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Why Canada is keeping its international borders shut tight during COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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While many countries are reopening their international borders, Canada continues to keep its doors firmly shut to most foreigners.

Many Canadians applaud the government for its strict travel restrictions, implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country. 

However, some affected groups — such as the travel industry — have urged Ottawa to relax some restrictions in ways they say would provide minimal risk. 

Here’s why, despite the pleas, Canada continues to keep its borders closed. 

What are Canada’s rules?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government issued several emergency orders in March under its Quarantine Act.

One order bans foreigners entering from the U.S. and a second bans all other foreigners from visiting Canada — unless their travel is considered essential, such as for school or work.

A third order mandates a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone entering the country. 

Many countries that adopted similar border bans began relaxing them this summer after their COVID-19 caseloads started to ease. 

Several EU countries — such as the Netherlands, France, Germany, Cyprus and Greece — now welcome travellers from select countries where the infection rates are deemed low enough, including Canada.

But the Canadian government has maintained its travel restrictions, with one exception: in June it started allowing foreigners to visit immediate family in the country. And following public pressure, the government has suggested it may widen those rules to allow in more family members who currently don’t meet the requirements. 

Cyprus is welcoming travellers from select countries, including Canada, who can enter with no restrictions. (Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Tourism)

Airlines ask for change

Travel and tourism groups desperate for business have argued that Canada could safely reopen its borders with added safety measures, such as maintaining a ban on high-risk countries, including the U.S.

Late last month, a dozen top executives from European airlines, airports and related companies sent the Canadian government a letter, urging it to ease its travel restrictions with parts of Europe. 

“Canada has made tremendous strides in managing the pandemic — but it cannot remain isolated forever,” the letter said. “We believe Canada can join our European governments in strategically re-opening to select, safe international destinations.”

Despite that appeal, the federal government isn’t budging.

“We have introduced significant and universal border restrictions to keep Canadians safe,” Natalie Mohamed, spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), said in an email.

Why is Canada keeping its borders shut tight?

PHAC said the government bases its travel restrictions on input from the provinces and territories, its current public health capacity to handle travel-related COVID-19 outbreaks, and the status of the pandemic both domestically and internationally.

Canada has managed to slow the spread of the virus, but health officials warned last week that the country could potentially see a spike in cases in the fall.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to surge in several countries across the globe, including in the U.S. which surpassed 170,000 coronavirus deaths last week.

“Entry prohibitions coupled with mandatory isolation and quarantine remain the most effective means of limiting the introduction of new cases of COVID-19 into Canada,” Mohamed said.

Of the limited number of international flights still entering Canada, a total of 34 flights arriving between Aug. 3 and 13 were later found to have had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case onboard. 

WATCH | Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam on potential COVID-19 surge:

Canada could be in for a major fall spike in COVID-19 cases if testing, contact tracing, and personal protection measures don’t strengthen with schools and businesses reopening, according to new modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada. 1:45

Epidemiologist Tim Sly said Canada’s border ban is a reasonable response to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“The virus is showing no signs of weakening or going away,” said Sly, a professor emeritus at Ryerson University in Toronto. 

“The analogy is a bit like the dry, crispy forest floor that’s ready to go up in flames. It just takes one match.”

(Sly also suggested that Canada could explore other methods of controlling its borders, such as mandating rapid COVID-19 tests for arriving travellers, as is already happening in several Caribbean countries.)

Epidemiologist Tim Sly said Canada could consider a negative COVID-19 test from travellers as an alternative to a full border ban. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Mohamed said Canada’s travel restrictions will continue as long as the global outbreak remains a threat, foreign visitors risk spreading COVID-19, and “no reasonable alternatives” are available to prevent the virus’s spread. 

Global health specialist Steven Hoffman suggested that Canada won’t reopen its borders to any country until it believes the U.S. has the virus under control — or at least until President Trump leaves office.

That’s because Canada could face backlash from the divisive president if it opened its doors to some countries but not Americans, said Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at Toronto’s York University.

“We’d have one very angry American president that might further target our country with any kind of punitive reaction, which would not be good for Canadians.”

In a surprise move earlier this month, Trump slapped a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum imports from Canada.

Keeping the U.S. border shut also seems to be popular. Several recent market research polls found that the majority of Canadians surveyed support Canada closing its borders to Americans. 

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B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada – CBC.ca

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The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.

Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.

The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday. 

Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson. 

The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.

UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Deep listening’

Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities. 

“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release. 

The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.

Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland. 

Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.

“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.

“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”

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Crisis, what crisis? If Canada is in a 2nd COVID wave, N.L. is watching it from afar – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on April 27. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

On Wednesday, Canadians tuned in to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau make a national address on COVID-19. Trudeau got right to the point.

“The second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Trudeau said. “The numbers are clear.”

