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Parliament gave Zelensky a hero's welcome. He gave us something else: a cold dose of reality – CBC News

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More than 7,000 kilometres away, the guest of honour sat somewhere in the middle of a war zone. Standing on the floor of the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced “our friend” Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine.

The words “our friend” seemed to speak to something much more than personal rapport or even national connection. Zelensky is now both the focal point for a massive allied effort to defend his country. He’s also one of the most admired political leaders in the Western world. His words and actions at a time of great danger have elevated him to heroic status.

“Volodymyr, in the years I’ve known you, I’ve always thought of you as a champion for democracy,” Trudeau said. “And now democracies around the world have you as our champion.”

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The MPs, senators and invited guests in attendance stood and applauded for nearly a full minute.

But friendship means being able to speak directly and candidly — and that is what Zelensky did in his 12-minute address.

This was not Winston Churchill addressing Parliament in 1942 and mocking those who had predicted his country’s defeat. Instead of swagger and soaring rhetoric, Zelensky sought to personalize the war — to shrink the distance between his war-torn country and the relative safety of his audience.

Zelensky asked Canadians to “imagine” their own country being attacked. Addressing the prime minister as “Justin,” Zelensky asked Trudeau to imagine that it was his children hearing the impact of bombs falling on the airport in Ottawa.

What if an invading country was laying siege to Vancouver? What if the CN Tower was being bombed? What if Canadian flags were being ripped down by soldiers occupying Montreal? What if Edmonton was left undefended against aerial attacks? What if Canadian schools were the ones being bombed, Canadian children the ones being killed?

‘Feel what we feel every day’

“Dear Justin and dear guests, can you imagine that every day you receive memorandums about the number of casualties, including women and children?” Zelensky asked. “I would like you to understand and I would like you to feel what we feel every day.”

Zelensky’s appeal to his audience’s imagination built up to a request for intervention in the skies over Ukraine — for the one thing that allies, fearing the prospect of a wider war with Russia, have so far refused to provide.

An elderly woman is helped by policemen after she’s rescued by firefighters from her apartment following a bombing attack in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 15, 2022. (Felipe Dana/The Associated Press)

“Can you imagine when you call your friends and nations and you ask to please close the sky, close the air space, please stop the bombing?” Zelensky asked. “How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen? And in return, they express their deep concerns about the situation … and they say, ‘Please hold on, hold on a little longer.'”

The Ukrainian president acknowledged the other measures Canada has taken — the military and humanitarian assistance, the severe sanctions — but stated plainly that “you will need to do more to stop Russia.”

“Old friends owe the truth,” he said.

WATCH: Ukraine’s president calls on Canada to do more

Zelensky makes powerful, personal appeal to Canada to do more

9 hours ago

Duration 3:14

Speaking to a packed House of Commons, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky painted a vivid picture of the war and asked Canada to do more to support him by closing the skies above Ukraine. 3:14

Zelensky still ended his remarks by saying how grateful he was to the Canadian people.

“I am confident that, together, we will overcome and we will be victorious,” he said. “Glory to Ukraine. Thank you to Canada.”

His audience in the House stood and applauded him for three minutes.

War has transformed Zelensky into a folk hero.

As recently as February 21, the chief editor of the Kyiv Independent was suggesting that Zelensky, a former comedian and actor, was “in over his head.” Writing in the New York Times, Olga Rudenko explained how a once-inspiring candidate had become a “dispiritingly mediocre” president.

“After his nearly three years in office, it’s clear what the problem is,” she wrote. “Mr. Zelensky’s tendency to treat everything like a show.”

One year old Vlad with his mother Natasha are seen inside an indoor sports stadium being used as a refugee center in the village of Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press)

Ironically, that showmanship is what has helped turn Zelensky into a new model for leadership as he refused to flee Kyiv and broadcast his presence and his words to the world. With so much to mourn and to dread, Zelensky has carried a glimmer of hope — a magnet for whatever optimism can be mustered.

In 1942, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King introduced Churchill in the Commons as “the personification of Britain’s greatness.” Zelensky now embodies the defiant courage of Ukrainians.

The response to Zelensky beyond Ukraine testifies to the value of leadership and our desire for it. His profile is also helping to motivate Western citizens and governments to respond to Ukraine’s plight.

