Shoppers experienced a Boxing Day like no other on Saturday, with non-essential retail shuttered or restricted across much of the country to try and stem the spread of COVID-19.
While some donned masks and snow boots to brave outdoor lineups, many were watching their email inboxes instead, as some industry watchers say much of this year’s post-Christmas shopping will be replaced with internet searches and online orders.
A queue of a dozen deal hunters outside Best Buy in downtown Toronto wouldn’t be unusual in a normal year, but shopper Hao Chen said he was surprised to see it amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But once he got in line, Chen noted that the retailer was running a tight ship, with employees keeping shoppers apart and ensuring everyone in line had already placed an online order. Inside the Eaton Centre mall, Best Buy and other stores were empty apart from employees, as security guards kept scarce visitors focused on curbside pickup and takeout.
There were no window shoppers to be seen, said Chen, because “there’s nothing in the windows to shop.”
Ontario’s provincewide lockdown began Saturday, joining Quebec and Manitoba in closing non-essential retail, while much of the rest of the country has curtailed in-store capacity.
In a normal year, Chen said he would be in Chicago with family over Christmas. But as a recent graduate, he said he decided to spend this holiday trying to save money on a vacuum instead. Chen said he ordered online and only came out to the mall “boots to ground” for a pickup because his apartment isn’t a great place to accept deliveries.
“I’ll take my vacuum and be back in my apartment, hopefully, in 30 minutes.”
Christmas spirit perseveres amid coronavirus pandemic
Despite the restrictions forcing most shopping online, there will be fire-sale prices on some items, said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory. She said retailers don’t want to get stuck with a backlog of holiday and seasonal inventory and also need to shore up their balance sheets in the face of mounting lockdowns and restrictions.
“People are buying a lot of gift cads this year and not the traditional wrapped gift so there’s an excess of inventory and some pent-up demand,” says Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group.
Some politicians urged shoppers to look locally for Boxing Day deals amid the restrictions. Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley encouraged shoppers to check out local establishments — “socially distanced, of course.” Maurizio Bevilacqua, mayor of Vaughan, Ont., said residents should show support by shopping online and ordering food.
But shoppers were few and far between at boutiques in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. Andrew Koppel of Kops Records said shoppers have been supportive of local businesses, lining up at nearby shops on Christmas Eve and Black Friday. But he said he purposely did not offer discounts on Saturday to avoid lines and promote health measures.
“Boxing Day is quite non-existent for us,” said Koppel. “Once everything is opened back up again, we might do something to make up for it. Maybe it will be Boxing Day in March. We’ll figure something out to reward our patient customers.”
— With files from Brett Bundale in Halifax and Anita Balakrishnan in Toronto.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Canada adds 7,563 new coronavirus infections as more variant cases found – Global News
Canada added 7,563 coronavirus cases Thursday and 154 deaths as the second detection of the South African variant of the virus was reported in the country.
There are now 688,891 cases in total and 17,537 deaths in the country.
The new variant case was found in British Columbia’s Vancouver Coastal Health region after the first case was reported last week in Alberta.
The new B.C. case has not been known to have travelled or been in contact with someone who travelled recently.
An investigation is underway to see how the case was contracted.
The variation appears to spread more easily and has not been found to be immune to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
B.C. also reported a fourth case of the U.K. variant of the virus, this one not related to the same family to which the first three were connected.
B.C. detects 1st case of South African variant, 4th case of U.K. variant of COVID-19
Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing logistical planning for Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts, also outlined the future of the country’s rollout on Thursday.
He said that one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will arrive in Canada by April, with 20 million doses planned between April and the end of June.
“This will signal our transition into this ramp-up phase,” he said.
For the time being, Ontario announced 3,326 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday and 62 more deaths.
The province has enacted a new stay-at-home order that requires everyone to not leave their homes unless for essential trips and requires non-essential businesses to close by 8 p.m.
The province currently has 1,657 hospitalizations related to COVID-19, with 388 of them in intensive care.
In Quebec, the province reported 2,132 new cases and 64 more deaths, 15 of which occurred in the last 24 hours. The province now has 1,523 people in hospital due to the virus, with 230 of them in intensive care.
The province also announced a new vaccine strategy of waiting at least 90 days between an initial shot and the necessary second dose. The policy is meant to reduce pressure on the health-care system until more vaccine doses arrive.
Quebec to deliver second dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 90 days
However, Canada’s vaccine advisory council recommends the second dose be given no later than 42 days after the first.
Over in B.C., the province announced 536 new cases of the coronavirus and seven more deaths. The province has 362 hospitalizations total, with 74 people in intensive care.
Alberta reported 967 new coronavirus cases Thursday and 21 more deaths, as the province also announced it would ease restrictions by now allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people. Personal wellness businesses, such as barbershops and salons, will also be able to open Monday with one-on-one appointments.
The province currently has 806 hospitalizations with 136 in ICU.
Saskatchewan reported 312 new cases and no new deaths as its hospitalizations rose to a new high of 206, with 33 in intensive care.
