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N.B. doctor accused in COVID-19 outbreak to face charge under Emergency Measures Act –



A doctor accused of being at the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Campbellton region in May that claimed two lives, infected dozens and forced that northern part of New Brunswick back into the orange phase of recovery is facing a charge under the provincial Emergency Measures Act.

Dr. Jean Robert Ngola has been issued an appearance notice to attend Campbellton provincial court on Oct. 26 under Section 24(1)(b) of the act for alleged failure to comply with a direction, order or requirement, his lawyer Joël Etienne confirmed to CBC on Sunday.

It stems from an RCMP investigation following a complaint filed by the provincial government and the Vitalité Health Network on May 30 “related to an individual who may have violated the mandatory order under the current Emergency Measures Act by travelling outside of N.B., and not following the guidelines of self-isolating upon their return,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said in an emailed statement.

“Because no charges have been laid at this time, we are not able to confirm the name of the man,” said Rogers-Marsh, identifying him only as a 50-year-old from Campbellton.

Ngola, who is also known as Jean Robert Ngola Monzinga and as Ngola Monzinga, previously identified himself to Radio-Canada’s program La Matinale as the medical professional who travelled overnight to Quebec to retrieve his four-year-old daughter because her mother had to travel to Africa for a funeral.

After his return to Campbellton, a city of about 6,800, he went back to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital the next day. He didn’t self-isolate for 14 days, he said during the June 2 interview.

Ngola’s trip was the week of May 10. The COVID-19 outbreak began May 21. A total of 41 people in the Campbellton region became infected, and two of them, who were in their 80s, died. 

His lawyer described the charge as “tantamount to a traffic ticket.” Etienne stressed it is not a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada but rather is punishable under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act.

The section carries a fine of between $240 and $10,200 for a first offence.

“In our opinion, wilfully, on what is believed to be at the 11th hour of the announcement of a provincial election, the authorities of New Brunswick are misleading the public and media about the nature of the outcome of the police investigation relating to Dr. Ngola,” said Etienne.

“Is this being done as a political tactic ahead of the provincial election in order to try to promote and favour Premier [Blaine] Higgs?”

Plans to sue province, Vitalité

Etienne contends Ngola, who is from Congo, is “absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing. … At all times, he conducted himself correctly in fact and in law, with the utmost diligence.”

His defence team, which now includes constitutional lawyer Christian Michaud, who has successfully argued before the Supreme Court of Canada and established victories in minority linguistic rights in New Brunswick, plans to initiate legal proceedings against the provincial government and Vitalité for what Etienne described as “misconduct.”

“The singling out of a racialized medical worker by a premier and his government, the calling out to criminalize a racialized medical worker by a premier and his government, the scapegoating of a racialized medical worker by a premier and his government is tantamount to conduct unprecedented in North American history,” he said. “No other jurisdiction has ever done what New Brunswick has done in these matters.”

Toronto-based lawyer Joël Etienne said Ngola’s defence team has ‘every intention of defending [him] in the court of public opinion, and in the court of law.’ (EME Professional Corp.)

During a May 27 news conference, the premier never publicly named Ngola but blamed what was then a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region and a resurgence of the coronavirus in the province on an “irresponsible” medical professional in their 50s, who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons, “was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick” and didn’t self-isolate.

“If you ignore the rules, you put your family, your friends and your fellow New Brunswickers at risk,” Higgs said at the time. “Today’s case is evidence of that.”

Information about the case was passed along to the RCMP to determine exactly what took place and whether charges were warranted, Higgs told reporters.

The province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell had described the outbreak as “completely preventable.”

When Premier Blaine Higgs announced the confirmed COVID-19 case of the medical professional on May 27, he said the Campbellton region was now at a higher risk ‘due to the actions of one irresponsible individual.’ (Government of New Brunswick)

Etienne also alleges Ngola’s privacy was breached by someone within government. Within one hour of being advised by Public Health of his positive COVID-19 test results, Ngola’s identity was “outed” on social media, along with his photo, he said.

“While almost a dozen investigators were combing tooth and nail trying to find blame against the doctor, the same province was not contact-tracing in the Ngola matter, and was not investigating the clear legal breaches of Dr. Ngola’s privacy,” said Etienne. “We will seek remedy.

“The time and manner of initiation is up to us, and the public will be informed.”

Hired racism expert

Meanwhile, the defence has commissioned a renowned North American expert in race relations and systemic racism to investigate and report on “if, and whether racism and systemic racism from the premier, the premier’s office, the Vitalité Health Network and the RCMP were key elements precipitating the abuses of power that resulted in singling out, shaming and scapegoating Dr. Ngola.”

