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Federal government says Canada border testing contracts worth up to $631 million – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
When Halifax-based blogger and social media influencer Kayla Short pulled up to a Canada-U.S. land border last month, she was prepared.

She had all her receipts from her one-week trip to Boston along with her travel documents, proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test from the day before ready to show Canadian officials at the Calais, Maine, crossing.

What Short wasn’t prepared for was to be selected for a mandatory COVID-19 arrival test — less than 24 hours after completing her last test.

The federal government has awarded three companies with contracts worth up to $631 million for COVID-19 border testing and other screening services as concerns about the Omicron variant deepen ahead of the busy holiday travel period.

Public Services and Procurement Canada said Switch Health, LifeLabs and Dynacare are carrying out testing of international travellers entering Canada at airports and land border crossings.

The random arrival testing program is part of broader COVID-19 screening and testing being rolled out by the three companies.

While air travellers selected for additional screening are usually directed to an on-site clinic for a test, travellers crossing land borders are usually handed a test to self-administer.

Short said while the intentions of the program are “good on paper,” she said trying to complete a test during a pit stop at a New Brunswick hotel room with unreliable internet was “cumbersome and overwhelming.”

“The whole thing took me probably two hours from creating an account online and then waiting 45 minutes to speak to someone over a video call with spotty Wi-Fi so they could walk me through the test,” she said. “Then the next day we had to do a detour in Moncton to find a Purolator drop-off box.”

Health Canada said it was working on responding to questions about the COVID-19 arrival testing program sent to the department last week. However, a response was not received before deadline on Monday.

Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Gabriel Leboeuf said Switch Health, LifeLabs and Dynacare provide comprehensive border testing services, including appointment booking, test administration and results management.

They also provide further testing support for temporary foreign workers, refugees, asylum seekers and international students, he said

Switch Health is responsible for testing in Ontario, Alberta and Atlantic Canada, with a contract value worth up to $440 million.

LifeLabs is providing testing services in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon with a contract worth up to $111 million, and Dynacare is operating in Quebec and Manitoba with a contract worth up to $80 million.

“As of November 30, 2021, the total approved value of the border testing contracts is approximately $631 million,” Leboeuf said in an email. “However, since companies are paid for services delivered, this amount may not be fully spent.”

Jordan Paquet, vice-president of public affairs with Switch Health, said most of the company’s randomized arrival testing at airports is done on-site.

He said the Canada Border Services Agency will put a sticker on a traveller’s passport or travel document indicating whether they can proceed directly to baggage claim or stop at the testing site first.

At land border crossings, however, Paquet said travellers who are selected for random screening are provided with a test kit to take with them.

“It would get massively backed up if we stopped people to do the tests in person, especially at the bigger land border crossings like the Detroit-Windsor bridge,” he said.

Travellers complete the at-home tests with the help of a Switch Health employee through a video call. They are then directed to put the test in an envelope provided and then in the mail.

“The validity of a test is going to be more guaranteed if someone is proctoring it online,” he said. “It ensures accuracy.”

Paquet said the average wait time to be connected with a Switch Health official online is 15 minutes, making Short’s wait time of 45 minutes longer than usual.

Still, while he acknowledged the inconvenience of being selected for additional testing, he pointed out that self-administering a test from a hotel room is likely preferable for many to standing in line at a testing centre.

Meanwhile, Paquet said the pandemic has shone a light on some of the gaps in the health-care system and has shown that companies like Toronto-based Switch Health can work with governments to improve patient experiences.

“We’re not there to replace anything in the health-care system,” he said. “Our whole goal as a company is to deliver better health care in general for Canadians and more decentralized diagnostics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

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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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