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For many Canadians, being safe this holiday season means being apart from family –



There’s a caveat in the popular holiday standard I’ll Be Home for Christmas — “if only in my dreams” — and it’s taken on additional meaning as many people prepare to spend the holidays apart from family.

With COVID-19 case numbers rising across the country and a province-wide lockdown in Ontario coming into effect Saturday, returning to one’s hometown to see family and friends is an unlikely and unadvisable prospect.

Across the country, public health experts have urged Canadians to to limit — or even avoid — large Christmas get-togethers this year to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. That’s caused anxiety for some who’ve had to make difficult phone calls to parents and loved ones to say they won’t be home.

This Christmas is the first that some young people won’t spend at home. Their families say they understand, given the severity of the pandemic. Some have tried to mitigate the disappointment by sending care packages and presents. Others have made elaborate plans for Dec. 25 phone calls and virtual reunions.

Mollie Roy, a 25-year-old who’s staying in Vancouver instead of returning to her Ottawa hometown, admits she felt tempted as she saw people risk a reunion and go home. She was away from home last Christmas due to work, but this year felt different.

“You see other people doing it and you’re like, ‘Well, why shouldn’t I do it if other people are doing it?’ But that’s not really the right attitude, I don’t think, to have at this time of year in general and just about this whole pandemic,” said Roy, who works jobs in the restaurant industry as well as remotely as an office manager.

“Once I made the concrete decision, there was almost relief and just peace.”

She feels fortunate her family is healthy and that she can spend Christmas in Vancouver with her roommate and boyfriend. Roy is in contact with her family and friends in Ottawa, and will reach out to them during the holidays.

Roy said she’ll be spending the holidays in her self-described ‘Christmas palace’ in Vancouver. (Submitted by Mollie Roy)

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the safest way to celebrate “is with members of your immediate household” and urged Canadians to check with their local health authorities for additional guidance. Each province and territory has its own rules and limits on indoor gatherings, and many have allowances for people who live on their own to have contact with another household.

Dr. Ami Rokach, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, said this holiday season is particularly difficult because of many people’s expectations that this time of year means spending time with family — and restrictions that are still in place after nearly a year disrupt that.

Rokach, who also teaches in the psychology department at York University, recommends people use this time to focus on their individual well-being and to shift their perception.

“Not being able to be with people that you really want to be with doesn’t mean that you need to be lonely,” he said. Technological advances and safe gatherings can “provide us kind of a bridge to a better time,” he added.

WATCH | Psychiatrists discuss coping with being apart during the holidays:

Two psychiatrists answer viewer questions about staying mentally healthy while being isolated during the pandemic over the holidays, including how to cope with isolation and how students can balance added screen time from online schooling. 6:58

Far from home, but still connected

Seb Rocca, a 21-year-old political science student at McMaster University in Hamilton, won’t be returning to England for the holidays. He hasn’t seen his family in nearly a year.

When he left for Canada, his mother urged him to come home for Christmas. But lockdown concerns and fears of not being able to return due to flight cancellations meant he’ll be apart from family at Christmas for the first time. Even if he did decide to return, recently imposed travel restrictions between Canada and the U.K. due to a new variant of the coronavirus would have impacted any plans.

Seb Rocca said his mother mailed him a Christmas care-package from England to make sure he still felt connected to his family during the holidays. (Submitted by Seb Rocca)

Rocca will be spending Christmas with his girlfriend and her parents just outside Hamilton. In advance of this visit, he said he self-isolated as a precautionary measure.

His family in England have gone above and beyond to make him feel at home. His mother sent a stocking, a tree ornament and cards from various members of his family.

“I love my family a lot. They try very hard to make sure that I’m OK,” Rocca said.

He hopes he’ll be able to see his family for graduation in the spring — and he knows exactly what he’ll do then.

“Hug them like it was the last thing I can do on Earth,” he said. “Whether it’s in England or Canada, I just want to hug my family.”

Seb Rocca, left, sits beside his brother Dom during a family visit in 2019. Rocca hasn’t seen his family in nearly a year due to the pandemic. (Submitted by Seb Rocca)

New traditions out of necessity

Christmas is a big deal for Annabel Thornton’s family. Her family moved to Victoria from the United Kingdom when she was five, and the holidays have consistently been when the four of them could be together.

