The federal government is going to be easing the current cross-border travel policies on family reunification, expanding who will be allowed into Canada, sources tell CTV News.
While the Canada-U.S. land border is set to remain closed to discretionary travellers until November 21 at least, changes are coming to allow more extended family members into Canada on compassionate grounds.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu will be making an announcement about updated border measures and travel regulations at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Sources tell CTV News that certain extended family members or other close loved ones of Canadian citizens, such as children, grandchildren and siblings, as well as long-term couples could make a case to cross the border.
This is also expected to include new provisions allowing for U.S. travellers to enter Canada for compassionate reasons, like the death of a loved one who is not a family member.
Asked about the incoming policy change, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the announcement later this afternoon will be on how the federal government will keep Canadians safe while allowing more compassionate cases of family reunification, without getting into specifics.
“From the very beginning, our priority has been quite simple: Making sure that Canadians are protected from COVID-19 and that has meant taking strong actions at the border and continually looking how we can improve our actions to prevent importation of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.
He went on to say that community transmission is the biggest driver of new cases, whereas the importation of cases from outside of Canada is a “tiny fraction” of the source of the virus’ spread.
“What we’re doing is working and we need to continue it, however, we can always look at ways to improve our measures while keeping Canadians safe and to do a better job of understanding the heart-wrenching stories of families divided, of compassionate cases that should be given flexibility, that wouldn’t endanger Canadian safety,” Trudeau said.
While restrictions on non-essential travel from other countries have been extended until Oct. 31, it remains unclear whether this policy change will apply to international families.
As of June 9, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of either Canadian citizens or permanent residents can enter Canada to be reunited, under a limited exemption to the current border restrictions. This has allowed both foreign and cross-border Canada-U.S. families to reunite under certain stipulations, including having to remain in Canada for at least 15 days.
While those eligible to cross the border for this reason include parents, spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and their children, many other families remain separated by the border restrictions including non-married couples. People in that predicament have been pushing for a further loosening of the rules in order to see their loved ones.
With files from CTV News’ Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier and Michel Boyer
$20 hamburgers and $2 bananas: The cost of food insecurity in Canada's North – CTV News
Remote Indigenous communities face a problem as the changing climate makes it more difficult to access traditional sources of food.
That issue, which is detailed in a new report by advocacy group Human Rights Watch, is exacerbated by the fact that many communities have a lack of alternatives that are both affordable and nutritious.
“It’s difficult for our people to access healthy foods,” Vern Cheechoo said Wednesday at a press conference that coincided with the report’s release.
Cheechoo works for the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents eight Cree First Nations in northern Ontario. None of the eight are connected to the province’s road network. As is the case in many northern Indigenous communities, supplies can only be brought in by ice road when the waterways are frozen over, by boat when they aren’t, or by airplane anytime.
All of these options involve significant costs, meaning retail prices in fly-in reserves rarely resemble anything seen in southern, road-connected communities.
Lorraine Netro of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation – based in Old Crow, Yukon, the only fly-in settlement in the territory – told the press conference that she recently paid $20 for one hamburger patty and $7 for three bananas.
“When we want to purchase basic staples like flour and sugar and tea, those costs are extremely high,” she said.
Most fly-in communities face high rates of poverty and low rates of employment, making the high grocery prices even less affordable. Although there are programs designed to bring food to children, seniors and others most at need, they do not necessarily provide enough food for a full, healthy diet.
“Some of these students go to school and that’s the only time they have a meal to eat,” Cheechoo said, noting that even this has not been possible this year in communities where schools have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SUBSIDY PROGRAM PANNED
Northern grocery items are not subject to any special price regulations, but they are partially subsidized through the federal government’s Nutrition North Canada (NNC) initiative. Introduced in 2011, NNC was a replacement for a previous program known as “Food Mail,” covering fewer foods in an attempt to encourage healthier eating.
Meat, milk, eggs, bread, fruit and frozen vegetables are among the basic products subsidized under NNC. Rice, canned vegetables and soup, unsweetened juice and tea are some of the items that were covered by Food Mail but not NNC.
The program has achieved some success in keeping northern food prices from rising even higher. The federal government told Human Rights Watch that the price of a “nutritious diet” in NNC-eligible communities fell by 1.03 per cent between 2011 and 2019, while the consumer cost of similar items in the rest of Canada increased by 10.5 per cent.
Still, the program is largely disliked in the North. A search for “Nutrition North” on Twitter brings up a steady diet of criticism, interspersed with images of groceries being sold at prices that would shock many Canadians. More than 4,000 accounts retweeted one tweet from September that showed a 383-gram vegetable tray retailing for $70.
In 2016, a government report found that NNC was “not having a big enough effect on the price of food.” Modifications were made to the program in 2019, including high subsidy rates for milk, baby food and formula, and frozen fruits and vegetables.
In its report, Human Rights Watch noted another concern about NNC: that retailers essentially face “no repercussions” if they abuse the program. Although retailers are required to convert the NNC money they receive into savings for their customers, the only punishment the government has at its disposal is to kick companies out of the program for repeated misbehavior. Since most NNC participants are the only grocery stores in their communities, this would leave residents of those communities with no access at all to subsidized groceries.
“The federal government has few means of ensuring retailer compliance and lacks effective grievance mechanisms for communities,” the report states.
According to Human Rights Watch, NNC cost the federal government approximately $80 million in 2018-19. A one-time increase of $25 million was announced in April as part of the government’s COVID-19 relief package for northern communities.
However, there are a lot of steps between the government announcing funding and shoppers seeing savings at the supermarket – and many northerners feel far more is needed to steer their communities back toward healthy eating.
