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What travellers to Canada can expect on July 21 – Canada Immigration News

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Published on July 14th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT

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Before the end of the day on July 21, the Canadian government will have to make a decision on whether or not to extend its travel restrictions.

Currently, Canada’s borders are closed to non-essential travel. Those allowed to enter are subject to quarantine measures, unless the government considers them to be fully vaccinated. Also, direct flights between Canada and India are still suspended.

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The federal government will have to revisit these measures in the coming days, as the orders-in-council are set to expire. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been touting a gradual reopening of the border, suggesting the next phase will affect fully vaccinated tourists.

And while most Canadians would like to see the border reopened before the end of 2021, they generally agree that decisions about the border should be based on health over economy. Public opinion stats came out this week in a Nanos Research poll.

Canada’s government is operating along these lines. The next key milestone for reopening will be when 80 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, but this is not the only factor to consider. Health officials are also looking at case counts, hospitalization rates, local outbreaks, variants of concern, and the state of the pandemic internationally.

Based on the latest information, here is what we know about the state of the Canadian border, and what travellers might expect.

Quarantine and testing

Travellers over the age of five need a negative COVID test before arriving. This test must be taken within 72 hours of arrival at the border. Also before reaching the border, travellers have to register in advance for their on-arrival test.

There are different quarantine requirements for those flying into Canada, and those taking the U.S. land border. Air travellers who do not qualify for the quarantine exemption have to book their stay in a government approved hotel.

Fully vaccinated travellers can get exempt from quarantine. In order to be considered “fully vaccinated” they need to have had the recommended dose of a Canada-approved vaccine. So far, Canada has approved vaccines from four manufacturers: Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. The final dose must have been received at least 14 days before attempting to come to Canada.

So far, officials have not indicated that quarantine or testing measures are going to change on July 21, when the current order-in-council is set to expire.

Tourism

Tourism falls under “non-essential travel.” Trudeau previously said fully vaccinated tourists are the next group the government is considering for entry to Canada. As for unvaccinated travellers, however, the prime minister said it will be “quite a while” before Canada’s border opens to them.

The tourism industry has been pressuring the government to offer a comprehensive reopening plan. The hard-hit industry is expecting another lost summer. Restrictions on tourists cost the industry nearly half its revenue in 2020.

Trudeau has maintained that decisions on border restrictions will be based on science over public opinion. He has said he does not want to loosen restrictions only to have to tighten them again due to a surge of cases.

As we saw when quarantine measures were rolled back, health officials gave hints weeks in advance. Also, the new measures did not take effect right on June 21, they were stayed until July 5. Even if the government rolls back measures for fully vaccinated tourists, the new policy will not likely take effect immediately after the announcement. Stakeholders need time to plan for the arrival of tourists.

India flight ban

The ban on direct flights between Canada and India began April 22. Due to mandatory testing on travellers, the government found a disproportionally high number of cases coming from India and Pakistan. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced the travel ban would be effective for 30 days. The ban was renewed in May, then scaled back for Pakistan travellers in June.

Now, travellers from India must take an indirect route to Canada. Those who are coming to Canada from India through another country will need to do pre-departure testing in a third country, according to the government website.

The transport minister has so far not mentioned whether or not this will change on July 21.

U.S. border

The restrictions on travellers from the U.S. border restrictions are separate from other countries. Part of the reason is due to the U.S. being Canada’s biggest trading partner. Also, the two countries have the longest undefended land border in the world.

Border towns that rely on cross-border travel for everyday living have been hard hit. Both sides have felt the strain, families separated, travel to work has been affected, and industries that rely on international travel and tourism.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the restrictions were extended in coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Shortly after, U.S. congress called on President Joe Biden to reopen the border with Canada. New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik sent letters to each of Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers. She urged them to support the reopening of the international border. Although international travel falls under federal jurisdiction, the provinces are responsible for regional public health measures. These may include measures that affect travellers such as quarantine and testing.

Travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S. are expiring July 21. Any change to measures affecting tourists will likely affect U.S. travellers as well.

