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Trudeau says now is not the time to talk about scrapping the monarchy – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that his government won’t engage in constitutional talks about scrapping the monarchy while a pandemic is still raging and the country faces unprecedented economic disruption.

“Obviously, I wish all members of the Royal Family the very best. But my focus, as we’ve said, is getting through this pandemic,” Trudeau said when asked if Canada should rethink its ties to the House of Windsor after Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made some bombshell allegations in an interview.

“If people want to later talk about constitutional change and shifting our system of government, that’s fine. They can have those conversations. But right now, I’m not having those conversations,” Trudeau said.

In a sensational sit-down interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle described the Royal Family as a tabloid-obsessed group that failed to protect their young son, Archie, and made racially tinged remarks about his skin colour.

The couple also described the royals and their coterie of advisers as cold, distant and indifferent to Meghan Markle’s mental health as she grappled with bad press.

In the interview’s aftermath, some republican-minded members of the Commonwealth have called on countries like Canada to do away with the institution of the monarchy altogether.

“I think it’s clear. I’ve said it in the past. I don’t see the benefit of the monarchy in Canadians’ lives,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters.

WATCH: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says ‘I don’t see the benefit’ of the monarchy to Canadians

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts to Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and addresses the impact of systemic racism on Canadians during the pandemic. 1:41

“There’s no benefit to them and now even more so with concerns about racism in the institution that were raised, and pressures that were placed on Meghan Markle.”

Abolishing the monarchy in Canada would be difficult. Under the Constitution, all 10 provinces and both chambers of Parliament would have to agree to such a change. There has been little political appetite for constitutional amendments of any sort in recent years.

Trudeau said he wouldn’t comment on the specific allegations raised by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. “I won’t comment on what’s going on over in the U.K., but I will continue to endeavour to fight against racism and intolerance every single day in Canada,” he said.

WATCH: Trudeau says, ‘I won’t comment on what’s going on over in the U.K.’ 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “won’t comment on what’s going on over in the U.K.” after being asked about allegations of racism made against the Royal Family in Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 2:23

Trudeau said that while many of Canada’s institutions, including Parliament itself, are built on a legacy of systemic racism, the solution is not to dump them altogether but to reform them from within.

“The answer is not to suddenly toss out all the institutions and start over,” he said. “The answer is to look very carefully at those systems and listen to Canadians who face discrimination … to understand the barriers, inequities and inequalities that exist within our institutions that need to be addressed, that many of us don’t see because we don’t live them.”

The prime minister himself has had to apologize for wearing blackface makeup in the past. A former Liberal MP, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, has said the government also hasn’t done enough to address anti-Black racism in Canada and the systemic barriers that racial minorities face, particularly in politics.

‘A guardian of our country’s traditions’

The prime minister is known to have a warm relationship with the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth, having met with her a number of times at Buckingham Palace and at Commonwealth summits abroad. He previously met her when his father, Pierre, was prime minister.

On her 94th birthday last year, Trudeau said Canada was “grateful for her leadership and steadfast commitment to our country and to the Commonwealth” and praised her “extraordinary service, strength and enduring grace.”

Trudeau also called the Queen “a guardian of many of our country’s traditions” and said “many Canadians feel a deep appreciation for the Queen” on her 93rd birthday in 2019.

Queen Elizabeth II receives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

During a 2018 town hall with young voters in Etobicoke, Ont., Trudeau said he takes a “pragmatic” approach to the monarchy.

“Right now, I think it’s fairly convenient and even nice to have a head of state that actually does not engage herself in the politics of the country,” Trudeau said.

“We now have 150 years of a tradition that has worked, that isn’t directly harming us or preventing our success and our self-determination as a nation. It would be very difficult and complicated to make this change,” he added. Ending the constitutional ties, however, “wouldn’t actually have a massive impact on our daily lives,” he said.

He said “cracking open the Constitution” and “rewriting it” would prompt many questions apart from whether Canada should have the Queen and her heirs as our heads of state.

‘They have a knack for getting past these things’

John Fraser is the author of The Secret of the Crown: Canada’s Affair with Royalty. He said Buckingham Palace must address allegations of racism or risk permanently damaging the brand in the eyes of Britons and Canadians alike.

Some of what Meghan Markle said is verifiably untrue, Fraser told CBC News, but talk of possible racial animus could be harmful to the family’s standing. Markle claimed the Royal Family withheld the title of “prince” for Archie — but according to royal protocol, he doesn’t have a right to that title until Prince Charles himself ascends to the throne.

Markle told Winfrey that Harry relayed to her that a member of the family had “concerns” about how the baby would look when he arrived, given that his father is white and his mother is biracial.

Fraser said that, with Harry himself ruling out the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, it leaves observers to wonder whether it was Prince Charles or Prince William who made the racial remark.

In this Monday, June 18, 2018 file photo, Prince Charles, left, and his son, Prince William, participate in the procession of the Order of the Garter Service at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. (Matt Dunham/AP Photo)

While Charles has grappled with damage to his reputation in the past — “Some people don’t think very highly of him since the Diana business,” Fraser said — few people would tolerate someone who’s racially insensitive as the head of the Commonwealth, which is composed of many African and Caribbean countries.

“Harry and Meghan mean zilch constitutionally but because the racist question affects the nature of the head of state or the future head of state, it’s a serious issue that has to be dealt with,” Fraser said. “If it’s the heir to the throne, it’s a problem.”

