The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:50 a.m. An upcoming Formula One race in Italy could be open to 3,000 fans. Tuscany region president Enrico Rossi says local health authorities have approved limited spectators for the Tuscan Grand Prix on Sept. 13.
Rossi tells the Gazzetta dello Sport “the circuit contains three big tribunes that are well spaced apart so the limit of 1,000 people per the national rules on public events can reasonably be considered as the capacity limit for each tribune.”
Official government approval is expected by Saturday.
Fans will have their temperature taken upon arrival and be asked to observe social distancing procedures and wear masks if it is approved.
The only spectators at the Italian GP in Monza a week earlier will be 250 specially invited health workers.
9:02 a.m. An LCBO employee at the 2803 Dundas Street W. location near Keele and Dundas has tested positive for COVID-19, the LCBO says.
A notice was posted on the LCBO’s website on Thursday. It’s been two weeks since the employee last worked at the store in the Junction.
The location remains open.
8:47 a.m. U.S. consumers increased their spending by 1.9 per cent last month, a dose of support for an economy struggling to emerge from the grip of a pandemic that has held back a recovery and kept roughly 27 million people jobless.
The July gain marked the third straight monthly increase in consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, but represented a slowdown from the previous two months. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that income rose 0.4 per cent in July after two months of declines.
The consumer spending report arrives amid a hazy economic landscape, with high unemployment, struggling businesses and deep uncertainty about when the health crisis will be solved and when people and companies will feel confident enough to spend and hire normally again. It also comes weeks after the expiration of a $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit deprived millions of a key source of income and dimmed the outlook for consumer spending.
The economy, after a catastrophic fall in the April-June quarter, is likely expanding again. Home and auto sales have been strong. Stock prices have set record highs.
A persistently high level of confirmed viral cases has damaged several industries, especially those involved with travel, tourism and entertainment, and is holding back growth. On Thursday, the government reported that roughly 1 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — a historically high level that has prevailed for weeks.
8:38 a.m. Statistics Canada says the economy posted its steepest decline on record in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of non-essential businesses and slowed the economy to a crawl.
The agency says real gross domestic product contracted at an annualized rate of 38.7 per cent for the three-month period.
Economists had expected a contraction in the quarter at an annualized rate of 39.6 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
Almost every single component of the economy that works into calculating GDP was at its lowest point over April, May and June — driven largely by lockdowns in April.
Economic output rebounded in May by 4.8 per cent, and the agency says June posted an increase of 6.5 per cent.
The agency’s preliminary estimate for July indicates a three-per-cent increase in real GDP.
8:24 a.m. Cycling’s governing body has relaxed its COVID-19 exclusion rules on the eve of the Tour de France opening stage following complaints from teams that feared their riders would be unduly excluded from the race.
After meeting with team officials, the UCI said Friday that a team won’t be automatically sent home if two of its riders test positive for the virus as was initially planned.
According to the revised protocol, it will be up to Tour de France organizers to decide whether to throw a whole team out of the race.
“In the case of two or more riders from the same team testing positive for COVID-19 within a period of seven days at a Grand Tour, the UCI will give the event organiser authorisation to announce the withdrawal of the team for health reasons,” the UCI said.
Four staff members of the Belgian team Lotto-Soudal were sent home Thursday after “non-negative” coronavirus tests. The team said a mechanic and a member of the rider support staff returned “one positive and one suspicious result.” Both left the race bubble along with their roommates.
8:07 a.m. Peru has set another grim record by reporting the highest number of deaths per capita from the coronavirus.
With 28,277 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, or 86.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, Peru on Thursday overtook Belgium as the nation with the most victims, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the IMF and Bloomberg. It comes a week after the South American nation of 33 million posted the world’s deepest economic contraction in the second quarter following a drastic lockdown.
More than five months after reporting its first case, Peru has one of the world’s worst outbreaks by other measures too. Over the past seven days, no country has posted more cases. It’s also among nations with most fatalities by population size over the past week.
The outbreak has been so bad that as much as a quarter of Lima’s 12 million population may have already had the virus, according to a government study published last month. Officials warn the country’s real death toll may be close to double the official figure.
Yet there are signs Peru may be past the worst of the pandemic. While the country reported 153 deaths on Thursday, the number of hospitalized patients had fallen 9.2 per cent from a peak reached 10 days earlier.
