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These were CTVNews.ca's most popular stories of 2019 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
At the end of each year, CTVNews.ca crunches the numbers to see which stories our readers clicked on the most. The topics from our top-10 list are typically eclectic and this year’s was no different – a mix of mystery, tragedy, a few public warnings, and controversies that put the institution of hockey under the spotlight.

Here our CTVNews.ca’s most popular stories of 2019, starting at number 10.

10. Death sentence for Canadian in China of extreme concern: PM

When Canadian Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to death in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian back in January, it marked what appeared to be another escalation in the diplomatic tension between Canada and China. Schellenberg, from Abbotsford, B.C., was convicted of being an accessory to a drug-smuggling operation. He has denied all charges and is still awaiting his fate after a Chinese court in May held an appeal hearing in his case, but did not issue a ruling. His sentence came weeks after the RCMP detained Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.

9. Dashboard video captures moment 52-car train derails near Saskatoon

Dashcam captures CN train derailment

A dashboard camera captured the moment 29 CN train cars loaded with grain derailed at a rural intersection near Saskatoon in January. No one was injured in the incident. The woman who shot the video from a distance, as she sat in her car waiting for the train to pass, told CTV News she was able to feel the impact of the crash, and it was louder than what her recording was able to capture. The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the derailment.

8. Ottawa woman badly beaten at Mexican resort

Ottawa woman badly beaten in Mexico

Alexandra ‘Lexie’ York was on a family vacation in Cancun in November when she was beaten severely by another guest at the Grand Bahia Principe Tulum resort. Her brother, Mathew York, told CTV News her injuries were so bad that she required nearly 10 hours of plastic surgery. A fundraiser was set up to cover the Ottawa flight attendant’s ongoing care. Mathew wrote on the fundraising site that the response has been “incredibly heartening and overwhelming.” A suspect was charged in the incident with attempted murder.

7. ‘I don’t regret a thing’: Don Cherry speaks out on his firing and Ron MacLean

Don Cherry poses for a photo in Toronto

Hockey culture has come under scrutiny in these final few months of 2019. Prominent coaches lost their jobs; former players came forward to speak about the bad treatment they suffered at the hands of their coaches. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman promised changes: “Inclusion and diversity are not simply buzz words,” he said on Dec 9. “Our message is unequivocal: We will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind.” TSN’s senior hockey reporter Frank Seravelli called it hockey’s “moment of reckoning.” But the biggest hockey story of the year was Don Cherry being dismissed after 38 years on the air, for “offensive” and “discriminatory” comments he made during a Nov. 9 segment of Hockey Night in Canada.

6. Careful, Canada! This counterfeit cash could fool you

Counterfeit cash

No matter how many security enhancements are made to Canadian banknotes, it seems counterfeiters find ways to keep their fake bills circulating. One Toronto-area resident learned the lesson the hard way and decided to warn others about his experience. He’s hardly alone in being duped by a counterfeiter. It’s become a big enough problem that the central bank had to offer training guides on how to detect counterfeit bills.

5. 32 arrested at Indian call centre that targeted Canadians

Police in India arrested 32 people

Chances are you’ve gotten a phone call purporting to come from either Service Canada, the RCMP or a local courthouse, threatening arrest and imprisonment unless you called back. Unfortunately not everyone hangs up on these scam calls; some even fall victim. When New Delhi police moved in on a call centre they suspected of preying on people on Nov. 17, they say several scam calls were in progress – with associated computer screens displaying Canadian phone numbers. Thirty-two people were arrested and 55 computers were seized that day.

4. Family of 5 returning from Florida vacation killed in wrong way crash

Abbas family funeral

In the early morning hours on Jan. 6, the Abbas family from Michigan was killed in a crash on the I-75 highway as they drove home from a Disney World vacation in Florida. The driver of a pickup truck was travelling in the wrong lanes, striking the family’s SUV and killing all five of them inside. Authorities said the pickup driver, who also died in the crash, had a blood-alcohol level of .306 (anything above 0.08 is illegal). The crash resulted in both state and federal lawmakers working to increase fines and penalties for drunk driving, according to a local report, and to push for installing breathalyzers on new vehicles.

3. World’s cutest dog dies of a broken heart

Boo the Pomeranian

A Pomeranian named Boo with more than 16 million Facebook fans died of a “broken heart” in January, according to the pup’s owners. They believe Boo developed heart issues after his doggy friend Buddy, whom he lived with for 11 years, died in 2017. Boo met and was photographed with celebrities including Anderson Cooper and Seth Rogen, and he even released a book.

