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PM Trudeau commemorates COVID-19 victims after 'heartbreaking' year of pandemic – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Marking a national day of observance to commemorate those who died due to COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says March 11, 2020 will be remembered as the day when life in Canada changed.

Delivering a speech in the House of Commons on Thursday, Trudeau said in a “heartbreaking” year with much loss, Canadians have showed persistence, solidarity, and compassion.

“Every Canadian we lost to this virus will be remembered. Every shift done by a frontline nurse, every mask made by a Canadian worker will not be forgotten. We are stronger together, today, tomorrow and always,” said Trudeau.

Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Worldwide, 118 million people have contracted COVID-19, and nearly three million people have died. Canada has reported more than 896,000 COVID-19 cases to date, with more than 22,000 related deaths.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also honoured lives lost in his own speech to Parliament and recognized the unintended mental health and economic consequences of the pandemic.

“Youth mental health presenting as anxiety or eating disorders are alarmingly on the rise. The true cost of this pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of Canadians of all walks of life has been staggering,” O’Toole said.

He also thanked frontline health care workers who he said helped him personally. O’Toole and his wife tested positive for the virus in September, 2020.

The Conservative leader took issue with the pace of vaccine rollout in Canada, stating that businesses deserve to know when they can open up shop again. So far, more than two million Canadians have received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to CTV News’ vaccine tracker, Canada ranks 55th in the world in population vaccinations.

“Like many Canadians, we’re frustrated by the slower pace of vaccines than elsewhere, but we want the government to succeed for the health and well-being of Canadians so we can get our lives back to normal,” said.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet used his time to also recognize teachers, health care and child care workers, and the most vulnerable.

“The pandemic has made the most vulnerable among us even more vulnerable. People who are isolated, who live in poverty, who suffer from anxiety are suffering even more,” he said speaking in French.

“Seniors are distressed in many ways as well, they are the most fragile among us.”

It was a sentiment shared by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh who has long advocated for better conditions for seniors living in long-term care, where COVID-19 hit hard and made an already grim situation worse.

“It is with great sadness when we reflect on who felt this pandemic the most and who bore the brunt of this pandemic, we come up with the answer that [it was] our seniors, particularly seniors living in long-term care,” he said. “It’s a national shame that’s the case.”

According to November data from Statistics Canada, Canadians age 85 and older have accounted for more than half of the excess deaths reported amid the pandemic.

HEALTH OFFICIALS REFLECT

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who has become a trusted face since the pandemic began, providing almost daily updates about Canada’s fight to contain the virus, released a statement on Thursday noting how challenging the year has been.

“We have all made many sacrifices and have faced exceptional challenges, from balancing multiple roles and providing critical supports to Canadians in need, to financial uncertainty and experiencing a sense of loneliness and isolation; some have lost family and friends to COVID-19,” the statement reads.

Days earlier, Tam expressed optimism about Canada’s vaccination efforts following Health Canada’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military general in charge of the logistical end of the vaccine rollout, told reporters on Wednesday that Canada was moving into its ramp-up phase in the national mass immunization campaign.

In total, by the end of June Canada is on track to receive 36.5 million doses and by the end of September a total of 117.9 million doses of currently-approved vaccines.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV News Channel on Thursday that the past year has given Canada the opportunity to consider revising its approach when faced with a future pandemic.

“If something like this happens again, what can we do better? And I think one of the big things is we used a blunt tool – lockdown — and clearly that didn’t address all the very important structural inequities such as occupational health and [the pandemic] hitting marginalized people much harder than the rest of the population. It’s very important we address that,” he said.

Chakrabarti said the pandemic won’t completely expire anytime soon but he expects it will eventually take a different form.

“Especially in a place like Canada, where we have a temperate climate, we’ll likely see it in the winter time similar to influenza but it’s not going to be something that’s disruptive to our lives.”

With a file from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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Canadian retail titan W. Galen Weston dies at 80

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(Corrects April 13 story to remove references to Primark in paragraph 3 and what had been paragraph 6, to reflect that Primark is actually owned by a different Weston family)

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -W. Galen Weston, patriarch of one of Canada‘s wealthiest families and retail titan, has died at age 80, according to a statement by the family on Tuesday.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already-prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The family company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, owns Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaw Co Ltd, pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, and real estate company Choice Properties.

