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Haiti: Canada sends armoured vehicles amid violence

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A shipment of armoured vehicles from Canada and the U.S. arrived in Haiti on Saturday as violence ensues in the nation, but some experts are questioning Canada’s decision to intervene.

The coordinated shipment was planned under a joint operation with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. Global Affairs Canada released a statement Saturday evening confirming the joint delivery of armoured vehicles from the Canadian and U.S. military has arrived in Haiti.

“Today, Canadian and U.S. military aircraft arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to transfer vital Haitian government-purchased security equipment, including tactical and armoured vehicles, and supplies to the Director General of the Haitian National Police (HNP),” the statement reads.

The statement, issued by Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and National Defence Minister Anita Anand, says the equipment is intended to help the Haitian National Police against violence insinuated by “criminal actors.”

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There has been growing concern for the nation who had their president assassinated last year, is experiencing an ongoing cholera epidemic and sexual violence against women, children and men by gangs. The Haitian government had also urged countries like Canada and the U.S. to provide security assistance.

The federal government says Canada will be working with other international partners to help Haiti’s law enforcement in training more police officers. The statement did not include if any additional police tools like firearms and bulletproof vests were included in the shipment. Canada’s ambassador to Haiti Sebastien Carriere also said on Twitter they will not be releasing the vehicle numbers or models to avoid exposing the information to gangs in the country.

While Canada has pledged financial aid in recent months for Haiti, experts and activists that have been closely following the events in the country over the last two decades say Haiti needs to be left alone.

“We keep saying what we’ve been saying for a long time, let Haiti decide its own destiny,” former Canadian ambassador to Haiti Gilles Rivard told CTV News in an interview.

Rivard, who served as the ambassador between 2008 and 2010 and later again in 2014, says Canada shouldn’t intervene in Haiti’s affairs until the country is able to make an agreement between its society and the government to run an election and solidify a government.

“Where do you start and where do you finish? Until there is no roadmap to put that country back on track in terms of political structure”? he said. “There’s a lot that has to be done but that first part has to come from Haiti in my view.”

Haitian-Canadian activist Jean Saint-Vil says the Haitian people have been feeling the same.

“Get out. Haitians have been telling Canada, the United States, Europe to get out,” he told CTV News in an interview.

Saint-Vil says instead there needs to be reparations made to the country starting with the United Nations involvement in the cholera outbreak. In 2013 the UN had disputed claims that their peacekeepers brought cholera to the country during recovery efforts after the 2010 earthquake. The UN did not say they started the epidemic but they did admit their own involvement in 2016 after a report made by a UN investigator was leaked.

Since 2010, the cholera outbreak has killed nearly 10,000 people on the island according to the World Health Organization.

“The reason why they are propping up this thing right now is to pretend that this is a humanitarian intervention,” he said.

In a tweet following the statement on the new shipment, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated Canada’s commitment to support Haiti’s law enforcement.

“Our two countries remain committed to supporting the Haitian National Police’s work of protecting and serving the people of Haiti. And together, we’ll continue to support the restoration of security in Haiti,” he said.

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Flu surges on heels of RSV, COVID-19 to overwhelm children’s hospitals in Canada

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A flu season that started early, hospitalized far more children than usual and overwhelmed emergency departments has revealed that Canada’s healthcare system is chronically underfunded when it comes to the most vulnerable citizens, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist says.

Dr. Jesse Papenburg, who works at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said a system that was already struggling with a surge of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, on the heels of COVID-19 is now overwhelmed in much of the country.

“Certainly, Ontario and Alberta in particular have been hit very hard with an early and really quite explosive influenza season in pediatrics when it comes to more severe disease requiring complex hospitalization. And we’re also observing in Montreal as well that our influenza admissions are really starting to pick up,” he said.

The last week of November saw the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations for a single week in the past decade, said Papenburg, who is also an investigator for IMPACT, a program that monitors hospitalizations for vaccine-preventable diseases at 12 children’s hospitals across the country.

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A typical flu season sees about 1,000 kids admitted to hospital. Due to pandemic public health measures, he said last season saw only 400 and there were none the season before that.

Up to the end of November, over 700 children had been hospitalized with the H3N2 strain of the flu, which typically takes a toll on older adults. But the season could continue until March or April, Papenburg said of the unexpected epidemic.

“When you’re already stretched to the limit under normal circumstances and there’s something exceptional that takes place, it really has a greater impact on the type of care that we can deliver to Canadian children,” he said. “It’s unacceptable, in my view, that this is happening, that we are having to delay important surgeries for children because we need those resources for dealing with acute respiratory infections.”

While the number of RSV hospitalizations is stabilizing, there’s still a “significant burden of disease requiring complex hospitalization,” he said of the Montreal hospital.

Alex Munter, president of Ottawa pediatric hospital CHEO, said the Red Cross will be helping take some of the pressure off critical-care staff starting this week.

He said two teams of nine people will work rotating overnight shifts and that some will be porters while others get supplies or sit with patients.

“Having these Red Cross teams on-site will allow us to send back redeployed staff to their home base,” he said.

“The test positivity rate last week for flu was 30 per cent compared to 10 per cent at the end of October. That’s a big increase and it’s still climbing so flu hospitalizations are increasing and RSV is plateauing,” Munter said.

CHEO, including its emergency department and urgent care clinic, is also getting help from pediatricians, family doctors and nurses in the community while some patients are being transferred to adult hospitals, Munter said.

“We can’t run our hospital this way in perpetuity. I think the moral of the story here is that we have undersized child and youth health system in Canada.”

SickKids in Toronto continues to see high patient volumes in the pediatric intensive care unit and since November has reduced the number of surgeries so staff can be redeployed to provide care in that unit.

