A human rights lawsuit alleging slavery and torture has been settled outside of court with a Canadian mining company for an undisclosed but “significant” amount, according to Amnesty International.
In February 2020 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the case could be heard in B.C. despite the fact it involved events in Africa.
The terms of the settlement remain confidential but human rights advocates say the outcome of this legal proceeding will resonate.
Tara Scurr is the business and human rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada.
She says this case — brought forward by three refugees from Eritrea — involved allegations of torture, slavery and other human rights abuses.
The fact that the Canadian mining company opted to settle the dispute will send a message.
“It’s a precedent-setting case. It’s the first time that level of human rights abuse has been brought before a Canadian court for the activities of a Canadian extractives company overseas,” said Scurr.
She said this serves as an example that such cases can be heard in Canada and result in significant settlements with corporations.
The case was first filed in 2014 by former mine workers Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle.
The trio of Eritrean refugees alleged that Nevsun was responsible for benefiting from human rights abuses including slavery, forced labour, torture and crimes against humanity during construction of its copper and gold mine in Eritrea.
Amnesty International said in a news release that the terms of the settlement between the company and the three refugees are confidential.
The secretary general of Amnesty International Canada lauded the courage of the mine workers who came forward with their “horrific” experiences in a “groundbreaking” lawsuit.
“These individuals helped pave the way for corporate accountability overseas. Canadian companies must take responsibility for alleged human rights abuses associated with their operations, not just on Canadian soil, but anywhere in the world,” said Ketty Nivyabandi.
SCOC allowed it to proceed in B.C.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed Nevsun’s appeal of the case and allowed it to proceed in B.C., affirming that international law applied to both states and corporations and making it clear that companies can be tried in Canada over serious allegations in other countries.
During the proceedings Nevsun denied that the company or any subsidiaries enlisted the Eritrean military to build the mine or supply labour, and said the refugees behind the court action were not mistreated.
B.C. courts dismissed Nevsun’s attempts to make Eritrea the forum for the lawsuit.
In its March decision, the Supreme Court rejected the company’s argument that Canadian courts are precluded from assessing the sovereign acts of a foreign government, including Eritrea’s national military service program.
The court also noted that customary international law — the common law of the international legal system — embraces fundamental norms, including prohibitions against slavery, forced labour and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Scurr said the trio who first brought the case continue to suffer trauma because of their experiences.
She said workers described being bound and beaten, tied up in the hot sun and left for hours, while earning about $30 US per month. There was no sick leave and they faced retribution that affected their families if they took any leave.
She said the settlement is a relief for the families, despite the fact details about who was involved won’t be publicized.
“It saves them giving testimony, giving evidence, having every single issue scrutinized and debated while they are still recovering from the terrific abuses they suffered. In fact, fantastic for them that the case has been settled. I know that they are very happy.”
CBC reached out to former Nevsun executives who declined comment.
Requests to Zijin Mining Group Company, a Chinese company that acquired Nevsun in 2018 for $1.9 billion, have gone unanswered.
In previous statements, Nevsun denied all allegations and said it planned to “vigorously defend itself in court.”
Source: – CBC.ca
Canada will have vaccine infrastructure in place around ‘Christmas,’ 1st doses in January – Global News
The federal government laid out details for Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout Thursday, saying it plans to have logistics and infrastructure in place before Christmas, according to Dany Fortin, the lead on the nations’ COVID-19 distribution of a vaccine.
Speaking at a media conference, Fortin said although Health Canada is still reviewing approval for vaccines, the federal government and provinces are working on a rollout plan and will do a trial run next week.
“We’re not going to wait until the end of December … we are getting ready so that when it becomes possible we are poised to distribute,” he said.
Fortin said the vaccines that require colder storage, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are most likely to be first distributed in January.
But the initial shipments of vaccines to arrive in Canada, called “track one,” will be rolled out differently.
For example, Moderna’s vaccine will first be shipped to one location in Canada and then sent to communities across the country. But the Pfizer vaccine will be sent directly to the communities, according to the federal government.
This is because Pfizer’s vaccine requires specially designed temperature-controlled shipment and storage containers — the temperature has to be -70 C for up to 10 days unopened.
Alberta health minister expects shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in early January
Fortin said the military, federal government and provinces are implementing a “soft launch” of the distribution plan in order to ensure authorities are ready to handle the ultra-low temperatures required for Pfizer and Moderna.
Fourteen sites across Canada will be ready for Pfizer, he said.
Moderna expects the vaccine to be stable at normal fridge temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius for 30 days and it can be stored for up to six months at -20 C.
