Canada’s defence minister insisted today the military mission in the Middle East will stay the course following hours of international confusion triggered by a leaked letter which suggested Washington was prepared to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
Media reports about the letter from a senior Marine Corps brigadier general, led by the Reuters news agency, said the pullout would happen over the next few days “in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq” — and would be conducted in response to the Iraqi parliament passing a resolution over the weekend calling for the departure of all foreign forces.
But according to Reuters, U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later told a group of reporters that the letter — obtained by media outlets Monday — was a draft meant only to inform the Iraqi government of increased U.S. troop movement and no withdrawal is being planned.
“Poorly worded, implies withdrawal. That’s not what’s happening,” Milley said.
The letter said the repositioning was taking place “to prepare for onward movement” but did not specify where that movement might take place.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also insisted that the U.S. has no plans to pull out of Iraq.
“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper told Pentagon reporters on Monday, adding there also have been no plans issued to prepare to leave.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, speaking with CBC’s Power & Politics, also dismissed the reports of an American withdrawal and said he received no indication of such a move when he spoke with Esper on Friday, prior to the Iraqi parliamentary motion.
“We know the current situation is far more complicated, and we have to respect their process, but it is more complicated than just one vote,” Sajjan told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos. “So we will go through the number of days, and potentially weeks, to see where the situation lands.”
The region has been on edge and anticipating military action since a drone strike ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday. Sajjan said increased force protection has been ordered for Canadian troops in Iraq and non-essential personnel have been relocated out of the country. He did not elaborate, citing security concerns.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/HarjitSajjan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HarjitSajjan</a> said he hopes the situation in Iraq de-escalates so Canada’s troops can continue their missions in Iraq. “There is no decision to pull out, in fact actually, we want to continue that mission.” <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/fmD4Wy7875″>pic.twitter.com/fmD4Wy7875</a>
Canada has a contingent of elite special forces soldiers, intelligence officers and helicopters in Iraq supporting the U.S.-led coalition mission to hunt down the remnants of the Islamic State. They’re located in the northern Kurdish city of Erbil — and presumably would be covered by any order to withdraw.
The notion of an American withdrawal appeared at odds with the hopeful noises NATO’s secretary general was making about the future of the alliance’s separate military training mission in Baghdad.
In Brussels on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg suggested the mission was going to remain in place and hopefully resume operations as soon as possible.
The work of the mission’s roughly 500 multinational soldiers, who are training Iraqi Army trainers in various military skills, was halted following the attack that killed Soleimani.
Iraq’s parliament voted over the weekend in favour of a non-binding resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country.
Stoltenberg said that while the safety of the alliance’s troops is paramount, they’re ready to get back to work.
“We have suspended our training mission now because of the security situation on the ground, but we are ready to restart the training when the situation on the ground makes that possible,” Stoltenberg said at NATO headquarters following a briefing for the military alliance’s ambassadors. “We are in close contact with the Iraqi authorities, with [the] Iraqi government.”
His comments suggest there’s some hope still that the training mission — which is separate from the U.S.-led coalition that has been hunting the remnants of the Islamic State in the region — will be permitted to continue because of the value the Iraqi government has placed on it in the past.
“The Iraqi prime minister stressed the importance of NATO support, coalition support to the Iraqi security forces,” Stoltenberg said, referring to a recent meeting with the Iraqi leadership prior to Soleimani’s death.
“It’s important for Iraq, but it is also important for us, because when we train them, help them in fighting ISIS and international terrorism, we’re making our own countries safe and secure.”
Stoltenberg said he expects “to have close dialogue with the Iraqi government” over the coming days.
Canada has about 500 troops in Iraq. About half of them provide support to the NATO training mission, while other half — mostly based in Erbil — are involved in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.
Sajjan said Canada wants to see both missions continue.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he met with both Sajjan and Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance Monday morning, but did not address the future of the Canadian missions.
“The safety of Canadians in the region is our top priority,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and encourage de-escalation.”
A ‘de-escalation of tensions’
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke Monday with his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, according to a statement from Global Affairs Canada.
“The minister reiterated Canada’s ongoing commitment to a stable and united Iraq and to ensuring the enduring defeat of Daesh,” said the statement, using a common Arabic word for ISIS. “The two ministers agreed that a de-escalation in tensions is necessary as peace and stability are key to pursuing the political and economic reforms underway in Iraq.”
