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Much of Canada experiencing severe weather as warnings cover 8 provinces – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Ice, snow and freezing rain have blanketed many parts of Canada, as winter continues to hold the country in its grasp.

Environment Canada has issued warnings covering snowfall, freezing rain, winter storms and/or extreme cold for eight provinces and one territory.

Here’s a breakdown of the weather affecting Canadians:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Fraser Valley in B.C. was issued a snowfall warning by Environment Canada for Tuesday, alerting drivers that 5 cm of snow was on its way, and would change to rain near noon.

Parts of Vancouver Island had their mail service suspended Monday due to snowy conditions.

Avalanche conditions in the Whistler area have resulted in two fatalities so far this ski season, and two hikers were rescued Monday after getting stuck in icy and slippery conditions on Grouse Mountain.

ALBERTA

Calgary is on its way to a gradual warmup after several consecutive days of wind chill put temperatures at -20 C and below.

Edmonton is also on its way out of a deep freeze after six straight days of highs below –20 C.

SASKATCHEWAN

Regina is also looking forward to a gradual warming after almost two weeks of deep freeze, stemming from the polar vortex that had temperatures measuring as low as -38 C.

Saskatoon also lifted its extreme cold warning for the immediate area.

MANITOBA

Extreme cold warnings were issued across 18 regions across Manitoba by Environment Canada on Tuesday, including for the city of Winnipeg, which broke cold-weather records over the weekend.

Environment Canada said temperatures of -38.8 Celsius were recorded on Feb. 13., breaking a record set in 1879.

NUNAVUT

Extreme cold warnings have been issued for the four regions of Kugaaruk, Gjoa Haven, Resolute and Taloyoak in Nunavut by Environment Canada on Tuesday,with wind chill having conditions feeling like -55 into Wednesday morning.

Environment Canada said to watch for cold-related symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes.

ONTARIO

The two regions of Fort Frances – Rainy Lake and Kenora – Nestor Falls in northern Ontario were issued extreme cold warnings by Environment Canada on Tuesday, with wind chill values of -40 continuing into Wednesday morning.

Several southern Ontario regions including Hamilton, Brockville and Niargara were issued winter storm warnings by Environment Canada on Tuesday, as the Greater Toronto Area also found itself inundated with snow.

In several districts, all schools and buses were cancelled Tuesday.

The Toronto District School Board said that all bus services were cancelled in light of the snow storm but schools would remain open, as did the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Grey-Bruce, which includes the Blue Mountains area, was given a snowfall warning early Tuesday afternoon, with strong winds expected to gust up to 50 km/h.

Ottawa is also digging itself out after a winter storm, where Environment Canada warned up to 25cm of snow could fall before the storm finished.

QUEBEC

Vast swaths of Quebec are under both extreme cold and snowfall warnings from Environment Canada as of Tuesday, with 10 to 20 cm expected to fall across the 11 regions listed.

Several Quebec school boards are closed, with temperatures expected to drop to -23 Celsius overnight Tuesday.

THE MARITIMES

Twenty regions in New Brunswick, 24 regions in Newfoundland and Labrador, 23 regions in Nova Scotia, and three regions in P.E.I. are under warnings from Environment Canada on Tuesday as the Maritimes struggle with a winter storm.

The warnings range from snowfall (up to 30 cm in parts of New Brunswick) and winter storm conditions to freezing rain.

The Maritimes can also expect easterly winds with gusts of 30 to 50 km/h until late Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the school boards across the Maritimes cancelled both classes and buses, with some colleges and universities allowing virtual lessons to continue as scheduled, or delayed campus openings.

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Canada pension fund boss Machin quits after overseas trip for COVID shot

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By Noor Zainab Hussain and Maiya Keidan

(Reuters) – The head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Mark Machin, has resigned after his trip to the United Arab Emirates for vaccination against COVID-19 flouted Canadian government’s travel advice and drew criticism.

CPPIB on Friday named John Graham, currently senior managing director and global head of credit investments, as the new chief executive officer of the country’s largest pension fund.

Machin, 54, becomes the second senior Canadian corporate executive to resign after attempting to jump vaccine queue, underscoring the frustration among some about the country’s slow vaccine roll out.

“It was a complete lapse of moral judgment which risked undermining people’s trust both in government policy and the stewardship of their public pension provision,” said David Wheeler, a former business professor at York University, adding that “clearly he had to go immediately”.