The expert’s findings will be published once completed, said Etienne.

“While sick at home, as a single parent of a four-year-old little girl, [Ngola] experienced the worst face of New Brunswick society. [Ngola] experienced, racism, violence, mercilessness, cruelty and was cast away by a premier, by an employer, by a government and was never treated as he should have been: as a colleague, a friend, a partner — even a fellow citizen,” he said.

“We hold that the doggedness of pursuing provincial offence matters is a propagation of the hate that [Ngola] has so far faced with dignity and stoicism,” Etienne said. 

“You cannot be in my profession, and not be a person who believes in hope and redemption — there is always a way back. It is never too late for New Brunswick officials to come to their senses and do the right thing — the ball is in their court.”

Disputes he’s ‘patient zero’

Ngola, who is suspended and unable to work anywhere in the province, disputes being “patient zero” and has previously sought an apology from the premier.

Private investigators hired by his lawyer’s firm found Ngola “could not have been the first patient” and that his trip to Quebec was not the source, according to a letter Etienne wrote to Higgs.

Ngola interacted with only a few people, all of whom subsequently tested negative for COVID-19, Etienne has said.

Several residents and staff at the Manoir de la Vallée long-term care facility in Atholville tested positive for COVID-19 during the outbreak, including the province’s two fatal cases. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Based on the coronavirus’s incubation period of up to two weeks, the senior private investigator concluded Ngola did not carry the virus across the border but rather was infected in New Brunswick by either a patient or a colleague.

Etienne has called the premier’s “rushed judgment” about Ngola’s actions and “disparaging comments” about him “grossly unfair.”

Ngola has suffered a “barrage of threats … online racial attacks, local harassment and racial slurs” since Higgs announced the case and has had to seek police protection because he fears for his safety and that of his daughter, Etienne has said.

Higgs has stood by his comments.

On June 11, he said he’s bound by privacy rules and limited in what he can say. 

“But I am quite comfortable in the position that I’ve taken, how I’ve spoken about it and the reality of how this situation developed. And if the facts are all on the table, I am sure that others will be clear as well.”

On July 8, Higgs reiterated that his position hadn’t changed.

“The comments I made previously, I stand behind those comments,” he told reporters. “I don’t intend to withdraw them.”

The RCMP issued the notice to appear in court on July 8.

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'Won't be gathering for Thanksgiving:' Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway –



TORONTO — A dramatic tripling of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the past month, mostly among young people, has prompted the prime minister to declare the arrival of the second wave of the pandemic and that Canadians likely won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving.

“In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Justin Trudeau said Wednesday evening in a rare television address to the nation.  

“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.”

Trudeau said Canadians can’t do anything to change the numbers now, or even tomorrow.

“But what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter,” he said. 

“It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the country had seen an average of more than 1,100 new cases of the novel coronavirus a day this past week compared with about 380 a day in mid-August.

“Canada is at a crossroads with the COVID-19 epidemic trajectory,” Tam said before Trudeau’s address. “Unless public health and individual protective measures are strengthened and we work together to slow the spread of the virus, the situation is on track for a big resurgence in a number of provinces.”

While the new cases were primarily among young adults, more than 400 schools in Quebec and another 153 in Ontario reported at least one case of the illness. The figures from the group COVID Ecoles Quebec and the Ontario government came as authorities seek ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 among younger people.

Data from Ontario show cases among those in their 20s have risen sharply in the past month, with one expert attributing the increase in part to the reopening of schools and universities.

In an effort to tackle the problem, several provinces, cities and universities have warned of stiff fines for violating anti-COVID restrictions. However, Quebec said it would not allow police to enter homes without a warrant to break up gatherings that violate the measures.

The worrisome upward trend in new cases came as the federal Liberal government laid out its plan to take on the second wave.

“To prevent small clusters from becoming major outbreaks, communities may need to enact short-term closure orders,” the government said in its throne speech.

Stringent lockdowns in the spring caused unprecedented economic disruption, prompting the government to spend tens of billions of dollars on supports as unemployment skyrocketed.

The throne speech promised, among other things, an extension of the federal wage-subsidy program until next summer, more aid for businesses and help to boost testing capacity. People in various cities have waited for hours or even days for virus testing. Safety concerns led a hospital in Kitchener, Ont., to close its drive-thru testing centre as people arrived in the wee hours.

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada, while the cumulative case count has been edging toward the 150,000 mark.

Quebec, with more than 69,000 cases, accounts for about 48 per cent of the total cases but 63 per cent of the deaths. Ontario’s more than 48,000 reported cases account for 33 per cent nationally, and 31 per cent of fatalities

On Wednesday, Quebec reported 471 new cases. Another four reported deaths from the novel coronavirus brought the province’s total fatalities to 5,809.