The message of de-escalation was echoed by Stoltenberg, who said American military and diplomatic officials contacted other NATO members to explain the rationale for killing Soleimani.
He ducked questions about whether the alliance supports the U.S. action and pointed out how Iran has long played a spoiler role in the Middle East.
“What was clearly expressed at the meeting today was a call for restraint and de-escalation,” he said. “All allies have several times expressed their concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the regions, including Iran’s support for different terrorist groups.
“And of course, all allies agree that Iran should never be able to develop nuclear weapons and we have also expressed again and again our concerns about Iran’s missile programme, missiles which are able to reach also many European allied countries.”
Kelowna reports largest crime rate increase in Canada in 2019 – CBC.ca
A new Statistics Canada study on police-reported crime data from 2019 shows Kelowna with the fastest growing crime rate in Canada.
Crime increased by 24 per cent, compared to 2018, according to StatsCan. The violent crime rate increased 65 per cent. And the crime severity Index — a measurement of the volume and severity of crime — rose 20 per cent, which is also more than any other city in Canada.
The Kelowna census metropolitan area’s crime rate is now 10,747 incidents per 100,000 residents, the second highest overall in Canada, just behind Lethbridge, Alta.
The national average is 5,874 per 100,000 residents.
The central Okanagan city’s metropolitan area for census purposes includes the cities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Lake Country and their surrounding rural areas.
Police-reported <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/crime?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#crime</a> in Canada, as measured by the Crime Severity Index, rose 5% in the year prior to the pandemic—from 75.6 in 2018 to 79.5 in 2019. Learn more here: <a href=”https://t.co/y2tEeom4X0″>https://t.co/y2tEeom4X0</a> <a href=”https://t.co/hxb0AXQEcj”>pic.twitter.com/hxb0AXQEcj</a>
Statistics Canada notes one reason for the crime rate increase, especially in violent crimes, was the new Kelowna RCMP reporting method.
In 2018, the detachment faced public criticism over its handling of sexual assault cases. Statistics Canada revealed 40 per cent of sexual assault cases reported to Kelowna RCMP were dismissed as “unfounded” — three times the national average.
A national RCMP sexual assault review team investigated and recently determined that there was an underlying clerical error in how the cases were being classified that skewed the statistics.
Even so, the national team wound up recommending Kelowna RCMP reinvestigate 12 of the cases it had closed.
The 2019 StatsCan report also shows increases in robbery, car theft, mischief, uttering threats and shoplifting.
According to the report, Kelowna also has the highest rate of opioid-related offences in Canada, at 124 per 100,000 people, compared to 35 in Vancouver.
‘Communities remain extremely safe,’ say RCMP
RCMP Supt. Kara Triance, the new commander of the Kelowna detachment, responded to the new statistics in a written statement, blaming much of the increase in the overall crime rate on non-violent property crimes and a transient population.
“We recognize that this ranking appears concerning, but I would like to stress that Kelowna and the surrounding communities remain extremely safe,” Triance stated.
“Kelowna is also a resort destination during the summer with a significant increase in visitor population. While that number is not reflected in our population statistics, it does affect reported crime.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran also noted the increase in non-violent crime and called for more co-ordination and provincial support to tackle the problem.
“We work with RCMP every day to address criminal behaviour, but we need senior levels of government to address the underlying problems of health, housing and poverty that contribute to these downstream issues,” Basran stated. “RCMP need support from other agencies to deal with repeat offenders.”
Since 2015, the city has approved funding for 34 new full-time RCMP officers and 23 police safety support staff.
The detachment has increased patrols on Friday and Saturday nights and bolstered investigative support teams involved in complex crimes.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca
Health officials across Canada continue to warn about the risks of gatherings as a family Thanksgiving dinner in Ontario is cited as the source of a major COVID-19 outbreak, and British Columbia announces the death of an elderly woman who contracted the virus at a small birthday party.
In the case of the Thanksgiving dinner in Renfrew County, Ont., up to 20 people attended the event, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman told CBC News.
“Someone must have showed up to the event with COVID. Either they were asymptomatic or they didn’t pay attention to their symptoms,” he said. “And then it continued to spread.”
WATCH | Family Thanksgiving dinner was superspreading event, health official says:
About a dozen cases have been linked to the dinner so far, Cushman said.
Among them were two teenagers, which necessitated “some very aggressive contact tracing and testing in their particular high school,” he said. As a result, about 70 students missed at least a week of classes.
