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With September looming, parents across Canada call for pandemic-era safety measures and supports –



As kids and teachers get ready to head back to classes — many of them in person after a year of interruptions caused by COVID-19 — parents across the country are organizing to take action to ensure their kids and school staff stay safe.

In Winnipeg, parents are asking the government to require regular rapid testing for students and staff. In Vancouver, many parents rallied for a mask mandate in elementary and secondary schools. In Toronto, a mom is advocating support for kids and teachers struggling with online learning.

And in Newmarket, Ont., Shameela Shakeel is pushing for strong ventilation systems, smaller class sizes and vaccination mandates for school staff to protect kids under 12 who are too young to get the shots themselves. 


“We are still pushing for the same things we were pushing for last year,” said Shakeel, a mother of four, who is the co-chair of parent-teacher coalition York Communities for Public Education. “Things that are hopefully going to make a difference is that all of these groups and all of these advocates are now together because the virtual space has made that possible.”

New group has 4,100 members

When the pandemic hit and families were scrambling for information about school closures, virtual learning and COVID-19-era education policies, Shakeel started receiving messages from other parents concerned about their school-aged kids. 

“I was getting a lot of private messages and phone calls,” Shakeel told CBC News. “That’s when I decided to start a Facebook group … That’s really helped with connecting other parents and educators.”

The group that Shakeel created last summer, called Families and Educators for Safe Schools in York Region, now has over 4,100 members.

It’s one example of the efforts Canadian parents have been making during the past 17 months to organize and advocate for school safety and classroom supports — in person and online — during a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on public education systems.

Some have launched petitions or formed grassroots groups, while others are campaigning solo.

Parents, educators and students rallied at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday, calling for better measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. (CBC News)

Advocacy ‘became a second job’

Kyenta Martins is a co-founder of the B.C.-based organizations Safe School Coalition and Option 4 Families of Vancouver — both formed in the last 12 months.

Martins, who opted to have her kids do school remotely last year because she is at risk of health complications, said she was would have never considered herself an education advocate before COVID-19 struck.

Now, she moderates online discussions, answers media requests, and tracks school district meetings — all before her kids have woken up and had breakfast.

“I work part-time, and right now, advocacy is another job for me,” she said. “And I would almost say it’s a full-time job.”

WATCH | Dr. Jacqueline Wong on keeping unvaccinated kids safe in school 

COVID-19: Keeping unvaccinated kids safe in school

7 days ago

Pediatric infectious diseases physician Dr. Jacqueline Wong answers viewer questions about children and COVID-19, including keeping unvaccinated children safe in school and how the delta variant affects them. 5:55

In July 2021, Statistics Canada released a report concluding that nearly 75 per cent of parents were “extremely concerned” about juggling work, child care and their kids’ schooling during the pandemic.

Adding advocacy on top of an already-exhaustive list of responsibilities has other parents feeling the way Martins does.

“It became a second job for me to advocate for my son,” said Emily Feairs of Toronto, whose son struggled with anxiety as a result of on-camera learning.

Working solo in her discussions with the school board trustee, superintendent, teachers and principal, Feairs said efforts to connect with other parents were challenging, without the usual opportunities for community gathering — drop-off, pick-up, after-school meetings — that parents usually use to catch up.

Letters call for safe, accessible education

Krystal Payne is a founding member of the advocacy group Safe September MB which recently wrote two letters calling on the Manitoba provincial government and the Winnipeg School Division to provide “safe and accessible education for K-12 students in September 2021.” Payne says that some parents are getting worn out.

“I think we’re fighting against a tide of people being very tired,” she said. She noted that last year, one of the organization’s letters quickly accrued nearly 18,000 signatures. While that initial momentum has slowed, the group still has support from parents, daily interest in their social media page and is steadily collecting signatures on their new letters.

“This year, folks are just really tired, and they want to return to normal.”

Social media an organizing tool

Earlier this month, Martins created a Facebook page for the Safe School Coalition to connect with other parents asking for more stringent school safety policies from the province. 

With only 24 hours notice, she said that hundreds of people tuned in for the organization’s live stream of their first event, a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery. As of Wednesday, the stream had over 5,000 views.

But dealing with social media detractors can be a “thankless job,” said David Gray, co-founder of Wall of Alberta Moms and Dads, a now-defunct organization for parents who were concerned about the safety of children and staff in schools during the pandemic.

WATCH | Edmonton school board officials talk about COVID-19 safety protocols:  

Edmonton schools prep their COVID-19 plans for September

2 days ago

As parents and students prepare for back-to-school, Edmonton’s two school board chairs remain grateful for one thing: they have the power to make their own COVID-19 protocols. 0:57

“We sort of tore things up for a few weeks, you know, we got a lot of traction on social media,” Gray said. The organization attracted many volunteers, and they spent their days holding phone banks, conducting letter-writing campaigns and organizing email blasts, he said.

But, Gray added, “One of the more disheartening things for people was, you know, being told, ‘It’s great that you’re protesting this, but you’re doing it wrong,’ or, ‘We can’t agree with this one thing you said, so we can’t agree with anything you’ve said.'”

