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Pandemic response is just one more reminder of Canada's economic blessing: Don Pittis –



Unflattering images on Twitter of a couple in St. Louis, Mo., holding guns as Black Lives Matter protesters walked past their mansion this week were one reminder of how the U.S. and Canada differ.

As Canada’s growth rate plunged nearly 12 per cent yesterday, most Canadians know it is wise not to be smug during this perilous time. It is also good to be reminded that we share many unappealing traits with our bigger, richer neighbour.

But perhaps today is the one day we can make an exception to our stereotyped modesty. And while Canada must face up to its systemic racism, its rich-poor divide and its many other flaws, there may be an advantage in celebrating some of the country’s economic attributes, if only to encourage them.

The charm of being a little boring

As U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly boasts about American greatness and exceptionalism in a way that treads dangerously close to unhealthy national megalomania, a little bit of Canadian boring is actually a charming attribute in contrast.

As I suggested a decade ago in an appeal to get an extension on Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier’s declaration that the 20th century belongs to Canada, the trick is not to make a big thing about it.

Certainly this week, excited rich people with guns was not the only clear indication of our dissimilarity.

The most glaring difference between our two economies has been a product of the COVID-19 crisis. While Canadians may have suffered from a slow government response, and may yet suffer from reopening businesses too soon, the U.S has certainly been a case of global exceptionalism in its reaction to the coronavirus.

With the world’s largest number of COVID-19 cases and the largest number of deaths, the U.S. may now be paying for its early strategy of sacrificing those most likely to get sick in order to keep the economy open — and then, after a brief lockdown, reopening some states too soon.

“I was in shock when they decided to open up Texas. I felt it was way too early,” said Canadian Grace Gonzalez, who lives in Houston, told The Canadian Press.

Despite the warning from what happened in New York, hospitals in southern states are now being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

The health-care advantage

Qaali Hussein, a critical care specialist in Phoenix, Ariz., told the Financial Times several hospitals were turning away patients arriving by ambulance at emergency departments.

“We’re essentially saying we’ve reached capacity,” she said.

In Canada, on the other hand, not even our most conservative leaders thought it was a good idea to sacrifice the infirm for the economy’s sake.

The other economic advantage Canadians have in the current crisis is our health-care system, despite its many failings. People in the United States often avoid seeking treatment for fear that it will bankrupt their families.

According to experts in the U.S., Canada’s universal health-care system is the icing on the cake for Canadians in the bottom half of the income distribution, who are already significantly better off than the equivalent group south of the border.

“Our income estimates may actually underestimate the economic well-being of Canadians relative to Americans,” wrote Bloomberg’s Justin Fox last autumn. “Indeed, Canadians usually receive more in-kind benefits from their governments, including notably in health care.”

Less well-armed

We have many Canadians who are anxious to protect their wealth from their poorer neighbours, but income distribution figures indicate they are a little less zealous — and not just in their choice of armaments.

Instead, Canadians and their governments of all stripes have a tradition of investing in people, educating the children of new immigrants and providing higher subsidies for post-secondary education. Of course, that is a self-interested investment, because having more educated young people will allow us to build a stronger future economy despite a relatively small population.

It may also help avoid the growing economic and racial divide that sometimes seems to be tearing the United States apart.

Not all of Canada’s economic advantages have been created by Canadians. Plopped down on the rich territory of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, with rich farmland and minerals, a cool climate, fresh water and low population density, there is plenty of wealth to share.

And, of course, there is still plenty to fix.

Another great advantage we have, especially just now, is a near neighbour repeatedly reminding us that we must constantly stand on guard so as not to make a mess of it.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

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Ottawans reinvent Canada Day celebrations for 2020 –



For the first time in recent memory, Parliament Hill did not host the country’s biggest party on Canada Day.

With no formal celebrations on the hill this year, Ottawans instead turned to their neighbourhoods, city parks and beaches to show Canadian pride.

Here’s what just a few people in the nation’s capital did to celebrate Canada’s 153rd year.  

Adegoke Sofumade, third from right, who moved with his family from Nigeria seven years ago, said the pandemic forced him to appreciate the support of friends and family. “It’s been really really hard, but … COVID is going to go and we’ll still be standing,” he said. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

“Having this big family gives us hope. It gives us comfort,” Adegoke Sofumade said. “We are here to help each other, to lift each other’s spirits.” Sofumade, his family, and the family of several colleagues were enjoying the holiday at Britannia Beach on Wednesday. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

For Crystal Wasney, second adult on the left, her son Colton, and her extended family, Canada Day is about making the most out of this time we have together. It’s also about volleyball. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Hundreds of anti-government and anti-lockdown protesters gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa this afternoon. (Joseph Tunney/CBC News)

There was a hodgepodge of messages presented at the protest. While many had complaints against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, others brandished signs decrying public health recommendations to wear masks. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Parents Neesha, left, and Sunny Khosla, right, take their daughter, Kaya, for a walk in her festive outfit near the ByWard Market. (Joseph Tunney/CBC News)

