COVID-19 pandemic reveals major gaps in privacy law, watchdog says
As COVID-19 pushes more and more Canadians online to work and shop, the pandemic is demonstrating the need for better laws on data use and privacy, the country’s privacy watchdog warned the federal government Thursday. “This year, the COVID-19 pandemic makes the significant gaps in our legislative framework all the more striking,” wrote Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien in his annual report, tabled in Parliament today. “This rapid societal transformation is taking place without the proper legislative framework to guide decisions and protect fundamental rights.”
Therrien said most interactions taking place online now — such as remote work, socializing with friends, logging into school or discussing health issues with a doctor — use commercial videoconferencing technology. The situation comes with risks, he said, including commercial enterprises collecting exchanges between doctors and patients or of e-learning platforms capturing sensitive information about students’ learning difficulties or behaviour.
Therrien said his office hasn’t investigated companies based on those risks yet, but added Canada needs laws that set limits on permissible uses of data and that do not rely “on the good will of companies to act responsibly.” He also said the pandemic has stirred up heated debates about privacy, including questions about the government’s contact tracing app (on which Therrien was consulted) and about Canadians being asked for personal health information or required to undergo temperature checks at airports or before entering workplaces and stores.
The privacy commissioner’s office has long argued for enforcement powers to go after those who violate Canadians’ privacy — including the ability to make binding orders and impose consequential administrative penalties for non-compliance with the law, writes CBC’s Catharine Tunney. Therrien’s office is also asking the federal government to define privacy as a human right, but he said he hasn’t seen much movement on the issue in government. “The short answer is I don’t know when the government will table privacy legislation. I see that a number of provinces apparently are getting weary of inaction by the federal government and are starting to act,” Therrien said.
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Confused about whether to gather for Thanksgiving this year? You’re not alone
Depending where you live in Canada, it’s getting harder to navigate conflicting guidelines from various levels of government regarding gatherings at Thanksgiving — because they can often seem completely out of sync. “Different communities have different issues,” said Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. “So there is going to be variation from rural Alberta to downtown Toronto.” Messaging in one area might not be relevant in another, but he said those messages can cut across the country, which “creates confusion.”
In Canada’s hardest-hit provinces, the messaging is no less confusing, writes CBC’s Adam Miller. Quebec moved to close bars, casinos, restaurants, libraries, museums and movie theatres in its hardest-hit red zones this month, while also banning home gatherings as cases spiked. But the province also prohibited outdoor gatherings like barbecues, despite permitting people to meet in public spaces as long as they stayed two metres apart. In Ontario, residents are being urged to avoid gathering with friends and family, but restaurants, bars, banquet halls and even casinos remain open with much higher limits on occupants. Local public health officials in Ontario have been vocal about the need for clearer messaging and more concrete action from the province amid record-high case numbers.
“This just drives confusion en masse when you see such discord between different levels of government, between different public health units, between what’s being put out in the media, in press conferences,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of health and social policy for Toronto’s University Health Network. “How can we blame individuals, when it’s incredibly challenging to make sense of any of the advice?” Caulfield said public health officials and politicians need to be more transparent about the uncertainty they’re facing and the science informing health policies, because it signals to the public that the guidelines could change in the future. “It’s a really chaotic information environment right now, but we have to get it right,” he said.
Trump balks at plan for presidential candidates to be in separate locations at next debate
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said a second debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden would take place virtually amid the fallout from Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19 — a change denounced by the incumbent. “I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business. Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, meanwhile, said in a statement that the former vice-president “looks forward to speaking directly to the American people.”
The commission said the candidates were to “participate from separate remote locations” on Oct. 15 “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” Moderator Steve Scully of C-SPAN would remain in Miami as well as the participants, as the second debate is scheduled to be conducted in the town hall format, in which some selected voters ask the nominees questions. Biden derided Trump while leaving for a campaign stop, saying that he’ll follow the guidance of the commission. “We don’t know what the president’s going to do,” he said. “He changes his mind every second.” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo “that’s not what debating’s all about; you sit behind a computer and do a debate. That’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want.”
Trump was criticized for a chaotic performance at the first debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29, in which he interrupted Biden numerous times. As set out by the commission earlier this year, a third debate was scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who is among several people associated with the president to test positive, said the campaign was proposing that the town hall be postponed by one week to Oct. 22 and the third debate held on Oct. 29. Biden’s campaign rejected the proposal, saying the Republican president’s “erratic behaviour does not allow him to rewrite the calendar and pick new dates of his choosing.”
Federal government lifts cross-border travel restrictions for wider range of family members
The federal government is lifting COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions for a wider range of family members as of today, which means some Canadians will soon be able to reunite with loved ones outside the country after being separated for months. The changes, announced on Oct. 2, will allow for the entry of certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, including couples who have been dating for at least a year and their children, as well as grandchildren, siblings and grandparents.
The government said it would also consider “potential limited release from quarantine” for some visitors. Visits will be permitted for these classes of travellers on compassionate grounds such as terminal illnesses, critical injury or death. Details on which members of an extended family qualify for the newly announced exceptions and the conditions that have to be met to secure a compassionate exception will also be released later Thursday.
Meanwhile, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the second wave of COVID-19 is showing up in Canada as a series of regional epidemics. Ontario and Quebec account for 80 per cent of recent cases, but British Columbia and Manitoba are seeing more daily diagnoses than they did in the spring. Tam said New Brunswick has been doing well, like the rest of Atlantic Canada, but has an outbreak in a long-term care home that it’s rushing to contain. An increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in Ontario and Quebec has her worried that they could be strained before long.