“[NNC] is attempting to provide funding, but it’s just a drop in the bucket,” Cheechoo said.
Coronavirus victims: Remembering the Canadians who have died – CTV News
The first person in Canada contracted COVID-19 in January, but it wasn’t until March that the first Canadian died from the disease.
The numbers have grown in Canada and around the world since then, each death an anonymous statistic announced in a growing daily tally.
While the loss is real for those who have lost loved ones to the disease, it is harder to fathom for Canadians not directly touched by the tragedy.
However, each statistic represents a Canadian with their own story.
These are some of the victims’ stories, as told to CTV News by family members and loved ones.
Did one of your loved ones die of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Help us share your memories of them, along with a favourite photo of them, to paint a fuller picture of some of the Canadian lives lost as a result of the pandemic.
Please email us the name, age, hometown, and date of death of your loved one at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your name, location and contact information.
Why getting COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada won't be 'overnight solution' to pandemic – CBC.ca
For months, more than 150 teams around the world have been working at an unprecedented pace to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
Ten of those vaccine candidates are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, in which each is given to thousands of people to ensure it’s both safe and effective — the final leg of the process before their potential approval.
In the fight against COVID-19, that feels like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
But once at least one vaccine is approved, what comes next?
“Approval itself is not going to be an overnight solution,” said Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“There’s going to be a significant amount of time required to distribute the vaccine and then have enough doses prepared to administer to the population.”
Public health and vaccination experts also say the months after Canada starts acquiring a vaccine will be rife with challenges, both logistically and ethically, as public health officials will need to determine which groups should get priority access — be it health-care workers or other vulnerable demographics — as production scales up to meet demand.
“There will inevitably be supply chain issues,” Miller warned. “It’s going to take time for the vaccine manufacturers to produce enough doses, and there’s going to need to be prioritization over who will get those first doses when they become available.”
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on the flu and COVID-19 vaccines:
Canada preordering 6 candidates
Earlier this year, the federal government said it put $1 billion into preorders of six foreign vaccine candidates.
It’s a move that hedges our bets, with Canada set to receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine — if any successfully make it through clinical trials and gain approval from Health Canada.
Should at least one of the preorders prove safe and effective, federal and provincial officials need a strategy in place to roll it out among different groups, ensuring there are no “inequities” between regions, noted Alison Thompson, an associate professor in the Leslie Dan faculty of pharmacy and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“This is something that we can get out in front of,” she said. “We know a vaccine could become available in the next few months.”
In September, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine offered a “good rehearsal” for mass immunization programs for a coronavirus vaccine.
But some Ontario physicians recently warned those efforts fell short, with initial rounds of supplies drying up quickly amid early and higher-than-usual demand.
The province, however, has said more shipments are coming — and stressed the program was meant to take a staggered approach to rolling out the vaccine, first targeting vulnerable populations like long-term care residents before the general public.
Protecting ‘vulnerable’ first
That “prioritization” approach could also prove crucial while rolling out a vaccine for the coronavirus, both to conserve supplies while production scales up and protect those most at risk.
“We may be looking at protection for really important health-care workers, first responders, people who keep the economy running,” Thompson said. “We might want to be protecting vulnerable populations first before anybody else.”
But who should be deemed most vulnerable, and first in line?
There’s no “one size fits all” approach behind that decision, Miller said, and in Canada a lot of factors are at play, from residents’ ages to their socioeconomic status to their pre-existing health conditions.
Health-care workers have proved at risk across the country, with a dozen dying and more than 21,000 falling ill — representing roughly 20 per cent of cases — in the pandemic’s first wave, according to a September report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
The largest death toll, however, was more than 5,300 elderly residents in long-term care, with those facilities accounting for more than 80 per cent of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths in the first wave, CIHI findings show.
Racialized and marginalized communities have also been hard hit in areas like Toronto, where multiple diverse, lower-income neighbourhoods have experienced high case counts and test positivity rates for the virus have been more than triple the city’s average, Toronto Public Health data shows.
Alongside health-care workers on the front lines, it’s remote Indigenous communities which “need to be first priority,” based on the severe comorbidities, residential overcrowding and lack of access to health-care facilities found in many areas, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health.
“All Indigenous communities are at highest risk compared to non-Indigenous communities — by far,” she said.
Scaling up could take ‘many months’
Miller said the process of scaling up vaccinations from priority groups to the broader public could take “many months,” if not a year or more.
That time frame could also involve a less-discussed stage of vaccine research: Phase 4 clinical trials, after candidates are already on the market.
It’s a time to evaluate vaccines’ effectiveness and safety in a “real world” setting, Miller said, and could offer clues for future generations of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The first vaccines approved may not necessarily be the most effective vaccines,” he said.
The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, was later expanded to protect people against more strains of the virus, for instance, while an early version of the shot for shingles was far less effective than a later form which has an efficacy of more than 90 per cent.
In those instances, people wound up getting additional rounds of newer vaccines to ensure the highest level of protection, Miller explained, adding it’s still not clear if people will need revaccination to protect against this coronavirus.
The more pressing concern now is getting at least one first option out to the public in hopes of winding down this months-long pandemic.
While the threshold for achieving herd immunity — which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making its continued spread less likely — isn’t clear yet for COVID-19, it could be as high as 70 per cent of people, said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
That’s a level of protection Canada won’t hit for quite some time after a vaccine becomes available, assuming enough residents get the shot.
“If we don’t get there, then we have a functioning society, with some restrictions still in place, like distancing and mask wearing and maybe limits on gatherings, but no more lockdowns and things like that,” he said.
“So either way, the vaccine is going to help us.”
Front Burner28:37Inside Canada’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine
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