But Thornton, who’s now working on her Ph.D in economics at the University of Toronto, recognized last spring that returning to Vancouver Island during the holidays might be difficult due to the pandemic.

The 24-year-old was able to visit her family in B.C. during the summer. Her boyfriend also returned from Halifax, where he attends university, in mid-November. The two will spend the holidays together at their Toronto apartment.

Annabel Thornton won’t be doing her traditional Christmas Day walk with her family in Victoria this year, but there are still plans for her family to connect for the holiday while she stays in Toronto. (Submitted by Annabel Thornton)

“I have a really good support network in Toronto, thankfully, so I have a lot of friends and I have a lot of people I can talk to,” Thornton said about how she’s handled living on her own for parts of the pandemic. “But it’s definitely hard not seeing [family] at this time of year.”

In lieu of the traditional Christmas Day nature walks and extended pyjama time, her mother has organized a “Zoom murder-mystery” so the extended family can still connect during the holiday.

“We’re just trying to make the best of a sub par situation,” Thornton said.

‘Christmas is a really big thing in my family,’ said Thornton, adding that personalized stockings and extended pyjama time on Christmas morning are part of how her family usually celebrates the holiday.  (Submitted by Annabel Thornton)

A time to be thankful

Eric Laing, 22, feels fortunate to have spent most of the pandemic near family. He spent the summer at home in Peterborough, Ont., with his mom, then moved to Vancouver in September to start work as an accounting associate.

Laing, who lives with his brother in Vancouver, is staying in B.C. for the holidays. Their family was supportive of the decision, with some members particularly appreciative that the brothers wouldn’t be putting themselves at risk of exposure during the cross-country flight.

Eric Laing, second from right, said his family was understanding when he decided not to return home for the holidays this year. (Submitted by Eric Laing)

Laing relished being able to go for walks and bike rides with family and friends during the summer in Peterborough, and he and his brother spent the fall hiking and going to the beach. He said that, combined with Zoom and FaceTime calls with his mother, helped keep the feelings of isolation at bay.

“It would be really nice to see the rest of my family for the holidays as we have for so many years,” Laing said. “But I’m really just feeling grateful to be able to spend it with my brother at least.”

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Saint John police officers ordered not to wear thin blue line patches –



The Saint John Police Force has ordered its officers to stop wearing thin blue line patches following social media posts of officers sporting the controversial patch. 

Tweets posted on Thursday show Saint John police officers wearing the patches at King’s Square on July 3, while present at a protest being held by members of the community.

The patch has acquired various connotations, with some supporters saying wearing the patch is a sign of solidarity between officers while critics say it fosters a dangerous attitude of opposition between police officers and civilians.  

Community members say the protest on July 3 was about bringing awareness to the damage being done by colonialism, following ongoing news of the graves of Indigenous children being found at the sites of former residential schools.

It also followed the vandalization of the statue of Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley in the square. 

Saint John police declined an interview request and instead directed CBC News to its Twitter post

The post states that uniform standards have been discussed with officers.

“[The Saint John Police Force] has uniform standards that only allow issued items on the uniform — the thin blue line patch is not issued by the [the Saint John Police Force] thus is not part of our uniform and not authorized to wear,” the post said.

Cheryl Johnson is a Saint John resident who was at the protest and took the photos. She was alerted by a friend later in the month, who upon closer inspection, noticed some officers wearing the patches. 

“It was horrifying to discover that,” said Johnson in an interview. 

Johnson said she considered informing Saint John police about the patches, but had concerns that the matter would be neglected, so she posted the photos to social media. 

“I find that through Twitter, it can be very effective in quickly getting the message across and I was also interested to see what other folks thought about it,” said Johnson.

“We know that in policing, there is a history of violence and abuse, assault, so trying to publicly double down on the concept of us versus them makes me feel incredibly unsafe.”

Police forces across the country have distanced themselves from the patch.

The RCMP advised its officers to stop wearing the patches last fall, citing it was not an approved symbol or officially part of the uniform.

Ottawa police have also been banned from wearing the patches, while Montreal and Toronto police having been spotted wearing the patches this year.

Saint John Coun. David Hickey said he was disappointed to learn city police officers were wearing the patches. 

