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All eyes on the United States as Canadians tune in to Joe Biden’s inauguration

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 20th, 2021

Canadians will be watching with bated breath as a new U.S. president takes office today.

President-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris are to be sworn in at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The pandemic has placed limits on the size of the crowd that would typically gather in the U.S. capital for the ceremony.

So has the lingering threat of violence after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building this month to stop the transition of power, egged on by the president himself.

Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed ahead of the event, further stoking anxiety among Americans and concerned observers.

Wanda Beatty plans to watch the ceremony from her Peterborough, Ont., home, switching between news outlets while chatting online with family.

Three of Beatty’s sisters live in the U.S. and she says the instability has taken a toll on them.

“I’m not worried for their safety, I’m just worried, really, for their mental health,” Beatty said in an interview this week.

“It’s such a bizarre, unprecedented time.”

Despite concerning recent events, Beatty says she’s hopeful that the transition will go smoothly.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that, hopefully, things won’t be as bad as it seems like there’s a potential for.”

Others across Canada are planning to watch the ceremony with roommates and in workplaces as they observe pandemic guidelines.

Katie Thompson of Thompson Chiropractic in Barrie, Ont., says the clinic plans to stream the proceedings live after several patients asked to schedule appointments around the event.

“It feels like we have been building up to this day for, well, quite frankly, four years.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Expelling Derek Sloan from Conservative caucus not entirely up to Erin O’Toole

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jan 20th, 2021

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole wants Derek Sloan booted out of his party’s caucus but it’s not entirely up to him. Here’s what needs to happen:

Conservative MPs will have to vote on the matter, thanks to their decision to adopt a provision of the Reform Act, legislation introduced by one of their own, Michael Chong, and passed in 2015.

Under the act, each party’s caucus must vote at its first meeting after an election on whether to adopt the various provisions enshrined in the legislation, which is aimed at rebalancing power between MPs and their party leaders.

Following the 2019 election, only Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs voted to give themselves the power to decide when to expel a caucus member.

Consequently, in order to remove Sloan, 20 per cent of Conservative MPs — 24 of the party’s current 121 MPs — had to sign a notice seeking a review of Sloan’s membership in the caucus.

The matter must then be put to a vote by secret ballot, which is set to take place Wednesday morning. A majority of MPs must support expulsion for Sloan to be ejected.

O’Toole said Monday he wanted Sloan’s fate decided as quickly as possible after learning that his former rival accepted a donation during the leadership race from a well-known white nationalist.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

JOAN BRYDEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2021

Almost two-thirds of Canadians would support a nightly curfew if necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 — even though they’re not convinced it would be effective, a new poll suggests.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents to a poll by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they would support temporary curfews in their provinces if recommended by public health officials.

In Quebec, where the government imposed a month-long curfew 10 days ago, 74 per cent said they support the move.

Nevertheless, only 57 per cent of Quebecers and just 39 per cent of respondents in the rest of the country said they think curfews are an effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The poll of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Jan. 15 to 18.

Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the results suggest Canadians “want to do their part and will stand by their governments” in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. But it also suggests provinces “need to sell this thing (curfews) if they want to make it work.”

The poll also suggests that Canadians’ mental health has suffered as the pandemic drags on.

Twenty-one per cent rated their mental health as bad or very bad, up eight points since last April, when the first wave of COVID-19 rolled over Canada.

Thirty-two per cent rated their mental health as excellent or very good, a 10-point drop since April. Another 45 per cent described their mental health as good, down three points since April.

Bourque said mental health experts do not consider “good” to be a particularly positive rating, akin to someone saying they feel OK.

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19, virtually unchanged since April.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they intend to get vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available to them.

Two vaccines have been approved for use in Canada so far and provinces have begun immunizing front line health care workers, long-term care home workers and residents and some others considered among the most vulnerable.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they’ll take the first vaccine available to them, while 27 per cent said they’ll wait for other vaccines to become available. Another 11 per cent said they won’t take any vaccine and 15 per cent didn’t know what they’ll do.

The online poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Tory MP Derek Sloan says he’ll fight efforts to expel him from party ranks

STEPHANIE LEVITZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2021

OTTAWA — Ontario Conservative MP Derek Sloan says he’ll fight efforts by his party’s leader to boot him from caucus.

Sloan says a decision by leader Erin O’Toole that he should be tossed out over a donation to his leadership campaign by a known white supremacist is ridiculous.

O’Toole announced he’s launching the effort to remove Sloan late Monday, after news broke that Sloan’s campaign had received a donation from Paul Fromm last year.

O’Toole framed the decision as being a question of having no tolerance for racism within his party.

But Sloan is raising questions about that approach, saying Fromm is a party member and that fact would have previously been known both to O’Toole and to the party itself.

Sloan generated controversy during the leadership campaign for his aggressively social conservative views, and his presence in caucus has been polarizing ever since.

He had survived a bid to oust him during the leadership race itself, when comments he made about the country’s chief public health officer saw him accused of racism, a charge he denied.

At that time, O’Toole refused to support an effort to expel him.

Sloan said in an interview with The Canadian Press that O’Toole ran a leadership campaign on fighting cancel culture and “promoting a big tent version of the Conservative Party.”

“And I hope that he has not jettisoned that in favour of perceived short-term political gain,” Sloan said.

To kick out one of their own, 20 per cent of Conservative MPs — 24 of the party’s current 121 MPs — must sign in writing a notice seeking a review of Sloan’s membership in the caucus.

