Given the atrocities this country has been forced to confront over the past month, Canada Day — normally a moment for celebration — was always going to be difficult to frame this year.
But in recent comments, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole seems to be angling for a political fight over the national holiday.
“As someone who served Canada and will soon ask for the trust to lead this country, I can’t stay silent when people want to cancel Canada Day,” O’Toole said in a televised address to Conservative MPs last week. “I’m very proud to be Canadian. And I know most people are as well.”
Canada Day has not been cancelled, nor has there been any serious public discussion about doing so. While the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay has trended a few times on Twitter, the national holiday does not seem to be in imminent danger of being called off.
What has happened is that several municipalities have opted to drop their usual celebrations.
After the reported discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia, two municipalities in that province cancelled their official festivities. In the wake of last week’s preliminary finding of 751 grave sites in Saskatchewan, several communities in that province have done likewise.
Most Canadians probably understand that this Canada Day requires something more nuanced than in years past.
But O’Toole seems to want to speak to an audience uncomfortable with the current discourse about Canada’s failings — and to use the occasion to assert his own patriotism and question the patriotism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In his remarks last Wednesday, O’Toole said the discovery in Kamloops was a “necessary awakening” for the country that “brutally forced us to confront our past … and to recommit ourselves to reconciliation.”
O’Toole said that Canadians should acknowledge “where we fall short” and “not forget or cover it up.” He also said we should “channel the pain of Canada falling short to build up the country and not tear it down.”
The phrase “falling short” may not do justice to the incredible tragedies confronting us right now. And the choice between “tearing down” and “building up” may be a false one. Sometimes things — buildings, laws, systems, ideas — have to be torn down so that something better can be built in their place.
Cue the culture war
It’s possible the people with negative feelings about this country agree with those who have more positive feelings when it comes to what Canada should be: equitable, inclusive, just, generous. They might simply disagree on how much Canada deserves to believe it has lived up to those ideals.
But in setting himself in opposition to those who would “cancel” Canada Day, O’Toole is calling back to the culture warrior he presented to Conservatives when he ran for the party leadership in 2019. Back then, he was very concerned about “cancel culture” and the “radical left” and very opposed to anyone who would tear down a statue of John A. Macdonald.
But cries of “cancel culture” tend to obscure real questions about individual actions and accountability. Reducing this moment to a culture war over Canada Day would evade legitimate questions regarding how Canadians should feel about their country, and how governments should reflect and frame those feelings.
“There is a difference between acknowledging where we’ve fallen short, there is a difference between legitimate criticism and always tearing down the country,” O’Toole said Wednesday. “Always being on the side of those who run Canada down. Always seeing the bad and never the good.”
So who is lining up with those who always “run Canada down”? On Wednesday, O’Toole didn’t say. But in an interview with Global’s The West Block on Sunday, the Conservative leader claimed that Trudeau and some cabinet ministers “almost want to cancel Canada Day because we failed in the past.” He also suggested he might be the only national leader who is “proud of our country and wants it to do better.”
Questioning another leader’s pride in the country is an astonishing attack — just as it was when Paul Martin’s Liberals questioned Stephen Harper’s patriotism in 2006 (Conservatives might remember how well that worked out for Martin).
But O’Toole is also not the first Conservative leader in the last six years to lament that the popular view of Canada’s history is getting too negative. Four years ago, Andrew Scheer gave a speech in which he challenged “those who deny we have anything to be proud of as a country.”
It’s fair to say that Justin Trudeau has put an emphasis on facing up to Canada’s sins and apologizing for the federal government’s past misdeeds. The skeptic’s view is that offering apologies and official recognition for past wrongs is too easy. But ideally, facing the past would build resolve to do the hard work of making things better in the present and future.
Every moment spent dwelling on unmarked graves, for instance, should increase the moral and political pressure to advance reconciliation. The greatest risk is that Canadians choose to look away, or move on too quickly.
If anyone feels threatened or offended by the attention given to the worst aspects of this country’s past, it’s worth asking why — whether that discomfort is really necessary.