Edmonton woman assembles COVID-19 kits for kids in honour of father who died of disease
An Edmonton woman’s grief over losing her father to COVID-19 has inspired her to help protect others and give to charity at the same time. Noor Saeed created Cokids — kits for children that include two cloth masks, one disposable mask, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes and some stickers for fun — following the death of her father in Pakistan in July.
“It was a very sudden death because he was fine, he was doing all the protocols, washing his hands, doing everything,” Saeed told CBC News in an interview on Tuesday. Khawaja Waquar Saeed died within four days of being diagnosed with the virus, and Saeed was unable to return to Karachi for the funeral. “I felt the need at that time, that I want to do something for my dad. I want to help out the families out there, being a mom myself,” she said.
Saeed said the kits are easy to use for children and compact enough to fit in a backpack. Each kit costs $7.50 to put together; Saeed is selling them for $12.99, and said she’s donating 15 per cent to the neonatal intensive care unit at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital. “My son was born premature and he spent a few weeks over there in the NICU and the nurses went above and beyond to take care of my son.”
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Youth-led climate change lawsuit dismissed by Federal Court – CBC.ca
A Federal Court judge ruled Tuesday that the Canadian government won’t be going on trial for contributions to climate change — striking down a lawsuit brought by 15 young Canadians who argued the government was violating their charter rights.
Federal Court Justice Michael Manson rejected a lawsuit initiated by the youths aged 10 to 19 years old. Their case called on the court to compel Ottawa to develop a science-based climate recovery plan.
But Manson ruled the claims don’t have a reasonable cause of action or prospect of success, so the case cannot proceed to trial.
The lawsuit filed in 2019 says Canada’s failure to protect against climate change is a violation of the youths’ charter rights.
On Tuesday, Manson ruled the network of government actions that contribute to climate change is too broad for the court to grapple with, and the court has no role in reviewing the country’s overall approach to climate change.
First and hardest hit
Plaintiff Haana Edenshaw, 17, of the Haida Nation, says despite her disappointment, she is refusing to get discouraged and plans to keep pushing to have the case heard, after seeing the effects of climate change in her village of Masset on Haida Gwaii off B.C.’s North Coast.
She said poverty rates and the location of communities leave Indigenous people at higher risk to the negative effects of climate change.
“Indigenous youth in Canada are often the first hit and the hardest hit,” she said.
Another plaintiff named Sophia said that it is “a big wake-up call for all Canadian and Indigenous youth. Canada has tried to silence our voice in court and block our calls for climate justice. We won’t be dissuaded.”
In September, government lawyers argued the lawsuit should be thrown out, as it was far too broad to be heard in court. In Tuesday’s ruling, Manson agreed the terms were too broad. Joe Arvay, the lead lawyer on the case, says it’s a disappointment, but he plans to push forward and appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The case, La Rose et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, was initially filed on Oct. 25, 2019.
The lawsuit argued that the plaintiffs — 15 children and teens from across Canada — had their rights to life, liberty and security and equality violated by a government that had failed to do enough to protect against climate change.
In the government’s defence submission, federal lawyer Joseph Cheng said the drivers of climate changes are a global problem, and Canada can’t act alone to solve the issue. He also argued that the case fell beyond what courts can meaningfully adjudicate.
The statement of claim was filed the day teen climate activist Greta Thunberg visited Vancouver and led a climate strike rally attended by thousands. It says that “despite knowing for decades” that carbon emissions “cause climate change and disproportionately harm children,” the government continued to allow emissions to increase at a level “incompatible with a stable climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties.”
But there’s no explicit environmental right in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And, in his decision, the justice disagreed that right is implicit, as argued in the case.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but the journey is far from over,” said Brendan Glauser of the Suzuki Foundation. Glauser said the ruling acknowledged the negative impact of climate change as something that’s significant and pointed out the justice also said the “public trust” doctrine is a legal question that the court can resolve — which, he said, offers legal ground with which the group can attempt to move forward.
“We are proud of our plaintiffs. These brave young plaintiffs know we only have a decade to turn things around, and so far, we are not on track,” said Glauser.
For more on this story, tap here to listen to the Sept. 27 episode of What on Earth with Laura Lynch.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – CityNews Toronto
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Ontario is reporting 827 new cases of COVID-19 today, and four new deaths due to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 355 cases are in Toronto, 169 in Peel Region, 89 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa.
The province has conducted 23,945 tests since the last daily report, with an additional 22,636 being processed.
In total, 312 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care.
Quebec is reporting 963 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
The Health Department said today four of the deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, 14 date back to last week and one death was from an unknown date.
The number of patients in hospital declined by 16 to 527 while the number of intensive-care patients dropped by two to 91.
Quebec has reported a total of 101,885 COVID-19 cases and 6,172 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Health officials say the case is in the central health zone, which includes Halifax, and is related to travel outside the Atlantic region.
The province has six active cases of novel coronavirus.
In total, Nova Scotia has confirmed 1,102 cases, while 1,031 cases have been resolved and there have been 65 deaths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.
The Canadian Press
Trudeau says pandemic 'sucks' as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.
Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.
“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.
“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”
Trudeau said Canadians must get this latest pandemic wave under control or risk putting their Christmas festivities in jeopardy.
“Unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” he said.
After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.
Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.
Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.
“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.
Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.
“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.
Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.
WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging
Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.
“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.
“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”
Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.
“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.
Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.
“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.
All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.
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