Thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal Saturday to protest against the Quebec government’s mandatory mask regulations.
The protesters — the vast majority of whom did not wear masks — carried signs and wore t-shirts indicating a variety of motivations and ideologies in opposition to face coverings.
Some demanded freedom, some were critical of the Coalition Avenir Québec government, Premier François Legault or public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda, and others espoused various theories about COVID-19 and U.S. politics.
“I find it illogical,” said Nathalie Warren, who travelled from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. for the protest.
“Say we go into a restaurant,” she said. “We walk in wearing a mask, because, what, COVID is there? Then we sit down and we can take the masks off because, what, the COVID is gone?”
Under the government’s regulations, masks are mandatory in restaurants when clients are moving around because it is harder to maintain a physical distance from others in those instances, provincial health authorities have said. When a client is seated, they may remove their mask as long as they are at a two-metre distance from others.
“We want our liberty. We want the right to say yes to a vaccine. We want the right to decide. It’s our life, it’s our bodies, it’s up to us,” said Warren.
“I’m not OK with children going to school wearing masks, and physical distancing,” said Irène Sarmiento. “It makes no sense. The children aren’t to blame. The population is being abused.”
So far, the Quebec government has not made masks mandatory for students heading back to school.
There were frequent spontaneous chants of “liberté” as the march wound from the main gates of McGill University on Sherbrooke Street to the CBC/Radio-Canada building on René-Lévesque Boulevard. Montreal police surveyed the event from motorcycles and bicycles.
At previous anti-mask protests in the province, demonstrators argued that mandatory mask rules are not fair and that the threat of COVID-19 is not as serious as is being reported.
On Saturday, some people made a show of embracing each other or exchanging double-cheek kisses. During speeches at the end, there were loud cheers for suggestions the mask law had no scientific basis and was instead an effort to control the population.
The science on masks and COVID-19, however, is now quite clear. It has solidified as scientists have learned more about asymptomatic carriers and have zeroed in on the virus’s spread through airborne particles — characteristics that were not well understood in the early stages of the pandemic.
Public health experts note that you should wear a cloth face covering not to protect yourself, but to protect those physically close to you by reducing the chance some of your respiratory droplets come into contact with them.
A recent study, which looked at research carried out in 16 countries on six continents, concluded that “wearing face masks protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses, and that eye protection could confer additional benefit.”
In the past, the Quebec government has said that people are allowed to protest. On July 27, responding to protests the previous weekend, Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said there would be “consequences” if there continued to be incidents where people “transgress the rules of public health.”
“It has nothing to do with taking away anyone’s right to protest or express themselves,” Guilbault said. “It’s obvious that anybody can protest. But nobody has the right to put anyone else’s health in danger.”
Canada's death toll could hit 16000 by the end of 2020, new modelling warns – CTV News
Canada could see as many as 16,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year if current public safety measures don’t change, according to new modelling from the United States that has provided accurate assessments of the American death toll.
But a Canadian pandemic modelling expert says that, while anything is possible, the American model may not be capturing the whole picture in Canada.
The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington suggests Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1 based on the current situation. If public safety mandates are loosened, such as physical distancing, the death toll could be even higher, hitting a projected 16,743 lives lost.
Universal masking in public spaces could curb those numbers and save thousands of lives, the model suggests, pointing to countries like Singapore that have successfully put in place masking protocols that are 95 per cent effective. Singapore has reported 27 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
If Canada were to successfully implement similar rules, the modelling predicts a death toll of 12,053.
So far Canada has reported 9,256 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 150,000 cases. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned earlier this week that the country is at the beginning of a second wave of infections as he urged Canadians to take public health guidance seriously.
Quebec is leading the country with new cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, the province reported another 698 cases, the highest daily infection numbers since May.
Dionne Aleman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in mathematical models for pandemic prediction, said the IHME model is “simplistic” and does not account for regional differences across the country.
While a second wave of COVID-19 infections has started, Aleman points out that deaths are not in a second wave. COVID-19 deaths in Canada peaked in April and May, when more than 100 people died in connection with the virus daily. Those numbers have remained much lower in recent months, with five deaths reported on Friday.
“The fact that deaths are not tracking with infections as they did in the first wave indicates that vulnerable individuals are taking more precautions to protect themselves now, and it is reasonable to assume those precautions will continue as the second wave gets worse. This model does not account for the fact that some people are behaving differently from others, and thus, the projected deaths are likely overstated,” Aleman told CTVNews.ca on Saturday over email.
The latest modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada does not offer predictions to the end of the year, but suggests that, based on current rates, the death toll could steadily rise to 9,300 lives lost by Oct. 2.
The IMHE modelling has proven to be accurate. Earlier this year, the model predicted that the U.S. would hit 200,000 deaths in September, a grim milestone that happened earlier this week. Now, the model predicts the U.S. death toll will nearly double by the end of the year, reaching 371,509 by Jan. 1.
The IMHE model also predicts daily infections — a number that includes people who aren’t tested for COVID-19 — could hit more than 19,000 by the end of the year.
Aleman said it’s important to remember that, even if a person doesn’t die from COVID-19, the consequences of getting sick can be serious.
“There are numerous examples of otherwise healthy individuals with severe reactions to COVID taking several weeks and even months to recover, and there are indications that there could be long-term health consequences,” she said.