2. Election 2019 results and analysis

Liberal supporters

Our federal election live blog which gave readers real-time election updates, analysis and context throughout the night on October 21, was our second-most popular article of 2019. With nearly 1.1 million page views, it was part of a successful election night that saw a new single-day record for visits on CTVNews.ca.

1. Hunter captures strange howl in northern Ontario woods

Beaver Pond in Northern Ontario

A hunter’s recording of a spooky howl deep in the northern Ontario woods captured our readers’ imaginations and propelled this story to number one on our list, with 1.2 million page views and more than 26,000 shares on Facebook. Opinions on what creature made the mournful sound ranged from a dying bear to a Sasquatch (according to commenters on the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Facebook page, which shared a link to our story). 

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Canadian health officials look to China for lessons in how to prepare for COVID-19 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Public health officials are urgently warning that COVID-19 could gain ground in North America, while the Canadian doctor who led a team in China to study the virus says the world “is simply not ready” for a potential pandemic.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested Tuesday the virus will likely spread far and wide.

“Current global circumstances suggest it’s likely that this virus will cause a pandemic,” she said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, says officials are ready to take strong measures to guard against outbreaks, which “could perhaps include some closures of mass gatherings, for example, where there is higher likelihood of spread.”

Some Canadian hospitals are already preparing for a potential outbreak, including Ontario’s Scarborough Health Network, which has 18 beds dedicated for any patients infected with COVID-19.

“We have all of the hands on deck to provide the services for patients if we get a big influx,” Dr. Dick Zoutman, Chief of Staff at Scarborough Health Network, told CTV News.

Nearly four per cent of medical workers in China have become infected, so enhanced protection for staff is critical, said Dr. Neil Rau, a medical microbiologist at Halton Healthcare Services and CTV’s infectious diseases expert.

This includes bringing in extra gowns, masks and gloves.

“We have to have enough protective equipment for health care providers to protect them from getting the infection,” he said. “We have to protect our health care providers from getting the infection, so we don’t lose confidence in the health care staff and lose the ability to take care of patients who are sick.”

COVID-19 has also shown itself to be particularly harmful for those aged 80 and older, meaning extra precautions in seniors’ facilities are paramount.

“Nursing homes are a perfect set-up for a virus like this to take off,” Rau added.

In China, one strategy that has proved effective is the increase in telemedicine, where people who aren’t very sick stay home and received consultations online.

Dr. Vera Etches, the medical officer of health in Ottawa, suggests people stock up on prescriptions if infections start to spread.

“Even groceries that are non-perishable is good to have extra on hand if you can, so you don’t have to run out to the grocery story if you are feeling ill,” she said.

On Tuesday, Dr. Bruce Aylward, an epidemiologist and an assistant director-general for the World Health Organization (WHO), spoke in Geneva about his recent visit to China as the lead of an independent team of experts who examined the COVID-19 outbreak, which has sickened more than 78,000 and killed more than 2,700 in the country’s mainland.

The group consisted of 13 international experts and 12 Chinese nationals who travelled to Beijing, Guangdong province, Sichuan province, and the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, to gauge the impact of Chinese measures to care for the infected and prevent further spread of the respiratory virus.

After visiting with hundreds of health-care workers, government officials, volunteers, and residents across the country for a week, Aylward said his team determined that China had successfully managed to decrease the number of new cases with their “robust” approach.

“It’s the unanimous assessment of the team that they have changed the course of this outbreak,” he told a press conference in Geneva. “Hundreds of thousands of people in China did not get COVID-19 because of this aggressive response.”

According to Aylward, China’s response to the pathogen includes case finding, tracing contact, social distancing, and movement restriction. He said the country has successfully reacted to the outbreak by taking a differentiated and tailored approach to various regions so as to not exhaust their resources.

The epidemiologist said one of the things he was most struck by during his visit was the country’s mobilization of people. He described China’s collective action and co-operation in their response as “phenomenal.”

“We spoke to hundreds of people in hotels, on trains, in planes, who are quite outside the system, and they all shared this sense of responsibility, accountability to be part of this,” he recalled.

In Wuhan, in particular, Aylward said he witnessed the population band together to fight the outbreak.

“As you drive into this city in the dead of night with the lights on, it’s a ghost town, but behind every window in every skyscraper there are people co-operating with this response,” he said. “It’s staggering.”

Aylward also praised China’s ability to repurpose the “machinery of government,” such as transportation and other infrastructure, to respond to the health emergency. He said the country’s use of technology and science was also important in ensuring the response was timely and appropriate across all regions, including rural ones.

