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Scheer blasted as 'racist and absurd' for telling Wet'suwet'en supporters to 'check their privilege' – National Observer

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer appeared in the halls of Canada’s seat of power Friday, walked up to the microphone and cameras waiting for him to address a national audience and told those who have been standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en to “check their privilege.”

The Gidimt’en camp of members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation told National Observer that kind of statement is “racist and absurd” when many Indigenous communities have been discriminated against or lack access to basic services.

Scheer was responding to the news this week that blockades of key rail lines — in protest of the RCMP’s arrests of Wet’suwet’en members in British Columbia in order to clear the route for a gas pipeline — are putting pressure on some industry employees.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

He seized on numbers cited by transportation-sector union Teamsters Canada that “up to 6,000 workers” could be out of work as a result of a decision by Canadian National (CN) Railway to shut down eastern operations, as well as Via Rail’s cancellation of passenger-train service across the country. More than 400 trains have been cancelled in the past week, CN has said.

“These protesters, these activists, may have the luxury of spending days at a time at a blockade, but they need to check their privilege,” Scheer told reporters, who had gathered outside the House of Commons chamber on Parliament Hill in order to broadcast his views.

“They need to check their privilege, and let people whose jobs depend on the railway system, small businesses and farmers do their jobs.”

Wet’suwet’en supporters create a rail blockade in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Feb. 13, 2020. Photo by Jesse Winter

Asked what she thought of Scheer’s statement, Molly Wickham, spokeswoman for the Gidimt’en camp of Wet’suwet’en Nation members, said the Tory leader’s words made little sense.

“All of Canada is subsidized by Indigenous people. All Canadian industries and transportation infrastructure rely on the theft of Indigenous land for their existence,” she said. “Calling Indigenous land defenders ‘privileged’ when so many of our communities are denied basic human rights and services is racist and absurd.”

Two examples of Indigenous human-rights issues include the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that Ottawa was “willful and reckless” with First Nations children who suffered racial discrimination and unnecessary separation from their families, as well as the fact that there are still 60 long-term drinking-water advisories on reserves despite the United Nations recognizing clean drinking water as a human right.

File photo of Transport Minister Marc Garneau in 2018 in Ottawa. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Miller to meet with Mohawk nations: Garneau

Protests have erupted in multiple provinces after the RCMP moved on Wet’suwet’en territory, arrested matriarchs, sawed apart gates and extinguished sacred fires.

“Calling Indigenous land defenders ‘privileged’ when so many of our communities are denied basic human rights and services is racist and absurd,” Gidimt’en camp of Wet’suwet’en tells Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

A blockade in Manitoba has ended, but National Observer reported another in British Columbia has sprung up near Vancouver, just as a third near New Hazleton, B.C., appeared to be winding down. Meanwhile, near Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory east of Belleville, Ont., negotiations have been ongoing with the Ontario Provincial Police over a fourth rail blockade.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who spoke to media in downtown Toronto on the sidelines of an annual meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts Friday morning, said “the path to resolution of this issue is through dialogue and seeking consensus.”

Garneau confirmed Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller would be meeting “very shortly” with Mohawk representatives to discuss the issue. He insisted the government has been “working every day, ever since this happened,” to engage with CN, Via and Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway, as well as provincial counterparts.

“We’ve been actively engaged on trying to find the best solution, as quickly as possible,” he said.

Late on Friday, Mohawk representatives announced that Miller would be meeting Saturday morning with them at the rail crossing in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, to address issues and “polish the Silver Covenant Chain,” which represents the original agreements between Mohawks and the Crown.

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous supporters alike are welcome to travel to Tyendinaga tomorrow to witness the historic event,” they said in a statement.

The “vast majority” of goods used by Canadians and bought in stores “travel by rail,” Garneau said. The disruption also affects people who rely on passenger rail service to work or travel to see family, he added. “The impact of this disruption affects each and every Canadian.”

Garneau also said “freedom of expression and peaceful protest” are among Canadians’ most fundamental rights, and should be respected, but he was “deeply concerned” that the blockades were preventing the operations of railways.

“There is a risk of seeing this solely as being about a negative impact on the profitability of large companies,” Garneau said. “But it is about people’s jobs and livelihoods, and about the transport of key supplies like food, propane, heating oil and chemicals for water treatment, agricultural products for export and so many other products.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Feb. 14, 2020. Scheer said Trudeau should “pick up the phone” and call Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, “and tell him to put an end to this situation.” Photo by Kamara Morozuk

‘Law enforcement should enforce the law’: Scheer

Scheer also acknowledged that all citizens “have the right to demonstrate peacefully and to express themselves freely,” but said that doesn’t mean they have a “right to paralyze our rail network and our ports.”

He tried to portray the situation as one of “a few activists” being able to shut down “an entire aspect of our economy,” and claimed that those manning the blockades are hurting their own cause. “They’re doing it wrong,” he said.