Manitoba reported 261 more cases and two new deaths.
In the Atlantic bubble, New Brunswick reported 23 more cases and one more death, Nova Scotia has six more cases, and P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador each have one more case respectively.
There have been 93,044,567 cases worldwide so far and 1,991,921 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
B.C. billionaire given the green light to sue Twitter over 'Pizzagate' tweets – CBC.ca
West Vancouver billionaire Frank Giustra has been given the go-ahead to sue Twitter in a B.C. courtroom over the social media giant’s publication of a series of tweets tying him to baseless conspiracy theories involving pedophile rings and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In a ruling released Thursday, Justice Elliott Myers found that Giustra’s history and presence in British Columbia, combined with the possibility the tweets may have been seen by as many as 500,000 B.C. Twitter users, meant a B.C. court should have jurisdiction over the case.
It’s a victory not only for Giustra — whose philanthropic activities have earned him membership in both the Orders of Canada and B.C. — but for Canadian plaintiffs trying to hold U.S.-based internet platforms responsible for border-crossing content.
‘I believe that words do matter’
In a statement, Giustra said he was looking forward to pursuing the case in the province where he built his reputation as the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment.
“I hope this lawsuit will help raise public awareness of the real harm to society if social media platforms are not held responsible for the content posted and published on their sites,” Giustra said.
“I believe that words do matter, and recent events have demonstrated that hate speech can incite violence with deadly consequences.”
Giustra filed the defamation lawsuit in April 2019, seeking an order to force Twitter to remove tweets he claimed painted him as “corrupt” and “criminal.”
He claimed he was targeted by a group who vilified him “for political purposes” in relation to the 2016 U.S. election and his work in support of the Clinton Foundation.
The online attacks allegedly included death threats and links to “pizzagate” — a “false, discredited and malicious conspiracy theory in which [Giustra] was labelled as a ‘pedophile,'” the claim stated.
Twitter has not filed a response to Giustra’s claim itself — applying instead to have the case tossed because of jurisdiction.
The California-based company said it does not do business in B.C. and that Giustra was only relying on his B.C. roots to file the case in Canada because it would be a non-starter in the U.S., where the First Amendment protects free speech.
The company claimed he would have been mostly affected in the U.S. where he spends much of his time, owns extensive property and has substantial interests in the entertainment industry — meaning B.C. is only tangentially connected to the matter.
In essence, Myers said, Twitter claimed it was only a platform for others to post comment, and couldn’t be expected to face defamation cases every place people felt aggrieved.
The judge said the case presented some difficult — if timely — questions.
“This case illustrates the jurisdictional difficulties with internet defamation where the publication of the defamatory comments takes place in multiple countries where the plaintiff has a reputation to protect,” Myers wrote.
“The presumption is that a defendant should be sued in only one jurisdiction for an alleged wrong, but that is not a simple goal to achieve fairly for internet defamation.”
‘Strong ties to the province’
Myers found Giustra’s connection to B.C. undeniable.
“There can be no dispute that Mr. Giustra has a significant reputation in British Columbia. He also has strong ties to the province,” he wrote.
“The fact that he has a reputation in or connections to other jurisdictions does not detract from that.”
The judge said Giustra had also done what he needed to do to show his reputation in B.C. might have been affected.
“I do not agree with Twitter who argues that of all places in the world, the Plaintiff’s reputation has not been harmed in B.C.,” Myers wrote.
In its application, Twitter drew on a 2018 Supreme Court of Canada judgment in which a Canadian billionaire with substantial interests in Israel was denied his bid to sue an Israeli newspaper in Ontario over an article that appeared online.
In that case, the court ruled that Israel would be the more appropriate place to hold a trial because the billionaire was better known there, he hadn’t limited his suit to damages suffered in Canada and most of the witnesses would also be in Israel.
But Myers found that many of the tweets referred to B.C. and went beyond the kind of business articles that were at the heart of the Supreme Court of Canada case.
“Here the tweets refer to Mr. Giustra’s personal characteristics alleging, for example, pedophilia,” Myers wrote.
Despite the lawsuit, Giustra maintains a Twitter account.
The court filings include a letter he wrote to Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey in April 2018, asking him to make his case a priority.
“As Twitter’s CEO, I ask that you now investigate the source of these past and ongoing attacks against me — whether they are the result of individuals, a group, bots, or a combination of all three,” Giustra wrote.
“I do not want to cancel my Twitter account — that would be a victory of those who are turning this incredible communication tool into a conduit for slander and hate.”
1,500 flights and rising as Canadians seek sunny escapes despite surging COVID-19 crisis – CBC.ca
Thousands of Canadians are thumbing their noses at government advice to stay home and hopping international flights to sunny destinations even as the COVID-19 crisis worsens in many parts of the country, CBC News has found.
Canadian air carriers operated more than 1,500 flights between Canada and 18 popular vacation destinations since Oct. 1, even as caseloads rise and the health crisis deepens.