Despite locking the entire country down early and aggressively, the government has struggled to get control of its outbreak. Cases surged after lock-down measures were eased in July, prompting a ban on social and family gatherings and also delaying plans for reopening the economy.
7:51 a.m. The International Judo Federation says it is restarting events which should feed into qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
International judo events started to be affected by the coronavirus in February when Chinese teams withdrew from competing in Europe. Cancellations began in March.
The governing body says World Judo Tour events will be organized in Budapest, Hungary, in late-October and Tokyo in December.
The IJF says the events “aim to offer qualification points for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.”
Some continental-level competitions are also planned later in 2020.
7:50 a.m. A player has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of a women’s tennis tournament in Prague.
Tournament director David Trunda says the unidentified player was isolating in her hotel room and will be re-tested. Trunda says the player didn’t meet any other participants in the tournament.
All 150 players are tested on arrival and have to wait in their hotel rooms for the results.
The event is for players who would have been at the U.S. Open qualifying tournament. It opens on Saturday.
U.S. Open qualifying was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
6:18 a.m.: Statistics Canada will report this morning how the national economy fared in the second quarter of 2020, which is widely expected to show the steepest drop on record due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s central bank has forecast that April, May and June would be the worst three-month stretch for the economy this year, since those months span the height of prevention-related shutdowns.
Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a 39.6-per-cent plunge compared to the same period in 2019.
Much of that drop will be driven by shutdowns beginning in April that have since been rolled back.
Last month, Statistics Canada released a preliminary estimate that economic output rose five per cent in June, following an increase in May.
Refinitiv says average economist expectations are for an increase in output of 5.6 per cent in June.
6:12 a.m.: Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has reported 113 new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day, with authorities warning that the infection rate will have to fall substantially if a six-week lockdown is to be relaxed on schedule on Sept. 13.
The latest daily tallies are the lowest in more than eight weeks, with a peak of 725 in early August.
The latest death toll dropped to 12 from 23 on Thursday. Thursday’s was the third-highest toll of the pandemic.
Authorities want daily infections to fall at least to low double-digits before they would consider relaxing restrictions.
Elsewhere in Australia, the federal health department said there were 18 new cases. New South Wales state recorded 13, Queensland three and Western Australia two.
6:11 a.m.: China began moving into its final weekend before a full re-opening of schools amid continuing measures to prevent any further spread of the coronavirus.
The country reported just nine new cases on Friday, all brought from outside the country. Hospitals are treating 288 people for COVID-19 and another 361 are being monitored in isolation for showing signs of the illness or having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.
China has reported 85,013 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, with 4,634 dying from COVID-19.
The roughly 25 per cent of students still out of school are due to return to classes on Monday.
Classes are being held on a staggered schedule and mask wearing and social distancing are required. College undergraduates are also due to return to campus next week, with Beijing ordering tests for all 600,000 taking up places at the city’s institutions.
6:10 a.m.: South Korea is tightening social distancing restrictions in the greater capital area, requiring restaurants to provide only delivery and takeout after 9 p.m. and shutting down gyms and after-school academies.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced the plans Friday after the country reported 371 new infections of COVID-19, marking its 15th straight day of triple digit jumps and bringing national totals to 19,077 reported cases, including 316 deaths.
The measures will be imposed for eight days starting Sunday.
Park said more than 470,000 businesses in the Seoul area will be affected by the measures.
6:10 a.m.: India has recorded another high of 77,266 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to more than 3.38 million reported cases.
Nearly 47 per cent of India’s virus cases were detected this month alone.
The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,057 deaths for a total of 61,529.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for nearly three weeks. India’s previous highest daily count was 75,760 on Wednesday.
With up to 900,000 tests every day, India’s cumulative tests reached 39 million on Thursday, the ministry said.
6:10 a.m.: London’s Gatwick Airport says it doesn’t expect air traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels for four or five years after passenger volume dropped 66 per cent in the first half of the year.
The capital’s second-biggest airport said Friday that just 7.5 million people travelled through Gatwick in the first six months of 2020, down from 22.2 million in the same period last year.
Gatwick says it has already eliminated 740 jobs and expects to cut another 600 during the third quarter.
