When Jessa Lira got married in 2017, she didn’t anticipate being ready to have children for at least a couple of years; she wanted to enjoy life as a newlywed for a while and travel.
She finally felt ready to start trying in early 2020, just as COVID-19 hit.
Lira and her husband, who both live in Toronto, immediately reassessed this plan as their concerns about trying to have a baby in a pandemic mounted: what would doctor’s appointments look like? Would she have to give birth alone? What were the health implications of contracting the virus while pregnant?
“We knew for a fact that it was not the safest time to have a baby in a time of a pandemic,” Lira told Global News. “So we decided to wait for a couple of months and to see how it goes.”
In deciding to put off having a baby due to COVID-19, Lira and her husband joined the ranks of a growing number of Canadian couples who are deciding to delay having children or to have fewer children than previously planned.
1 in 4 Canadians altering family plans
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 to 49 have changed their fertility plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Statistics Canada paper released on Wednesday.
The study, conducted between April and June 2021, found almost one in five (19 per cent) of Canadians now wanted to have fewer children, while 14 per cent said they wanted to have a child later than they had originally planned. These answers were more common in people that didn’t have any children already, or people from minority groups.
Medical professionals agree with the findings, saying many of their clients’ plans to start or expand families were severely altered by the pandemic.
Economic pressures, uncertainty around jobs and living affordability were the main factors for those delaying having children.
Despite rumours of a lockdown-induced baby boom, according to StatsCan, just four per cent of respondents in the wellness survey said they now want more children or to have children sooner than previously planned.
Experts say this is likely due to inordinate periods of time spent at home reassessing their families and being unable to travel abroad.
Women give birth ‘late’ in Canada
Canada is already considered a “late” childbearing country. In 2020, the average age of mothers at the time of delivery was 31.3 years old.
The country’s fertility rate has also been steadily declining since 2008 — a trend seen in much of the rest of the Western world. France, England and the United States have also reported fewer babies born in 2020 compared with 2019.
Since the onset of the pandemic, that decrease has intensified: Canada’s fertility rate decreased from 1.47 children per woman in 2019 to a record low of 1.40 children per woman in 2020.
There were 13,434 fewer births in 2020 than in 2019, the greatest year-over-year decrease (3.6 per cent) since records began and the lowest number of births in any year since 2006.
Tali Bogler, chair of family medicine obstetrics at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said this decline was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Many of her clients were either delaying starting a family or cancelling plans to expand their brood due to recent economic pressures.
“I’m seeing young couples who have gone through job insecurity and job loss and are delaying, maybe a year from now, two years from now,” she said.
“And then I’m also seeing couples that have one or two kids who might have thought about having a third kid, and are now asking for either a vasectomy for the partner and saying no, this is it.”
Affordability a factor in smaller families
Rising costs of living were an important factor in those choices, she said. It was especially pertinent to those living in the GTA, where house prices soared to an average of nearly $1.2 million in October.
“Affordability is a huge concern for families. It’s worsened during the pandemic, especially here in Toronto, and that might have further stress and further impact on desired family sizes and when people plan to have a child,” she said.
This notion is supported by the StatCan data, which showed that those living in one of the Atlantic provinces (16 per cent) or Quebec (13 per cent) were less likely to have made changes to their parenthood journeys, compared to those living in Ontario (22 per cent). The report authors pointed to housing affordability and COVID-related economic pressures as a possible factor, as well as Quebec’s low-fee childcare programme.
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Affordability was a big factor in Samantha Tranter’s decision to stop after her second child, who was born in March 2021, after she also delayed getting pregnant due to the pandemic.
Tranter planned to get pregnant in February 2020, after her son’s first birthday. When COVID-19 hit, the Waterloo resident says she “gave up for a while,” as she and her fiance couldn’t find the time to try to conceive.
“My job went from being in the office full-time, to working from home and navigating that whole obstacle with an array of technology problems, while trying to take care of a newly one-year-old,” she said.
“It was difficult to just find time to spend together. By the end of the workday, we were both just so exhausted that the mere thought of being intimate was exhausting.”
Tranter and her fiance also cancelled the wedding they had planned for June 2020.
But as Ontario began to tentatively reopen a few months later, Tranter and her now-husband decided to move forward with their nuptials and ended up getting married in the backyard of a bed-and-breakfast with 20 guests.
They decided to extend their family soon after. Tranter’s second child was born in March 2020.
The couple don’t plan on having more, mostly due to the housing crisis and rising inflation, which rose to 4.7 per cent in October — the largest year-over-year gain since 2003.
“In 25 years when my kids are in the same position I am, they’re probably going to still be living with me because they can’t afford to leave,” Tranter said.
‘We barely bring him outside’
For Lira, the pandemic-related baby delay was also short-lived. As the months dragged on, she felt they weren’t “getting any younger” and the pandemic did not seem to be abating.
So the couple decided to try, and found out they were pregnant in November 2020. But Lira, who works in the medical field, recounts the experience of being pregnant in a pandemic as “terrifying.”
