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Why Attorney General should intervene in Meng Wanzhou extradition case – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion by Mo Vayeghan, a Vancouver-based criminal defence lawyer and a former Crown prosecutor in British Columbia. He holds a Master’s degree in law from Columbia Law School in New York City, and is the founder of Vayeghan Litigation, a criminal defence and immigration law firm in Vancouver. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The extradition case of Meng Wanzhou has raised troubling questions about undue U.S. political influence on the hearings in Vancouver. Let’s be clear about one thing: Meng’s case is anything but normal, and its unusual nature risks compromising the integrity of Canada’s justice system.

To resolve this conundrum, intervention by Canada’s Attorney General is needed.

Meng, the chief financial officer and heiress to China’s telecom giant Huawei, is being sought by United States prosecutors for violating that country’s sanctions against Iran. They have asked Canada to extradite Meng to face trial in New York on fraud charges. The court battle in Vancouver will determine whether Meng should be legally handed over to the U.S. under the applicable laws governing U.S.-Canada extradition requests.

Canada’s extradition treaty with the United States serves important law enforcement interests in both countries. In an ideal scenario, extraditions are free from political influences. The charges facing an accused person are not motivated by foreign policy calculations or trade negotiations.

Unfortunately, and through no fault of Canadian prosecutors, Meng’s extradition hearing has been unquestionably consumed by politics. It is to bury one’s head in the sand to deny this, and Canada’s Attorney General must take note.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 30. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges of fraud and conspiracy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

First, some important context.

How unusual is this case? Very – the move by the United States government to bring criminal charges against the top executive of a multinational corporation is rare.

Consider for a moment the 2015 probe of Deutsche Bank by U.S. financial regulatory agencies. In that case, similar to the current accusations facing Huawei, Deutsche Bank was accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. But instead of indicting top executives and seeking their extradition, the U.S. government fined the German banking giant $258 million and merely required it to fire six of its employees.

Why the different treatment? Look no further than President Trump’s own words.

During an interview with Reuters on Dec. 11, 2018, just days after Meng’s arrest at Vancouver International Airport on an extradition warrant, President Trump expressed openness to using Huawei’s top executive as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China. When asked if he would intervene in her case, Trump said: “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.” He then went on to state: “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Some may say that this is the usual bluster of a president who has a tendency to speak off the cuff. But those who closely monitor the conduct of the United States Department of Justice under Trump’s administration know that there is real meaning behind the president’s remarks. A number of legal analysts have persuasively argued that the U.S. Justice Department does not operate as a truly apolitical body under Trump.

As demonstrated through the unprecedented and lopsided treatment of Trump’s close confidants, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, it is hard to convincingly argue that U.S. prosecutors enjoy unfettered independence in criminal cases that have attracted Trump’s personal attention.

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, expressed openness to using Huawei’s top executive Meng Wanzhou, right, as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China. (Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Canada’s extradition treaty with the United States is based on the implicit understanding that extradition requests by the U.S. government will not be politically motivated. In situations where the U.S. fails to meet this threshold, Canada should not oblige such requests.

Meng’s extradition has the appearance of being a politically charged move by the Trump administration to gain leverage in the midst of a contentious U.S. trade dispute with China.

The Canadian prosecutors litigating the Meng extradition case in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities have attempted to maintain the integrity of Canada’s judicial system by shunning politics. However, Trump’s explosive comments have cast a dark shadow over these proceedings that is hard to remove, and this may have done irreparable harm to the legitimacy of these hearings.

It is within this environment that, since December 2018, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been arbitrarily detained in China in what Human Rights Watch has referred to as an “act of retaliation” by the Chinese government against Canada for the arrest of Meng.

This is the human tragedy of a U.S. extradition request that lacks the perception of legitimacy. Not only does fulfilling this request risk harming the integrity of Canada’s justice system, but it also comes at the cost of two innocent Canadians who have been held in conditions that are reportedly “tantamount to torture.”

At this juncture, the judge presiding over the Meng case in Canada is considering whether to accept an argument by her lawyers that the United States misled Canadian officials about the details of the fraud allegations facing her. However, irrespective of this specific ruling, it has been nearly two years since Meng’s arrest and this case is bound for a protracted court battle that could take years more before it reaches a conclusion.

