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Grieving family says Canada abandoned son in Florida prison – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Sacha Bond’s family was looking forward to 2022, when, after more than 15 years in the United States, he would finally return to Canada. Instead, his mother is by his side at a hospital in Tallahassee, Fla., watching him die.

Bond, who turns 36 at the end of August, has been an inmate at Apalachee Correctional Institution for nearly half his life. Now chained to a hospital bed and supervised by armed guards 24/7 while in a coma, this is not what Sacha’s family wants for his final days. They blame the Canadian government for not doing enough years earlier — and for not doing more now.

Sacha was found with a fever of 40.5 C around 8:30 a.m. on July 13 after having spent almost three months in confinement, according to his mother, Diane Levesque, and brother, Eric Bond.

“There’s nothing we can do at this point because his brain is completely gone. He’s gone through so much cruelty at that place, and basically now my mom is risking her life … in the worst place in the world for COVID,” Eric Bond told CTVNews.ca.

“It is really, really heartbreaking.”

When he was taken out of the cell, he collapsed and never woke up, Eric Bond said. Sacha’s temperature had climbed to 41 C by the time he was admitted into the hospital, where he was put on life support. Scans revealed severe, irreparable brain damage. His kidneys and lungs were failing and he had a blood infection.

But the family, who live in Quebec, said they would not have even known Sacha was dying in a hospital had Levesque not been in regular contact with him and the Canadian government.

She had called the consulate to ask when they would be visiting her son and was told they couldn’t because he was in the hospital, Eric Bond said. When she tried to find out which hospital he was being treated at, she was met with further roadblocks. A sympathetic staff member at the prison eventually told her.

Doctors diagnosed Bond with serotonin syndrome and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), his family said, both of which are triggered by certain types of medication. Over the last year or so, the prison had been changing his medication for his bipolar disorder, Eric Bond said, changes that were affecting his serotonin levels. The family had asked doctors at the prison to stop making the drug switches because the ones he was taking were working well, he added.

NMS is a very rare reaction to drugs that treat mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder.

Bond had been on life support for about two weeks by the time Levesque, who had power-of-attorney, made it to Florida. She was shocked by the severity of his condition. He was taken off life support two days later.

He is surviving longer than doctors expected because his lower brain stem, which was not damaged, is helping him breathe on his own, his family said.

“How can his soul leave his body when he’s stuck, chained to the bed?” Levesque asked in an interview.

“Canada does nothing. They’re standing by … He’ll be another statistic – that a Canadian died in a U.S. prison. You know what? He’s a human being, he’s my son.”

Neither the Florida Department of Corrections nor the warden for Apalachee Correctional Institution responded to questions about prisoner hospital policies and requests for comment from CTVNews.ca.

A 20-YEAR SENTENCE AND TRANSFERS DENIED

Bond was 19 when he got into a drunken fight at a bar during a January 2004 trip to Florida. He returned to the bar with a gun and tried to fire, but there were no bullets in those chambers, according to the family and media reports on the case. He was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years.

He was set to be released on Sept.25, 2022, according to public inmate records from the Florida Department of Corrections.

His family tried many times over the years to transfer him to a Canadian prison under the International Transfer of Offenders Act, where they hoped he could get better treatment for his bipolar disorder, diagnosed just six months before his arrest. Canada approved the transfer twice, but U.S. authorities denied the request each time, Levesque said.

“Canada has made no effort to work with the U.S. government in order to have them send my boy back home,” she said. They sent the family funeral home pamphlets following their most recent pleas, saying there was nothing they could do, she added.

Global Affairs Canada told CTVNews.ca they are aware a Canadian citizen is being detained in Florida and said they continue to provide consular services to both the individual and their family.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and consular officials are in regular contact with local authorities to ensure he is provided the necessary medical care,” spokesman Jason Kung said via email. Citing the Privacy Act, Global Affairs said it could not disclose any further information.

Correctional Service Canada, which oversees international transfers, did not immediately respond to questions regarding the case.

SCARED OF COVID-19 AND THREE MONTHS CONFINEMENT

Prison had “broken” Bond and made him a changed person, his family said. Still, in Levesque’s last phone conversation with him, “he was OK, he wasn’t sick … He was fine, happy, laughed,” she said. But he was very concerned and scared about the COVID-19 situation at the prison, where he said social distancing was non-existent.

The Apalachee East Unit is a large, dormitory-like space that holds some 150 inmates, according to Levesque, with cots set up side-by-side and just enough room to get in and out of bed.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, there have been 152 positive COVID-19 tests among inmates, 25 among staff, and no deaths reported at that facility. Staff are provided with protective equipment including surgical-grade and N95 masks and Tyvek suits. Inmates are required to wear “cloth face coverings” and are monitored by medical staff with temperature checks conducted throughout the day.

Bond tried to ask for “protective management” on health and safety grounds — which would segregate him from other inmates — but his mother said that request was denied. They put him in 45 days of confinement instead, which placed him in a cell with one other inmate, she said.

When the 45 days were over, Bond refused the order to go back to the general prison area, so he was given another 21 days of confinement, this time in a different type of cell that had no bars on the solid doors, a small window with no sunlight, and no ventilation. Phone calls were not allowed.