Machin received Pfizer’s <PFE.N> vaccine shot after arriving in the UAE with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding he had stayed on in the UAE and was due to receive his second dose in coming weeks.

“We are very disappointed by this troubling situation and we support the swift action taken by the Board of Directors,” Kat Cuplinskas, press secretary for Canada‘s ministry of finance.

CPPIB, which manages C$475.7 billion ($377 billion), is governed independently from the federal government but it reports to a board of directors selected by Canada‘s minister of finance. It manages Canada‘s national pension fund and invests on behalf of about 20 million Canadians.

Machin did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Machin, after discussions with the Board, agreed the most appropriate step was to tender his resignation, Michel Leduc, senior managing director and head of public affairs and communications said in a statement to Reuters.

NO TRAVEL BAN

Machin sent an internal memo to CPPIB staff acknowledging that he took a personal trip and was in Dubai for a number of reasons, some of which were “deeply personal”, the source said.

Machin also said in the memo that the trip was supposed to be “very private” and that he was disappointed it had become the focus of “expected criticism”, according to the source.

Although there is no specific ban on Canadians traveling abroad, the federal and provincial governments have advised against overseas trips to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Canada trails behind many developed nations in its vaccination drive, with under 3% of the population inoculated so far.

The UAE says it provides COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and citizens only, free of charge, and requires a valid residency identification card to receive the shots. It was not immediately clear how Machin, a British national, secured the vaccine by traveling to Dubai.

Machin worked with Goldman Sachs for 20 years before joining CPPIB in March 2012. He was appointed as president and CEO in 2016.

Under Machin, CPPIB reported net return of 3.1% for the year ended March 31, 2020, down from 8.9% a year earlier. Machin was paid C$5.4 million ($4.25 million) in 2020, according to CCPIB’s annual report.

Incoming CEO Graham has been with CPPIB for 10 years. Prior to that he was with Xerox Innovation Group for over nine years.

Some Canadian federal and provincial leaders have resigned in the past month after their overseas leisure trips sparked public outrage. https://reut.rs/3qZvDLh

Last Month, Great Canadian Gaming Corp CEO Rod Baker resigned after he and his wife were charged with traveling to northern Canada and misleading authorities in order to receive the vaccine.

($1 = 1.2699 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Marguerita Choy)

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International permanent residency holders running out of time to come to Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Immigrants waiting to come to Canada have been speaking out about the COVID-19 travel restrictions denying them the chance to start their new lives.

Last March, the federal government updated their exemptions to the international travel restrictions, which included “permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.”

Almost overnight, families and individuals around the world who had been approved for permanent residency (PR) in Canada after March 18, some of whom had been waiting years for their approvals, were no longer allowed to begin their new lives.

Applicants with a valid confirmation of permanent residency (COPR), but without immediate or extended family members in Canada are not included in the list of essential or exempted traveller lists, and for those holding COPRs issued from October 2020 onwards, authorization letters are needed to fly in internationally.

Now, almost a year later, those who hold COPRs approved after March 18, 2020 are facing their visas expiring – COPRs cannot be extended – leaving families desperate.

Many have quit their jobs in anticipation of immigrating after receiving their COPR, sold their properties, taken their children out of school and incurred expenses in preparation for travel – booking hotels, flights and other accommodations.

Some have taken their fight online, using the hashtag #free_copr_after_march18 to raise awareness of their plight.

Others have been lobbying the government; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); and the media to allow an exemption for those who received their COPR after the cut-off date.

These are some of their stories, in their own words.

(Disclaimer: replies have been edited for length, clarity and brevity)

CHIRAG RATHOD – INDIA

Chirag Rathod“My wife and I are in great mental depression as we were all set to start our new life after getting the COPR. We had all our bags packed. It did not happen. Now, my wife has started feeling suicidal. I shut down my company thinking that I would be travelling soon and now we have no source of income. We are in such a limbo about restarting our life in India, as we do not know when the Canadian government let us in; it may happen in a month or in a year we have no idea. We are clueless about what will happen to our COPRs after they expire, will it be honoured or will we have to go through the entire PR process again?”

ISAAC BELLO – NIGERIA

Isaac Bello“It has not been easy time emotionally and psychologically for me. The security situation around where I reside is deteriorating by the day. A lot of kidnapping for ransom takes place regularly. This tension is exacerbated by the fact that my family (spouse and children) are not accompanying me. I will have to land first, settle in and then apply for family sponsorship for them.