Fortin said every province has already identified the “points of use” where the vaccines will be distributed. And by Dec. 14, he added that these locations are expected to be ready for the vaccines.
“So this gives you a sense that in December, we’re hard at it in the next couple of weeks to ensure you that we are ready,” he said. “I kind of like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe so that we’re certain to be ready when it comes in January.”
First vaccines will cover 3M Canadians
Currently, Health Canada is reviewing approval for four coronavirus vaccines.
Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday that he is “optimistic” that reviews of Pfizer, Moderna and several other vaccines will be complete soon, and expects the Pfizer one to be “a favorable one.”
The federal government plans to give three million Canadians the first round of coronavirus vaccines when they are approved and arrive in the country, Njoo said.
“We will immunize as many Canadians as possible, as quickly as possible and ensure that high-risk populations are prioritized,” Njoo said. “We expect certain Health Canada-approved vaccines to become available in early 2021. The initial supply of these vaccines will be limited, such that we will be able to vaccinate around three million Canadians. That means we need to be strategic on who gets vaccinated first.”
He said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will release guidelines in the coming days that will help identify who receives the COVID-19 shots first, he said.
“Although the initial supply will be limited I want to be clear there will be enough vaccines for every Canadian,” Njoo added.
Coronavirus: O’Toole blames ‘secrecy and incompetence’ of Trudeau government for vaccine delay
On Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, described the country’s vaccine effort as “one of the most consequential scientific endeavours in living memory” and “one of the most complex operations ever taken in public health.”
Speaking at a vaccine conference, she said the country is working to further refine the list of who gets the vaccine first, since the initial six million doses expected to come in early 2021 — enough for three million people — aren’t enough for everyone on the national vaccine advisory committee’s list of priority groups, which include the ill and elderly, health-care workers, essential workers and Indigenous communities.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Alberta is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities.
In Alberta, health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.
Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals, according to the draft implementation plan detailed in the Alberta Health Services (AHS) document.
There has been increasing pressure on hospitals in the province, which has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases each day for nearly two weeks. On Wednesday, officials reported 1,685 new cases, along with 10 new deaths. There were 504 people in hospital, 97 of whom were in intensive care.
WATCH | Prospect of field hospitals concerns Edmonton intensive care doctor:
Also on Wednesday, CBC News reported that Alberta has informally asked the Trudeau government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals, according to a federal source.
The source said the province would likely receive at least four field hospitals — two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government.
Alberta introduced new COVID-19 measures on Nov. 24. They included banning all social gatherings in people’s homes, making masks mandatory for all indoor workplaces in the province’s two largest cities and moving all students in grades 7 to 12 to online learning starting Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, British Columbia officials have announced new restrictions that prohibit all indoor adult team sports and return children’s programs to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.
The move came as the province reported 834 new cases and 12 more deaths on Wednesday, with COVID-19 hospitalizations rising to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.
“We continue to see that indoor group activities — whether for fitness or team sports — are much higher risk right now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a written statement.
In her Wednesday press briefing, Henry again urged everyone to not travel unless absolutely essential, citing the example of an old timers’ hockey team from the Interior that recently travelled to Alberta for games.
Some team members came back with COVID-19 and exposed their family members and co-workers, which led to “several dozen” new cases in the community, Henry said.
WATCH | B.C.’s top doctor asks residents to avoid non-essential travel:
Separately, news that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended length of quarantine after exposure has Canadian health experts weighing whether a similar approach could be useful here.
The CDC is shortening its quarantine recommendation from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result. Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday.
In an interview with CBC News, infection control and disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam said he believes that duration could be lowered given what has been learned about the disease since the pandemic began.
WATCH | Why one expert says Canada should look at shortening quarantine period:
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 393,070 — two additional cases are pending confirmation — with 68,292 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,369.
Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days’ worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.
The number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units has risen to 203, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.
Public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday that the province has “plateaued at a very high level,” and the results of lockdowns in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region, which began Nov. 23, won’t be seen until next week.
Quebec reported 1,470 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday — a day after surpassing 1,500 daily cases for the first time — along with 30 new deaths.
The province has tightened the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season, including a maximum capacity of customers based on floor space available to customers.
Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said that many shopping venues already have such measures in place but those that don’t risk being fined up to $6,000 or closed altogether.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
In the evening, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack confirmed two cases were found in the community in the province’s northern health zone — the first time COVID-19 has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada. Those cases were not part of Wednesday’s numbers reported by public health.
New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case.
Prince Edward Island, which did not provide an update on Wednesday, is adding 55 new front-line positions to schools across the province to support students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Manitoba, students in grades 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday.