In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry highlighted the province’s most recent COVID-19 death — a woman in her 80s who contracted the disease at a birthday party — as she urged residents to remain vigilant.
“Somebody unknowingly brought COVID-19, and even though it was a small party in one person’s home, the majority of people who were in that home became infected with COVID-19,” Henry said.
The birthday party, which had fewer than 10 people, took place in the Fraser Valley region, which has more than half of B.C.’s identified cases despite accounting for only 39 per cent of the population.
Meanwhile, with Halloween this weekend, health experts are urging Canadians to be mindful of certain things to keep any holiday activities from becoming superspreaders.
“Halloween is usually an outdoor activity — keep it exclusively outdoors,” Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, told CBC News Network.
He said people should make sure trick-or-treaters don’t cluster together to get candy from a communal bowl; rather, prepackaged bags of candy should be available that can be handed out one or two at a time.
WATCH | Keep Halloween activities outdoors, says infectious diseases specialist:
On Friday, the federal government released new modelling projections that found all Canadians must reduce close contacts by 25 per cent in order to flatten the second wave.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said despite new health restrictions, transmission will continue if Canadians keep up the number of contacts they currently have.
The projections show the number of COVID-19 cases could rise from the current level — 230,547 as of 11:20 a.m. ET Friday — to 262,000 by Nov. 8. Another 300 people are expected to die during that period if cases rise at that rate.
While the number of deaths have risen, it’s at a slower rate than earlier in the pandemic. Tam said this is likely because more young people have had the virus recently and recovered at home, and because treatment options have improved.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said Friday that the federal government will provide further supports for Indigenous communities dealing with the pandemic.
Ottawa is adding $200 million to its funding to help those communities fight COVID-19, he said. More than half of that money will go toward pre-schools and daycare centres, to improve training and staffing and enhance cleaning.
Around $60 million is going to First Nations to make community buildings safer with renovations, better cleaning and upgraded ventilation, while $26 million is going to Indigenous post-secondary institutions, Trudeau said.
The new money is on top of more than $2.2 billion the federal government has already allocated to help Indigenous and northern communities get through the health crisis.
What’s happening in the rest of Canada
As of 6 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 231,727 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases, with 27,903of those active. Provinces and territories listed 193,715 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,109.
In the Yukon, the first COVID-19-related death was announced on Friday. The territory has reported 23 confirmed cases since the pandemic and 17 of those positive cases are considered recovered.
The person who died was from the rural community of Watson Lake, where there has been a recent cluster of cases with an unknown source of infection. Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said at a news conference Friday that the person was “older” and had “significant” underlying medical conditions.
On Thurdsay, Yukon reported its most recent case, which officials said was travel-related and not linked to Watson Lake.
Ontario reported another 896 cases of COVID-19 and nine new deaths on Friday, with 796 recoveries. Its seven-day average of daily cases has now climbed above 900 for the first time in the pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford said Friday that he’ll ask the province’s health experts when more businesses can open in harder-hit areas after the 28-day period of tightened restrictions ends next month.
At Friday’s news conference Ford also said he’d ask Ontario’s health team if lifting Stage 2 restrictions can be done safely.
Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe told reporters that while cases continue to increase, the climb has slowed — making it possible to discuss loosening restrictions.
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The province is not yet declaring a victory around data showing that there are fewer COVID-19 deaths so far associated with the surge in infections over the last few weeks. Doctors told CBC News that a person who is infected with COVID-19 now is more likely to survive than they would have been during the initial spring outbreak, as they now know more about how to treat the virus effectively.
However, the number of deaths may rise in the coming weeks as there is a “lagging issue” in that it takes time for COVID-19 to jump from younger people to older, more vulnerable members of the population.
In Ottawa, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said that spread has slowed in the region but there are outbreaks at long-term care homes that are concerning. Provincial data released Thursday showed that although Ottawa is a COVID-19 hotspot, it’s fairing better than other regions with a high number of infections.
Quebec reported 1,108 new cases, 1,150 new recoveries and 18 new deaths on Friday.
Cases in hard-hit Montreal have remained steady at 250 new infections per day on average, but some neighbourhoods are grappling with more outbreaks than others, Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin said on Friday.
Workplace transmission has become less of an issue, but health officials are seeing more cases of the virus in schools, she said. There are 93 schools currently experiencing outbreaks.
New Brunswick reported one new COVID-19 case and three recoveries on Friday.