Weston passed away peacefully at home after a long illness, the statement said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met his wife, Irish model Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Ltd, said in a statement.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary,” Alannah Weston, Weston Sr.’s daughter and chairman of Selfridges Group, said.

The Weston family is among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7 billion.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Canada’s migrant farmworkers remain at risk a year into pandemic

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Pedro, a Mexican migrant worker, knew he had to leave the Ontario cannabis operation where he worked when so many of his coworkers caught COVID-19 that his employer began to house them in a 16-person bunk house alongside the uninfected.

Pedro moved in with friends in the nearby farming town of Leamington, Ontario, at the end of October. He asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he fears that speaking out will affect his chances of employment.

“I didn’t know where to go, where to get help. So I was left behind, hopeless,” he said, speaking through a translator. About a week later, Pedro landed another job, working with peppers in a greenhouse. Conditions are better, he said.

But he added: “To be honest, I don’t think all employers are taking precautions.”

Pedro is one of about 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean – who come to Canada as part of an annual migration of people that ramps up in spring. They grow and harvest the country’s food supply and have continued to work in the midst of a pandemic.

They feed the country and are a crucial part of a C$68.8 billion ($54.8 billion) sector, making up about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

As the pandemic crippled travel last year, agricultural employers were unable to fill one-fifth of the temporary foreign worker positions they needed, costing Canadian farmers C$2.9 billion due to labour shortages, according to research commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

These workers are also uniquely at risk. They live and work in crowded settings, and language barriers coupled with precarious immigration status tied to their employment prevent them from speaking out about unsafe conditions.

Last year they were hit hard by COVID-19, with 8.7% of migrants in Ontario testing positive. This year they are returning as Canada is in the grip of a third wave. While governments and employers say they are taking steps to keep these workers safe, advocates and workers contacted by Reuters say the dangers remain – except that now, those dangers are known.

Graphic on COVID-19 global tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

SAME CRISIS

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, argues the same factors that made workers more vulnerable to COVID-19 last year – crowded workplaces, congregate living, visas that tie them to an employer and make them fearful of speaking out – still exist.

“We are walking into the same crisis yet again, the only difference being that we already know how bad it is.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said employers are doing their best, but some transmission of the virus will occur.

“Because they’re living on the farm, they’re in contact with each other when they’re working … despite all our efforts, it spreads. Just like it does elsewhere in society.”

Some 760 farmworkers have been infected so far this year in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, according to provincial data. Ontario put agriculture workers in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccinations, which begins this month, and has set up a clinic at Toronto’s airport offering vaccines to migrants on arrival.

But advocates worry migrant workers might lack requisite identification, especially if they are undocumented.

Advocates argue not enough is being done to keep these workers safe from the pandemic. They say rules such as the requirement to get – and pay for – a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of coming to Canada place an undue logistical and financial burden on migrants.

Last month the federal government announced new measures meant to protect migrant agricultural workers, including beefed-up inspections.

But the migrants interviewed by Reuters argued what will protect them is more stable status that does not tie them to an employer.

“Hopefully this year, the government of Canada gives us status,” said Teresa, a migrant worker from Baja California.

($1 = 1.2559 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)

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Canadian crude imports fall 20% in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Imports of crude oil into Canada dropped 20% year-on-year in 2020 due to weak demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Energy Regulator said in an analysis released Wednesday.

Canada imported 555,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year, the lowest level in at least 10 years, down from 693,000 bpd in 2019 and more than 800,000 bpd in 2010.

The total cost of imported oil in 2020 fell 40% from the previous year to C$11.5 billion ($9.18 billion), reflecting the lower volumes and a slump in global crude prices.

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest crude producer and exports around 3.7 million bpd but the vast majority of its production comes from the western province of Alberta.

The country still imports some crude to serve refineries in eastern Canada because of a lack of pipeline access to western supplies, the specific product requirements of different refineries, and because it can be cheaper to import.

“Refineries in the main importing regions of Quebec and Atlantic Canada have been slower to recover from the pandemic impacts compared to refineries in the rest of Canada,” the CER said in its analysis.

The CER said that was because of tighter COVID-19 travel restrictions in Quebec and Atlantic Canada than in western provinces, and weak demand from other countries for refined product exports from Atlantic Canada refineries.

The percentage of barrels imported from the United States rose to 77%, up from 72% the year before. Another 13% came from Saudi Arabia, 4% from Nigeria, 3% from Norway, and the remainder from several other countries.

($1 = 1.2534 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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