“Going to work every single day and dealing with doctors, patients and other colleagues, not knowing if they were exposed, or might have the virus [was difficult],” she said.
In the end, however, the couple were able to attend in-person appointments, ultrasounds and had a healthy baby in July 2021. However, the anxiety around being pregnant in the pandemic has boiled over to having a young child in a pandemic.
“Right now, we barely bring him outside — only for a doctor’s appointment or for a walk at the park maybe once a week. I know we can do better but the anxiety that COVID is giving us, it’s just so scary. As much as we want him to enjoy the world, we also want to protect him the best way we can.”
The experience has not altered her plans of having three children in total, however. But she hopes the pandemic is over before she tries for her second child.
For Tiffany Ermine, from Prince Albert, Sask., having a baby in the pandemic was enough to put her off ever having another. Ermine gave birth to her second child in June 2020, and the experience “terrified” her. That, coupled with unaffordable living costs mean her dream of having four or five kids will likely never become a reality.
“It devastates me, but I’d rather live comfortably and be able to give my kids the things they want and need,” she said.
Fertility clinics in high demand
But what about those who can’t conceive naturally? Anecdotally, things appear to be going in the opposite direction, with fertility specialists in high demand.
Dr. Sony Sierra, deputy medical director and partner at Trio Fertility, said she was seeing a rise in new clients wanting fertility assessments, to either understand where they were at with their fertility or to begin fertility treatment. For those wanting to conceive, this was largely due to long periods of time spent at home and international travel being off the table, Sierra said.
Trio, like many other clinics across the country, was forced to close for three months as Canada grappled with the pandemic. When the clinic reopened in May 2020, people were rushing to get appointments.
“When our fertility clinics were closed, that was very stressful for people who wanted to start their families or move forward with their families. So when we reopened, there was this huge surge of people who wanted to get in quickly before something like that was to happen again,” Sierra said.
“We had a very long lockdown in Ontario, and we were forced to be in our homes, thinking about your family and what that looks like. And so people were wanting to sort of get started sooner rather than later.”
Canada ‘may never catch up’
However, the clinic also had clients who did not return when they reopened, after reassessing their outlook on children or wanting to delay fertility treatment. This was due to economic pressures, people losing jobs, people relocating across the country and people “choosing to spend their money differently,” Sierra said.
Sierra said 2020 was a tough year for a lot of reasons, and not just the pandemic. “Socially, culturally, there were a lot of things that were going on that made people sort of stop and say, ‘Is this the right time to bring a baby into the world’?”
But this delay in fertility treatments was also likely to have contributed to the lower birth rate in 2020.
While Bogler and Sierra said women should not be concerned over delaying pregnancies for a year or two, those waiting too long past what’s considered a woman’s fertile window, generally between 20 and 25 years of age, risked not being able to have the family sizes they planned for.
Bogler said the pandemic would also likely impact Canada’s declining birth rate for years to come.
“Historically, what we’ve seen is the longer you delay, families might not be able to catch up. And so as a country, we might not ever catch up to the number of deliveries that we might have seen if the pandemic hadn’t happened,” Bogler said.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Sask. RCMP issue Canada-wide warrant for anti-vaccine dad charged with abducting daughter, 7 – CBC.ca
Saskatchewan RCMP have charged and issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for a Carievale, Sask., man accused of abducting his daughter to prevent her getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Michael Gordon Jackson, 52, is charged with one count of abduction in contravention of a custody or parenting order, RCMP said in a news release Friday evening.
It comes after CBC News reported earlier this month that the father fled with his seven-year-old daughter, Sarah, in mid-November to keep her from getting immunized against the coronavirus. Jackson’s ex-wife, Mariecar Jackson, had wanted to get their daughter vaccinated, but Jackson did not.
The girl had been visiting her father when she was allegedly abducted.
Since an enforceable court order was issued earlier this month, investigators say they have followed up on several tips and reported sightings of the father and daughter — including by reviewing surveillance footage at several businesses. However, no tips have led to locating them.
At this point, RCMP say, the criteria for an Amber Alert has not been met, which is why Mounties are continuing to ask the public for help in tracking the pair down.
“Sarah: we want you to know that you are not in any trouble,” Chief Supt. Tyler Bates, the officer in charge of the Saskatchewan RCMP south district, said in a message to the girl contained in the news release.
“Your mom misses you very much, and we have police officers doing what they can so you can see her again soon.”
Sarah is described as four feet two inches tall, 76 pounds, with waist-length brown hair that’s all one length. She has brown/hazel-coloured eyes and last wore teal-coloured eyeglasses.
Michael Jackson is described as weighing about 250 pounds with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He also typically wears glasses, RCMP said.
While Jackson resides in the Carievale area — located in Saskatchewan’s southeast corner — Mounties said he may have connections to the communities of Dilke, Oxbow, Alameda and Regina, along with Lamont, Alta. RCMP said he may also be in Manitoba.