But in his bunker in Ukraine — from where he has now addressed the European, British and Canadian parliaments — he no doubt understands this is not a moment for triumphalism. In his speech to Canadian leaders, the Western world’s “champion” stressed the horrors of war and the limits of the allied response to date.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire after a residential building is hit by a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 15, 2022. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He forced his listeners to confront the uncomfortable reality of the debate about a no-fly zone. This was a speech that subverted his status and turned the attention back on his admirers.

Even if Zelensky doesn’t get a no-fly zone — even if it would be irresponsible for Western allies to try to impose one — his request might make it clear that something more needs to be done. That the war is not already won and profound tragedies are still happening every day.

As a folk hero, Zelensky can inspire. But he can also ensure that people don’t move on, look away or forget what is happening in Ukraine.

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Forecast: Coldest temperatures this winter coming to Eastern Canada – CTV News

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The beginning of February is expected to bring Arctic-like temperatures across much of Eastern Canada, thanks to frigid air from the polar vortex.

“I think it will be a real punch in the face for easterners,” Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CTVNews.ca. “It’s going to be pretty short-lived and it’s going to be right across the east.”

The cold snap will descend on Eastern Canada between Thursday night and Friday, with temperatures becoming seasonable again on Sunday. In between, much of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada can expect the coldest days yet this winter.

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“We’ll see temperatures that are really, brutally cold,” Phillips said from Toronto. “It’s really a one-and-a-half-day wonder.”

According to Environment Canada, as the cold air tracks east, daytime highs will only reach -13 C in Toronto, -20 in Ottawa, -21 in Montreal and -23 in Quebec City on Friday, and -18 in Fredericton, -15 in Halifax, and -18 in Charlottetown on Saturday.

“It’ll be sunny and bright, because it’s Arctic air,” Philips said. “It’s very dry, and it will be crisp”

Overnight temperatures on Friday night could dip as low as -20 in Toronto, -31 in Ottawa, -30 in Montreal, -34 in Quebec City, -28 in Fredericton, -21 in Halifax, and -23 in Charlottetown – all more or less double what’s normal for this time of year.

“The last time it was that cold in Ottawa was 27 years ago,” Phillips explained. “You can go year after year after year and not see a temperature of -20 in Halifax.”

These temperatures do not factor in wind chill, which could make things feel even icier.

“It’s going to be very punishing,” Phillips said. “It’s clearly an Arctic invasion of frigid air.”

The short-lived and bitter winter blast is being blamed on a weakened polar vortex, which causes icy Arctic air to push south, leading to rapid and sharp temperature drops.

There is a silver lining for those who have been missing out on winter activities.

“The second half of winter, according to our models, seems certainly a little colder, more winter-like, than what we saw at the beginning of the winter,” Phillips said. “But everywhere in Canada, we’re now well the beyond the halfway point. There’s more winter behind us than ahead of us!”

While much of Western Canada has been shivering through the winter, it’s been a different story in the unseasonably mild east. Phillips says December and January in Ottawa, for example, were the third warmest on record in 150 years; and both Ottawa and Montreal have experienced no days below -20 this winter, when normally they would each have about 10. Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway is also still closed when it typically opens in January. Warmer winter temperatures, however, have also brought abundant snow.

“If you’re in the east, it’s looking like winter, but it doesn’t feel like winter,” Phillips said. “But it’s going to feel like winter when the cold arrives.”

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Canada province experiments with decriminalising hard drugs – BBC

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Needles of drugs being preparedGetty Images

Canada’s province of British Columbia is starting a first-in-the-nation trial decriminalising small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

From Tuesday, adults can possess up to 2.5g of such drugs, as well as methamphetamine, fentanyl and morphine.

Canada’s federal government granted the request by the west coast province to try out the three-year experiment.

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It follows a similar policy in the nearby US state of Oregon, which decriminalised hard drugs in 2020.

Ahead of the pilot’s launch, British Columbia and federal officials outlined the rules under the federally approved exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

While those substances will remain illegal, adults found in possession of a combined total of less than 2.5g of the drugs will not be arrested, charged or have their substances seized. Instead, they will be offered information on available health and social services.

Federal minister of mental health and addictions Carolyn Bennett on Monday called the move “a monumental shift in drug policy that favours fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalisation”.

Some 10,000 residents have died from drug overdoses since British Columbia declared drugs to be a public health emergency in 2016, officials said.

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“Decriminalising people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions.

Thousands of police officers in the province have been offered training on the rule change, including those in Vancouver, the largest city in the province.