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Anti-hate group launches online booklet to combat hate among young people

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A few weeks ago, Toronto teacher Nigel Barriffe said he spoke to a young, Black colleague who had entered a classroom after lunch to find a racial slur and swastika etched on a school locker.

“We know that many of our Jewish students and families have had racist epithets thrown at them. We know our Muslim students and families have been under attack for years,” Barriffe said Wednesday.

Barriffe and members of the Canadian Anti-Hate Networktold a news conference about scenarios that are described in a new online booklet that aims to educate parents, teachers and students on how to identify and confront various forms of hate in classrooms and online.

The booklet was created by the network, a group that monitors hate groups and researches extremism in the country. It includes examples from educators and community members across Canada and provides steps on how to support impressionable children.

It describes the ways a parent or teacher can intervene when they believe a student is being radicalized by a hate group. It also includes workshops and defines various extremist ideologies.

Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the network, said the scenarios increase in severity as you flip through the document.

“Everything in the tool kit is real examples that we have found,” she said.

“You start with anonymous, hate promotion so that could be graffiti, that could be the swastika on the desk. You don’t know who’s behind it, but it’s happening and you have to deal with it.

“Then it escalates all the way to overt (hate groups recruiting students and) organizing within the school community and outside the school community.”

The federal government is spending $35 million on 175 anti-racism projects across the country, including the booklet.

Bernie Farber, chair of the network, said hate crimes involving children and adults have surged and silence is no longer an option.

He said there have been recent hate attacks involving youth, including the beating of a Black Edmonton student allegedly by seven other students who were screaming racial slurs. There have also been numerous cases of students distributing hate-promoting flyers.

“I had a meeting today with the York Region School Board (in Ontario) who indicated to me racial incidents … have gone up to heights that they have not seen before,” said Farber.

“Three times in the last year, pride flags were stolen from school properties and burned, the latest of which occurred only a few weeks ago in Windsor, Ont. Then there are the children who marched across the playground in North Bay, Ont., shouting, ‘Heil Hitler!’”

“There are too many stories about swastikas in high schools to count.”

Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of diversity and inclusion, said the booklet is available for free online and has been distributed to some schools that conducted workshops on racism.

“Inclusion is a choice that we must make and inclusion is something that we must fight for every single day,” Hussen said.

“As much as we would like to as parents, we can’t shield our children from everything. But we can give them the tools to make the right decisions when they react to real-life situations, whether in person or online.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Response to mass shootings should be ‘political and immediate,’ survivor says

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OTTAWA — Former public safety minister Bill Blair was asked yet again Wednesday about whether his government interfered in the investigation into the April 2020 shooting spree in Nova Scotia — a question that has grabbed political attention in Ottawa for over a week.

Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office are accused of pressuring RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to release details about the type of weapons used by the gunman, with two RCMP officials alleging Lucki told them that information was connected to upcoming gun legislation.

The government announced a ban on assault-style weapons on May 1, 2020, after cabinet approved an order-in-council enacting the changes.

The Conservatives have accused the Liberals of using a tragedy to further their agenda. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement last week that it’s completely unacceptable for a government to “use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for their gun policy.”

But that’s not how a survivor of another mass shooting sees it.

Heidi Rathjen was a student at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in December 1989 when a gunman murdered 14 women and injured 14 others at the school.

She said the response to mass shootings should be “political and immediate.”

“The Conservatives and the gun lobby have been falling over themselves claiming that the (orders-in-council) were some kind of devious self-serving political move that exploited a tragedy, while for the majority of Canadians banning assault weapons is the right thing to do to prevent mass shootings,” she said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“If it took a tragedy to prompt the government into long-awaited action on gun control, that may be a sad commentary on politics, but it is surely beneficial for public safety.”

Rathjen, who leads an advocacy group called PolySeSouvient, said it “would have loved” for the government to respond immediately to what happened at Polytechnique.

“Unfortunately, it took six years of advocacy before a reasonable gun control law was passed, and victims’ families are still fighting for a complete ban on assault weapons — three decades later.”

Blair said his office worked with the RCMP on the list of banned weapons for months before the announcement, but those conversations had “no nexus” with discussions about the shooting spree.