It’s also fair to ask how much difference there is between what O’Toole claims to believe and what he claims to be against.
Four years ago, the prime minister delivered an address to the United Nations general assembly that dwelled at length on reconciliation and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada. But he also spoke about his government’s efforts to fix that relationship and held out Canada’s efforts as an example to other countries.
Trudeau struck a similar tone in his Canada Day remarks that year. Reconciliation, he said, “is a choice we make, not because of what we did, or were, but because of who we are.”
Four years later, the prime minister hasn’t cancelled any official Canada Day proceedings (though the performances will again be virtual). Neither has he voiced support for tearing down statues.
Trudeau still faces a significant challenge in calibrating his own remarks on Thursday. And what he says will move to the centre of a conversation about how Canadians should feel about their country.
In the meantime, O’Toole seems to be trying to score points in a poorly conceived dispute.
Some people would, no doubt, like to get through Canada Day without having to think too much about negative things. Other people — especially now — will find it hard to get through Canada Day without feeling pain or sorrow … or guilt.
But it’s hard to see how anyone would be left better off by a fight over who loves Canada best.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world – CBC.ca
Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.
The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were cancelled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighbouring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 196 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.1 million deaths had been reported.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a week ago. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but also across the country. He said Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.
The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase. But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10 per cent of the doses needed to vaccinate 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have arrived in Africa so far, while 820 million are needed.
Less than two per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said.
In the Americas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 per cent of U.S. counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.
COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization said.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,817 new cases of COVID-19 and 303 additional deaths. The country, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is experiencing yet another surge in cases.
In Europe, Spain’s prime minister said existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the countries that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
Washington's reasons for keeping border closed to Canadians still murky a week later – CBC.ca
A week after the U.S. government surprised many by announcing the land border with Canada would remain closed for the time being, the exact reasons for that decision remain shrouded in secrecy.
Not even American members of Congress have been given a detailed explanation for the decision. New York State Rep. Brian Higgins said the lack of information is leading to confusion among his constituents.
“The silence from this administration about the northern border is maddening,” said Higgins, who has been asking for a meeting with officials in the administration of President Joe Biden to get an explanation. “With the border now closed for 16 months and counting, the people deserve to know what it will take to reopen the U.S. border to Canadians.”
Washington State Rep. Suzan DelBene’s office says she “remains frustrated that we haven’t received a clear answer from the administration on why the closure was extended.”
News that the U.S. land border would remain closed until at least Aug. 21 came just after Ottawa announced that fully vaccinated Americans would be able to enter Canada starting Aug. 9.
Many had expected the U.S. to follow Canada’s lead. The U.S. closure order has been less stringent than Canada’s from the beginning; it allowed air travel into the U.S., for example. The COVID-19 case count is lower in Canada than the U.S., and the vaccination rate is higher.
A week after it issued the notice that the U.S. land border would remain closed, the Department of Homeland Security continues to offer the same vague explanation.
“To decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through August 21, while ensuring the continued flow of essential trade and travel,” Homeland Security spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a media statement.
“DHS is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”
Fear of the delta variant
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggesting the decision to maintain border closures and travel restrictions was the result of its guidance.
“I think their decision was made based on the fact that the delta variant is more transmissible and is spreading around the world,” Psaki said, pointing out that it’s also spreading in the U.S. — particularly among unvaccinated Americans.
The CDC has yet to respond to questions from CBC News.
On Tuesday, the CDC stated that even those who are fully vaccinated can spread the COVID-19 delta variant. It now recommends that those fully vaccinated wear masks when they visit indoor public places in areas where there is a high degree of COVID-19 transmission.
One of the few people to offer any hint of what’s gone on behind the scenes is Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Friday.
WATCH: Dr. Anthony Fauci says status of Canada/U.S. border the focus of “active discussion” in Washington
Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said the U.S. may not be quite ready to follow Canada’s example by opening the border.
“It may very well have been that the U.S. said, ‘We are not prepared and we have not yet decided on the process and procedures of opening our land borders as of yet,'” Heyman said, adding that Canada would not have announced it’s loosening border measures if the U.S. had been uncomfortable with it.