The announcement came as the province hit a record high of 351 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 51 in intensive care. Officials also reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths.
Saskatchewan reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.
WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:
In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all in Arviat.
Yukon reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.
The Northwest Territories did not report any new cases on Wednesday. There have been 15 confirmed cases in the territory since the start of the pandemic, none of which are considered still active.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 64.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 1.5 million.
In the Americas, U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approached, taxing an overwhelmed health-care system with U.S. political leadership in disarray.
The toll from COVID-19 reached its second-highest level ever on Wednesday with 2,811 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally of official data, one short of the record from April 15. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with record hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.
The sobering data came as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday warned that December, January and February were likely to be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the United States could start losing around 3,000 people — roughly the number that died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — each day over the next two months.
In Europe, coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Thursday, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.
Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.
The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.
The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.
Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
Over 2.1 million confirmed <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> cases on the African continent – with more than 1.8 million recoveries & 52,000 deaths cumulatively.<br><br>View country figures & more with the WHO African Region COVID-19 Dashboard: <a href=”https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd”>https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd</a> <a href=”https://t.co/LVRnRnypmn”>pic.twitter.com/LVRnRnypmn</a>
Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”
The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.
Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.
Vaccine priority list must be refined to match available doses: Tam – CBC.ca
Canada’s chief public health officer says the priority list of people who will get vaccinated first against COVID-19 has to be refined because the initial six million doses set to arrive in the first batch will not be enough to cover them all.
Health Canada is in the final stages of reviewing the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The regulator anticipates decisions on approving both before the end of December.
Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also being studied, with no suggestion yet of when those reviews might be done. Canada has contracts for three more vaccines in late-stage clinical trials but has not starting rolling reviews on any of them yet.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the variety of vaccines on Canada’s docket and the expectation that several will eventually be approved “means we will have more flexibility as time goes on, and more and more vaccines come on board.”
“We’re expecting that in the second quarter, depending on the approvals of the vaccines, we will have different amounts, but that is when the supply will become more and more plentiful,” she said Wednesday in a virtual speech at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference.
Most vaccine makers are just starting to ramp up production now. Initial production lots are much smaller, and are in high demand everywhere in the world.
At the moment, Canada is on track to get four million doses from Pfizer and two million from Moderna between January and March. With both vaccines needing two doses to be effective, that’s only enough to vaccinate three million people.
“So we have to do further refinements to these priority groups in order to know exactly how we’re going to sequence the delivery of the vaccines,” Tam said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said having to pare down the list is a massive Liberal government failure.
“There is no clear plan who is going to receive the vaccine,” he said Wednesday.
“The government has not provided these details.”
Provinces will ultimately decide
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued a preliminary priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine last month, with four subsets of people based on risk of serious illness or death, and risk of exposure or outbreaks.
The list included older Canadians, those with pre-existing conditions like liver and heart disease or diabetes, and people who live in the same household as those people. Long-term care workers, people who live in Indigenous communities, and front-line essential workers such as first responders or grocery store employees are also included.
But that list of people is far longer than three million. There are nearly seven million Canadians over the age of 65 alone.
Provincial governments will ultimately decide their own priorities but the national list is intended to guide those decisions.
Long-term care homes are widely expected to be the highest priority for both workers and residents. In the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Canada, more than eight in 10 people who died from COVID-19 were associated with long-term care.
The tragedy has continued in the second wave, with outbreaks in hundreds of facilities countrywide, and more residents dying every day. Ontario reported 35 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday and 22 of them were residents in long-term care.
More than 400,000 Canadians live in a long-term care setting or a retirement residence, according to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada.
Approving the vaccines is only the first step in what Tam called one of “the most complex operations ever taken in public health.” Getting it to provinces to administer and convincing Canadians to take it could prove to be even more difficult.
Tam appealed to the medical experts in the audience to help combat growing rhetoric that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t safe.
From a petition sponsored by Conservative MP Derek Sloan that warns these vaccines are “effectively human experimentation,” to a van driving around Ottawa with a digital display claiming the vaccine “will destroy your DNA” there is evidence of some campaigns to convince Canadians not to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes.
Tam said disinformation campaigns are not new but “because of the social media and its internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past.”
“So it is a significant aspect of the response that we have to deal with,” she said.
She said the Public Health Agency of Canada is developing a series of webinars about the vaccines, how the regulatory and approval process works, and how the different types of vaccines work, so medical professionals can become influencers in their communities.
WATCH | Vaccine won’t be available for children at first
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