The programme will run from 31 January 2023 until 31 January 2026, unless it is revoked by the federal government.

Some experts have questioned the 2.5g limit, saying that it is not enough to account for the habits of many addicts.

There are some exemptions to the scheme.

The sale of drugs remains illegal. It is also illegal to possess drugs on the grounds of schools, childcare facilities and airports.

Canada legalised the use of recreational cannabis for adults nationwide in 2018.

But the four drugs now allowed in small quantities remain prohibited, meaning there are no plans to sell them in stores, unlike marijuana. Trafficking them across borders also remains illegal.

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Health Canada reviewing safety of controversial breastfeeding drug – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has launched a safety review of the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing use of a drug commonly prescribed to help women breastfeed.

The agency confirmed the review in an email to CBC News.

“A safety review is currently under way for domperidone and drug withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the dose of domperidone used to stimulate lactation,” the statement said. 

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Domperidone is approved in Canada to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Health Canada has never authorized its use as a lactation aid, but it is widely prescribed off-label for this purpose. 

The Health Canada review follows a CBC News investigation into severe psychological effects that can occur when some women stop taking the drug. Women who spoke to CBC described anxiety, lack of sleep and thoughts of self-harm severe enough that in some cases they became incapable of caring for their children or returning to work. One woman described multiple attempts to take her own life. 

CBC’s investigation also found domperidone is prescribed by some doctors to stimulate lactation at doses three to five times higher than what is recommended by both Health Canada and the drug manufacturer. Because this is not an approved use or dosage anywhere in the world, there are no large-scale clinical trials that shed any light on how often these side effects occur. 

This makes it challenging for regulators like Health Canada to evaluate the safety of a drug for an off-label purpose, said Mina Tadrous, an assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto who specializes in drug safety.

Toronto pharmacist Mina Tadrous says it is challenging for regulators to evaluate the safety of a drug used for off-label purpose. (CBC)

“The company may not have intended it for that, so the original clinical trials were not designed for that. And so it means that they have to look at different mechanisms to be able to evaluate the safety of these drugs,” he said.

That can include looking at data from other countries with larger populations, according to Tadrous.

Case studies document concerns

There are, however, case studies documenting the withdrawal effects, including three published in November 2022 in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Domperidone blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which stimulates the release of prolactin. This causes lactation, the authors note, but can also cause domperidone to act as an antipsychotic. The authors also noted withdrawal symptoms are typically less severe when women taper off the drug slowly.

The most recent case studies are from the United States, where domperidone is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any purpose. CBC’s investigation found some American women get the drug from doctors in Canada.

Health Canada will review “all relevant domestic and foreign case reports,” the statement said.

Reviews can result in Health Canada requesting more information, studies or monitoring by the manufacturer. They can also result in warnings to patients and health care providers, changes to how a drug is labelled or, if necessary, the withdrawal of a drug from the market “if the benefits no longer outweigh the risks of the product,” according to the statement released by the department.

“The decision to take action, including issuing a warning, is not based solely on the number of case reports, but on a comprehensive assessment of the information contained in these case reports,” Health Canada’s statement said. 

“Should new safety risks be confirmed, Health Canada will take appropriate action and continue to keep Canadians informed.”

WATCH | Women report alarming withrawal effects after taking domperidone as a lactation aid:

Women report alarming withdrawal effects from drug prescribed for breastfeeding

2 months ago

Duration 7:08

WARNING: This story contains distressing details about suicidal thoughts and attempts. Correction: A previous version of this video included inaccurate Health Canada data about the number of domperidone prescriptions that were filled in 2020. That publicly available data has since been updated to show that 1.7 million prescriptions were filled that year.

The distinction between quantity and quality of reports is important, Tadrous said, because large numbers of reports, especially from non-clinicians, may only indicate people believe there’s a connection between a drug and a reaction. 

“That’s the lesson we’ve learned with vaccines, for example, where these adverse event systems are flooded,” he said.

“And so if you base something just on the number of reports without doing a thorough investigation and a different type of study design that reduces bias … you might reach a false conclusion.”

Health Canada has conducted multiple safety reviews of domperidone, most recently in 2021. Previous reviews confirmed the risk of serious abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death related to domperidone use. These reviews resulted in Health Canada introducing a maximum daily dose recommendation of 30 mg and restricting its use in patients with certain cardiac conditions or taking other drugs.

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