It would be nice and helpful if the government of Canada takes into consideration COPR holders irrespective of whether they have family in Canada or not, since they will have adequate quarantine measures in place. We should be able to land and confirm their permanent residency status since students and temporary workers are allowed in. We should also be exempted from travel restrictions as well since we are coming to stay permanently, unlike students and temporary workers. Many of us are stranded not knowing what our fate will be. Should we keep waiting, hoping that our peculiar situation will be addressed or should we try to pick up our lives where we left off?”

MAMTA SHARMA – INDIA

Mamta Sharma“I have two teenage daughters and I am a single parent taking care of all their emotional & financial needs.

I had informed their school about the withdrawal of their admissions. Now, in a limbo, I have to plead to the school to admit them back. I worked hard to provide them a better life and good future but currently it seems like a distant dream with lots of uncertainty. I am having sleepless nights and going through tremendous stress and trauma. It is affecting mine and my daughters’ mental health.

I am a valid COPR holder and should be given the right to enter Canada, my new homeland.

Being a single parent is itself a challenge in my community, I had worked hard for the Canadian dream for me and my daughters. We saved each and every penny wherever we could, I am emotionally strained but I have to appear strong in front of my daughters. It’s not only me, there are many people across the world who are facing the same issues. I know COPR visa is a privilege not a right, but understand how hard we have worked to reach for this position. “

FAUZIA KARIM – BANGLADESH

Fauzia Karim“We are family of three, I am originally from Bangladesh but living in India with my husband and 3-year-old son. We researched day and night about how things work in Canada; starting from transportation, housing, weather, daily life, job search, grocery and day care. Being a Bangladeshi citizen married to Indian man, I am already staying in India on a dependent visa and couldn’t work for the past four years. We invested a good portion of our savings in securing an invitation to apply for PR. My husband served his three months notice period to his employer, sold our car, home appliances and moved to his hometown.

We planned to travel to Calgary on Feb. 21 2021, travelled 800 km from our hometown to Delhi Airport, took a pre-departure COVID test, arranged a proof of funds letter from the bank, booked accommodations etc. We were denied boarding by Air Canada staff stating that our COPR was issued post- March 18 2020, and we aren’t travel exempt, we need to have an authorization letter from IRCC – which is only possible if we have an immediate or extended family member in Canada.

Apart from the financial and emotional stress, there is a lot we are going through. Every now and then are being questioned by family, relatives and several other people “When are you moving to Canada,” and now with no job in hand we are breaking down financially and on the edge of spending money from proof of funds, which was supposed to be for initial months for survival in Canada.”

GURPREET SINGH – INDIA

Gurpreet Singh“When my COPR was approved I was so happy that my dream is going to be true, and I started preparing for the travelling with the hope that soon they will allow us to enter Canada. I resigned from my job, as I needed to serve a three month notice period and booked the tickets and accommodation to complete a 14 day quarantine.

I was not aware that a nightmare was on the way. I am scared because I have resigned from my job, I have my three-year old son who is ready to start school and I am the sole bread earner for my family. I really don’t know how I will fulfill my families basic necessities without a job. As of Feb. 2021, no exemption has been granted to us and our COPR will expire in upcoming months. Now getting into these situations all doors are locked for me, and every night I cry from my heart which has also raised our stress and anxiety. As an immigrant I always wanted to settle in Canada permanently so that my spouse and son would get a good future. Being a skilled worker I feel that hard work pays off in Canada and eventually I will contribute to the Canadian economy.”

KESHAV SHARMA – INDIA

Keshav Sharma“After getting my COPR, I was very happy and started to prepare to move permanently to Canada. I resigned from my job, as I was speculating that approved COPR holders will be able to land in the country without much hassle. Then we found out about the 14 days quarantine rule, which was sensible to me and I am happy to arrange that as I can understand completely how critical it is to be safe. We later found out about the three day hotel quarantine rule which again I understand the point of view from the Canadian government. I thought because they had issued COPR to us eventually they will allow us to enter Canada. In short, the situation has become so frustrating and heartbreaking that I am kind of starting to feel emotional trauma. I don’t know what is in the future, as there is not a single clarification provided about the agenda of travel restrictions and files processing by IRCC. Life has become miserable for me. I have been postponing my future plans about my family and my career in hope of migrating. Canada is our country now and we must be given a chance to enter our own country.”