CEO Stewart Wingate says, “like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 on our passenger numbers and air traffic at the start of the year was dramatic and, although there are small signs of recovery, it is a trend we expect to continue to see.”
6:09 a.m.: Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautioning that the coronavirus crisis will make life more difficult in the coming months than it has been over the summer and is calling on Germans to continue taking the threat seriously.
Germany’s response to the virus is generally viewed as relatively successful, but the country has seen a pickup in new infections in recent weeks, as have many others in Europe.
Merkel said Friday: “We have to expect that some things will be even more difficult in the coming months than in the summer.”
She said it is important to keep infections down as people increasingly meet indoors.
She told reporters in Berlin that “we will have to keep living with the virus.”
The long-time German leader said she had three priorities, including ensuring that children can continue access education despite the pandemic, ensuring economic revival, and maintaining social cohesion at a time when many in society are suffering hardship.
6:07 a.m.: A group of COVID-19 modellers says the British Columbia government should increase physical distancing measures to help it more safely reopen schools next month.
Paul Tupper, a mathematician with Simon Fraser University’s MAGPIE Research Group, says physical distancing has already been relaxed too much, putting schools at risk of possibly becoming centres for new outbreaks.
“Our predictions are that right now we’re set for exponential growth to levels higher than we have seen before in B.C., and that’s even if we do nothing, even if we just keep things as they are,” Tupper said in an interview last week.
Friday 12:03 a.m. Venezuelan security forces and authorities under President Nicolás Maduro have used the coronavirus as an excuse to crack down on dissenting voices on social media and even in private messages, Human Rights Watch reported Friday.
The New York-based rights group said Venezuelan authorities have targeted dozens of journalists, healthcare workers, human rights lawyers and political opponents critical of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Some critics have been physically abused to levels bordering on torture, the group said in a report listing 162 such cases from March through June. Human Rights Watch says it verified several complaints through interviews with alleged victims, while also citing reports by Venezuelan media and human rights advocates.
“In Venezuela today, you can’t even share a private message criticizing the Maduro government via WhatsApp without fear of being prosecuted,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
“The state of emergency has emboldened security forces and armed pro-government groups that already have a record of torture and extrajudicial killings to crack down even more harshly on Venezuelans,” Vivanco said.
Thursday 5 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 147 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the Star’s latest count.
As has been the case in recent days, most new cases in the province were reported in the GTA and Ottawa.
Toronto, with 33 new infections, Peel Region, with 27 cases, Ottawa, at 22, and York Region, 14, all reported in the double digits Thursday.
Windsor-Essex also reported 12 cases, well above that region’s recent trend.
The seven-day average for daily case reports in Ontario has been rising in recent days. On Thursday, it jumped to an average of 117 cases daily over the last week.
Even with the recent increases, the rate of infection remains well below the worst of the pandemic; Ontario saw the same average reach a mid-April peak of nearly 600 cases daily.
No new fatal cases were reported Thursday; one previously listed death was removed from the tally in Peel, where the region has reported a total of 326 fatal cases.
The province has now seen a total of 43,943 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,839 deaths.
The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered. The Province lists slightly more than 1,000 active cases of the disease, although that total has been going up in recent days.
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
Canada adds 1,085 new coronavirus cases as Trudeau warns of second wave – Global News
Canada added 1,085 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, marking the fifth day in a row the country has seen a daily increase of more than 1,000.
The new infections bring the country’s total case count to 147,612.
Health authorities also said 10 more people have died after contracting the virus.
Since the pandemic began, the virus has claimed 9,244 lives in Canada.
The new cases come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said some regions in Canada are already experiencing a second wave of the virus.
“In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” he said.
Trudeau made the comments during a rare evening address.
He urged Canadians to continue abiding by the public health measures including sticking to social bubbles, wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and continuing practicing social distancing.
“Together, we have the power to get this second wave under control,” he said.
Woman waits for 7 hours to get coronavirus test at Toronto hospital
The prime minister said it is “likely” Canadians will not be able to gather for Thanksgiving, but said “we still have a shot at Christmas.”
Ontario reported 335 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, and health officials there said three more people had died.
The new infections bring the province’s total caseload to 48,087.
Since the pandemic began Ontario has tested 3,649,980 people for COVID-19, and 41,600 have recovered after falling ill.