Stephanie Palie and Kevin Thomas pose with the Ottawa sign near the ByWard Market, with five-month-old Maileen relaxing in the baby carriage. (Joseph Tunney/CBC News)

From the left: Qahtan Hassan and Ingirsir Sarakar arrived in Canada last November from Iraq. It’s been a long first year, but they say today is special. “It’s the first Canada Day since we [came] from our country,” Sarakar said, standing near Britannia Beach. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Couple Lin Lu, left, and Ziyuan Di, right, enjoy a “chill session” in Major’s Hill Park. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Mourad Kanani from Tunisia stands with his wife, Suha. Their children Habiba, 3, and Ahmed, 18 months, were both born in Canada. “We are proud they are already Canadian,” he said. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

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Canada's five big banks join anti-hate advertising boycott of Facebook – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Jake Kivanc, The Canadian Press

Published Wednesday, July 1, 2020 3:27PM EDT

Last Updated Wednesday, July 1, 2020 6:05PM EDT

TORONTO – All five of Canada’s biggest banks are joining an international boycott of Facebook over concerns that the platform is complicit in promoting racism, violence and misinformation.

Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO and TD have pledged to stop purchasing ads on the site for the month, aligning themselves with brands such as Lululemon Athletica and MEC in signing onto the #StopHateForProfit campaign.

The initiative, spearheaded by organizations like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, began in response to growing anti-Semitic and anti-Black rhetoric found on the social media platform.

Participating brands will suspend all advertising on the platform for the month of July.

Scotiabank announced its intentions on Tuesday, while the four others confirmed on Wednesday that they would follow suit.

A spokesman for RBC said the company understands that systemic racism has disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and the bank intends to combat that.

“One way we can do that is by standing against misinformation and hate speech, which only make systemic racism more pervasive,” AJ Goodman said.

Facebook has come under fire in recent months for what critics say is an indifference when it comes to policing their platform for individuals and groups espousing hateful ideology.

They’ve also been criticized for a lack of action on disinformation.

For instance, last month, U.S. President Donald Trump posted a doctored video featuring fake CNN footage on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, in which a CNN logo appears over footage of a Black toddler running away from a white toddler.

The footage is then followed by another clip from a different angle – this time without the CNN watermark – in which it becomes clear the two toddlers are friends.

The parents of the two toddlers later told ABC News that they were “appalled” and “disgusted” by the video.

Initially, only Twitter flagged the video as misleading, with Facebook resisting public pressure to enforce their own labelling system.

However, after numerous brands began pulling advertising from the platform, the company reversed its decision at the end of June and began taking down some political posts deemed to be fake or misleading.

Criticism against Facebook has come from inside the company as well.

At the beginning of June – shortly after Trump threatened via social media to order the military to shoot anti-racism protestors – hundreds of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest the company’s refusal to label the post as hate speech.

A spokesman for Facebook noted that the company has suspended more than 250 white supremacist groups from the platform but did not specifically comment on the boycott.

More recently, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting called on the federal government to drop hosting its virtual celebration on Facebook.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to Canadians went ahead on the platform – along with YouTube, CBC, CPAC and Radio-Canada – on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2020.

Facebook and The Canadian Press recently announced a reporting initiative called the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Facebook will have no influence over the stories created under the program, which is set to launch in the fall; The Canadian Press will maintain complete editorial independence.

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How the country's top doc is spending Canada Day and how she thinks you should too – CTV News



As Canadians celebrate a toned-down Canada Day this year, the country’s top doctor is reminding everyone to continue to follow COVID-19 health guidelines she’s observing while enjoying the holiday. 

While she’s spending some of the day at work, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also hoped to celebrate Canada’s birthday by going outside for a run.

“The thing I love about Canada, when I arrived in Canada, was the great, amazing, and epic outdoors,” she told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. “I’m a runner so I’m going to try and do a little bit of exercise if I can and practise what I preach, really, to maintain all of that good public health advice.”

That “good public health advice” Tam is referring to includes gathering virtually, wearing a face mask whenever it’s difficult to maintain physical distance, frequent hand washing, meeting in social “bubbles,” and staying home when sick.

“Virtual is best, but certainly stay within your household or family bubble,” she said. “Boat together in your bubble, commute within your bubble, barbecue within your bubble. It’s the safest.”

With more than 27,000 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, Tam also took the opportunity to remind Canadians the coronavirus hasn’t been eradicated yet.

“Right now, overall in Canada, we have passed the peak of this first wave and we’re well on our way down the other side of the curve, but the virus is still with us and so we cannot let our guard down,” she explained. “There are hotspots around the country. It hasn’t left.”

Tam said she expects to see more outbreaks as more businesses reopen and some Canadians return to the office in the coming weeks.

“The key is to sort of jump on those cases and find those contacts really fast, do good testing, and keep those numbers down,” she said. “The best-case scenario is a series of these little bumps that we can actually manage to control across the country.”

As for how long Canadians will have to adhere to these guidelines, Tam said there’s no way to know for sure, but the only way to prevent further spread of the virus is for everyone to work together.

“I do want to wish everybody a happy and safe Canada Day, go out as safe as you can,” she said. “This is a marathon and not a sprint.” 

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