Given that Trudeau just moments later said, “We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” I was expecting him to then lay down the framework for another lockdown.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Trudeau appealed to Canadians to do their part to smash a curve that has been on rapid ascent in some provinces, especially British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Are things that bad? Here’s a comparison from the address that ought to have caught attention. “Back on March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over a thousand.”

There was no sense of panic after Trudeau’s remarks — not across the country, but especially not here. What reaction I did notice locally on social media might be boiled down to “meh.” That is, life is going on, and since Trudeau’s address made for prime-time viewing in our time zone, it felt like a bit of a letdown.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a rare address to the nation following a throne speech like no other in Canadian history. The address and the speech were both focused on COVID-19. The Liberals also promised job creation and child-care investment. 9:01

Part of this reason surely must be that there are distinct COVID-19 situations in the country, and Newfoundland and Labrador — perhaps accustomed to watching national dramas from both geographic and psychological sidelines all along — is far away from a mounting crisis elsewhere in Canada.

Wildly different experiences in the pandemic

Consider this. In Ontario on Thursday — the day after Trudeau’s address to the nation — 409 cases were reported. A month earlier, on Aug. 24, the number was 105. Quebec reported 582 cases on Thursday; on Aug. 24, that number was just 68.

The national tally has indeed been spiking in recent days. On Thursday, Canada logged 1,341 news cases of COVID-19 — or about 55 an hour. That’s almost one a minute.

Or, to look at it another way, there are on average five new cases surfacing every five or six minutes.

To count the last five cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, you need to go back to Aug. 10. To count the last 10, we go back to July 22.

Passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport is gradually climbing, but remains a small fraction of normal volumes. (Gary Locke/CBC)

In other words, the pandemic situation here — like all of the other Atlantic provinces and the territories — is entirely different from provinces where cases are spiking. (Manitoba is dealing with double digits, while Saskatchewan’s caseload has been comparatively modest.)

So … have we become complacent?

There’s always that concern everywhere, and we should be no different.

But it’s worth noting that a focal point of Wednesday’s weekly briefing was whether Halloween could go ahead this year. (A provisional yes, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, so long as rates do not increase.)

Not only did we not see anxious faces that have been handling briefings in bigger provinces, we learned on Wednesday that the provincial government has stopped sending daily news releases on COVID-19. They’ll resume when there is, well, news — presumably, a new case. Otherwise, data will be updated every afternoon on the dashboard of the province’s COVID-19 website.

Crushing the curve

Newfoundland and Labrador, which had a scary spike in the early spring with a cluster that involved attendance at the Caul’s funeral home in St. John’s, not only planked the curve, but kind of crushed it.

Still, despite a gradual loosening of restrictions brought in through a public health emergency order, we continue to move through the impacts of living with a pandemic. We may be able to shop and move around more easily, but many facets of daily life are quite affected. In the weeks to come, there will be no fall fairs at local churches, no Christmas sales at the Glacier, no big concerts at Mile One. Live performances are resuming, but many chairs (every other row at the Arts & Culture Centre) will be vacant for safety.

The tone of COVID-19 briefings locally has been notably less grim than in some other provinces. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, reactions to a question at Wednesday’s briefing on whether she has plans to travel abroad. After chuckling, she said no. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

There will be no conventions, either. Indeed, there has not been that much travel. There was five times the amount of passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport in August than in April, but that’s only because there was practically no traffic at all in those early weeks of the pandemic.

Consider this chart:

MonthPassengersDecrease from 2019
April 20205,424-95.4%
May 20206,780-94.9%
June 202010,831-92.2%
July 202021,791-87.1%
August 202028,569-84.1%

Source: St. John’s International Airport

Newfoundland and Labrador’s so-called travel ban — which prohibits entry to the province to non-residents (now outside the Maritimes) who do not have previously approved exemptions — continues to be divisive, but I see many people applaud it. Last week, Justice Donald Burrage upheld the ban, even though he also found that the order clearly violates charter rights of movement. Lawyers who argued the case say they are considering an appeal.

Legends of the fall

As I was making a cup of coffee early Friday morning, I noticed something that used to be common (like clockwork, really) in the air over the east end: the distinctive noise of a jet taking off at the airport.

It has occurred to me that the “new normal” of COVID-19 that we’ve all been talking about really means “the normal we are in right now, and it may change quickly.”

We are connected to the rest of the country, and the rest of the planet, and things are fluid.

Trudeau, who used his address to call on people to behave responsively, said the outcome of the second wave is not predetermined.

“What we can change,” he said, “is where we are in October and into the winter. It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

At this end of the country, it would be an understatement to say people want the infection rate to stay as low this fall as it’s been this summer.