“What it comes down to is promoting that us versus them mentality and rhetoric that is becoming apparent in policing and I don’t want to see that,” said  Hickey.

David Hickey is the ward 3 city councilor for Saint John and the chair of the public safety committee. (David Hickey/Facebook)

He added that city officials have a duty to ensure Saint John residents feel comfortable interacting with their police department, but a shared level of respect needs to be achieved.

The wearing of thin blue line patches is facing additional scrutiny following protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing criticism toward the Blue Lives Matter counter movement, which began in the United States purporting the importance of valuing police officers’ lives. 

El Jones is an assistant professor of political studies at Mount Saint Vincent University and a community activist based in Halifax. 

Jones said the patches migrated from the United States, with the messaging behind the thin blue line being that the police are the only thing standing between order and chaos.

“You see a kind of imagining of society that’s quite dystopian…. You’re always in danger and the only thing keeping you safe is policing,” she said in an interview.

El Jones is an assistant professor of political studies at Mount Saint Vincent University and a community activist based in Halifax.  (Submitted by El Jones)

When looking at things through a lens of supposed order and chaos, Jones said often times policing punishes those who are already marginalized by society.

One of the most troubling connotations behind the patches, Jones noted, is them being worn in solidarity with officers accused of police brutality. 

“Particularly to Black people, it is quite frightening because it’s putting on your uniform, a sign of my solidarity with my fellow officers, and not with the idea of law and order,” said Jones.

The patch has also served as conduit for racist ideology, with authorities acknowledging that white nationalist groups have taken an interest in adopting the patch as a symbol.

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RCMP spied on Canadian nationalist committee over communist concerns – CTV News



Canada’s spy service closely monitored the burgeoning nationalist movement in the 1960s and ’70s, poring over pamphlets, collecting reports from confidential sources and warily watching for signs of Communist infiltration, once-secret records reveal.

The RCMP’s security branch, responsible for sniffing out subversives at the time, quietly tracked the rise of the Committee for an Independent Canada, seeing it as ripe for “exploitation or manipulation” by radicals.

The committee, which attracted numerous political and cultural luminaries, pushed for greater Canadian control of the industrial, media and foreign policy spheres in an era of profound American dominance.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the RCMP’s four-volume, 538-page dossier on the committee as well as a file on a forerunner organization from Library and Archives Canada. Some passages, though more than 60 years old, were withheld from release.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which assumed counter-subversion duties from the RCMP in 1984, transferred the records to the National Archives, given their historical significance.

The Mounties’ interest was piqued in the spring of 1960 when author Farley Mowat gathered neighbours at his home in Palgrave, Ont., to form what would soon become the Committee for Canadian Independence.

Mowat was instantly spurred into action upon reading journalist James Minifie’s book “Peacemaker or Powder-Monkey: Canada’s Role in a Revolutionary World,” rattled by its concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

The fledgling committee advocated distancing Canada from western military alliances and reasserting the country’s control over its airspace and territorial waters.

In August 1960, as the RCMP opened a file on the committee, a sergeant surmised the Communist party “must certainly be joyous” at the development given it had long espoused similar ideas. However, the Mounties had uncovered no information to suggest the group was “Communist inspired.”

While Mowat’s effort faded from the public conversation, hand-wringing about Canadian independence persisted.

Early in 1970, Toronto Daily Star editor Peter C. Newman, former Liberal cabinet minister Walter Gordon and economist Abe Rotstein hatched plans for the Committee for an Independent Canada during a meeting at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.

A statement of purpose published by the committee that September said it realized the benefits of Canada being neighbour to the most powerful nation in the world and rejected the idea of closing the taps of needed foreign capital.

“But our land won’t be our own much longer if we allow it to continue to be sold out to foreign owners. Not if we allow another culture to dominate our information media. Not if we allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another country’s foreign policy.”

A month later an RCMP corporal in the security service’s Toronto detachment warned in a two-page memo the publicity the committee had garnered made it a “vulnerable target for subversive penetration.”

Gordon, a longtime economic nationalist, was honorary chairman of the committee, with publisher Jack McClelland and Claude Ryan, director of influential Montreal newspaper Le Devoir, serving as co-chairmen.

