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COVID: How will WHO decision on emergency impact Canada

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The World Health Organization Emergency Committee will decide on Jan. 27 if the COVID-19 pandemic is still a global emergency—and the decision could impact how governments, including Canada, proceed with tackling the virus.

The emergency declaration title, known as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, is the highest alert level for the United Nations agency and issuing the declaration helps accelerate research, funding and international public health measures to contain the disease.

At a press conference Friday, federal public health officials told reporters that Canada will continue to monitor COVID-19 subvariants and urged people to get booster doses. As Omicron’s newest subvariant, the Kraken, spreads across the country, officials said the pandemic is not over.

The WHO committee is made up of independent experts who will evaluate the viral evolution of COVID-19 and the pressure it has on health services across the world.

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On Friday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said the decision by the UN is an “important deliberation.”

“Whatever the decision is made by the Director General of the WHO, I think we just need to keep going with what we’re doing now,” she said.

The newest Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, nicknamed ‘Kraken’, is the dominant variant in the United States and has started to spread across Canada. It is the most transmissible variant to date, experts warn but is not tied with increasing severity.

“In the upcoming year, we need to continue to monitor the evolution of the virus, the Omicron variant, because it’s still spreading quite a bit all over the world, it is going to undergo mutations,” Tam said at the press conference.

COVID-19 vaccine equity around the globe continues to be highlighted by officials in preventing more variants from emerging. Places like the Global South lack access to vaccines while western countries offer multiple boosters.

“Much more needs to be done to address worldwide vaccine inequities and prevent the emergence of the next devastating variant,” a report published Oct. 2022 in the International Journal of Infection Diseases reads.

Periodically over the three years since the declaration, the UN has met to reaffirm COVID-19’s global emergency title. It was last reaffirmed in July 2022.

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo cautioned people thinking the pandemic is over.

“We haven’t reached the end of the pandemic,” Njoo said in French at Friday’s press conference. “I think we’ve passed the acute phase of the pandemic, but of course, the virus is continuing to circulate in Canada and around the world.”

Canadian hospitals have been under pressure over the last few months, as nurse burnout, COVID-19, the flu and RSV severely impact the number of patients accepted and emergency room wait times.

Njoo highlighted the continuation of monitoring COVID-19 for new variants and research on long-term symptoms of the virus.

“We’re continuing to state the same messages: Get vaccinated, keep your vaccinations up to date, and we’ll see what happens,” Njoo said. “Treatment and research are still very important against COVID, perhaps vaccines will have to be modified as well…We must not let down our guard.”

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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