The U.S. has yet to resolve some key questions about the land border, Heyman said — such as whether it’s going to require proof of vaccination or COVID tests from people entering from the Canadian side.
“If we are, what test and what vaccines will qualify and what won’t?” Heyman asked. “I think that’s still unclear, what process the U.S. will impose.”
Mexico is also a factor, he said.
The two-border problem
“Canada only borders the United States but the U.S. borders (Canada) and Mexico. And when making decisions about its border, it’s highly complicated to say, ‘On one of our borders we’re doing x, and on the other border we’re doing y,'” Heyman said. “If at all possible, you’d like to coordinate your entire border policy in one.”
Mexico’s low vaccination rate compared to Canada, and the aggressive spread of the delta variant in the U.S at a time when only half of eligible Americans are double-vaccinated, may also play into Washington’s decision-making, said Heyman.
Ideally, he said, the U.S. government will make a decision on the border it won’t have to quickly reverse.
“I hope that they make the decision as soon as they possibly can, but I hope they make a decision that is lasting,” he said.
Maryscott Greenwood, Washington-based head of the Canadian-American Business Council, said part of the reason for the border remaining closed could be uncertainty about the vaccination status of those entering the country.
“I think part of the reason could be that the U.S. administration said that they’re not going to validate, verify whether or not someone’s vaccinated before they cross,” she said.
Greenwood’s group speaks regularly with U.S. government officials. She said she hopes the U.S. land border will reopen before Aug. 21 and the country doesn’t apply the same rules to both its northern and southern borders.
“Policy makers and business leaders and communities, not just along the border, are all very frustrated with the decision to stay closed for another month,” said Greenwood, adding some businesses might not survive.
“We’re hoping that the administration will take another look at this next week and find a way forward to reopen the border to fully vaccinated Canadians. I know the White House is paying very careful attention to all of these voices and is trying its best to balance the pressures that it is getting.”
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at email@example.com
England, Scotland exclude Canadians from new exception to quarantine measures – CTV News
Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers have been left out of plans to ease quarantine restrictions for entry to England and Scotland.
The United Kingdom countries announced Wednesday that travellers who were fully vaccinated in the United States or Europe will not have to quarantine upon arrival.
The changes are set to go in place at 4 a.m. on August 2.
The English and Scottish governments did not provide a reason why Canada was not included in the new quarantine exceptions.
The countries involved in the exceptions include European Union member states apart from France, members of the European free trade agreement and the microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City.
That means Canadians landing in England or Scotland must quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days and take a COVID-19 test after day eight.
The other two countries that make up the U.K. — Wales and Northern Ireland — did not change their rules, meaning Canadians also still must self-isolate upon arrival in these states.
The British High Commission in Canada said in a statement that the U.K. government is taking a “phased approach” to easing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“Ensuring safe and open travel is a priority and we are engaging with international partners on certification to ensure travel for vaccinated people is unhindered in the future,” the commission said.
English Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the new measures are meant to help family members visit each other, and to help businesses benefit from increased trade.
“We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel and today is another important step forward,” Shapps said in a news release.
“We will of course continue to be guided by the latest scientific data but thanks to our world-leading domestic vaccination programme, we’re able to look to the future and start to rebuild key transatlantic routes with the U.S. while further cementing ties with our European neighbours.”
Michael Matheson, the Scottish transport secretary, said in a statement that the changes have been made possible due to the success of vaccination programs in Scotland, the EU and U.S.
“Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Scotland under this significant relaxation of international travel measures, providing a boost for the tourism sector and wider economy while ensuring public health is protected,” he said.
The countries said quarantine rules will still apply to arrivals who have been in France over the previous 10 days, with Scotland citing concerns about the prevalence of the Beta COVID-19 variant.
In Vancouver, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked on Wednesday about the countries’ decisions and she said she respects them.
“I have a great deal of respect for every country’s sovereign right to decide during COVID who can come into the country and on what terms.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.
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