“We have been co-ordinating closely with other hospital partners that have the ability to care for some pediatric patients,” the hospital said in a statement, adding it is not currently seeking staffing support from external organizations.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, said a temporary closure of a pediatric hospice in Calgary is “tragic” as staff are being diverted to a children’s hospital.

“It means that kids who are dying are not getting the palliative and comfort care that they deserve and need, and that acute care is taking priority over that,” Mithani said.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has said Ottawa recently gave provinces an additional $2 billion as calls grow for both levels of government to do more to help hospitals facing unprecedented challenges.

Mithani said funding has to be targeted for children’s hospitals and could also go to staffing after-hours clinics, for example.

She said people planning large indoor gatherings over Christmas and for New Year’s Eve should consider scaling back, while schools should transition to temporary online learning if they have a large number of viral illnesses

Health officials also need to make a concerted effort to educate the public on the importance of vaccination amid misinformation on social media, Mithani said.

“The most vulnerable people in our society are suffering as a result of the decisions that adults made. That’s what’s happening here, that kids are suffering from the poor decisions of adult decision-makers who can’t seem to do the right thing in order to protect our kids.”

— With files from Jordon Omstead in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

This story is produced with the financial assistance of The Canadian Medical Association. It has no say in editorial choices.

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‘Bumbling and stumbling’: Alberta’s UCP caucus votes for changes to sovereignty bill

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'Bumbling and stumbling': Alberta's UCP caucus votes for changes to sovereignty bill

Alberta‘s governing United Conservative caucus says it wants changes to fix a bill that grants sweeping, unchecked powers to Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet to pass laws behind closed doors without the scrutiny and approval of the legislature.

Smith, meanwhile, is facing Opposition demands to explain to Albertans whether she is authoritarian or incompetent, given the way her signature sovereignty bill has rolled out.

“She either got caught in her attempt to seize power and is now desperately scrambling to cover that up, or she literally didn’t know what was in her bill and very possibly still doesn’t,” Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said during question period Monday.

“She’s lost people’s trust with this bumbling and stumbling.

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“Her bill is beyond saving. Why won’t she just withdraw it?”

Smith responded that she welcomes the changes.

“I want to make sure that we get this bill right and I’m grateful that my caucus is going to propose amendments to do that.”

Smith said over the weekend that amendments were in the works to reverse provisions of the sovereignty bill that grant her cabinet the unfettered powers.

Smith told her Saturday morning radio talk show that the unchecked powers were never supposed to be in the bill, but she didn’t explain how they got there.

“You never get things right 100 per cent right all the time,” she said on the show.

Smith’s United Conservative caucus said in a news release Monday that it voted to propose an amendment to clarify that any changes cabinet makes to laws under the act can’t be done in secret, but must instead come back to the house for the normal process of debate and approval.

The caucus also voted to change the act to more narrowly spell out when cabinet can take action.

Under the current bill, cabinet has wide latitude to respond to whatever federal law policy or program it deems harmful to Alberta’s interests.

With the amendment, harm would be defined as anything a majority of the legislature deems to be an unconstitutional federal intrusion in provincial areas of responsibility.

“These proposed amendments reflect feedback we’ve received from Albertans who want to see aspects of Bill 1 clarified to ensure it gets across the finish line,” government whip Brad Rutherford said in the release.

The release does not contain suggested legal wording of the amendments and the amendments have yet to be presented to the house.

The bill is now in second reading.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said the proposed amendments represent a major climbdown.

“Both of those were flagged early and often by critics of the bill. Those were two of the most outrageous things in there,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

He said the outstanding question is how did these clauses end up in the bill in the first place.

“Either they meant it that this is something they wanted to do … meant it and didn’t think anyone would notice, meant it but didn’t anticipate the backlash or they were just cut-and-pasting legislation and they didn’t think it all through.”

Either way, said Bratt, “it looks incompetent.”

Smith introduced the bill a week ago, characterizing it as a deliberately confrontational tool to reset the relationship with a federal government that she accuses of interfering in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility from energy development to health care.

The bill has been widely criticized by political scientists and legal experts as constitutionally questionable and a threat to the checks and balances that underpin a healthy democracy.

Indigenous leaders have called it a heavy-handed trampling on treaty rights. Business groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, warn the legal uncertainty surrounding the bill is not good for investment.

Concerns remain over the provision that would grant Smith’s cabinet the right to order provincial entities — municipalities, schools, health regions, city police forces and others — to flout federal laws.

Under the bill as it currently is constructed, once cabinet identifies a federal harm, it would send a resolution to the legislative assembly spelling out the nature of the harm and the remedies to fix it.

If the Legislature gives its approval by majority vote, cabinet takes over and can pass laws and direct provincial agencies.

The current bill says cabinet “should” follow the direction of the house but doesn’t mandate it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary

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Canada imposes more sanctions in Haiti, targeting country’s wealthiest people

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Canada is imposing more sanctions on Haitian elites it accuses of empowering gangs in the Caribbean country. The new sanctions freeze Canadian assets held by three of the country’s wealthiest people.

They include Gilbert Bigio, who is often called the richest person in Haiti, as well as Reynold Deeb and Sherif Abdallah.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly accuses the trio of providing “illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs” through money laundering and “other acts of corruption.”

Gangs have paralyzed Haiti by blocking access to roads, fuel and essentials, leading the government to call for an international military intervention, which Ottawa is considering leading.

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But some Haitians fear that will only help parts of the government, which they say is responsible for corruption and a worsening cholera outbreak, stay in power.

Joly is also asking countries “to follow our lead and impose sanctions against gangs and their supporters.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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