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Four terminally ill Canadians get special exemption to use psychedelic therapy – CTV News

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TORONTO —
In a landmark decision, four Canadians suffering from terminal illnesses have been approved to receive psilocybin therapy to treat their anxiety — marking the first time that a legal exemption has been given in Canada for patients to access psychedelic substances for treatment.

A press release posted Tuesday by TheraPsil, a non-profit advocacy group that is working to help Canadians gain access to psilocybin therapy, revealed that Health Minister Patty Hajdu had approved the request.

It’s been more than 100 days since the four applicants first made their plea.

“I would like to personally thank the Hon. Minister Hajdu and the team at the Office of Controlled Substances for the approval of my section 56 exemption,” said Thomas Hartle in the press release.

“This is the positive result that is possible when good people show genuine compassion. I’m so grateful that I can move forward with the next step of healing.”

Hartle spoke to CTV News in June about his struggle with terminal cancer, and the crushing fear that such a diagnosis brings.

The 52-year-old’s anxiety about the end of his life was making his current days unbearable, and anti-anxiety medication wasn’t having the effect he needed it to.

It was this suffering that pushed him and three other Canadians with similar diagnoses towards psilocybin.

The drug, found in so-called “magic mushrooms,” is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound.

Research tracking the effects of the psychedelic drug has found that it has the potential to provide long-term relief for mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression, especially in those receiving palliative care due to a terminal diagnosis.

The U.S. Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently running clinical trials to assess whether the drug should be released on the market as a prescription medication.

In Canada, the drug is illegal. According to Health Canada’s website, possession, production, or sale of magic mushrooms or anything containing psilocybin is prohibited “unless authorized for clinical trial or research purposes.”

It notes that “currently there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada.”

These regulations meant that in order for Hartle and the other applicants to gain access to the drug, they had to apply for an exemption on compassionate grounds to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

After the decision, Hartle told CTV News by email that he was “very glad” to hear it — but acknowledged he hadn’t been sure how it would all shake out.

“I had my doubts that this would go as well as it has, but the Minister has really shown that she is ready to stand behind her words when she spoke about the importance of mental health,” he wrote.

“I certainly hope this means that the doors for access might be a little more open for others.”

Laurie Brooks, one of the other three applicants, said in the press release that she was “feeling quite emotional,” after hearing the good news.

“The acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me,” she said.

“I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission.”

Dr. Bruce Tobin, the founder of TheraPsil, extended his gratitude towards Hajdu in the press release

“Although it has taken a long time we are impressed with their willingness to listen to patients who have not been heard and to shift focus and policy to accommodate their interests and protect their needs.”

Tobin, a psychotherapist and professor at the University of Victoria, has been working since 2017 to be able to treat patients experiencing end-of-life distress with psilocybin.

“Canadians now have the right to die, and this was legally recognized in the medical assistance in dying legislation that came in a few years ago,” Tobin told CTV News in June.

“If Canadians have the right to die acknowledged, surely they must have the right to try … to have a better life before they finally do pass away.”

With files from Avis Favaro, Jackie Dunham and Elizabeth St. Philip 

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Ottawa prepares to squeeze big U.S. tech firms over loss of revenue for Canadian news outlets – CBC.ca

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Advocates for Canada’s news media sector have welcomed the federal government’s clearest pledge yet to squeeze web giants for compensation. But there’s evidence it will be a long, difficult process.

Major U.S.-based tech firms such as Facebook and Google have long been accused of funnelling advertising revenues away from Canada’s struggling news organizations while not paying the outlets for their copyrighted content.

In its throne speech on Wednesday, the Liberal government put it this way: “Web giants are taking Canadians’ money while imposing their own priorities.”

In the speech, read by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, the government vowed, “Things must change, and will change.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been signalling his intent to take on the Silicon Valley companies for months, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis, there was no guarantee that it would remain a legislative priority.

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, said after the speech that he was encouraged by the government’s message.

Some news outlets in Canada have benefited from Ottawa’s wage subsidy program during the pandemic, as well as a prior tax credit-based bailout, but the loss of revenues to web giants is seen as a longer-term threat. Friends of Canadian Broadcasting estimates job cuts in journalism have surpassed 3,000 since COVID-19 struck. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“We’ve felt for a long time that we’re contributing a lot to these platforms and getting nothing back,” he told CBC News in an earlier interview. “It’s because we’re in this essentially powerless position that we’re asking government to intervene.”

His newspaper is among countless media organizations across the country imperilled by an ongoing loss of ad revenue, compounded by the pandemic.

A tally by the Canadian Association of Journalists at the end of April found that 50 outlets had recently closed and 78 had cut staff, resulting in 2,053 job losses.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an advocacy group, now estimates the job cuts in journalism have surpassed 3,000 since COVID-19 struck in the early part of the year.

