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Some Canadian travellers want to know why those entering from the U.S. face less stringent rules – CBC News

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Some Canadian travellers required to spend days in isolation waiting for COVID-19 test results after returning from abroad want to know why Ottawa allows tested travellers arriving from the U.S. to skip quarantine.

“There’s something fishy,” said Kevin McNally of Gatineau, Que. who flew from Panama to Montreal on Jan. 7. He was tested on arrival and waited six days at home in quarantine before he received his negative test result.

McNally said it was hard to endure the long wait, knowing tested travellers who arrive in Canada after being in the U.S. are exempt from the quarantine requirement. 

“I felt like a prisoner in my own country and yet an American can come over here and not quarantine,” said McNally who works as a travel consultant. “It makes no sense.”

As part of its beefed-up arrival-testing program, Ottawa is doling out PCR tests daily to thousands of randomly selected, fully vaccinated international travellers upon arrival. 

After returning from a trip to Panama, Kevin McNally of Gatineau, Que. waited six days in quarantine before he got his negative test results. (Kevin McNally)

According to rules posted on the government’s website, randomly tested travellers who have been in a country outside the U.S. within the past 14 days must quarantine while waiting for their test results. Those who test negative can leave isolation. 

But tested travellers, including Canadians, who haven’t been anywhere outside Canada except the U.S. within the past 14 days can skip quarantine while awaiting their results — even though cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant are surging in the U.S.

All unvaccinated travellers entering from any country are tested upon arrival and must quarantine for 14 days. 

Government responds

CBC News asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) why vaccinated travellers from the U.S. who are tested get to skip quarantine. 

In an email sent Monday, spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau didn’t respond to the question and instead repeated the quarantine rules from the government’s website. 

Earlier this month, PHAC told CBC News that its travel rules are rooted in science. 

“Border measures are based on available data, scientific evidence and monitoring of the epidemiological situation both in Canada and internationally,” said spokesperson André Gagnon in an email on Jan. 7. 

Sherif Barakat of Ottawa said that statement doesn’t add up. He flew home from Cancun on Jan. 9, was tested upon arrival and waited five days at home in quarantine before he received his negative test result.

Barakat said the government has yet to offer up the science explaining why he had to quarantine but someone entering from the U.S. is exempt. 

“If you’re treating people differently, then the question is why?” he said. “The disease doesn’t have any boundaries.”

Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, said it’s time to rethink Canada’s mass arrival testing program. (Unity Health Toronto)

Global epidemiologist, Dr. Prabhat Jha said there’s no scientific explanation for less stringent rules for travellers from the U.S., as Omicron has spread globally. 

“What’s the difference between someone coming from the U.K. or someone coming from New York? There’s not in terms of the Omicron prevalence and the spread,” said Jha, who works at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Get rid of arrival testing?

Ottawa’s arrival testing program is also under scrutiny, because the government is potentially spending millions of dollars daily on the program at a time when Omicron has already spread across Canada. 

PHAC said the government recently boosted its testing capacity to test 26,000 travellers daily upon arrival and that the cost for each test can range from $143 to $188. 

Members of the travel industry and some physicians, including Jha, argue since travellers already must take a pre-departure molecular test and Omicron is ubiquitous, funds used for mass-arrival testing could be better spent on fighting COVID-19 on the domestic front. 

The COVID-19 test-positivity rate for randomly tested fully vaccinated travellers is just above two per cent. Across Canada, the test-positivity rate is above 20 per cent

WATCH | Experts question travel arrival testing: 

Experts question utility of airport PCR testing

6 days ago

Duration 1:59

Medical experts are questioning the usefulness of screening air travellers for COVID-19 using a PCR test, arguing that testing resources could be better targeted elsewhere. 1:59

Jha said Canada laying out disparate rules for tested travellers from the U.S. is just one more reason why its arrival testing program is flawed and needs to be scrapped. 

“Insist on a pre-departure, high-quality test before [travellers] leave and beyond that, anything else you do gives you so little gains, it’s just not worth it,” said Jha. “It’s a waste of resources.”

The government is ramping up arrival testing with the goal of testing all fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada from outside the U.S. upon arrival. PHAC has yet to explain why it will continue only randomly testing vaccinated travellers entering from the U.S.

On Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam admitted that Canada’s mass-arrival testing program is questionable at this point. 

“It is a capacity drain on the systems as a whole,” she said at a news conference. “The whole world has Omicron.”