‘This has radicalized a lot of parents’

During times of crisis for the education system, there is a stronger push for change, said Annie Kidder, founder of the research group People for Education.

“There definitely is a tendency for activism to be on the rise in education when there’s a concrete crisis or a concrete issue about which people feel very strongly,” Kidder said, adding that it’s important for people to be engaged and actively involved with schools, even if they aren’t activists.

But with a variant-driven fourth wave of COVID-19 on the rise across the country and high vaccination rates prompting provinces to loosen safety restrictions in schools, the pandemic’s effect on schools has given parents little choice but to take serious action.

“I think this has radicalized a lot of parents, right?” Feairs said.

“We have been pushed to extremes and forced to make choices that, in such a prosperous province and country, we shouldn’t have been forced to make.”

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Hundreds killed after passenger trains derail in India, officials say



At least 233 people were killed and 900 were injured when two passenger trains collided in India’s Odisha state, a government official said on Saturday, making the rail accident the country’s deadliest in more than a decade.

The death toll from Friday’s crash is expected to increase, state Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said in a tweet.

He said over 200 ambulances had been called to the scene of the accident in Odisha’s Balasore district and 100 additional doctors, on top of 80 already there, had been mobilized.

Early on Saturday morning, Reuters video footage showed police officials moving bodies covered in white cloths off the railway tracks.


Footage from Friday showed rescuers climbing up the mangled wreck of one of the trains to find survivors, while passengers called for help and sobbed next to the wreckage.

People gather around a derailed train coach, with some standing on top of it.
Rescuers search for people after two passenger trains derailed in Balasore district, in eastern India, on Friday. (Press Trust of India/The Associated Press)

2 express trains collided

The collision occurred at about 7 p.m. local time on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express, running from Bangalore to Howrah, West Bengal, collided with the Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai.

Authorities have provided conflicting accounts on which train derailed first to become entangled with the other. The Ministry of Railways said it has initiated an investigation into the crash.

Although Chief Secretary Jena and some media reports have suggested a freight train was also involved in the crash, railway authorities have yet to comment on that possibility.

An extensive search-and-rescue operation has been mounted, involving hundreds of fire department personnel and police officers as well as sniffer dogs. National Disaster Response Force teams were also at the site.

Rescuers wearing hard hats work on a derailed train.
Rescuers work at the derailment site on Friday. (Press Trust of India/The Associated Press)

On Friday, hundreds of young people lined up outside a government hospital in Odisha’s Soro to donate blood.

According to Indian Railways, its network facilitates the transportation of more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of aging infrastructure.

Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared a day of state mourning on June 3 as a mark of respect to the victims.


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Meta to start blocking news content for up to 5% of Canadian Facebook, Instagram users



Meta will soon block some Canadian users of Facebook and Instagram from accessing or posting news content on either platform.

The move, which the social media giant announced in a blog post on Thursday, comes in reaction to the looming passage into law of Bill C-18, the Online News Act.

Facebook has said it will be forced to block news content from its platforms in Canada if the bill becomes law, something that could happen as soon as this month as the bill is currently being considered in the Senate.

Among other stipulations, the bill would require tech giants to pay Canadian media companies for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.


“As we prepare to comply with the legislation, we are announcing today that we will begin tests on both platforms that will limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing some news content in Canada,” Meta said.

  • Are you a Facebook or Instagram user? Do you use those platforms to share the news? We want to speak to you as part of a story. Email us at

Between one and five per cent of the 24 million Canadians who use Facebook or Instagram will be included in the test, which is set to start soon.

Different content may be blocked for different users on different platforms, said Rachel Curran, the head of public policy for Meta Canada.

“It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily,” she said. “Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces.”

“Throughout the testing period, which will run for several weeks, a small percentage of people in Canada who are enrolled in testing will be notified if they attempt to share news content.”

The test means that a user would not see links to articles or videos from news publishers anywhere in their feed. A user would also be blocked from sharing such content to other people.

News publishers will be able to post news links and content, but some of it will not be viewable in Canada.


Meta threatens to block news on Facebook, Instagram in Canada over new bill


Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, says it will block Canadians’ access to news content on its platforms if the federal government’s proposed online news legislation passes in its current form.

Users who will be included in the test will be selected randomly, and will only be made aware that they’re included if they attempt to share news, at which point they will see a notification that they are unable to.

The number of news publishers who will have their content included in the test will not be public and is also randomized, but could include international publishers that operate in Canada. The publishers will be notified if they have been included in the test, Meta says.

News industry decries move

Paul Deegan, the head of News Media Canada, called Meta’s move a “kick in the shins” to Canadians at a time when the value and need for credible information has never been greater.

“Meta’s decision to ‘unfriend’ Canada by denying access to trusted sources of news for some of their users, as wildfires burn and when public safety is at stake is irresponsible and tone deaf,” Deegan told CBC News in an email.

“This hard-nose lobbying tactic is more evidence of the power imbalance that exists between dominant platforms and publishers, which is why parliamentarians need to pass the Online News Act before their summer recess.”