“We should view these projections of exponential infection increase with great concern, and we as individuals should take every reasonable precaution to stem this increase before it is too far out of control. Wearing masks is easy and effective, and we should do it.”
Infections may be on the upswing, but Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Saturday that limiting personal contacts as much as possible can help once again flatten the curve. She encouraged Canadians to take time this weekend to chat with loved ones about how to keep their bubbles safer.
“Even if people attending an event are part of your extended family, as has been the case with some of these private gathering outbreaks, it doesn’t mean they are not infected, even if no one appears to be unwell,” Tam said in a statement.
“Despite the very real concern of a large resurgence in areas where the virus is escalating, there is still reason to be optimistic that we can get things back to the slow burn.”
B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada – CBC.ca
The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.
Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.
The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday.
Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson.
The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.
UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities.
“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release.
The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.
Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland.
Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.
“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.
“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”
Crisis, what crisis? If Canada is in a 2nd COVID wave, N.L. is watching it from afar – CBC.ca
On Wednesday, Canadians tuned in to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau make a national address on COVID-19. Trudeau got right to the point.
“The second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Trudeau said. “The numbers are clear.”
Given that Trudeau just moments later said, “We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” I was expecting him to then lay down the framework for another lockdown.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Trudeau appealed to Canadians to do their part to smash a curve that has been on rapid ascent in some provinces, especially British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Are things that bad? Here’s a comparison from the address that ought to have caught attention. “Back on March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over a thousand.”
There was no sense of panic after Trudeau’s remarks — not across the country, but especially not here. What reaction I did notice locally on social media might be boiled down to “meh.” That is, life is going on, and since Trudeau’s address made for prime-time viewing in our time zone, it felt like a bit of a letdown.
Part of this reason surely must be that there are distinct COVID-19 situations in the country, and Newfoundland and Labrador — perhaps accustomed to watching national dramas from both geographic and psychological sidelines all along — is far away from a mounting crisis elsewhere in Canada.
Wildly different experiences in the pandemic
Consider this. In Ontario on Thursday — the day after Trudeau’s address to the nation — 409 cases were reported. A month earlier, on Aug. 24, the number was 105. Quebec reported 582 cases on Thursday; on Aug. 24, that number was just 68.
The national tally has indeed been spiking in recent days. On Thursday, Canada logged 1,341 news cases of COVID-19 — or about 55 an hour. That’s almost one a minute.
Or, to look at it another way, there are on average five new cases surfacing every five or six minutes.
To count the last five cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, you need to go back to Aug. 10. To count the last 10, we go back to July 22.
In other words, the pandemic situation here — like all of the other Atlantic provinces and the territories — is entirely different from provinces where cases are spiking. (Manitoba is dealing with double digits, while Saskatchewan’s caseload has been comparatively modest.)
So … have we become complacent?
There’s always that concern everywhere, and we should be no different.
But it’s worth noting that a focal point of Wednesday’s weekly briefing was whether Halloween could go ahead this year. (A provisional yes, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, so long as rates do not increase.)
Not only did we not see anxious faces that have been handling briefings in bigger provinces, we learned on Wednesday that the provincial government has stopped sending daily news releases on COVID-19. They’ll resume when there is, well, news — presumably, a new case. Otherwise, data will be updated every afternoon on the dashboard of the province’s COVID-19 website.
Crushing the curve
Newfoundland and Labrador, which had a scary spike in the early spring with a cluster that involved attendance at the Caul’s funeral home in St. John’s, not only planked the curve, but kind of crushed it.
Still, despite a gradual loosening of restrictions brought in through a public health emergency order, we continue to move through the impacts of living with a pandemic. We may be able to shop and move around more easily, but many facets of daily life are quite affected. In the weeks to come, there will be no fall fairs at local churches, no Christmas sales at the Glacier, no big concerts at Mile One. Live performances are resuming, but many chairs (every other row at the Arts & Culture Centre) will be vacant for safety.
There will be no conventions, either. Indeed, there has not been that much travel. There was five times the amount of passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport in August than in April, but that’s only because there was practically no traffic at all in those early weeks of the pandemic.
Consider this chart:
|Month||Passengers||Decrease from 2019|
Source: St. John’s International Airport
Newfoundland and Labrador’s so-called travel ban — which prohibits entry to the province to non-residents (now outside the Maritimes) who do not have previously approved exemptions — continues to be divisive, but I see many people applaud it. Last week, Justice Donald Burrage upheld the ban, even though he also found that the order clearly violates charter rights of movement. Lawyers who argued the case say they are considering an appeal.
Legends of the fall
As I was making a cup of coffee early Friday morning, I noticed something that used to be common (like clockwork, really) in the air over the east end: the distinctive noise of a jet taking off at the airport.
It has occurred to me that the “new normal” of COVID-19 that we’ve all been talking about really means “the normal we are in right now, and it may change quickly.”
We are connected to the rest of the country, and the rest of the planet, and things are fluid.
Trudeau, who used his address to call on people to behave responsively, said the outcome of the second wave is not predetermined.
“What we can change,” he said, “is where we are in October and into the winter. It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”
At this end of the country, it would be an understatement to say people want the infection rate to stay as low this fall as it’s been this summer.
It’s also reasonable to think many people are looking forward to a “new normal” that moves closer and closer to the old one.
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