It’s also reasonable to think many people are looking forward to a “new normal” that moves closer and closer to the old one.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Canada failed to protect elderly in first wave of COVID-19 — will the same mistakes be made again? – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


As COVID-19 cases surge across Canada and outbreaks in nursing homes flare up once again, experts say vulnerable elderly populations are at extreme risk in the second wave due to a lack of government action. 

Long-term care facilities bore the brunt of the first wave of the pandemic in Canada, with more than 70 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 occurring in those aged over 80, about twice the average of rates from other developed countries.

“That is one of the most damning failures that’s taken place through the pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of health and social policy for Toronto’s University Health Network. 

“If we were going to be judged by how we protected our most susceptible and people who are structurally vulnerable — we failed them.” 

Dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks have recently been reported in nursing homes in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Quebec as the second wave arrives in much of Canada.

WATCH | Trudeau discusses the federal government’s role in long-term care:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains what prompted his government to begin a dialogue with the provinces around national standards for long term care facilities. 1:49

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situations experienced by “too many elders” in long-term care homes is “unacceptable.”

“That has to change and it will change,” he said. “We will be working with the provinces and territories to set new national standards on long-term care.”

But Canada’s systemic failures in long-term care are nothing new, and neither are the calls for action. 

Long-term care deficiencies a longstanding issue

A July report from the Royal Society of Canadaan association that includes some of Canada’s top scientists and scholars, described COVID-19 as “a shock wave that cracked wide all the fractures in our nursing home system.” It called on the federal government to act “immediately” on creating national standards of care.

Months later, no concrete action has yet been taken, and the second wave of COVID-19 infections is well underway in previously hard-hit provinces, such as Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.

On Friday, Trudeau conceded during a press conference that problems in long-term care facilities “existed long before COVID-19.”

Canadian Armed Forces personnel, along with hospital staff and some education workers, were among those brought in to assist long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic. A military report subsequently detailed abuse, neglect and cruelty inside nursing homes. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

“The systems that we had were inadequate all across the country,” he said. “They were not up to the task of protecting our seniors appropriately.”

But experts question why the process of fixing those systemic issues has only now just begun.

“The writing is on the wall that this had to happen yesterday,” said Boozary. 

“To not ensure that every measure, every resource is in place to protect these families and their loved ones — to me is just damning, it’s egregious.” 

The prime minister was quick to point out that long-term care is “very clearly a provincial jurisdiction,” adding that the federal government was busy helping the provinces “get the situation under control” early in the pandemic. 

“Whether it was sending in the military or the Red Cross or sending extra financial support to vulnerable health care workers, the federal government was busy acting,” he said.  

But Trudeau also said the need for national standards of long-term care only became clear to his government after “conversations with Canadians and the provinces” following the devastation caused in the first wave of the pandemic. 

Long-term care facilities unprepared for second wave

A group of major stakeholders in Ontario’s long-term care system sent a 60-page letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the ministers of both Health and Long-Term Care this week calling for “immediate action” to protect the health of residents, staff and family members.

“In the absence of these measures and support from government, Ontario’s long-term care homes are not currently ready to manage a second wave of COVID-19,” said the letter, which was first reported on by the Globe and Mail.

WATCH | Canada’s prime minister on the country’s second wave of COVID-19:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Canadians in a rare national address from his office on Parliament Hill. 1:47

“The recent surge in cases in Ontario and other provinces is a warning that we have little time to waste,” it stated. “We need decisive action now.”

Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease expert and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health at the University of Toronto, said she’s not convinced Canadian long-term care homes have made the necessary changes to protect elderly residents in the second wave.  

“We don’t want to see the same kind of disasters that we were seeing in the spring where we had all these people dying and the people that were living were basically living in squalor,” she said. “If that occurs again, it’s a real failure.” 

Banerji said nursing homes need to ensure they have no more than one resident per room with individual access to their own bathroom, while staff should have adequate personal protective equipment and infection control training — something they lacked in the first wave. 

Dr. Aisha Lofters, a family physician and researcher at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, said nursing homes also need to ensure staff aren’t putting residents at unnecessary risk. 

“In the early days, we saw a lot of people who were working in multiple long-term care homes, working part-time and casual, having to move from home to home to home,” she said.

“We saw the devastating effects of that.”

National standards of long-term care need enforcement

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a physician and health-justice advocate in Toronto, welcomes the creation of national standards for long-term care, but hopes those homes in violation of them will face serious consequences. 

“One of the things that we need to be aware of is that at least in Ontario, it was shown that for-profit homes especially had a higher proportion of deaths,” he said. 

Dosani said he wants the national standards to create a baseline for where care needs to be in nursing homes across Canada, so that seniors aren’t left to suffer the consequences. 

“They already suffered in the first wave. My hope is that they don’t have to suffer and less people have to die in the second wave,” he said. 

“Why would we allow this to happen in the second wave? The federal government has the ability to set that bar where it needs to be so that standard of care is met so that doesn’t have to happen again.” 


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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