Tam suggested that doing some random arrival testing to keep tabs on the coronavirus would suffice. However, she said that Canada’s current goal to test most travellers upon arrival would stay in place for now. 

“We will evaluate that over time.”

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I was placed in ESL classes despite being fluent in English. It made me feel less Canadian – CBC.ca

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This First Person article is the experience of Alvin Ma, a second-generation Chinese Canadian. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I tried to avoid eye contact and slump in my chair, but it didn’t work. It was the start of my Grade 4 school year and for the fourth consecutive year, my name was called to receive “additional English language instruction.” 

It didn’t matter that I could fully comprehend the Guinness Book of Records I purchased from the Scholastic Book Fair or that I read the Vancouver Sun sports section every morning. I was going back to ESL.

I was born in Canada and grew up speaking English with my parents. My Chinese-born mother immigrated to Canada as a high school student and my father, also an immigrant from Hong Kong in the 1970s, taught culinary classes in English. However, my grandparents and other elderly family members were not fluent in English and spoke predominantly Cantonese at home. 

It’s why my parents put down Cantonese as the language most spoken at home when filling out my public school registration form. 

It’s also the reason we believe I was placed in English language learner classes (ESL) despite the fact I was born in Canada and spoke English fluently.

A screenshot of a report saying the student received ESL support.
Alvin Ma’s Grade 3 report card shows he received ESL support while also participating in enrichment activities. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

I don’t have negative memories of these ESL classes or teachers themselves. 

But as a kid, being placed in those classes made me feel less than a full-fledged Canadian. 

I just wanted to be treated like the “CBC” (Canadian-born Chinese) classmates who did not require these ESL classes. Some of these students would occasionally flaunt their English abilities and poke fun at those perceived to be “fresh off the boat.” I don’t remember making fun of people, but I do remember wanting to prove that I was better than others in English — thinking a superior grasp of the language would make me somehow more “Canadian.” 

Even if I secretly found ’90s Cantonese pop songs such as 每天愛你多一些 and Sugar in the Marmalade catchy, I listened to Shania Twain. I unfailingly watched every Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Twenty-two years before Simu Liu’s rendition at the Juno Awards, I was able to effortlessly recite the “I AM CANADIAN” rant in its entirety. 

I distanced myself from my Chinese heritage and purposely failed assessments at Chinese school to prove I was more Canadian than Chinese. My mother knew I would only speak to her in English, and there was an unspoken understanding that she was to speak only English to me when she came to my school to pick me up.

A screenshot of a report card showing failing grades in Chinese language.
Alvin Ma’s report card from a Cantonese heritage language course shows his failing grades. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

When I asked my mother if she thought it was odd that I was placed in ESL for so many years, she shrugged.

Considering that my grandparents supervised me during weekdays, my parents reasoned that “additional English language instruction” would help my education in the long term.

Then one day and without any explanation, I was put into the regular stream of Grade 5 students. My student record simply noted that my ESL status had been delisted. I felt relieved, but I remained self-conscious of my pronunciation of words and tried to avoid a stutter that would label me as anything but a born-in-Canada Canadian. 

Years after I graduated, my elementary school faced allegations that it falsely inflated the number of English learners in order to get more government funding.

A smiling family surrounds a student in graduation robes.
Alvin Ma, third from the right, poses with his family to mark his graduation from the University of British Columbia. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

As an adult, I know now that neither my fluency in Cantonese nor perceived accent makes me any less Canadian. Years of academic research and presentations made me a confident speaker in multiculturalism-related issues. 

But I hadn’t really considered the impact of those ESL classes until I met a 10-year-old student through a tutoring job. As his mom left the room, she said these parting words: “你需要努力,進步你的英文分” (you must work hard to improve your English mark).

He indignantly responded in English, “Stop bothering me in Chinese if you want me to improve!”

That student was a mirror of my younger self: a second-generation Canadian who desperately tried to prove his English fluency by shunning Chinese. 

Although I wanted to avoid confrontation, I plucked up my courage. I told him  — and by extension my younger self — that knowledge of another language is a strength; not an embarrassment to hide. My student nodded, but if my journey is an indicator, it might take many years for him to comprehend my message. I just hope the message sinks in eventually.


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Philippines’ new President promises policies that will benefit everyone

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Manila, Philippines- Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of former President, Ferdinand Marcos, has promised to take the country far and provide policies that will benefit everyone.

The new President who was sworn in yesterday said he would work on healing divisions in the country, to grow the economy, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and lead a more unified prosperous country.