“The RCMP of course were involved in those discussions from the outset because they are responsible for administering the Canadian Firearms Program,” he said.

Allegations of government interference came to light through evidence released by the public inquiry into the shootings, in written notes from Supt. Darren Campbell and a letter to Lucki written by RCMP strategic communications director Lia Scanlan about a meeting held 10 days after the shootings.

Scanlan’s letter, which was written nearly a year later, said Lucki mentioned “pressures and conversations with Minister Blair, which we clearly understood was related to the upcoming passing of gun legislation.” Scanlan’s perception that the commissioner was under political pressure left her feeling disgusted.

“It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and extremely belittling,” Scanlan wrote.

Lucki has acknowledged she did “express frustration with the flow of information” in the meeting.

Blair and Lucki have denied there was any pressure to release a list of the weapons used in the shooting, and neither they nor the Nova Scotia RCMP revealed that information to the public before it was reported by the media in November 2020.

Former police officer Michael Arntfield says if the alleged interference happened, it’s unclear how it would have impacted operations or the investigation.

But more importantly, he says, the “juicy political scandal” is distracting from what is supposed to be an inquiry into why and how a man disguised as a police officer and armed with illegal weapons was able to evade police and continue killing for more than 13 hours.

“The larger conversation about systemic problems in the RCMP operationally, administratively, has been paved over,” he said.

Blair said he did have questions for Lucki when they spoke, and made a point to note that the government “did hear very clearly concerns from the people of Nova Scotia” about the RCMP’s actions.

He said that’s why the public inquiry — which he initially opposed calling — has been tasked with exploring the RCMP’s communication.

The force released limited information to the public on Twitter during the shootings.

It sent a single tweet on April 18 warning of a “firearms complaint” in Portapique, even though the communications officer on call that night was aware there were multiple people dead and that the gunman’s whereabouts were unknown.

Thirteen people were killed that night and several buildings burned to the ground. The next morning, the gunman took another nine lives as he drove through rural parts of the province, evading police until just before noon.

The inquiry has heard it took 27 minutes to get Scanlan’s approval that morning for a tweet warning the public that the gunman was driving a mock RCMP cruiser and wearing a police uniform.

During that time, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien were murdered on the side of the highway in Debert, N.S. Beaton was pregnant when she was killed. Her husband, Nick Beaton, and O’Brien’s daughter, Darcy Dobson, led the calls for a public inquiry into what went wrong in July 2020.

“When you pulled the oxygen out of (an inquiry) that was assembled at the behest of bereaved families to get answers about what’s wrong with the RCMP, it distracts from the original motivation of the inquiry,” Arntfield said, adding the questions about what went wrong are of “life and death interest to Canadians.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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Alberta Utilities Commission approves $31M ATCO fine, says in public interest

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CALGARY — The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved a $31-million fine proposed for ATCO Electric’s attempts to overcharge ratepayers for costs it shouldn’t have incurred.

In April, ATCO Electric agreed to pay the penalty after a commission investigation found it deliberately overpaid a First Nation group for work on a new transmission line.

It said ATCO also failed to disclose the reasons for the overpayment when it applied to be reimbursed by ratepayers for the extra cost.

But in May, the Consumers’ Coalition of Alberta said the proposed settlement doesn’t adequately compensate people in the province for the harm they have suffered.

The commission says in its ruling that after carefully considering the settlement agreement, it is satisfied that accepting it is consistent with the public interest.

The commission also says the agreement would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

“The commission considers that the settlement is fit and reasonable, falling within a range of reasonable outcomes given the circumstances,” reads the ruling released Wednesday.

The settlement came after an investigation into a complaint that ATCO Electric sole-sourced a contract in 2018 for work needed for a transmission line to Jasper, Alta.

The agreement says that was partly because another of Calgary-based ATCO’s subsidiaries had a deal with a First Nation for projects, including for work camps on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

The statement of facts says ATCO Electric feared that if it didn’t grant the Jasper contract to the First Nation, it might back out of its deal with ATCO Structures and Logistics. It’s illegal for a regulated utility to benefit a non-regulated company in this way.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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