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Memorial grows outside scene of Toronto van attack

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Apr 25th, 2018

A memorial is growing outside the scene of the Toronto van attack that claimed the lives of 10 people and injured 14 others.

Alek Minassian, 25, is currently facing 10 charges of first-degree murder and 13 charges of attempted murder.

Toronto residents have flocked to Olive Square, near Yonge and Finch, to express their condolences, light candles, and leave flowers and messages for the victims of the tragic event.

Tributes began pouring in on social media shortly after the attack on Monday, with the hashtag #TorontoStrong.

First of 10 victims identified in Toronto van attack

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 24th, 2018


The first of the 10 victims from yesterday’s van attack has been identified by family to CityNews as Anne Marie D’Amico.

D’Amico has worked with Tennis Canada and the Badmonton and Racquet Club of Toronto.

Does Canada’s healthcare system treat everyone equally?

Faiza Amin | posted Tuesday, Apr 24th, 2018


Canada’s universal healthcare is something that is often celebrated around the world, but some question if this is a system that treats everyone, particularly racialized communities, equally.

Serena Thompson was diagnosed with sickle cell disorder at birth. It’s a genetic condition that occurs in people of African, Arabic and Indian racial backgrounds. It’s common for those diagnosed to experience pain attacks without warning, described to be worse than childbirth.

For Thompson, who is 45-years-old, it means getting hospitalized and sometimes treated with powerful painkillers. During a crisis like this, her biggest worry isn’t how she’s feeling, but if she’s going to get treated.

“The first thing that comes to mind, is I’m looking a mess. Let me put myself together so at least I can look presentable, so I can look in a way that they would want to deal with me,” said the mother of one.

“If they’re not aware of the disease, the first thing they see is ‘oh it’s a black person, and oh they just want drugs.’ That’s the main thing that’s been going on for decades.”

Experts in Toronto say Thompson’s experiences aren’t rare, similar experiences have been reported in the U.S. and in Canada, including in a recent provincial publication. The Clinical Handbook for Sickle Cell Disease Vaso-occlusive Crisis was released by the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health, along with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care back in December. The report detailed the challenges faced by SCD patients when seeking medical treatment at hospitals.

“Clinicians and administrators recognize that racism towards patients with SCD does exist and must be addressed,” the report read.

The handbook also featured a series of comments from focus groups that detailed people’s experiences. They touched on everything from long-wait times to provider knowledge and attitudes, which was identified as one of the barriers to care.

“My brother was 33 years old when he went to the ER with a crisis, they saw a black male and told him he was looking for drugs not having a crisis. Despite the comment they gave him 40 dilaudid and sent him home,” one comment read.

“My aunt called in the morning and told me not to come. They found him dead.”

Public Health specialist Dr. Onye Nnorom said there’s a standard of care for sickle cell patients to be treated within 30 minutes of arriving to the emergency department, and delays in treatments can have severe consequences on health.

“It’s standard of care to provide narcotics in those situations, and so we do see this with black patients,” said Dr. Nnorom, who is also the Black Health Theme Lead at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine.

“I can say with my own research and own clinical practice, I don’t hear these types of repots with non-black patients, but in particular with the white Canadian population of having when you’re in excruciating pain dress a certain way to be treated equitably.”

The Ontario government says racial inequalities in the healthcare sector are most often indirect, subtle and systemic, but up-to-date data on discrimination in the sector isn’t readily available in Canada.

In addressing unconscious biases, Dr. Nnorom said we must understand that people aren’t doing it intentionally so it can sometimes be difficult to change.

“There are things hospitals can do with regards to policies and practices to start to undo these systemic issues that end up playing out as unconscious bias,” she said.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada created a social accountability working group to tackle unconscious biases — providing education and training to physicians and healthcare providers to shift the culture towards social accountability.

“There has been attention now to understand that the unconscious biases exist, they are real and there’s something we can do about it,” said Dr. Ritika Goel, chair of the Social Accountability Working Group.

The group is also focused on finding strategies in advocating for the equitable outcomes of “vulnerable groups.”

“From research that’s been done for example, we know women, people who are black or Latino that present to the emergency room are more likely not to have their pain addressed,” explained Dr. Goel.

“So for example the same amount of pain they present with, might get less pain medication or may not get addressed as quickly.”