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'It was a boondoggle': Chaotic scenes in hotel quarantines frustrate travellers – CTV News

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SASKATOON —
Travellers say they’re frustrated by long wait times to book hotel quarantines and chaotic service during their stays.

Raymond Truesdale recorded a now-viral video of a crowd of hotel guests yelling at staff in a government-sanctioned hotel in Toronto on Friday. They said they hadn’t been fed for hours and weren’t getting clear answers from the front desk.

“It was a boondoggle. Pandemonium. You could see people really frustrated and I don’t blame them” he told CTV News in a video interview.

Truesdale, who is returning from a work trip in Tennessee, explained that fellow travellers were exhausted from 12- to 14-hour flights from overseas.

The new hotel stay requirement — which can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel — began on Monday. All incoming air travellers to Canada must spend at least three days in one of the government’s approved hotels, at their own expense, as they await results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.

A lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals were two of many issues travellers say they faced, as well as poor service, minimal hotel security, and poor communication.

Arunthia Urmi, who stayed at a Holiday Inn in Toronto, told CTV News she wasn’t given any utensils with her late dinner and was running out of bottled water.

“I was so hungry. I called so many times,” she said, recalling her attempts to get more water from staff. “They said, ‘we can only give with meals, dinner and lunch, one bottle [each]. Other than that, you drink from the tap.’”

Jordan Evans, who flew in from Arkansas to be with her partner in Montreal, said at her quarantine hotel, she was given extra bottled water after waiting for more than six hours.

“[My supper] was cold. It was not what I ordered and they didn’t put a beverage in there. So I didn’t have a drink,” she told CTV News in a video interview, adding that her breakfast was only two small drinks, a yogurt cup and two pieces of bread.

The Hotel Association of Canada told CTV News the health and safety of its guests is its top priority.

“The health and safety of guests and staff is our top priority. We will continue to implement the advice of public health experts including the best practices provided by PHAC for those specific hotels,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding that every hotel is operated individually.

“The cost of each stay will vary between hotels, with additional fees for meals, augmented security, supervised movement to outdoor areas, designated transportation, and additional infection control measures.”

The mandatory, non-refundable hotel stay — which some travellers have skirted — requires travellers to show proof of their hotel booking before boarding their flight.

With no online option, the only way to book a room is through a dedicated phone line run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. But the influx of calls has clogged the lines, with many travellers experiencing frequent dropped calls and wait times of up to 16 hours.

‘I’M NOT ANGRY… I JUST WISH THE MEASURES WORKED’

David Anjo, who is moving back to Canada in July after 10 years of living in Vietnam, was unsuccessful in booking a hotel after spending half a day trying.

“The experience calling on a phone system that really wasn’t designed from the get-go to be very effective has been pretty frustrating,” Anjo told The Canadian Press. “There’s no doubt in my mind they could have done this a lot better.”

Dr. Rosa Wu, a psychotherapist who lives in the Vancouver area and returned from Taiwan to deal with a family health scare, said it took her husband three tries and nearly 10 hours to get through to an agent.

“I’m not angry at the fact that we have to do this,” she told The Canadian Press, from her room at the Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver International Airport. “I think it’s about time Canada implemented strict measures. I just wish the measures worked.”

The phone line received 20,000 calls on Feb. 19, the first day it was introduced, the Public Health Agency of Canada told CTV News earlier this week. That figure was 15,000 on Feb. 20 and 10,000 on Feb. 21.

Wu said she ended up paying $2,000 for three nights, despite receiving her negative test result after the first day. She didn’t anticipate following the rules would prove this difficult and said travellers like her — who didn’t go abroad for vacation — have paid the price for a chaotic rollout of the quarantine program.

Megan Kat, a spokeswoman for American Express Global Business Travel, which is running the phone line for hotel bookings, said the company was aware of the high volume of inquiries and the wait times that callers were experiencing.

“We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada to mitigate caller wait times and provide the necessary support to those people arriving in Canada that need to book a hotel room,” Kat told The Canadian Press.

Without having proof of hotel bookings, some travellers to Canada have been outright barred from boarding planes by airport staff across the globe, including in Zimbabwe and Albania, according to reporting by CTVNews.ca and The Canadian Press.

The hotel-stay quarantines are part of the federal government’s attempts to crack down on non-essential travel amid increasing concern about more infectious variants of COVID-19.

“I’m just hoping that they’ll figure out something more efficient, in terms of booking the hotels,” Wu said, “because right now, it’s a complete disaster.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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