It has prompted many questions from Canadians about why there is no outright travel ban, especially given recent high-profile resignations and firings involving politicians, doctors and civic leaders who’ve taken vacations outside the country
“With the new state of emergency and recent lockdown measures, why hasn’t the government considered restrictions for airline travel either international or even Canadian travel between provinces?” asked Brenda LacLaurin of Ottawa, who contacted CBC News.
“How are people still travelling for leisure?” asked another audience member. “Every official says it saves lives to stay home, yet people can get on a plane and fly to Florida? WHY is the airport not closed to outgoing travel?”
While international travel is permitted, the federal government has been advising Canadians for nearly a year to avoid all “non-essential travel” outside the country without offering a clear definition or tools for authorities to prevent it.
Mexico, Jamaica top the list
CBC News tracked Canadian non-stop flights to and from popular resort destinations using data from Flightradar24.com between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 16, 2021.
Of the 1,516 flights analyzed, some of the most popular routes departing from Canada included 214 flights between Toronto and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 183 flights between Montreal and Cancun, Mexico.
CBC excluded all known cancelled flights, as schedules continue to change.
WestJet announced last week it is scaling back operations, suspending several routes to sunny destinations, including flights from Edmonton and Vancouver to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, “as the airline continues to face volatile demand and instability.”
Air Canada says its overall network capacity — the number of seats it makes available for sale — is down 80 per cent compared with 2019. In an emailed statement, an airline spokesperson took exception to questions about the volume of flights resuming to vacation destinations.
“The real issue here is we need to restart travel safely in Canada as it is very important to the economy, with hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on it both directly and indirectly,” said Air Canada’s Peter Fitzpatrick.
Flight tracking by CBC News shows that despite a dramatic drop last spring, air traffic from eight Canadian airports to Mexico and the Caribbean is on the rebound.
Raywat Deonandan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, says the data suggests a small portion of the Canadian public is choosing to disregard public health advice, putting themselves and the countries they visit at risk.
“I try not to judge people. Everyone’s got their reasons,” he said. “Maybe they need, you know, some kind of stress relief.”
WATCH | Deonandan on the need to cut out travel:
However, he said, for that many people to be knowingly acting against public health advice, there is likely some selfishness at play.
“This sense that my need for recreation is greater than the need of the population to remain safe.”
Deonandan says banning travel could prompt backlash and civil disobedience, and would be a “hard sell” politically and economically, especially given an end to the pandemic is in sight with the introduction of vaccines.
But, he says, to prioritize public health, the government should have been much clearer and directed Canadians from the beginning on what does — and does not — constitute essential travel.
“I think a good rule of thumb is if the primary purpose of your travel is recreation, it should not be permitted,” he said, noting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists Caribbean vacation destinations as Level 4, or very high risk for COVID-19.
‘No formal restriction’
The federal government asks Canadians to “avoid non-essential travel outside Canada,” but on its website says, “it is up to the individual to decide” what that includes.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged this week the lack of clarity on the matter is causing confusion as he laid out details of the province’s new stay-at-home rules.
“I know that essential means different things to different people. We have 15 million people in Ontario, each with their own individual circumstances,” Ford told a news conference on Tuesday.
CBC News also asked each province and territory how they define essential travel.
Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island did not respond.
“Vacation purposes — like going to a beach or ski resort, shopping and visiting family members where there is no extenuating circumstances at-hand,” the government’s statement says.
“There is no formal restriction prohibiting such travel or punitive measures in place at this time,” wrote a provincial spokesperson.
‘A steep gamble’
The Public Health Agency of Canada has flagged potential COVID-19 exposures on almost 500 international flights since Dec. 1, 2020. Of those, 87 flights were to or from the southern vacation destinations used in the CBC’s analysis.
While known cases in Canada linked to international travel represent only one per cent of the country’s overall case count, experts caution that still represents 4,239 exposures and contacts tied to a traveller.
Canada recently beefed up screening at airports and last week imposed a new requirement for all inbound travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Experts say those tests are not 100 per cent reliable and that people should not assume they can control their exposures abroad.
“You cannot control who is in the airplane with you. You can’t control the nature and the environment of the airport when you arrive. You can’t control the hygienic quality of the taxi that you take from the airport to your destination,” said Deonandan, who implored Canadians to think of the common good before travelling abroad.
“It is a steep, steep gamble that I don’t think is worth taking,” he said.
About the data
CBC News collected one year’s worth of data from Flightradar24.com for 169 routes between Canadian international airports and 18 destinations in popular vacation spots, mostly in Mexico and the Caribbean. Only direct, non-cancelled flights were examined. In all, 5,628 flights were analyzed, 3,042 inbound and 2,586 outbound. The data was collected on Jan. 9 and includes scheduled flights up to Jan. 16.
Although Flightradar24 is recognized as an authoritative source, there could be errors or omissions in the data, which isn’t guaranteed to be 100 per cent accurate.
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