That comes a day after the province reported four new confirmed cases, declared an outbreak at a special care home in Balmoral and announced new isolation rules for people who travel outside the Atlantic bubble for work.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Friday for the fourth straight day in a row. Three active cases remain in the province.
In Nova Scotia, officials said Friday that the state of emergency would be renewed as the province announced two new cases. The emergency status will begin at noon on Nov. 1 and run until Nov. 15, unless the province extends it.
Alberta recorded a dramatic jump in COVID-19 cases on Friday, reporting 622 new infections. That figure is significantly higher than the daily average of 450 that the province has seen in the last 10 days.
Currently, 140 Albertans are in hospital with the disease, 25 of them in ICU, also both record numbers. The province also reported another five deaths.
Manitoba reported another 480 new cases on Friday, shattering the record number of new cases announced on Thursday.
As a result of the continued increase in cases, the Winnipeg region is being moved to the critical red alert, which is the highest level on the province’s pandemic response system. The rest of the province is being moved to the orange level.
Starting Monday, bars and restaurants will be closed in Winnipeg and will be offering take-out or delivery only. Concert halls and movie theatres will also close.
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin explains new, strict health rules being implemented in Manitoba:
Other restrictions are being ushered in as well, including hospitals suspending non-urgent and elective procedures, retail outlets being reduced to 25 per cent capacity and faith-based gatherings will be limited to 15 per cent capacity. The new rules will be in place for two weeks, and then reassessed, said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer.
In orange zones outside of Winnipeg, new rules are also being implemented including reducing capacity to 50 per cent at restaurants, bars, retail stores, museums, galleries and libraries.
The shutdown announcement comes as 12 doctors in the province published a letter Friday in the Winnipeg Free Press directed toward the premier and health minister, stating it’s time for a province-wide shutdown. Manitoba’s positivity rate has climbed to 8.6 per cent, and there are 104 people in hospital as of Friday.
The physicians say in the letter that what’s needed is mass closures such as those implemented in Manitoba and elsewhere when COVID-19 emerged in the spring.
It’s important to note that Manitoba’s active case count is currently inaccurate, as there’s a backlog for tracking recoveries, Roussin said earlier this month.
Saskatchewan reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with 34 of those cases coming from the Saskatoon area. There are currently 22 people in hospital with sixteen of those receiving inpatient care.
A public health order on nightclubs is now in effect in Saskatoon, where drinking alcohol is barred between 10 p.m. and 9:30 a.m. CST, and they are required to close between 11 p.m. and 9:30 a.m. CST. Karaoke and dance floors have been closed at the clubs, where guests are to be seated and cannot mingle between tables.
Two medical experts told CBC News they’re worried the number of new infections will overwhelm the province’s health system.
British Columbia announced in a written public statement another 272 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and one additional death. There are currently 2,390 active cases in the province.
Three new outbreaks at health care facilities were announced by health officials who also reminded residents not to hold large parties over the Halloween weekend.
What’s happening around the world
A database maintained by Johns Hopkins University put the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported around the world since the pandemic began at more than 45.1 million as of Friday morning, with more than 30.3 million of those listed as recovered. The death toll reported by the U.S.-based university stood at more than 1.1 million.
European Union officials said Friday that the World Health Organization (WHO) needs to be quickly overhauled to be strengthened, so it can be faster when handling emergencies.
Those comments were made during a video conference of EU health ministers who endorsed an EU document outlining changes they say need to occur at WHO. The document also urges the UN body to make public how and if member states respect their obligations to share information on health crises.
The move comes after criticisms that some countries, including China, did not share information with WHO about COVID-19 quickly enough at the outset of the pandemic.
At the same conference Germany’s health minister said that when a vaccine for COVID-19 is ready, it will be distributed equally among all European Union member nations.
Jens Spahn told EU health ministries that they will wait for Phase 3 trials to be completed and then organize fair distribution.
Spahn, who was in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, has emphasized that comprehensive clinical trials must be completed before the vaccine is approved for use.
The United States now has nine million cases of COVID-19 according to data compiled by John Hopkins University. The country was at eight million just two weeks ago, marking the fasted accumulation of another million cases reported so far.
Infections are rising in nearly every state. The U.S. also broke its single-day record for new coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting at least 91,248 new cases, as 21 states reported their highest daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally of publicly reported data.