The politically non-partisan organization’s steering committee included dozens of notable members of the Canadian intelligentsia, including Mowat and fellow author Pierre Berton, publisher Mel Hurtig, poet Al Purdy, Chatelaine magazine editor Doris Anderson, lawyers Eddie Goodman and Judy LaMarsh (who had also been a Liberal cabinet minister), union activist and longtime NDP stalwart Eamon Park, and Flora MacDonald, shortly before she became a Progressive Conservative MP.

A source whose name is blacked out of a March 1971 memo provided the RCMP with committee literature including a letter from student co-ordinators Gus Abols and Michael Adams.

“The support of young Canadians is essential, because only through our united action will the government and the Canadian public generally realize the seriousness of our country’s situation and the extent of our commitment to the preservation of Canada,” the letter said.

Adams recalls being a graduate student the University of Toronto, strolling to class, when Goodman, whom he knew from Conservative political circles, pulled over his car and told the young man to jump in because “we’re going to start up something that I think you’d be interested in.”

Adams, who would go on to build Environics Research Group into a leading pollster, has fond memories of accompanying Gordon on a committee trip to London, Ont., to promote the nationalist cause to students.

As the “young guy” at committee meetings, Adams revelled in the impressive company.

“It was a wonderful group,” he said. “They were incredibly nurturing and helpful.”

For their part, however, RCMP security officers didn’t seem to know what to make of the committee.

An August 1971 memo to divisions from RCMP headquarters said the committee had taken a moderate, middle class-oriented stance rather than a radical approach. Elements of the New Left and the Communist party had shown interest in the committee, but the RCMP was not aware of “any significant degree of influence or penetration.”

Still, the Mounties would continue to eye the committee because its aims and programs “provide a potential for exploitation or manipulation by groups or individuals of a subversive nature.”

On the contrary, the committee was formed to keep the nationalist movement from falling into the hands of the Communists and the far left represented by the NDP’s Waffle initiative, said Stephen Azzi, a professor of political management at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“The RCMP intelligence unit appeared to be staffed by people with little knowledge, with scant research skills and with deep paranoia,” Azzi said in an interview.

The Mounties studiously monitored the committee through the 1970s, clipping news items and filing memos. A confidential source advised the RCMP of plans for the group’s Ottawa demonstration in January 1975, suggesting they would muster “25-30 people instead of the 60 previously planned.”

By this point, the committee was no longer a potent force in Canadian public life in any event, Azzi sai

Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister of the day, was openly skeptical of the nationalist agenda but had adroitly harnessed support for the movement to shore up electoral support, particularly in southern Ontario, he added.

Several of the committee’s ideas were realized through creation of Crown corporation Petro-Canada, the Foreign Investment Review Agency, the Canada Development Corporation to foster Canadian-controlled enterprises, and new rules for homegrown content on the airwaves.

Many effects of those policies linger today, Azzi said. “I think our sense of Canada to a large extent was shaped in that period.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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Travellers to be placed in queues based on vaccine status on arrival at Toronto Pearson airport –



When travellers arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport, they’ll be split into two separate queues — vaccinated people in one, with non-vaccinated people or people who are only partially vaccinated in another.

“This is a measure to help streamline the border clearance process,” airport spokesperson Beverly MacDonald told the CBC. “There are different entry requirements for vaccinated and non/partially vaccinated travellers, which have been broadly communicated by the Government of Canada.”

As of July 5, fully vaccinated travellers permitted to enter Canada are exempted from quarantine measures and testing for COVID-19 on their eight day post-arrival.

Travellers are still required to get a pre-entry test, a quarantine plan if not granted the exemption, and an arrival test.

There is also a requirements checklist that involves providing proof of vaccination in ArriveCan — the government portal to submit vaccine information.

Passengers entering Canada from the United States or another international destination will be split into the two queues before reaching Canada Customs.

The process came into effect after the federal government introduced different entry requirements for vaccinated and non/partially vaccinated travel.

“We know that the arrivals experience is different for passengers than it was in pre-pandemic times,” MacDonald said. “We appreciate passengers’ patience as we work with all of our partners to implement Government of Canada requirements for international air travel.”

Toronto Pearson, with its Healthy Airport initiative, has mandated masks and enhanced cleaning measures and its HVAC systems. It says it continues to work with government agencies, airlines, and airports to follow safety protocols.

More information on the airports COVID-19 protocols is available at

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