“This is a historic moment for us all! You picked me to be your servant, to enable changes to benefit all. I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task.

I am here not to talk about the past, I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty, of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing. I will get it done,” said Marcos Jr.

In addition, the President said he would improve food sufficiency, infrastructure, waste management and energy supply, and give full support to millions of overseas Filipino workers.

Marcos Jr won last month’s Presidential election with 31.6 million votes, or 58.77 percent of ballots cast, a margin not seen in decades and replaces outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.

His running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the former President’s daughter, was sworn in as Vice-President on June 19, and they will both serve until 2028.

According to human rights groups, during his father’s reign between 1965 and 1986, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for perceived or real criticism of the government.

As a result, activists and survivors of the martial law era under his father protested against Marcos Jr’s inauguration. Nevertheless, more than 15 000 police, soldiers and coast guard personnel were deployed across the capital to ensure security.

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Canada Day: Parties, protests planned in Ottawa | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Thousands of people wearing red and white and waiving Canadian flags packed downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday, while police monitored the crowds for possible protests against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions.

It’s the first in-person Canada Day in Ottawa in three years, after COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of events in 2020 and 2021.

“We have missed two years already,” said Rebecca Lau, while standing in front of Parliament Hill. “We used to come here every year to celebrate for Canada Day, but the last two years because of the pandemic we had to stay home.”

The main events include a daytime ceremony and evening show at LeBreton Flats, activities for families and fireworks at 10 p.m.   The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were forced to cancel the annual fly-by over Ottawa on Canada Day following a recent technical issue.

Two kilometres away from LeBreton Flats, Parliament Hill and the streets around the parliamentary buildings were packed with people marking Canada Day.

“It is fabulous to see everybody here celebrating and enjoying Canada Day. It’s nice to see all the patriotism going on; the good kind, the positive kind,” said Todd Salter, visiting Ottawa from Erin, Ont. “There’s protesters here; but they seem calm right now which is a nice change. It feels a little bit normal and really nice to be back.”

Canada Day festivities come months after “Freedom Convoy” protesters occupied streets around Parliament Hill protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A protest march against the mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is scheduled for later this afternoon.

The Freedom Fights Canada website says a “March to Freedom” will be held at 3:30 p.m., followed by speeches, live music and DJs on Parliament Hill from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Just before 1 p.m., dozens of people gathered on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and chanted “Free Pat King.”  Pat King was one of the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy”, and remains in jail on charges connected to his involvement in the three-week protest.

A “Family Day Picnic” hosted by the group Police on Guard for Thee at a nearby park was cancelled, with organizers citing “a recent incident in Ottawa.” However, there were no further details provided.

A small crowd gathered at Strathcona Park despite the picnic being cancelled, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier planned to deliver a speech to supporters in the area. Several vehicles with Canadian Flags were parked in the parking lot, while police patrolled the area.

There is a visible police presence patrolling the parliamentary precinct and the roads around downtown Ottawa, with a motor vehicle control zone set up to prevent vehicles from stopping or engaging in protests.

Any vehicles stopping or parking in the control zone will be ticketed and towed, while police say any vehicles participating in protests will be prohibited from entering the area.

As of Friday morning, Ottawa Bylaw Services officers issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles from the vehicle control zone. Bylaw officials have also increased fines for the unusual noise, shouting, urination or defecation on roads and sidewalks, blocking a highway and idling. Fines are now $1,000.

Despite their presence, Ottawa police says it is safe for families to come downtown for Canada Day events.

“Come, don’t be worried. This is a festival. This is to celebrate Canada, that’s why we’ve gone to the extent we have to put the plans in place and the resources around it,” interim Chief Steve Bell told The Evan Solomon Show on Thursday. “It’s going to be a safe environment, that’s why we’re here to ensure that.”

Four people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial Thursday, shortly after Canadian Forces veteran James Topp completed his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“We are reviewing video and investigating the incident at the National War Memorial this evening,” police said on Twitter Thursday evening. “The initial investigation finds that an interaction with officers became confrontational and 1 officer was choked. Other officers immediately responded, 4 people were arrested.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Canadians to recommit to the country’s values on Canada Day, including respect, hope and kindness.

In his official Canada Day message, the prime minister said July 1 is an opportunity to commit to the values that the Maple Leaf represents.

“It’s also a promise — a promise of opportunity, a promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war, and a promise of a better life,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy

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