This means Canada could be caught in the middle of the U.S.-China trade dispute – and an extradition case that throws the impartiality of Canada’s justice system into question – for a very long time.

Pursuant to the Extradition Act, Canada’s Attorney General David Lametti has the power to pull the plug on Meng’s extradition case at any point during the court process. Lametti has so far refused to intervene, arguing that the judicial phase must play its course.

David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has stated that he would not intervene in extradition proceedings for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou during the court process. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

However, the circumstances surrounding the case are now such that no matter what its outcome, it will be difficult to say that the proceedings are free from outside political influence.

In these circumstances, the Attorney General should take the bold step of exercising his lawful power to end Meng’s extradition proceedings in Canada.

This would allow Meng to go free and return to China. This is the right thing to do in order to clear Canada’s justice system from the political stain of the United States’ extradition request for Meng. Such a move could also help secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

As has been noted in our case law, the integrity of our system of prosecution is eroded when the public has the perception that criminal charges are politically influenced. Let us not forget the wise words that Canadian courts frequently quote: “Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.”


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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

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:

Dr. Robert Cushman, medical officer of health for Renfrew County, says a Thanksgiving gathering attended by up to 20 people has led to a dozen cases of COVID-19 so far. 0:59

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.

(CBC News)

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:

People should keep Halloween activities outdoors while making sure that kids don’t cluster together for candy when trick-or-treating, says infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton. 1:35

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.

WATCH | Gym owners, patrons frustrated by renewed COVID-19 closures:

Despite Manitoba’s surge in COVID-19 cases, gyms remain open in most of the province even though the facilities are closed in Ontario and Quebec. Gym owners and patrons are increasingly frustrated and want to know why they’re paying more to contain the pandemic than other jurisdictions. 1:57

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. 

Clients write comments on the outside wall of a gym during a morning protest in Montreal on Thursday. The Quebec government has extended the closure of gyms until Nov. 23. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

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: 

While widespread closures and capacity restrictions have significant impacts on people, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says a concerning trend of rising COVID-19 cases and strain on the healthcare system in recent days forced the province to introduce the latest round of rules meant to slow the spread of the illness. 0:42

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:

During a World Health Organization news conference, an infectious disease epidemiologist, a nurse and a software engineer share the long-term effects they’ve had after getting COVID-19. 5:38

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.

People are seen at a COVID-19 testing site in Nizna, Slovakia, last week. Authorities are hoping a broad testing program will help them respond to the pandemic more effectively. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)

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.

Muslims, many wearing masks, leave the Jama Masjid mosque after offering Friday prayers on the occasion of Eid-e-Milad-ul-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, in the old quarters of Delhi on Friday. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

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. 

A woman walks by closed shops near Galeries Lafayette in the center of Paris as a national lockdown went into effect. (The Associated Press/Lewis Joly)

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. 

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Canadians must reduce contacts by 25 per cent to flatten 2nd wave curve, officials say – CBC.ca

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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.

A presentation slide shows the Public Health Agency of Canada’s long-term forecast for COVID-19 cases based on three scenarios: increasing, maintaining or decreasing current rate of contacts. (Public Health Agency of Canada)

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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Health officials to reveal latest projections for COVID-19 spread in Canada – CBC.ca

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Federal health officials will release details from the latest COVID-19 modelling today that could indicate whether the caseloads are expected to continue rising or if efforts to flatten the epidemic curve are working.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo will reveal the projections at a press conference starting at 11:30 a.m. CBC News will carry it live.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will also be in attendance.

The last round of projections, released on Oct. 9, predicted the national caseload would climb to 197,830 by Oct. 17, with up to 9,800 deaths. The announcement came one day after the country recorded a record 2,400 new cases.

WATCH: Health officials reveal latest federal modelling on COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and officials update Canadians on the latest measures the federal government is taking to slow the spread and support those affected by COVID-19. 0:00

National numbers have since surpassed those projections. As of 11:20 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 230,547 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases, with 27,289 of those active. Provinces and territories listed 193,158 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,100.

While the numbers on both hospitalizations and deaths have increased recently, they have done so at a slower rate than during the first phase of the pandemic.

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