
“As the criminal investigation progresses, there may be further charges that Ms. Walker will face as a result,” Saskatoon police Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said Monday.
“Investigators are looking at several different charges, and in relation to the false identity documents that were alluded to, and how she was able to prepare those documents.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, where Walker worked as its chief executive officer, had organized a vigil and walks through the park to raise awareness about the disappearance of the woman and her son.
The federation also issued its own Amber Alert for the pair, and asked police to do the same. Police said there wasn’t evidence to suggest they were in imminent danger.
The boy’s family said in a statement Saturday that “over the past two weeks of hell,” all they had wished for was the safe return of Walker and the boy.
“When we found out they were both safe, there was sobbing, laughing, dancing, shouting, throwing of shoes and hugging.”
Walker, who is from Okanese First Nation, is also a well-known author. Her recent book “The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour,” published under the name Dawn Dumont, was named last week as a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 8, 2022.
Hockey Canada dropped non-disclosure agreement with sexual assault complainant – CBC News
Hockey Canada has dropped a non-disclosure agreement with the complainant of a high-profile alleged group sexual assault in 2018 involving eight hockey players including some members of the world junior team, CBC News has learned.
The complainant’s lawyer Rob Talach says Hockey Canada approached his client on July 22 and asked if she wanted to be released from the agreement that prohibited her from publicly disclosing information about the case.
“I give them credit to say that they thought it was only fair in the circumstances of how things were unrolling publicly,” Talach told CBC News in an interview.
The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) was officially withdrawn the day before Hockey Canada’s executives testified before a parliamentary committee on July 27 probing the organization’s handling of the alleged sexual assault case.
Hockey Canada’s president Scott Smith faced questions from MPs about the NDA during the committee. NDP MP Peter Julian called on him to release complainants from them if they want because it perpetuates a “culture of silence” when “victims are silenced.”
“If they wish to eliminate those, unless there is a legal reason not to that I’m aware of, I’m not sure why we wouldn’t,” said Scott when asked if he would withdraw the agreements. “Our priority is to support the victims.”
Smith told the committee last month that Hockey Canada reached out proactively to Talach after “media reports were representing comments on behalf of players” and “suggested she should be given the right to respond to the events of the evening as well.” Hockey Canada shared Talach’s response privately with MPs, but did not disclose it publicly.
NDAs used in other settlements
During the committee it was revealed that non-disclosure agreements were also used in other settlements involving sexual assault allegations, according to Hockey Canada’s former VP of risk management Glen McCurdie.
On top of the 2018 case, Hockey Canada has paid $8.9 million to 21 complainants since 1989.
Hockey Canada clarified on Monday that non-disclosure agreements were not used in every single settlement.
“In some cases, the only confidentiality terms concerned the amount of the settlement, which is commonly included in almost every settlement of every claim in Canada, including sexual abuse claims…,” wrote Hockey Canada in a statement to CBC News.
The Hockey Canada controversy has put a new spotlight on the issue of NDAs, which are common in settling lawsuits. There are mounting calls by some advocates to ban them in cases related to sexual assault.
P.E.I became the first province in May to limit the use of the agreements in cases to stop silencing victims of harassment and sexual misconduct. Some legal experts and legislators argue NDAs protect institutions and perpetrators and drive allegations underground allowing the culture problems to continue.
Hockey Canada is in the midst of a crisis as it deals with public outrage over its handling of sexual assault claims and use of a special fund — in part made up of registration fees — to pay for legal settlements. Sponsors have dropped support, the NHL is investigating and police have opened a new investigation into a separate 2003 group sexual assault case.
The public controversy started after Talach’s client’s filed $3.5-million lawsuit in April that said in 2018, eight hockey players including members of Canada’s world junior team sexually assaulted, humiliated and degraded her at a hotel room in London, Ont.
The statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, said the hockey players brought golf clubs to the hotel room to further intimidate her, directed the woman to shower after the sexual assault and told her to say she was sober while they videotaped a consent video.
Complainant feared adding to ‘public spectacle’
Hockey Canada’s board of directors authorized the maximum amount of the $3.5-million lawsuit to be paid out, according to testimony at the parliamentary committee.