In Quebec, 471 new infections were detected, and health officials said one more person had died.
Health authorities said three more deaths which occurred between Sept. 16 and Sept. 21, bring the provincial death toll to 5,809.
However, 59,686 people have recovered from the virus in Quebec, and health officials have conducted 2,136,088 tests to date.
New Brunswick added one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, but officials said no one else had died.
The province has seen two deaths related to the virus so far.
A total of 191 people have recovered after contracting the respiratory illness, and 71,585 tests have been administered in New Brunswick.
Nova Scotia health officials said no new cases or deaths associated with COVID-19 had occurred.
So far 1,021 people have recovered after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, and 90,124 people have been tested.
Prince Edward Island saw one new case of COVID-19, marking the province’s first new infection since Sept. 16.
The new case brings Prince Edward Island’s total caseload to 58, however, 57 of those people have recovered.
Provincial health authorities have administered 33,196 tests for the virus.
Coronavirus: Researchers identify the origins of COVID-19 infections in Quebec
No new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Newfoundland on Wednesday, and provincial health authorities said the death toll remained at three.
Newfoundland has not recorded a new case of the virus since Sept. 18.
So far, 268 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the province, and 38,960 tests have been conducted.
Forty-two new infections were reported in Manitoba, and health authorities said one more person had died after testing positive for the virus.
To date, 1,238 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the province, and 170,045 people have been tested.
Saskatchewan reported six new cases, but health officials said the death toll in the province remained at 24.
Thus far, 176,912 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 1,673 have recovered after becoming ill.
Alberta recorded 143 new infections, bringing the province’s total case count to 17,032.
Health officials there said two more people had died, pushing Alberta’s death toll to 260.
However, since the pandemic began, 15,252 people have recovered from the virus.
A total of 1,242,263 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Alberta.
Further west in British Columbia, 86 new infections were reported, but no new deaths have occurred.
Health authorities also reported five epidemiologically-linked, meaning they have not been confirmed by a laboratory.
So far, 6,769 people who contracted COVID-19 have recovered in B.C., and 483,979 tests have been administered.
No new cases in the territories
None of Canada’s territories reported a new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and health officials confirmed no one else had died.
In the Northwest Territories, all five confirmed cases of the virus are considered resolved.
The territory has administered 1,673 tests for COVID-19.
Throne speech: Payette touts coronavirus job creation, wage subsidy extension
Meanwhile, Nunavut has seen three cases of the virus to date, however, each have been tied to workers from other parts of the country.
The territory says the infections will be counted in the totals for the workers’ home jurisdictions, meaning Nunavut still considers itself free of COVID-19 cases.
The territory has tested 2,812 for the virus to date.
All 15 confirmed cases of the virus in the Yukon are considered to be recovered.
Since the pandemic began, health officials have administered 59,686 tests.
Global cases approach 32 million
As of 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the virus had claimed 973,904 lives worldwide.
The United States remained the epicentre of the virus on Wednesday, with over 6.9 million confirmed cases.
So far 201,861 Americans have died after contracting COVID-19.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
As caseloads spike in four provinces, Trudeau warns that pandemic will be worse this fall – CBC.ca
In a rare televised national address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to the airwaves tonight to warn that Canada is at a “crossroads” as COVID-19 cases spike in some provinces, and with pandemic conditions in the fall expected to be worse than what the country endured when the crisis was just beginning.
Canada entered an ordered shutdown of economic and social life in mid-March, when there were only a few dozen new cases being reported each day. Now, with 1,000 new cases reported nationwide yesterday, Trudeau said there can be no doubt that four of the country’s provinces — Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec — are in the second wave of COVID-19.
“I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear. And we can’t change today’s numbers or even tomorrow’s … but what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter,” he said.
“It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”
Trudeau said that while the outlook is grim, Canada has the tools it needs to blunt the impact of a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of 9,200 people in this country.
“We have the power to get this second wave under control. I know we can do it, because we’ve already done it once before. In the spring, we all did our part by staying home. And this fall, we have even more tools in the toolbox,” he said.
Trudeau said Canadians must continue to wear masks where possible, limit social interactions — “It’s no time for a party” — and download the COVID-19 alert app so that those who test positive can anonymously alert close contacts.
“It’s a powerful, free tool that’s easy to use and protects your privacy,” he said.