WATCH | COVID-19 long-haulers share experience with prolonged symptoms:
Among the hardest-hit states are those most hotly contested in Tuesday’s presidential election between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, such as Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Also in the U.S., Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company based out of Tarrytown, N.Y., said Friday that their study testing an experimental antibody drug for the coronavirus has been paused to investigate a possible safety issue.
Independent monitors had recommended placing on hold enrolment of the most severely ill patients — those who need intense oxygen treatment or breathing machines — because of a potential safety problem and unfavourable balance of risks and benefit, they said.
The study can continue to test the two-antibody drug combo in hospitalized patients who need little or no extra oxygen. Other studies in mild or moderately ill people also are continuing.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a new study on Friday that found COVID-19 can spread in households more extensively than previous research suggests. The report emphasizes why it’s important for those who test positive to isolate from other household members while they are recovering.
The research looked at 101 homes in Tennessee and Wisconsin and discovered about 53 per cent of household members tested positive after the first person became sick.
Confirmed coronavirus infections in Slovakia have also hit a new record high as the country gets ready for countrywide testing.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase in the country of 5.4 million reached 3,363 on Thursday, more than 300 above the previous record set on Saturday.
The government wants to use antigen tests, which are less accurate than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests but have the advantage of producing faster results, for testing almost the entire population older than age 10 over the next two weekends. It’s not compulsory and is free of charge.
India reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases, continuing a month-long slowing trend in infections even as the country adds to its eight million cases.
The Health Ministry also reported 563 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the confirmed death toll to 121,090.
Even as cases are dropping across the country, New Delhi is facing what could be a third wave of infections. The capital is India’s worst-hit city and is among the few regions in the country seeing further new infections, clocking more than 5,000 daily in the last three days. The surge comes while seasonal pollution levels are soaring in the capital, worsening respiratory illnesses.
In Britain, a weekly survey by the region’s statistics agency shows an average of nearly 52,000 daily coronavirus cases, an increase of nearly 50 per cent in the most recent week.
The highest rates were shown in northern England, where restrictions have been tightened the most in the last few weeks.
France is grappling with a strict new lockdown that started Friday. Parisians fled for the countryside, jamming up roads and booking trains solid to ride out the lockdown away from the city.
The entire country, made up of 67 million people, has been ordered to stay at home at all times with no visitors. Those who break the rules could face steep fines or be charged. There are some exceptions, including being allow outside for one hour per day within one kilometre of home, going to work, medical appointments, or shopping for essentials.
Restaurants have closed, other than offering take-out. Per capita, France has two and half times the number of cases the U.S. has. The lockdown is set to last for four weeks until it’s reassessed.
Kenya has joined the trial of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine candidate, which was developed with Oxford University. The Kenya Medical Research Institute said the first of 40 volunteers in the country who have been vaccinated are all front-line health workers.
The news of the east African nation joining the trial comes as Kenya’s government said a second surge in COVID-19 cases had begun there.
Canadians must reduce contacts by 25 per cent to flatten 2nd wave curve, officials say – CBC.ca
Canadians must reduce the number of close contacts they have with other people by 25 per cent in order to suppress the second wave of COVID-19, according to new federal modelling on the spread of the coronavirus released today.
At a news conference in Ottawa, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the number of people being infected continues to increase across the country, even as some regions tighten restrictions.
“If we increase, or if we even maintain our current rate of contact with others, the epidemic in Canada is forecast to continue increasing steeply,” said Tam.
“To bend the epidemic curve and reduce transmission to lower levels … we must really reduce our number of contacts as much as possible.”
Reducing those interactions by 25 per cent would bring the pandemic under control in most regions, according to the modelling.
The projections show the number of COVID-19 cases could rise from the current level — 230,547 as of 11:20 a.m. ET today — to 262,000 by Nov. 8, with up to 300 people expected to die from complications of the disease during that time.
While it has been increasing, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 remains below the peak of about 3,000 per day observed during the first phase of the pandemic. Tam said this is most likely because the vast majority of recent cases have been among young people who have experienced less severe illnesses, and because of the better availability of treatments.
The number of deaths also has continued to gradually increase over the past several weeks — but at a slower rate than it did during the first wave.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged people to continue following public health guidelines — particularly those that call for people to physically distance and reduce close contacts with others.
“When you’re thinking of seeing people outside your household, ask yourself, ‘Is this absolutely necessary?'” said Trudeau.
“I know that the situation is frustrating. I know it’s hard. But it is temporary.”
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