Talach revealed new details to CBC News on Monday about his client’s non-disclosure agreement. He said the agreement contained a “communication plan” that gave his client some “flexibility to say what she wanted to say.” The agreement allowed Talach to make a written statement consistent with her wishes.
“She didn’t really want to be part of the media and she doesn’t want to add to this debate publicly,” Talach told CBC News.
He said the non-disclosure agreement was mutually sought because his client from the beginning was “adamant” that she didn’t want to “add to a public spectacle.” He said his client also chose not to name the hockey players involved in her lawsuit.
Talach said there is no legal non-disclosure agreements that would prevent a complainant from reporting sexual offences to police.
“You can’t buy your way out of a criminal investigation,” he said. “Nor can a NDA prevent discussing the incident when seeking medical, counselling or financial advice. Those are typical exceptions.”
No other requests to be released
The complainant at the centre of the case spoke out publicly for the first time last week to the Globe and Mail and said she felt “vulnerable and exposed” since May when her allegations went public.
The woman wanted to set the record straight about information that continued to be reported in the media about her case that was inaccurate, said Talach.
Talach said in a statement last week that his client has fully co-operated at all times with a police investigation into her case, despite Hockey Canada originally saying she didn’t.
CBC News asked Hockey Canada if any complainants have come forward and asked for their non-disclosure agreement to be withdrawn since executives testified last month.
Hockey Canada said since July 27, “no complainant who received settlements have asked to be released from any confidentiality terms in their settlement agreements.”
“As previously noted, if requested Hockey Canada would work with victims to support their wishes,” said Hockey Canada in a statement.
Have a story or news tip about the Hockey Canada scandal? Confidentially email email@example.com
More than a third of Canadian households got COVID-19 after restrictions lifted, poll finds – Global News
In response to an online poll by the Vancouver-based Research Co., 37 per cent of Canadians reported they were infected themselves, or someone in their household was infected after restrictions lifted.
The survey conducted between Aug. 1 and Aug. 3 included 1,000 respondents from across the country. In May, a Research Co. survey found that just 23 per cent of Canadians had been impacted by the virus.
“The more weeks go by, the more people — even if they’re vaccinated — are exposed to COVID,” said Mario Canseco, Research Co. president, in an interview.
“At the same time, we don’t see a level of animosity towards the idea of not having restrictions and mandates that you would imagine. It’s almost as though Canadians are now ambivalent about COVID-19.”
Nationwide, 46 per cent of survey respondents said they believe public health restrictions and mandates were abandoned too early in their communities, while 44 per cent thought the decision was made at the right time.
In the Atlantic region, 55 per cent of respondents appeared “disappointed” with the current absence of restrictions, compared to 48 per cent in Alberta, 47 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 45 per cent in B.C. and Quebec, and 43 per cent in Ontario.
The survey found that 66 per cent of Canadians would be satisfied if forced to wear a mask indoors, and 63 per cent would feel the same way about capacity limits returning to public venues, such as theatres or arenas.
Sixty per cent would also be satisfied with proof of vaccination measures, the survey found. The results varied little from the finding’s of the May survey.
Parents shouldn’t wait to book COVID-19 vaccine appointment for kids: epidemiologist
Restrictions, including gathering limits, proof of vaccination and face masking, were lifted in most provinces between February and April.
The B.C. government received the highest levels of approval for how it dealt with the pandemic, with 62 per cent of respondents reporting they were satisfied. Quebec followed with 58 per cent satisfaction, while the Ontario and Alberta governments received satisfaction rates of 48 and 39 per cent, respectively.
“There’s certainly a level of steadiness to the numbers when you go from region to region,” said Canseco.
Fifty-five per cent of respondents reported they were satisfied with the federal government’s handling of the outbreak, a decrease from the 61 per cent reported in May. The satisfaction rate for municipal governments also dropped from 65 per cent to 59 per cent.
The survey found that most Canadians — 68 per cent — believe the worst of the pandemic is probably or definitely “behind us.” Seventy-seven per cent, however, continued to brand COVID-19 as a threat, including 82 per cent of respondents aged 55 and over.
Three in five respondents said they believe it’s only a matter of time before everyone catches COVID-19, and more than half — 54 per cent — claimed that as long as people are vaccinated, it’s only a “minor nuisance.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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