The Sussex interview also has the potential to derail the search for Canada’s next governor general, Fraser said, as it may be hard to recruit quality candidates to be the Queen’s representative in the midst of this scandal.

“I don’t envy the prime minister trying to find our governor general in this stressful moment,” he said, adding Black, Indigenous or other people of colour might be reluctant to take the job in the current context.

Prince Harry, left, speaks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a reception after a receiving line for the Queen’s Dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (Matt Dunham/AP Photo)

The comments will rock the institution and draw considerable media attention, but, Fraser said, he doesn’t believe it’s enough to bring down the monarchy or fuel a republican movement in Canada. He said the Royal Family has proven to be a resilient institution.

“There’s trouble in Dodge City but they’ve certainly survived crises worse than this. I don’t think this is the tipping point,” Fraser said, adding the family has endured the abdication of King Edward VIII, the misadventures of Princess Margaret, the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana — and her subsequent death — and Prince Andrew’s questionable relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier who was accused of various sex crimes.

“I think they have a knack for getting past these things. People didn’t think they’d survive the death of Diana, but they did,” he said. “When the dust and chicken feathers settle they’re always there, and I think that’s what will happen this time, too.”

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13 more die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 667 new cases confirmed – CBC.ca

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British Columbia announced 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths on Friday, the most deaths in one day since Feb. 3.

In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 5,128 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 367 people are in hospital, with 152 in intensive care.

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 1.9 per cent from last Friday, when 360 people were in hospital with the disease and about 27 per cent from a month ago when 288 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 11 per cent from 137 a week ago and by the same percentage from a month ago when 137 people were also in the ICU.

The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,055 lives lost out of 196,433 confirmed cases to date.

As of Friday, 89 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent a second dose.

So far, eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3.8 million second doses.

There are a total of 19 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term and acute care. There has been one new outbreak at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. The outbreak at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre has been declared over.

The acute care hospitals currently affected by COVID outbreaks are Mission Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of Northern B.C., GR Baker Memorial Hospital, and Tofino General Hospital. 

More than 90 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and three people have died as a result of an outbreak at a care home in Burnaby, and officials say the death toll is expected to grow. 

The majority of cases at the Willingdon Care Centre are among residents, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday he expects the number of deaths will rise to 10 over the next several days due to a delay in data reporting.

New northern restrictions

More restrictions for the northern part of the province came into effect Thursday at midnight and will last until at least Nov. 19 in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Restrictions in the region now include limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to fully vaccinated people only, capping the number of people who can gather in any setting, moving worship services online, cutting off alcohol sales earlier at night and mandating masks and safety plans at organized events.

Health officials are strongly recommending people stay in their community unless it is essential for work or medical reasons. 

Restrictions are also in place in the Interior Health region and communities in the eastern Fraser Valley.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry continues to reiterate the importance of immunization to reduce the risk of illness and death due to COVID-19.

From Oct. 7 to 13, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 68.3 per cent of cases and from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, they accounted for 76.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province. 

Anyone who has not yet received a shot is encouraged to do so immediately. Appointments can be made online through the Get Vaccinated portal, by calling 1-833-838-2323, or in-person at any Service B.C. location. 

People can also be immunized at walk-in clinics throughout the province.

B.C. health officials are awaiting a federal review of COVID-19 vaccines for five- to 11-year-olds and are encouraging families to register their children now as they anticipate doses being available for this group by early November.

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U.S. border town welcomes back fully vaccinated B.C. visitors, but travel hurdles remain – CBC.ca

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Businesses in northern Washington state are welcoming back Canadian customers once the United States reopens its land borders, but a B.C. mayor says travellers may face hurdles.

The U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the United States by air, land and ferry for non-essential travel starting Nov. 8.

Those entering the U.S. at a land border will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Land travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 test, a requirement for air travellers. 

Karen Frisbie, Chamber of Commerce president in Oroville, Wash. — a town of more than 19,000 residents bordering Osoyoos in B.C.’s South Okanagan — says her community has been quiet without Canadians travelling south to shop during the pandemic.

“We definitely miss our Canadian neighbours and look forward to having them back,” Frisbie said Friday to host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.

Many border towns in Washington state struggled due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing Canadians from travelling across the border. The city of Blaine, for instance, said last August their finances were hit hard after several months without Canadian visitors.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says she can feel the happiness of Canadians who know they’ll be able to visit Oroville.

“A lot of the people in Osoyoos love to go to Oroville — they have their special places [and] restaurants [in Oroville], and they love to go down there for American milk and cheese and beer, and gas sometimes,” McKortoff said on Daybreak South.

But the mayor also strikes a cautious note.

“You still need a PCR test to come back to Canada,” she said, referring to a type of molecular testing. Molecular COVID-19 tests involve methods such a nose swab, or providing a saliva sample.

“You’re not going to go down there for a day, and [you] have to worry about having a PCR test in order to get back through the border.”

Canada still requires arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry to Canada, regardless of their point of entry — but labs could take more than 72 hours to issue a test result.

“We need to wait until all of those things have been solved a little bit better before people will even take the chance to go across,” McKortoff said.

LISTEN |  Karen Frisbie and Sue McKortoff share their hopes and concerns about U.S. border reopening to Canadians:

Daybreak South5:24What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities.

What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities. 5:24

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