Trudeau also sought to reassure Canadians that the government is working to procure the goods needed to get the country past this health crisis.
He said the government has signed billions of dollars worth of agreements to buy vaccines, therapeutics and personal protective equipment (PPE). Canada faced critical shortages of gloves, masks and gowns in the early days of the pandemic, after government agents failed to adequately supply the national emergency stockpile.
Beyond warnings about a projected spike in cases in the coming months, Trudeau used the second half of his 15-minute address to assure Canadians that the government will be ready to help them navigate the economic fallout — pointing to some of the policy proposals that were outlined in the speech from the throne this afternoon.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who responded to Trudeau’s remarks from isolation after testing positive for the virus last Friday, said the Tories have lost faith in the government’s response to this pandemic.
“The situation facing my family shows we must remain extremely vigilant in our battle against the spread of COVID-19. We must also be very vigilant for the future of our country,” he said. His wife, Rebecca, has also tested positive.
He urged Trudeau to push Health Canada regulators to approve rapid testing devices to ease the pressure on hospital-run testing centres that have experienced hours-long lineups in some parts of the country.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two antigen testing devices months ago — tests that can deliver results in less than 15 minutes — Health Canada has said it is not ready to put its stamp of approval on such tests.
Antigen tests — which, depending on the device, use matter collected from a nasal or throat swab — don’t require the use of a lab to generate results. The FDA has said such tests are a safe and reliable way to determine a person’s COVID-19 status.
“It is unacceptable that we trust countries like Japan, Germany and the U.S. with our national security intelligence but we don’t trust their approval of a 15-minute saliva test,” O’Toole said.
Government promises 1 million new jobs
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivered the government’s nearly hour-long address in the Senate chamber earlier today.
In that speech, the government pledged to create one million new jobs, extend the wage subsidy program until next summer, launch the largest jobs training program in the country’s history and begin to build a national child-care program to support working women.
The Liberal government also promised to push ahead with plans to create a universal pharmacare program with any provinces willing to take part.
Watch: Throne speech outlines Trudeau government’s plans for pandemic recovery
The government promised to pursue an ambitious environmental agenda to fast-track Canada’s efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through home retrofits and infrastructure spending, and through tax incentives for companies building zero-emissions products, like electric vehicles.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on Canadians has already been worse than the 2008 financial crisis. These consequences will not be short-lived. This is not the time for austerity. Canada entered this crisis in the best fiscal position of its peers and the government is using that fiscal firepower,” the government said in the speech.
The Bloc Québécois and Conservative parties promised Wednesday to vote against the speech.
If NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his caucus also vote against the speech, Canadians will be headed to the polls for a fall federal election.
Singh told reporters that he had not yet decided how his caucus will vote when it’s given the chance in the Commons in the days ahead.
“We’re going to take a lot of time to consider the throne speech and make sure we evaluate it and make a decision around whether we’re supporting or not,” he said.
He said he’s troubled by the Liberals’ pitch to do away with the Canadian emergency relief benefit (CERB) in favour of a revamped Employment Insurance (EI) system, warning it could hurt workers who have been forced to stay home because of the pandemic.
Conservatives say no
Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said the Tories cannot support the speech because it doesn’t address a major issue: Western alienation and national unity.
The speech said little about the oil and gas sector — an industry that has been hit hard by sinking oil prices and dwindling demand, leaving thousands jobless.
“There were no words that said, ‘We value natural resources, we value our forestry workers, we value our agricultural sector.’ They should have said all that and they didn’t. We were hoping for something better,” she said. “Conservatives continue to be the only party standing up for the West.”
The speech included big-ticket spending promises with no plan to pay for them — which Bergen dismissed as irresponsible.
“They’re still talking about how budgets will balance themselves, so it’s very, very concerning,” Bergen said, citing Trudeau’s claim from years back that a growing economy would reduce federal deficits.
Bergen said the speech offered little new material — “just grand gestures and empty promises” — and the prorogation of Parliament to deliver the speech was a naked attempt to shield the Liberal government from further parliamentary inquiry into the WE Charity scandal.
Asked if it was responsible to push Canadians closer to an election during a pandemic, Bergen said Canada is a democracy and Tories have the right to vote against a speech that fails to address their priorities.