Some news outlets have benefited from Ottawa’s wage subsidy program during the pandemic — and a tax credit-based media bailout before that — but the loss of revenues to web giants is seen as a longer-term threat.

“This is a six-alarm fire, and the government needs to act right now — this parliament — to start imposing the rule of law over these Silicon Valley giants that are cratering our industries,” said Daniel Bernhard, executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

Cox and Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, were among the Canadian media executives who signed a joint letter to all federal party leaders in February, demanding fairer rules surrounding competition, copyright and taxation for online content.

Media, tech firms have complicated relationship

Guilbeault has been working on a plan to address the imbalance between Canadian news organizations and the web giants. As it stands, platforms like Facebook and Google can share headlines and snippets of news articles without directly compensating the outlets.

What’s more, the tech firms sell advertising on the content they didn’t create.

It’s a complicated relationship, however. Local and national media outlets also rely on web traffic driven by search engines and social media platforms — some of the sites most visited by Canadians.

WATCH | Regulations for tech giants to ‘pay their fair share,’ minister says:

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault tells CBC’s Thomas Daigle about a plan to make digital giants compensate Canadian media. 1:49

“The days where the [tech] companies could decide just about everything … are over,” Guilbeault said in a recent interview.

While legislation could come as early as this fall, few details are known about how the government plans to address the issue. 

The throne speech provided this vague hint: “The government will act to ensure [web companies’] revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media.” The speech also alluded to tackling “corporate tax avoidance by digital giants.”

Guilbeault acknowledged he has “an uphill battle” ahead. Experiences abroad confirm that.

Experiences in other countries offer lessons

In France, Google refused to comply with a 2019 European Union directive to pay to use snippets of news stories. Instead, the platform removed article extracts from search results, leaving only the links.

The matter was hardly resolved. Earlier this year, the French competition authority ordered Google back to the bargaining table.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University Ottawa, said he does not expect Facebook to easily co-operate, either.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist says Australia, which published a draft code in the summer — drawing swift rebukes from Google and Facebook — may provide the best preview of the battle brewing in Canada with tech giants. (Guillaume Lafrenière/CBC)

“The risk, if we move toward licensing links, is that news stories are going to disappear for Canadians from social media services” altogether, he warned.

Geist pointed to Australia, which has a population approximately two-thirds the size of Canada’s and may provide the best preview of the battle brewing here.

A draft code published over the summer by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission drew swift rebukes from both Google and Facebook. The plan would allow for news publishers to negotiate with the tech firms for compensation when their content is reposted.

In response, Facebook “reluctantly” threatened to ban the sharing of news articles on its platforms in Australia. Critics pointed out it would still be possible to post false stories.

Google, for its part, said the Australian strategy put the search engine and its sister platform YouTube “at risk.”

“I think the idea is right — there needs to be some sort of fair exchange,” but identifying the correct process poses a challenge, said Andrea Carson, an associate professor in the department of politics, media and philosophy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, who received a grant from Facebook to research online misinformation.

“I’m not sure any country, at this point, has worked out best practices yet.”

Guilbeault has been monitoring such efforts overseas and expects other governments will follow suit soon.

“If it’s two, three, four, five [countries], I think it’s going to become impossible for Facebook to start boycotting everybody,” he said.

Platforms like Facebook and Google can share headlines and snippets of news articles without directly compensating Canadian news outlets. The tech firms can also sell advertising on the content they didn’t create. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

A statement issued by Facebook on Thursday did not directly address the issue of compensating news organizations in this country. “We welcome new rules for the internet that support innovation, free expression and the digital economy,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

A representative for Google Canada said the company looks forward “to continued collaboration with the [Department of Canadian Heritage] to explore new ways to support the Canadian creator and media ecosystem.”

Guilbeault is working on requirements for streaming services to contribute more to Canadian content as well. Regulations are also in the works for social media companies to address harmful content — for example, the quicker removal of hate speech or any incitement to violence.

“We have worked hard over the decades to have a safe Canada in the real world, and that’s what we’re trying to translate onto the web,” Guilbeault said. “Right now, one could argue that it’s not really the case.”

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Canada's top doctors reveal flip side to public praise: 'I've had death threats' – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The top health officials co-ordinating Canada’s COVID-19 response say the majority of public reaction to their work has been positive — but they’ve also received some abusive feedback that ranges from “well-thought-out insults” to “death threats.”

“I’ve got a lot of positive responses, but there are many people who don’t like what I do, or don’t like the way I say it or don’t like my shoes and feel quite able to send me nasty notes, to leave phone calls, to harass my office staff,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s top doctor, speaking Tuesday.

“I’ve had to have security in my house, I’ve had death threats,” she added.

Her comment made headlines after she revealed the death threats she’d been facing — and it prompted reporters to quiz other health officials about how they’ve been treated by the public.

While the other public health officers did not report death threats, they said they had been on the receiving end of some abuse.