Ontario, which has shown a steady increase in new cases since mid-August, after months of declines, reported 335 new cases Wednesday and another three deaths. Almost 70 per cent of new infections were in people under the age of 40.

Concern is also mounting as more long-term care homes in Ontario, brutally hit by the virus earlier in the year, report outbreaks. Almost 70 per cent of fatalities have been among those aged 80 and older and another 27 per cent were 60 to 79 years of age.

While older people and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to severe illnesses from SARS-CoV-2, younger people can spread the disease — often before showing any symptoms.

“When there’s so much in the community, it can escalate into the populations with more vulnerability,” Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health in Ottawa, one of the harder hit cities, said.

Ontario data indicates new cases among people in their 20s have reached similar levels to those seen among people in their 80s in mid-April. Along with school reopenings, Dr. Brian Ward, a professor of medicine at McGill University, cited bars and parties as key factors, along with a “general sense of invulnerability” among younger people.

“COVID fatigue also clearly plays a role,” Ward said.

Winnipeg, for example, accounted for 30 of Manitoba’s 42 new cases reported Wednesday, with possible exposures at restaurants, bars and a pub trivia night, the province said.

Trudeau sympathized with Canadians feeling the stress of a second wave, but urged people to be strong.

“‘Can’t’ will not define us,” he said. 

“We can bend the curve. We can build a stronger future. We can define the change.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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COVID-19: 91 new cases reported in B.C. with no deaths – The Kingston Whig-Standard



Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were now 1,376 active cases of the disease, of which 62 were being treated in hospital including 18 in intensive care.

There were 91 new cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. between noon Tuesday and noon Wednesday and no deaths.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said there were now 1,376 active cases of the disease, with 62 people being treated in hospital including 18 in intensive care.

The number of active COVID-19 cases peaked at 1,987 on Sept. 21, but dropped the following day to 1,465.

According to the Ministry of Health, this was because Vancouver Coastal Health had not been passing on recovery data to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control over the past month as they were transitioning to a new data collection system.

Fraser Health has the most active cases, at 781, with Vancouver Coastal Health next with 517 cases. Island Health has only eight active cases.

Henry said there were 3,368 people in quarantine under public health monitoring after being potentially exposed to the disease. Of the 8,395 cases that have been reported in B.C., 6,769 have recovered and 227 have died.

“There have been no new health-care facility outbreaks, and outbreaks at Bear Creek Villa independent-living facility and Normanna long-term care facility have been declared over,” Henry said, adding there were still outbreaks in nine long-term care or assisted-living homes and five acute-care facilities.

Of the 91 cases reported between on Wednesday, two were in health-care facilities.

“There have been no new community outbreaks, although there continue to be community exposure events. The outbreak at the Loblaws warehouse has been declared over,” Henry said.

“Public alerts and school notifications are posted on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) website, as well as on health authorities’ websites, providing details on where the potential exposure occurred and what actions to take – whether to self-isolate or monitor for symptoms.”

On Wednesday afternoon, parents at Ecole Riverside School in Port Coquitlam were told that there had been a COVID-19 positive person at the school on Sept. 18. They were told that if their child had been exposed they would be notified by Fraser Health.

In Vancouver, parents at Xpey’ Elementary School were told there had been a COVID-sick person at the school on Sept. 10, 14, 15 and 21.

Surrey, the largest school district in B.C., has reported 15 school exposures so far.

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B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19 – Abbotsford News



B.C. is reporting 91 new cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths as of Wednesday (Sept. 23), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown said in a joint statement.

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began. The death toll remains at 227.

This is the second day in a row that new infections have remained under 100 per day. The number of patients in hospital grew by one to 62, although the number in ICU dropped from 22 to 18.

Health officials said there have been no new health-care facility outbreaks, and that the outbreaks at Bear Creek Villa independent-living facility and Normanna long-term care facility are now over. There are a total of 14 health-care facilities with outbreaks of the virus; nine are long-term care or assisted living facilities, while five are acute care centres. There have also been no new community exposure events and the outbreak at a Loblaws warehouse is now over.

However, health officials said they were still concerned about how many new COVID-19 infections there were in the province.

“New cases and clusters of COVID-19 remain higher than where we would like them to be,” Henry and Brown said.

“The impact of this means that thousands of people in B.C. are now under active public health monitoring and care, with many forced to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with having to self-isolate away from work, friends and family.”

In total, there are 3,368 people under public health monitoring and 1,376 active cases, a drop of 89 in the latter figure.

READ MORE: Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month


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