“What China demonstrates is, where this goes is within the control of our decisions to apply this kind of rigour and approach to this disease and its outbreak,” he said.

As China gets a handle on the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, the rest of the world is dealing with increasing numbers of cases popping up since the virus was identified eight weeks ago.

In South Korea, there have been nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of the virus while Japan grapples with approximately 860 cases, most of which originated on a cruise ship that made port there in the beginning of February.

Elsewhere, Iranian authorities have reported 15 deaths from the illness so far while Italy has become the site of the largest outbreak in Europe with nearly 300 cases.

In North America, the U.S. has confirmed 53 cases and Canada has reported 11, all in Ontario and B.C.

Aylward said at this point, the rest of the world is “simply not ready” for a COVID-19 outbreak within their own borders. He said countries should already be increasing their hospital bed capacity, stocking up on ventilators and oxygen supplies, developing a quarantine plan, and assessing their laboratory capabilities.

The WHO expert stressed that the rest of the world can and should learn from China’s experience in dealing with a virus outbreak.

“At this point, the world needs the experience of China,” he said. “Access the expertise in China. They’ve done this at scale, they know what they’re doing, they’re really, really good at it, and they’re keen to help.”

In conclusion, Aylward said his mission to China showed that it’s possible to affect the course of COVID-19 outbreaks.

“You can change the shape of this but it takes a very aggressive and tough program,” he said.

With files from CTV National News Medical Correspondent Avis Favaro and senior producer Elizabeth St. Philip

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Air Canada cancels flights to China until April as government braces for domestic coronavirus outbreak

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Air Canada is extending its suspension of flights between Canada and mainland China until April as the number of coronavirus cases — and the number of countries affected — continues to grow.

The country’s largest domestic and international airline announced Tuesday that service to Beijing and Shanghai will be cancelled until April 10. The company initially grounded flights for the month of February after the federal government issued an advisory warning against non-essential travel to China.

“Air Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Global Affairs and will adjust its schedule as appropriate,” says a statement from the company.

Air Canada normally operates direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The carrier also is extending the suspension of its daily Toronto-Hong Kong flights until April 30 due to reduced demand, and says it will accommodate customers already booked on those flights on its non-stop Vancouver-Hong Kong flights.

Asked in the House of Commons Tuesday if the government has done enough to screen potentially infected individuals entering the country, Health Minister Patty Hajdu insisted Canada has imposed “strict” measures. But she noted the coronavirus has now spread to at least 35 countries — including some that may not have the capacity to properly diagnose it.

“Those measures are less effective and it’s time to turn our attention and our resources to making sure we’re prepared on the domestic stage,” she said.

Hajdu said there are not many cases in Canada now, but that could change at any time.

Hajdu said the messaging at airports will broaden to advise all international travellers on what they should do if they experience symptoms. But she said passenger screening and containment efforts are now less relevant than domestic efforts to delay and mitigate an outbreak.

Hajdu said Canadians in Iran and other affected countries will receive consular support, but suggested that evacuating people is now unlikely.

“We should be clear that repatriation efforts are limited at this point. It’s difficult at this point to commit to an ongoing repatriation process. You have to remember that it takes a lot of resources and the resources have to be focused in terms of our domestic response,” she said. “It’s important for Canadians to realize this may cause disruptions in their lives.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Monday Canadian officials are preparing to respond to a possible pandemic in the event there is a community outbreak domestically. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the epidemic a global health emergency, but has not yet called it a pandemic.

Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne urged Canadians planning international trips to keep a close eye on government travel advisories as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

Nations around the world have been imposing strict travel restrictions in an attempt to contain the virus’s spread.

On his way into a cabinet meeting this morning in Ottawa, Champagne called the outbreak a “dynamic” situation and said Canadians with travel plans should take precautions.

“Make sure you check before you go. That’s the best advice I can give,” he said.

“We’ve seen new places where the coronavirus has expanded — in South Korea, we saw in Italy today not only the north of Italy but Sicily and Tuscany. We’ve seen what’s happening in Iran.”

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has heightened its travel advisory for South Korea, where nearly 1,000 cases have been reported. The department is now warning travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution” in travelling to the country due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

More than 320 cases have been reported in Italy. More than 80,000 cases have been reported globally.

GAC’s advisory for travel to Italy was updated Tuesday, warning travellers to “practise special precautions.”

“COVID-19 can spread from person to person, and in Italy cases have been confirmed in multiple regions in the north of the country. Sustained community spread of the virus is being reported. This means it is unknown how or where some people became infected, and the spread is ongoing,” the advisory reads.