Dr. Heather Morrison, who serves as the top doctor in P.E.I., said she’s received a small amount of feedback that’s been frightening.

“Overwhelmingly, it’s been so wonderful,” Morrison told CTV News in an interview.

However, she conceded that “there have been threats, at times.”

“It makes me concerned for my family, and my children, and my staff,” Morrison said.

While some doctors, such as Henry and Morrison, reported outright threats, others said that while they hadn’t faced any threats, there had been a heaping of criticism levelled towards them.

“Dr. Hinshaw has received a wide range of correspondence from Albertans,” said a spokesperson for Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“While this includes strong personal and professional criticisms, she has not received death threats or hate mail to date.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s top doctor, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, said in her Wednesday press conference that it’s “unfortunate” people feel public servants “deserve to be the target of such harassment.”

“In the Public Health Division we’ve had our share of emails that aren’t necessarily in agreement with some of the things that we have done, but you know, we have to accept that as part of the job I guess,” she added.

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said in her own Wednesday press conference that she has also been on the receiving end of insults — but no threats.

“I haven’t had any threats. I’ve had some very-well-thought-out insults sent my way, but for the most part, no, no threats,” she said.

RESEARCH POINTS TO WOMEN FACING MORE CRITICISM ONLINE

At least one study indicates that the numbers reflect what these doctors are describing — and may point to a gender divide in the negative feedback they face.

Erin Kelly is the CEO of Advanced Symbolics Inc., which uses Artificial Intelligence for human behaviour research. She studied the feedback these public health officer face using a randomized, controlled sample of 270,000 Canadians taken from Twitter.

Kelly said the randomized, controlled sample she studied was taken from Twitter between October 1, 2019 to September 22, 2020. She said her results had a margin of error of +/- 1 per cent, with a 95-per-cent confidence interval 19 times out of 20.

She said they found, overall, discussion about Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry was “well in excess of 80 per cent positive, so overall Canadians feel they’re doing a good job.”

“However, we have seen for some of them like Bonnie Henry, feelings about her have been on the decline since about April, and especially since July, that contestations questioning her competence have been increasing,” Kelly said.

She added that roughly a quarter of the discussions about Tam were what she would “classify as racist.”

“But the bigger picture that we see is a gender bias in how public health officials are being perceived,” Kelley said.

She explained that where there are negative comments directed at public health officials, “it comes overwhelmingly from men.”

She said that when this was compared to the comments Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams faces, “the comments from men were overwhelmingly positive.”

“So it’s not as though they’re always negative about public health officials generally, it seems to be splitting along gender lines,” Kelly said.

When asked about this gender difference, Alberta’s top doctor said it would be “difficult” to compare what she’s experienced with the feelings among her colleagues.

“It’s not something I’ve discussed with my male colleagues across the country so that might be something of interest to find out if they’re experiencing some similar frustrations,” Hinshaw said.

“I think it is quite understandable that people do feel angry, it’s just really important that, if people are feeling angry, that they frame their concerns in a respectful way…whether people in leadership are women or men.”

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Coronavirus: Canada adds 1,329 cases, 5 deaths Thursday – Global News

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Canada added 1,329 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday and five deaths.

That brings the national total to 148,941 cases and 9,249 deaths, with two deaths added from earlier in the week.

Read more:
Ontario reports 409 new coronavirus cases with most in Toronto-area, Ottawa

Ontario reported 409 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its case total to 48,496 and count back into the 400s after 335 cases were reported Wednesday.

Currently there are 88 people in hospital with the virus in the province, with 27 of them in intensive care and 11 on a ventilator.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 582 new cases on Thursday, bringing the province’s total to 69,670. Hospitalizations increased by six to 184, with 31 in intensive care.

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One additional death was announced that occurred between Sept. 17 and 22. The province has the most deaths in the country at 5,810.

Out west, British Columbia reported 148 new cases on Thursday, with 61 currently in hospital, 20 of them in intensive care. The province has seen 8,543 cases total.

Two new deaths were reported as well.

Alberta announced 158 new cases, with 58 people currently in hospital, 14 in intensive care. There are 1,462 active cases total.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Alberta has 1.02% positivity rate; 4% of schools have active cases

The province also announced one new death — a man in his 80s from Calgary.

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Manitoba reported 37 new cases of COVID-19. The province currently has 449 active cases, with 11 in hospital and six in intensive care.

The province also confirmed the death of a woman in her 90s in a long-term care home in Winnipeg, which was first reported on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan added five new cases to its tally of 1,835 total cases on Thursday, and currently has 130 active cases with eight people hospitalized. No new deaths were reported.






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In the Maritimes, New Brunswick reported one new case of an individual from Fredericton but who is currently in Ontario.

Nova Scotia added no new cases to its sole active case. The province currently has one person in ICU and has had 1,087 cases total.

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No cases were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI or any of the territories.

There have been 32,091,257 cases reported worldwide and 980,299 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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