Meta’s move comes on the heels of a similar move by Google earlier this year, when it blocked news results for more than a million Canadians, also in opposition to the bill.

Meta says Bill C-18 is “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers.”

Curran told senators pondering the bill in a committee last month that the company objects to being asked to compensate news publishers for their content, when by their calculation they have given news publishers more than 1.9 million clicks in Canada in the past year, “and free marketing worth more than $230 million in estimated value.”

“We will be forced to compensate news publishers for material that they post to drive traffic and drive clicks back to their page and websites where they can then monetize those views and eyeballs either through a paywall or they can place ads against the views that show up on their web page,” she said. “We are being asked to compensate them for an activity that actually benefits them from a monetary perspective.”

Government calls move ‘disappointing’

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s move “disappointing” and said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.

Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.

Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.

Meta also reached a deal with U.K. publishers that year, after similar discussions.

Accountable Tech, a U.S.-based advocacy group pushing for more regulation of technology companies in that country, says the news blackouts in various countries show the lengths that big tech companies will go to in order to sway governments and maintain their profits.

“What we witnessed unfold in Australia, and now in Canada, is Big Tech’s willingness to cripple democracy by withholding news content to a population — chosen at random — as a bargaining chip to stop legislation,” the group’s executive director Nicole Gill said.

“It’s clear that Meta has no interest in acting in good faith or improving the lives of its users and the communities they operate in. There is simply no reason for the U.S. to delay any action on reining them in.”



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Meta to test blocking news on Facebook, Instagram in Canada over Bill C-18 – Global News



Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.

The Silicon Valley tech giant is following in the steps of Google, which blocked news links for about five weeks earlier this year for some of its Canadian users in response to a controversial Liberal government bill.


Bill C-18, which is currently being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.

Meta said it’s prepared to block news permanently on Facebook and Instagram if the bill passes, which the government said could happen this month.

Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, said this first temporary move will affect one to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users, with the number of those impacted fluctuating throughout the test.

Click to play video: 'Meta set to block news on Facebook, Instagram from Canadian users'

Meta set to block news on Facebook, Instagram from Canadian users

Randomly selected Canadian users will not be able to see or share news content in Canada either on Instagram or Facebook.

She said that could include news links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.

However, the experience won’t be the same for every user who is subject to the test.

“It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily. Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces,” Curran said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau calls Meta’s decision to block news in Canada ‘irresponsible and out of touch’'

Trudeau calls Meta’s decision to block news in Canada ‘irresponsible and out of touch’

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday evening that the fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible the company is.

“When a big tech company, whatever the size is, the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, they come here and they tell us, ‘If you don’t do this or that, then I’m pulling the plug,’ — that’s a threat and that is unacceptable,” he said in the statement.

“I never did anything because I was afraid of a threat, and I will never do it.”

Rodriguez added in a tweet that “Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”

Meta said it is picking random news publishers that will be notified that some people in Canada will not be able to see or share their news content throughout the test. They will still be able to access their accounts, pages, businesses suites and advertising.

International news companies such as the New York Times or BBC could also have their content blocked in Canada during the test, if they are randomly selected. However, people outside of Canada will not be affected.

“It’s only going to impact your experience … if you’re in Canada,” Curran said.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau slams Google for blocking news content from Canadians'

Trudeau slams Google for blocking news content from Canadians

Meta is defining news as it’s described in the Liberal government’s online news act.

“The legislation states that news outlets are in scope if they primarily report on, investigate or explain current issues or events of public interests,” said Curran.

Content that doesn’t fall under that definition will not be blocked from Canadians. When Facebook blocked news in Australia in 2021 because of a similar bill, there was widespread concern that trusted sources would be unavailable, while pages that published misinformation flourished.

Curran said affected Canadians will still be able to use their platforms to access information from a variety of sources including government pages, organizations and universities.

“We think all of that is good information. They’re also seeing and sharing things that interest them and entertain them. We would not classify that as misinformation. That’s great information and that will continue to be shared and to be viewable,” Curran said, adding that the company will continue to address misinformation on its site through a global fact-checking program.

Meta’s test is designed to ensure that non-news agencies don’t get caught in the dragnet should they block news permanently.

Click to play video: 'Google blocks some Canadian news sites from results in protest of Bill C-18'

Google blocks some Canadian news sites from results in protest of Bill C-18

The company said it doesn’t want to accidentally block emergency services, community organizations, politicians or government pages, which happened in Australia.

Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the federal Liberals’ online news bill because it would bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Companies such as Meta and Google have been blamed for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.

Curran said removing journalism from Meta’s platforms is a business decision, and the company makes “negligible amounts” of revenue from news content.

The company said less than three per cent of what people see in their Facebook feeds are posts with links to news articles, and many of its users believe that is already “too much” news.

“We’re facing a lot of competitive pressures and competition for user time and attention. We’re also facing some pretty serious economic headwinds, and a macro economic climate that’s a bit uncertain,” Curran said.

“Of course news have value from a social perspective. It’s valuable to our democracy. It just doesn’t have much commercial or economic value to our company.”

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