How COVID-19 worsens Canada's digital divide – CBC.ca
Chawathil First Nation lies just 600 metres north of the Trans-Canada Highway in southwestern B.C., but it feels much more remote when you try to log onto the internet from here.
That’s apparent when, from behind a Plexiglas barrier at the band office, finance manager Peter John attempts to run an online speed test to measure the dial-up connection.
It takes nearly two minutes for the page to load, and once it does, the meter shows the download speed is an agonizingly slow one megabit per second (Mbps)
With that kind of setup, it means students struggle with online classes, and the band can’t hold video meetings.
“Everything they could get out of the internet, they’re not able to really get it because it’s not there,” John said.
When the pandemic thrust most school, work and services online, it further highlighted not just how essential the internet has become but also the urban-rural divide around access.
The CRTC recommends that every household have access to broadband with download speeds of at least 50 Mbps, and the federal government has set a goal to have Canada-wide broadband by 2030.
According to the CRTC, nearly 86 per cent of households overall have that level of service currently, but in rural areas only 40 per cent do. In First Nation communities, it’s estimated that just 30 per cent of households have internet connections with the recommended speed.
And even while the connections in remote areas are often slower, the service tends to be more expensive.
Deanna John, a child-and-family advocate as well as a band councillor for Chawathil First Nation, said those in the community who have internet pay around $130 dollars a month, while others come to the band office after hours to see if they can tap into the building’s network. Some choose to take a 35-minute bus ride to Chilliwack to use the Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, she said.
The limited internet has made it harder for residents to get health care.
John said the community’s doctor, who used to come about once a week before the COVID-19 pandemic, is unable to see patients online. Some residents have instead been driving to the nearby town of Agassiz for appointments.
“I would like [the internet] to be up and available … so we’re not struggling with our kids falling back on education and that we’re actually connecting our people to the mental health specialists out there,” said John.
John said the band had been speaking with Telus about upgrading the internet but was told it would cost tens of thousands just to increase the speed at the band office.
In the 2019 budget, the federal government announced $1.7 billion in funding to support high-speed internet in remote and rural areas: $1 billion is slated for a Universal Broadband Fund, for extending internet infrastructure; $600 million for satellites, which can help connect some of the most remote communities; and $85 million to top up an ongoing program called Connect to Innovate which helps fund specific community projects in rural and First Nation communities.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), a not-for-profit organization that manages the .ca domain and advocates for better internet service, says it is currently working with about 400 rural communities to map connection speeds neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The organization also runs a yearly $1.25-million grant program to help communities invest in projects including internet infrastructure.
“Canada’s internet service providers have passed over a lot of communities because they’re just not worth it financially,” said Josh Tabish, corporate communications manager with CIRA.
“This is where we need the government to step up.”
He said experts believe it will cost up to $6 billion to roll out broadband across Canada and he believes the federal government needs to act faster. The application for the Universal Broadband fund has yet to open.
Tabish said about one in 10 Canadian households have no internet connection whatsoever, and the pandemic has exacerbated the gap in connectivity between rural and urban areas. He said high-speed internet has become even faster in cities, while it has plateaued in remote areas.
In the meantime, he said, those without it struggle with daily life.
Spotty satellite connection
In the hamlet of Ryder Lake, residents have been pleading for better internet for years. The community is made up of sprawling acreages and farms that stretch up a lush green mountainside in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
The landscape was one of the reasons Sheri Elgermsa and her family of six moved here despite the fact that only satellite internet is available. When CBC News visited, her family was only getting about nine Mbps download speed.
WATCH | Family of 6 schedules online time due to slow speed, spotty service
“When we moved up here eight and a half years ago, the internet … was a social thing. It was nice-to-have,” Elgersma said.
“Now it’s become essential.”
When schools were closed back in the spring and classes moved online, Elgersma had to sit down with her four children and work out a schedule, as the internet connection would only allow one person to be online at any given time.
If there were any classes overlapping, she said, she would have to pick one over another.
Her oldest son, Elijah, 18, was often the priority, as he was wrapping up his final year of high school. He is now enrolled in a university program and has online classes two days a week, but even with no one else in the house allowed online at those times, the internet is still an issue.
“All of a sudden it kind of goes frozen and I miss half the stuff,” Elijah said.
“It’s a little bit frustrating.”
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