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Kamala Harris' Canadian roots: Montreal classmates reflect on historic win – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Kamala Harris has made history as the first Black woman elected as vice-president of the United States, a milestone her former classmates say she was destined for.

“When you look back you see certain people who are going to make a big difference in the world—that was Kamala,” former classmate Trevor Williams told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

Williams and Harris both attended Westmount High, a public English-language high school near downtown Montreal, in the late 70s and early 80s. And like many fellow alumni, Williams is thrilled to share in a piece of Harris’ Canadian connection.

“She was brilliant—extremely smart,” he said. “I’m extremely happy for her and honoured to have known the family. Seeing a woman of colour in a significant role as vice-president is huge. I have two daughters and this is great for them to see.”

Harris moved from California to Montreal at age 12 after her mother, scientist Shyamala Gopalan Harris, accepted a research role at McGill University. In her memoir, Harris wrote about how the thought of moving to a French-speaking foreign city “was distressing, to say the least.” But those who knew her say she immediately found her place in the multicultural community.

“For her to come from California to Westmont High was probably a culture shock. She met kids whose parents were from Jamaica, the Caribbean, and as far away as India and Bangladesh. She met people who she could blend in with,” classmate Dean Smith told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

“How you see her right now on the TV is exactly how she was 40 years ago—always laughing and smiling.”

As highlighted by Montreal’s mayor, the 56-year-old California senator has shattered many glass ceilings amid her historic win. The daughter of immigrants, she is the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, representing the multiculturalism that defines both America and the Montreal neighbourhood she lived in.

“It’s not only the fact that’s she’s an alumni. She’s a woman, like me. She’s a South Asian woman like me,” classmate Anu Chopra Sharma told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

“It’s nice to be able to say to your child, she looks like you. She has a name that is as different as yours and you can do it too.”

For Sharma, the win is doubly sweet. Having lived in Florida for the last 13 years, she notes the incoming Biden administration is an “immense relief.”

“I know that the transition is not going to be easy. We know that [Trump] is going to go out kicking and screaming and muddying the waters. But it’s almost as if there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Though Harris is about to embark on her most important role yet, one that will present several challenges from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, there is still hope that Harris will remember her Canadian roots.

“I know she may not know who we are… I would just love for her to see this and say, ‘Hey Westmont, thank you for the purple heart love,’ because we’ve been throwing it out there,” Westmount High teacher Sabrina Jafralie told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.

Prior to the campaign, Jafralie was eager to arrange for Harris to speak at the school, shedding light on her experience in the public school system.

“She’s not just a Black Indian woman, she’s a publically educated woman. For me as an ethics teacher it’s like a goldmine to tell my students that – education doesn’t have to be private it just has to work,” she said.

“She’s just broken so many major boundaries. I cannot wait to go to school on Monday and say in the midst of all this… greatness can still happen in any circumstance.”​ 

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3 Nova Scotians appointed to the Order of Canada – CBC.ca

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Three Nova Scotians have been appointed to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.

They are among the 114 appointees announced Friday.

The list includes eight companions, 21 officers, one honorary member and 84 members. The full list can be found here.

“Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” said a statement on the office of the Governor General’s website.

Appointments are made by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. More than 7,000 Canadians have received the honour since its inception.

Jeff Dahn of Halifax, who has led groundbreaking research on lithium-ion batteries, was appointed as an officer.

Dahn is considered a pioneer of lithium-ion battery research. (Jill English/CBC)

In 2017, he won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering for his work in making batteries increasingly efficient. He also won a Governor General’s Award for Innovation in 2016.

Dahn works out of a lab at Dalhousie University. He also began a five-year research partnership with Tesla In 2016.

In the statement, the Governor General’s office also commended him for “his mentorship and adroit bridging of academia and industry.”

Dahn could not be reached for comment Sunday.

‘It’s humbling’

Meanwhile, Dr. Ken Wilson and John Eyking were appointed as members.

Wilson, a plastic surgeon in the Halifax area, was appointed “for his nationally recognized expertise in reconstructive and plastic surgery, and for his volunteer work on international medical missions.”

“It’s humbling, but a very nice addition to a great career,” Wilson said of the honour.

In the mid-80s, Wilson became the first person east of Montreal to dedicate himself to doing plastic surgery for children.

“It was a very satisfying thing for me to be able to look after a lot of the children who have either had to travel, or that hadn’t had, sometimes, the attention they would’ve had otherwise,” he said.

Wilson has spent more than 30 years doing plastic and reconstructive surgery for children. (Submitted by Ken Wilson)

In the mid-90s, Wilson began working with Operation Smile, an organization that provides surgeries and dental care to children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. He travelled a couple times a year to do surgery in underdeveloped countries, and he estimates he went on about 46 missions.

In the late 1990s, Wilson became the chief of surgery at the IWK children’s hospital in Halifax, a position he held for more than a decade.

He stopped practising five years ago, but Wilson now works as a medical consultant for Doctors Nova Scotia and is chair of the board for Operation Smile Canada.

“It was a wonderful career,” said Wilson. “I gotta say, I’ve been very lucky over the years to have the opportunity to do what I did.”

While there is no ceremony this year due to COVID-19, Wilson was mailed his snowflake insignia, as well as a “lovely book” detailing the history of the Order of Canada and the many recipients over the years.

‘All in a day’s work’

Eyking, a farmer and entrepreneur who founded Eyking Farms, was recognized for his “personal and professional dedication to the Cape Breton community, particularly within the agriculture industry.”

Eyking, of Millville, N.S., immigrated to Canada in 1963 from the Netherlands. He started a farm, which later grew into a family operation run by him, his wife and their 10 children.

He is also an inductee of the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Reached by phone Sunday, Eyking, 89, was modest about his appointment. He credited his farm’s accomplishments to the work of his large family.

“For me, it was all in a day’s work and I enjoyed it,” he said.

He, too, received a parcel from the Order of Canada, and said he enjoyed the book.

“There’s quite a few Cape Bretoners in there,” he said.

The recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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