“Locating Michael Gordon Jackson and Sarah is a top priority for Saskatchewan RCMP officers,” Bates said. “Our investigators are diligently following up on all tips and reported sightings. We are committed to locating Michael Gordon Jackson and reuniting Sarah with her mom.”
WATCH | Sask. woman says she’ll never stop looking for her child:
RCMP noted that investigators believe Michael Jackson may be getting help in evading police and reminded people that this activity may result in criminal charges.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Michael or Sarah Jackson is asked to call the Saskatchewan RCMP at 306-310-7267 or 306-780-5563. Tips can also be anonymously submitted to Crime Stoppers at at 1‐800‐222‐8477 or www.saskcrimestoppers.com.
China’s Investment into Foreign Media
Over the last few decades, China’s power and influence have grown remarkably quickly. The largest country in Asia is now one of the world’s biggest superpowers, and its influence has extended across the continent and into new territories as the Chinese government looks to cement its power for the future. According to a recent report released by Reporters Without Borders, China has started investing in foreign media to deter criticism and spread propaganda.
According to the research, “China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order”, Beijing is spreading its worldview through several techniques, including increased international broadcasting, huge advertising campaigns, and infiltration of foreign media outlets.
China has recently opened laws across the country to give its people more freedom. However, there are still many restrictions in place, including against online gambling. Despite this, Chinese citizens can get online and place sports bets and wagers at online casinos, using trusted online gambling portals such as Asiabet. Interested players can access a wide range of leading casinos and sportsbooks through the site as well as information regarding the legality of the recommended operators, safety, and strategy before joining up, making it easier for players to understand what they’re getting into.
Why Is Chine Looking to Control Foreign Media?
The Chinese government is spending up to $1.3 billion a year to boost Chinese media’s global reach. Chinese state-run television and radio shows have been able to dramatically expand their foreign reach in recent years because of this financing. China Radio International is now transmitted in 65 languages, while China Global Television Network is distributed across 140 countries.
Considering the current global geopolitical climate, this looks to be a smart move, as it allows China to present itself how it wants to be seen to a global audience. In recent years, China has gained media attention across the West for its influence on North Korea, its expansion into the South China Sea, and its treatment of the minority Uighurs within its own country.
How Is China Influencing Foreign Media?
The Chinese government has recently increased spending on advertisements in Western newspapers and publishing sites to promote Chinese viewpoints. Advertising dollars have enticed media outlets, which has had a particularly large impact considering news media is currently struggling with profitability. China Daily, a mouthpiece for the Chinese regime, has paid American newspapers 19 million dollars in advertising and printing in the last four years alone, according to US Justice Department records.
China is also aiming to influence and control foreign media outlets by purchasing interests in them, according to the research. The report found that, in many cases, Chinese ownership typically leads to self-censorship, and journalists have lost their jobs in the past for publishing negative articles about the country.
For example, Reporters Without Borders claim that a journalist for South Africa’s Independent Online, which has a 20% investment in Chinese investors, had his column stopped in September 2018. This came just hours after a column about China’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities was published.
Reporters Without Borders has also claimed that, in addition to buying shares in media firms, Beijing has impacted foreign media by inviting journalists from developing nations to China for training. According to the report, China invited several Zambian journalists to a specially designed event named the 2018 Zambia Media Think Tank Seminar.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Western Media?
China has long had a lack of press freedom, with the country ranked 177 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index in 2021. It looks like the country is using domestic tactics used to control media narratives and bring them to the wider world, allowing it to control what people say about the country and regime in other countries too. By silencing and pressing foreign journalists and news stories, the Chinese government is damaging the trust that people place in the media.
Some people feel that this report is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. It could be that the influence from the Chinese government is even greater than previously expected. While a lot of foreign governments will often have an impact on media in other countries to control a narrative, this is on a scale never seen before.
Despite this, there are many journalists around the world who refuse to be influenced and still work hard to preserve the integrity of journalism. Reporters Without Borders will continue to document and report on the extent of China’s influence on foreign media.
Emmy-winning actor Louie Anderson dead at age 68
The star of the comedy series “Baskets” died in Las Vegas, where he was admitted into a hospital earlier this week for treatment of diffuse large B cell lymphoma, publicist Glenn Schwartz told the entertainment publication.
Anderson was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy Series, winning one in 2016 for his role as Christine Baskets on the FX series.
He also won two Daytime Emmys for outstanding performer in an animated program for “Life with Louie,” a program that aired on Fox in 1997 and 1998.
The Saint Paul, Minnesota, native was a counselor to troubled children before he got his start in comedy when he won first place in the Midwest Comedy Competition in 1981, according to Deadline.
Anderson was in Eddie Murphy’s 1988 hit movie “Coming to America.” He also hosted “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002 and starred in several situation comedies over the last two decades.
Anderson wrote several books, including “Goodbye Jumbo … Hello Cruel World,” a self-help book for people struggling with self-esteem issues.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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