“My brother was sending letters to all the consulates saying, ‘This is insane, I’m going freaking nuts, I have a rash from head to toe. I can’t even breathe in here,’” Eric Bond said.

Levesque was also exchanging daily letters with Bond during this period, but after his first 45 days, she got a call: “Sacha wants me to pass you a message — stop writing in French because they’re keeping all these letters. He’s not getting them.”

In his last letter to his mother, Bond said he was breathing in black mould all day long, had a body rash and was sweating 24/7. He fell into a coma 10 days later.

Now, Levesque keeps him company in the hospital room day and night, sleeping in a chair and holding his hands under the watchful eye of two prison guards who stay in the small room with them. She is no longer allowed to keep a phone inside the room to connect with her other son, who worries he will not be able to see his brother’s last moments.

“We’re a very strong family. Sacha stayed in prison, did his time for 17 years and we just wanted him to come out of that tunnel … There is zero per cent chance of him pulling out of this and the prison is insisting on chaining his body to that bed,” said Eric Bond.

“I’m 100 per cent going to lose my brother. I’m really scared of losing my mother in this whole process.”

The guards’ presence has made things especially tense, said Levesque.

“The hospital is the best, co-operative and very empathetic, sympathetic, you know. But that prison? They want to control him up to the last minute,” she said, adding that the guards told her: “‘He’s still ours. He still belongs to us.’”

Her presence in the room outside of visitation hours was also questioned, even though she received permission from the hospital to remain with her son.

“There was no way I wasn’t coming over here, even though COVID is like a cesspool down here,” Levesque said. “It’s one of the worst places, but that’s where my son is. That’s where I need to be.”

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Canada's death toll could hit 16000 by the end of 2020, new modelling warns – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada could see as many as 16,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year if current public safety measures don’t change, according to new modelling from the United States that has provided accurate assessments of the American death toll.

But a Canadian pandemic modelling expert says that, while anything is possible, the American model may not be capturing the whole picture in Canada.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington suggests Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1 based on the current situation. If public safety mandates are loosened, such as physical distancing, the death toll could be even higher, hitting a projected 16,743 lives lost.

Universal masking in public spaces could curb those numbers and save thousands of lives, the model suggests, pointing to countries like Singapore that have successfully put in place masking protocols that are 95 per cent effective. Singapore has reported 27 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

If Canada were to successfully implement similar rules, the modelling predicts a death toll of 12,053.

So far Canada has reported 9,256 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 150,000 cases. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned earlier this week that the country is at the beginning of a second wave of infections as he urged Canadians to take public health guidance seriously.

Quebec is leading the country with new cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, the province reported another 698 cases, the highest daily infection numbers since May.

Dionne Aleman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in mathematical models for pandemic prediction, said the IHME model is “simplistic” and does not account for regional differences across the country.

While a second wave of COVID-19 infections has started, Aleman points out that deaths are not in a second wave. COVID-19 deaths in Canada peaked in April and May, when more than 100 people died in connection with the virus daily. Those numbers have remained much lower in recent months, with five deaths reported on Friday.

“The fact that deaths are not tracking with infections as they did in the first wave indicates that vulnerable individuals are taking more precautions to protect themselves now, and it is reasonable to assume those precautions will continue as the second wave gets worse. This model does not account for the fact that some people are behaving differently from others, and thus, the projected deaths are likely overstated,” Aleman told CTVNews.ca on Saturday over email.

The latest modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada does not offer predictions to the end of the year, but suggests that, based on current rates, the death toll could steadily rise to 9,300 lives lost by Oct. 2.

The IMHE modelling has proven to be accurate. Earlier this year, the model predicted that the U.S. would hit 200,000 deaths in September, a grim milestone that happened earlier this week. Now, the model predicts the U.S. death toll will nearly double by the end of the year, reaching 371,509 by Jan. 1.

The IMHE model also predicts daily infections — a number that includes people who aren’t tested for COVID-19 — could hit more than 19,000 by the end of the year.

Aleman said it’s important to remember that, even if a person doesn’t die from COVID-19, the consequences of getting sick can be serious.

“There are numerous examples of otherwise healthy individuals with severe reactions to COVID taking several weeks and even months to recover, and there are indications that there could be long-term health consequences,” she said.

“We should view these projections of exponential infection increase with great concern, and we as individuals should take every reasonable precaution to stem this increase before it is too far out of control. Wearing masks is easy and effective, and we should do it.”

Infections may be on the upswing, but Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Saturday that limiting personal contacts as much as possible can help once again flatten the curve. She encouraged Canadians to take time this weekend to chat with loved ones about how to keep their bubbles safer.

“Even if people attending an event are part of your extended family, as has been the case with some of these private gathering outbreaks, it doesn’t mean they are not infected, even if no one appears to be unwell,” Tam said in a statement.

“Despite the very real concern of a large resurgence in areas where the virus is escalating, there is still reason to be optimistic that we can get things back to the slow burn.”

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B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada – CBC.ca

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The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.

Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.

The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday. 

Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson. 

The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.

UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Deep listening’

Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities. 

“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release. 

The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.

Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland. 

Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.

“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.

“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”

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Crisis, what crisis? If Canada is in a 2nd COVID wave, N.L. is watching it from afar – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on April 27. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

On Wednesday, Canadians tuned in to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau make a national address on COVID-19. Trudeau got right to the point.

“The second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Trudeau said. “The numbers are clear.”

Given that Trudeau just moments later said, “We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” I was expecting him to then lay down the framework for another lockdown.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Trudeau appealed to Canadians to do their part to smash a curve that has been on rapid ascent in some provinces, especially British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Are things that bad? Here’s a comparison from the address that ought to have caught attention. “Back on March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over a thousand.”

There was no sense of panic after Trudeau’s remarks — not across the country, but especially not here. What reaction I did notice locally on social media might be boiled down to “meh.” That is, life is going on, and since Trudeau’s address made for prime-time viewing in our time zone, it felt like a bit of a letdown.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a rare address to the nation following a throne speech like no other in Canadian history. The address and the speech were both focused on COVID-19. The Liberals also promised job creation and child-care investment. 9:01

Part of this reason surely must be that there are distinct COVID-19 situations in the country, and Newfoundland and Labrador — perhaps accustomed to watching national dramas from both geographic and psychological sidelines all along — is far away from a mounting crisis elsewhere in Canada.

Wildly different experiences in the pandemic

Consider this. In Ontario on Thursday — the day after Trudeau’s address to the nation — 409 cases were reported. A month earlier, on Aug. 24, the number was 105. Quebec reported 582 cases on Thursday; on Aug. 24, that number was just 68.

The national tally has indeed been spiking in recent days. On Thursday, Canada logged 1,341 news cases of COVID-19 — or about 55 an hour. That’s almost one a minute.

Or, to look at it another way, there are on average five new cases surfacing every five or six minutes.

To count the last five cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, you need to go back to Aug. 10. To count the last 10, we go back to July 22.

Passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport is gradually climbing, but remains a small fraction of normal volumes. (Gary Locke/CBC)

In other words, the pandemic situation here — like all of the other Atlantic provinces and the territories — is entirely different from provinces where cases are spiking. (Manitoba is dealing with double digits, while Saskatchewan’s caseload has been comparatively modest.)

So … have we become complacent?

There’s always that concern everywhere, and we should be no different.

But it’s worth noting that a focal point of Wednesday’s weekly briefing was whether Halloween could go ahead this year. (A provisional yes, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, so long as rates do not increase.)

Not only did we not see anxious faces that have been handling briefings in bigger provinces, we learned on Wednesday that the provincial government has stopped sending daily news releases on COVID-19. They’ll resume when there is, well, news — presumably, a new case. Otherwise, data will be updated every afternoon on the dashboard of the province’s COVID-19 website.

Crushing the curve

Newfoundland and Labrador, which had a scary spike in the early spring with a cluster that involved attendance at the Caul’s funeral home in St. John’s, not only planked the curve, but kind of crushed it.

Still, despite a gradual loosening of restrictions brought in through a public health emergency order, we continue to move through the impacts of living with a pandemic. We may be able to shop and move around more easily, but many facets of daily life are quite affected. In the weeks to come, there will be no fall fairs at local churches, no Christmas sales at the Glacier, no big concerts at Mile One. Live performances are resuming, but many chairs (every other row at the Arts & Culture Centre) will be vacant for safety.

The tone of COVID-19 briefings locally has been notably less grim than in some other provinces. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, reactions to a question at Wednesday’s briefing on whether she has plans to travel abroad. After chuckling, she said no. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

There will be no conventions, either. Indeed, there has not been that much travel. There was five times the amount of passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport in August than in April, but that’s only because there was practically no traffic at all in those early weeks of the pandemic.

Consider this chart:

MonthPassengersDecrease from 2019
April 20205,424-95.4%
May 20206,780-94.9%
June 202010,831-92.2%
July 202021,791-87.1%
August 202028,569-84.1%

Source: St. John’s International Airport

Newfoundland and Labrador’s so-called travel ban — which prohibits entry to the province to non-residents (now outside the Maritimes) who do not have previously approved exemptions — continues to be divisive, but I see many people applaud it. Last week, Justice Donald Burrage upheld the ban, even though he also found that the order clearly violates charter rights of movement. Lawyers who argued the case say they are considering an appeal.

Legends of the fall

As I was making a cup of coffee early Friday morning, I noticed something that used to be common (like clockwork, really) in the air over the east end: the distinctive noise of a jet taking off at the airport.

It has occurred to me that the “new normal” of COVID-19 that we’ve all been talking about really means “the normal we are in right now, and it may change quickly.”

We are connected to the rest of the country, and the rest of the planet, and things are fluid.

Trudeau, who used his address to call on people to behave responsively, said the outcome of the second wave is not predetermined.

“What we can change,” he said, “is where we are in October and into the winter. It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

At this end of the country, it would be an understatement to say people want the infection rate to stay as low this fall as it’s been this summer.

It’s also reasonable to think many people are looking forward to a “new normal” that moves closer and closer to the old one.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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