The matter must then be put to a vote by secret ballot and a majority of MPs must support expulsion.

O’Toole said in a statement late Monday he wants the vote to take place as swiftly as possible.

The party’s caucus is set to meet Thursday and Friday to plot strategy for the upcoming parliamentary sitting but the vote is likely to take place before then.

Several MPs mused privately late Monday there are concerns O’Toole’s move sets a high bar for what’s considered an offence so severe as to be kicked out of caucus.

Others appeared to welcome the move, sharing O’Toole’s statement on social media.

Late Monday, Sloan said he’d yet to speak to any of his fellow caucus members to assess how they’ll vote.

But he told his supporters he intended to put his all behind a fight to remain.

“I’m not going down into the night quietly, he said.

“So they’ve picked a fight with the wrong person.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 11:00 p.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 42,543 new vaccinations administered for a total of 613,285 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,618.197 per 100,000.

There were 31,065 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 848,565 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.27 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 1,531 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 1,502 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 3,769 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,600 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 7.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 33.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 6,845 new vaccinations administered for a total of 153,539 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.944 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 196,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 9,691 new vaccinations administered for a total of 209,788 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.282 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.72 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting 4,212 new vaccinations administered for a total of 17,751 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.891 per 1,000. There were 12,665 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 38.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 2,459 new vaccinations administered for a total of 22,618 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.182 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 3,879 new vaccinations administered for a total of 89,814 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.403 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.68 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting 11,432 new vaccinations administered for a total of 87,346 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.021 per 1,000. There were 18,400 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 117,875 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting 163 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting 1,158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,141 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 55.286 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 35.68 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

*Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Kenney, Moe condemn Biden’s plan to scrap Keystone XL on Day 1 of presidency

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are condemning Joe Biden’s plan to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline expansion on his first day as U.S. president.

Biden’s plan is outlined in transition documents seen by The Canadian Press.

Jason Kenney and Scott Moe say halting construction on the controversial project will be disastrous for both the Canadian and U.S. economies.

Kenney says his government — which announced a $1.5 billion investment into the expansion last year — is prepared to “use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project.”

Moe, meanwhile, is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with Biden and says his government will be in touch with its contacts in Washington.

Trudeau has so far been silent on the issue, but his ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, is defending the pipeline, saying it fits into Canada’s climate plan and promises good jobs.

TC Energy Corp. doubled down on that last night, confirming an ambitious plan to spend $1.7 billion US on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030, and to rely exclusively on union labour.

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Jan. 18, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 27,451 new vaccinations administered for a total of 570,742 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,505.944 per 100,000.

There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 761,500 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 74.95 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 3,506 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 1,502 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 3,769 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,600 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 7.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 33.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 2,713 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,732 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 8,838 new vaccinations administered for a total of 146,694 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.144 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 162,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 11,007 new vaccinations administered for a total of 200,097 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.622 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.22 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,539 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.832 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 33,625 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 3,232 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,159 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.096 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 24,400 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.62 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 4,374 new vaccinations administered for a total of 85,935 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.522 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 84,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 102.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 75,914 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.794 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 99,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.31 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,184 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 28.372 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 983 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 25.383 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

*Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

3 experts on how well Canada has fought COVID-19 and how we could do better

MAAN ALHMIDI THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness’s spread.

The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada’s handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here’s what they had to say.

John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital

Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says.

“That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate,” he says.

No such tests have been approved in Canada yet.

“We’ve been saying this all along, so it’s not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine.”

Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day.

“We haven’t seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection.”

He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don’t cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots.

Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus’s incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security.

Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments’ support for people suffering in the crisis should continue.

He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important.

“Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better.”

David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University

Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker.

Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada.

“Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September,” he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they’ve mostly sat unused.

“Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There’s a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them,” he says.

Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall.

He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they’re used properly.

A federal advisory panel’s report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says.

“I’m happy to see we’re slowly shifting from the point of view of ‘Should we use rapid tests?’ to a point of view (of) ‘How can we best use them?’”

More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says.

“We still don’t have enough capacity to test everyone so we’d have to use them in a strategic way.”

Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise.

He says the late lockdowns in Canada won’t be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading.

“Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome.”

He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges.

“If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens,” he said.

Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force

Canada’s federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard.

“There’s a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It’s greatly impacted the efficiency of the response,” he says.

The problems in long-term care homes are examples.

“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care,” he says. “I think it’s heinous.”

He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation.

“It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble,” he says.

Sheppard says he doesn’t think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic.

“Remember that we don’t have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds,” he says. “There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings.”

He suggested that the current immunization campaign’s goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct.

“The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the ‘susceptibles’ in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza.

International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

HOLLY MCKENZIE-SUTTER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 15th, 2021

TORONTO — Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month.

The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave.

But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada.

Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully.

“I can work and I can help against this COVID … why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It’s very sad that I’m not fully available.”

His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience.

Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well.

The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly.

Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge.

Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that’s struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said.

“We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview.

“We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.”

Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces.

The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated.

The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada’s pandemic response.

“As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

Behrouzy said he doesn’t understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever.

“I’m available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it’s continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions.

“THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements,” it said.

Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove.

Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours.

“This kind of unfairness is totally based on status,” Rho said.

“The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued.”

Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it’s time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada.

“Respecting the labour is fundamental,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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