“For many of these anti-energy activists, this is just a warm-up act,” said Scheer. “This is just a warm-up act for fights like TMX (the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project) and Teck Frontier (a proposed $20-billion oilsands mine). In the end, their goal is the shutdown of our entire energy sector.”

The outgoing Tory leader spent a large portion of his appearance in front of media calling on the RCMP to “enforce the law.”

Pressed repeatedly to explain what specific actions he meant by that, Scheer would not elaborate.

“I’m calling on the prime minister to act as prime minister, to make sure that he uses all the tools in his toolkit to enforce the law,” said Tory leader Andrew Scheer on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo by Kamara Morozuk.

“The RCMP act is clear: the minister of public safety has the ultimate authority over Canada’s national police force, and has the power to direct the RCMP to enforce the law,” he said.

“Pick up the phone, call (Public Safety) Minister (Bill) Blair, and tell him to put an end to this situation,” he said, aiming his remarks at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Asked if he meant the RCMP should breach areas where it does not have jurisdiction, Scheer said he didn’t mean that.

“I’m calling on the prime minister to act as prime minister, to make sure that he uses all the tools in his toolkit to enforce the law. Where it’s RCMP jurisdiction, they should intervene,” he said.

“Law enforcement should enforce the law.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 14, 2020 at 6:01 p.m. Eastern to include a statement from Mohawk representatives.

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Shoppers Drug Mart Surrey staff member tests positive for COVID-19 – Vancouver Is Awesome

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The parent company of Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaw Companies International, confirmed Wednesday that another one of its Surrey employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The employee, who tested positive on a presumptive COVID-19 test, last worked at the 8962 152 St. store location on Friday.

Loblaw regularly updates its COVID-19 page with all positive COVID-19 cases in its stores, by province, in the last 15 days

However, it does not release any personal information about employees.

Last month, multiple Shoppers Drug Mart locations issued notices that team members tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, health officials announced 96 new coronavirus cases in the province.

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How close are we to a coronavirus vaccine? – National Post

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AstraZeneca has had to pause trials twice after participants fell seriously ill and while work has resumed in the UK and elsewhere, the research remains on hold in the US.

Vials of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, a recombinant adenovirus vaccine named Ad5-nCoV, co-developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics Inc and a team led by Chinese military infectious disease expert, are pictured in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, March 24, 2020. Photo by China Daily via REUTERS

Which countries have bought doses so far?

Despite global appeals from the WHO for countries to pursue multilateral deals that provide for the equitable distribution of doses, the trials have sparked a multibillion-dollar flurry of vaccine dealmaking by national governments.

The US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is the biggest spender so far, having distributed more than $10bn in funding for vaccine candidates, either via direct financing or through vaccine procurement agreements.

Bar chart showing amount spent on COVID-19 vaccine candidates in billions of dollars
On a per-capita basis, the UK has built the largest and most diversified vaccine portfolio, according to data from Deutsche Bank, having pre-ordered more than five doses per citizen spread across six leading vaccine candidates. The UK is followed closely by the US, Canada and Japan.

A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line on September 11, 2020 at the Italian biologics manufacturing facility of multinational corporation Catalent in Anagni, southeast of Rome, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

In total, dealmaking by the US, UK, EU, Japan and other rich nations has meant wealthy countries representing just 13 per cent of the world’s population have bought more than half of the leading vaccine candidates’ promised doses, according to Oxfam, the charity.

Covax, the global vaccine procurement facility, designed to ensure the equitable distribution of doses, only this week secured the participation of 64 higher income countries. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, one of the founders of the facility, has invested up to $895m in nine COVID-19 vaccine candidates that will be distributed under the programme.

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COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record pace. And that's a serious concern – National Post

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Part of the problem is that the science keeps shifting, evolving. Is COVID airborne or not? What’s the size of a particle, a droplet? “Should you be six feet away, should it be three feet, should it be 2,000,” Johnson said. “It’s not wrong, it just looks like science doesn’t know.”

Safety, need, big-pharma conspiracies and does-science-actually-know-what-it’s-doing are the main features that appear among the “not-sure’s,” Johnson said.

“But we also see it — and I think this is even more scary — in the yes’s, the ones that say ‘they would get a vaccine’, who then inside are thinking, ‘yeah, but I wouldn’t be first in line. I’m going to wait until my whole street, everybody I know has it, and if they’re still standing a few months later I’ll get one.’”

Among the narratives he’s read: What happens if you have the first shot at the same time as the flu shot? What happens if I’ve already had antibodies in me and I have the vaccine, is that bad? “These are the things occurring to them.”

Dozens of vaccines are now being tested in humans. It’s not clear which strategy will be the most successful. The best vaccines are the ones that most closely mimic a natural infection, without making the person sick, or killing them.

Vaccines use parts of the virus — in the case of most of the frontrunner vaccines, the spike protein the virus uses to attach to and enter cells— to goad the body into making an immune response.

A COVID vaccine doesn’t have to be as good as vaccines against highly infectious viruses like the measles, said McMaster University’s Dr. Matthew Miller, an infectious diseases researcher.

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