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Prime minister pleads with Canadians not to travel abroad, people do it anyway – Global News

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In spite of warnings from the federal and provincial governments, Canadians are still heading down south for the Christmas holidays.

Flights left from multiple Canadian airports for Mexico, Cuba and other sunny destinations Thursday morning.

“Let’s be clear: this is not the time for a vacation abroad,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference at Rideau Cottage Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday his words didn’t seem to resonate with dozens of Montrealers at Trudeau airport as they prepared to head down to Mexico amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m not worried at all,” Oleg Bitka said as he and his family checked in for their flight to the resort town of Cancun, Mexico.

Air Transat had one flight going to Cancun and one flight going to Puerto Vallarta Thursday morning. According to an agent, both were packed. Multiple flights left Pearson airport in Toronto for Mexico, Cuba and other destinations on Thursday morning as well.

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“It’s not necessarily all people leaving for vacation — there are people going to work, too,” said Carole Boyer, who said she was a travel agent going to Mexico for work purposes. “People shouldn’t travel if it’s not essential, but you can’t really stop people from doing what they want.”

Health professionals were upset to hear warnings from politicians had fallen on deaf ears.

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“Well, it’s very disappointing. This is not the time for international travel. International travel obviously helps spread the virus,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist in Montreal.

An airline pilot told Global News being on a busy plane is actually very safe.

“The entirety of the air in the cabin is renewed every three to five minutes,” said Dominic Daoust, who was laid off earlier this year because of COVID-19.

Experts worry about people letting their guard down while interacting with others on vacation.

“You don’t go on vacation to sit alone in your hotel room,” said Labos.

Public health rules say all international travellers need to self-isolate for two weeks when they get home.

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“Travellers are referred to a quarantine officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) at the point of entry for assessment,” said Tammy Jarbeau, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

She said travellers are asked what their isolation plan is, and that if the plan is inadequate, the quarantine officer may send the traveller to a “federally managed site.”

Bitka told Global News he and his family would quarantine upon their return from Mexico.

“Travellers in isolation and quarantine receive calls, and also emails, during their 14-day period,” Jarbeau said, adding that fines, warnings and arrests are among the potential consequences for breaking the rules.

Labos said he doesn’t believe the current system is enough to keep people in one location.

“Right now we largely rely on the honour system to make sure that people follow this,” said the cardiologist.

Quebec and Ontario are both thinking of adding teeth to self-isolation rules.

“We both worry about quarantine. We want to make sure it’s done properly, make sure people are doing followups to make sure it’s respected,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault said earlier this week.

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Airports across the country are working toward implementing rapid testing, with pilot projects underway in multiple cities.

Daoust, the pilot, thinks a widespread rollout of on-site testing would lighten the quarantine requirements and kickstart the travel business.

“We need to find ways to get to get the industry moving again because the demand is there,” he said.

Aviation experts say the battered airline sector needs every flight it can get.

“Their business is in terrible shape, and they believe — and so does ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and the World Health Organization — that it’s safe to travel. It’s the parts after you’ve travelled and come back that are more problematic,” said Karl Moore, a McGill management professor and aviation analyst.

Moore believes the federal government has not implemented a full non-essential travel ban at least partially because of lobbying from the airline industry.

Doctors fear asymptomatic spread from returning travellers.

“A lot of the hospitals are at or near capacity now, and it’s not going to take much to tip them over the edge,” said Labos.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis

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More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants

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Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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