 

A couple is seen on Tuesday on the subway in Milan. Italy is facing a growing number of coronavirus cases. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

 

The advisory says good medical care is widely available in Italy, but services could be limited in rural areas and doctors and nurses may not be able to communicate in English or French.

Medical treatment for life-threatening emergencies and emergency room treatment is free of charge in Italy, but hospitals charge up-front for any convalescence or follow-up care, the advisory reads.

Risk remains low in Canada

Tam issued a statement today saying that the risk posed by the coronavirus in Canada remains low.

She also confirmed that the 195 people who were under quarantine at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton after an evacuation flight from China have been released.

The group arrived two weeks ago on the second government-chartered flight from Wuhan, China, and have shown no symptoms throughout the quarantine period.

“As a result, they pose no risk to others and can return to their usual activities,” Tam said in the statement.

“I would like to thank the repatriated Canadians and their families for their patience, cooperation and contribution to public health. They have been through a stressful experience and I urge everyone to treat them with respect and compassion.”

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Canada’s agriculture sector near ‘tipping point’ over blockades, farming federation warns – Global News

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The Canadian Federation of Agriculture called for “decisive action” from the federal government Tuesday as it warned that rail blockades across the country were causing critical supply shortages for farmers and hurting their ability to get products to market.

Canadian farmers are being “severely and harshly impacted” by the blockades despite having nothing to do with the dispute over a B.C. pipeline project, federation president Mary Robinson said during a news conference attended by dozens of representatives from the agricultural industry.






1:59
Railway blockades bringing Canada’s economy ‘to its knees’ says Scheer


Railway blockades bringing Canada’s economy ‘to its knees’ says Scheer

Robinson, whose organization represents around 200,000 farm families across the country, specifically cited shortages of propane for heating barns and feed for animals as among the top concerns, particularly for farmers in Eastern Canada.


READ MORE:
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief ‘optimistic,’ ready to talk with RCMP on blockades

Producers are also having difficulty getting their products to market because of the rail disruptions, she said.

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“The widespread collateral damage of these protests is grinding our entire industry to a halt and is taking a massive toll on farmers across the country,” Robinson said, adding some estimates have pegged the cost to industry at around $63 million per week.

“Canadian agriculture is quickly reaching a tipping point.”






0:58
Stress from railway blockades contributing to further mental health problems in agriculture sector: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president


Stress from railway blockades contributing to further mental health problems in agriculture sector: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president

The comments put more pressure on the federal government to end the rail blockades, which started earlier this month in opposition to the Coastal GasLink project in B.C. While police have removed some of the blockades in recent days, others have since popped up.

Canada is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and the fifth-largest agricultural exporter, according to the federal government. The industry employs 2.3 million Canadians and contributes around $110 billion to the country’s gross domestic product each year.

Insisting it was too early to talk about compensation or emergency assistance, Robinson instead said the government’s focus should be on ending the blockades before looking at longer-term ways to ensure Canada’s rail network is reliable and not subject to future uncertainty.


READ MORE:
Protests swell across Canada after police clear rail blockade in Tyendinaga

“We cannot continue to have our livelihoods held hostage every time a group wants to put pressure on government. These interruptions also greatly affect Canada’s ability to be a reliable and trusted trading partner.”

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1:16
Protesters continue to block railway tracks in Hamilton after being served injunction


Protesters continue to block railway tracks in Hamilton after being served injunction

Yet she also warned the blockades along with a year of bad weather, a week-long rail strike in November and ongoing trade disputes with China are causing long-term damage to the agricultural industry, particularly as trading partners turn elsewhere for their products.

“We certainly are a point where our nation should be concerned that our government show leadership and investment to ensure that our agriculture resources are properly shored up in these difficult times,” she said.






1:12
Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are ‘unacceptable’, says legal recourse may be necessary


Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are ‘unacceptable’, says legal recourse may be necessary

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau acknowledged the challenges Canadian farmers have faced over the past year, but stopped short of promising any specific assistance or actions to address their concerns.


READ MORE:
63% of Canadians support police intervention to end rail blockades: Ipsos poll

“These disruptions have unfairly hurt Canadians, hurt our farmers and the entire value chain of our agriculture industry,” Bibeau said in a statement.

“I care deeply about our farmers who have dealt with the stress and impacts of these rail disruptions, on top of the challenges they faced in 2019. It’s absolutely essential that barricades stay down and that rail service be resumed.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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