Mount Sinai Hospital Leading the way

Just last year, Mount Sinai Hospital held a symposium and released the “Black Experiences in Healthcare“, which identified and raised awareness on health inequities faced by black Ontarians in Toronto. That includes lack of access to healthcare services, gaps in care and inequalities in health outcomes. The organizers said this was a tool to illicit greater accountability in the province.

The hospital is also leading the way in, what some describe to be, a ground-breaking project. In 2012, the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, also known as the Toronto Central LHIN, mandated health-care organizations to collect patient demographic data in an effort to tackle health equity across the system.

Since 2013, 16 hospitals and 16 community health centres were required to hand out voluntary questionnaires to clients. The surveys asked about their races, ethnicities, salary and sexual orientation, amongst other things.

“We are in a moment where everybody in the healthcare system is using the language of healthcare equity, and this initiative is saying if you’re going to use the language of health equity then we need to have evidence that speaks specifically to health disparities,” said Angela Robertson, executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.

“Having this data really can enable us to produce evidence that says here are the sights of inequalities.”

As of 2017, over 435,000 clients have responded to the voluntary questionnaires and health facilities say they’re already benefiting from the data collected. Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, for instance, has learned more about cancer screenings at their clinic.

Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre has also been collecting its own data in the 25 years it’s been serving racialized women in the GTA. The Centre’s executive director, Notisha Massaquoi, said their data shows, on average, black women go see a doctor when the effects of their chronic illnesses were in advanced stages. Illnesses such as HIV and diabetes, and mental health concerns were also expressed.

Robertson said it’s still too early to tell whether or not the data has identified racial biases in the healthcare system, but anecdotal stories like Serena Thompson’s are extremely telling.

“Canada’s history of multiculturalism has made it not as responsive to naming race and racism,” Robertson stated.

“As a result, Canada, I would say, lags behind even the U.S., around collecting raced based data and talking about the impact of racism In accessing health care, in health outcomes, in measuring quality of care receives, by racialized black and indigenous people.”

Calls on Canada and Ontario to Collect Race-Based Data

The collection of race-based data has long been a controversial practice in parts of Canada, because historically it’s been sometimes used against minorities.

However, medical experts say through their experiences, once patients and clients understand the need for data collection, they’re more willing to participate.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said race-based data is not systematically collected across Ontario.

However, on Monday the province announced plans to start collecting race-based data in the child welfare, education and justice sectors over five years- it is not clear yet if that will also include the health sector.

American studies have long highlighted the healthcare inequities and social detriments in their healthcare system, identifying barriers through data collection. Experts here north of the border say Canada doesn’t do the same, and that’s a problem here.

“That is a racial bias,” said Massaquoi.

“You’re not concerned about the healthcare of every individual, you just want to make general statements.”

The Ministry said there is research on Indigenous and racialized communities that has been completed in the past.

The country’s Indigenous population is said to face some of the worst health prospects in the province, including prevalence of diabetes. While Black Canadians are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, mental health issues, heart disease, and strokes. That community, along with South Asian groups also have the highest rates of diabetes.

“Rolling all this data up to the policy level is what’s going to ensure resources flow to the appropriate place,” Massaquoi said, adding racial biases can be seen in the poor outcomes of particular groups.

Robertson also added that racialized groups are also under-represented in medical studies, and there is a real push for researchers to be more inclusive in their studies.

Tributes pour in following Toronto van attack

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 24th, 2018


Tributes have begun to pour in on social media following the tragic events on Monday afternoon at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.

Ten people were killed and 15 more were injured when a rental van plowed through a group of pedestrians.

The hashtags #TorontoStrong has emerged among many of the tributes as well.

The Maple Leafs held a moment of silence before Game 6 Monday night against the Boston Bruins.

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer rose in the House of Commons to share his thoughts and prayers with the victims and asked for the Prime Minister to share any updates as they become available.

“I speak for all parliamentarians when I say that our thoughts and prayers of the victims of the recent tragic situation that’s unfolding in Toronto right now. I wonder if the prime minister will join me in sending our best wishes to the community impacted and update the house with any information that they might be able to share as this situation unfolds.

Trudeau responded to Scheer saying,”Our thoughts are obviously with those who affected by this incident. We are still gathering information and as soon as we can we will share more information with Canadians.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne has commented on the incident as well, saying they are following the situation closely.

Wynne spoke with the media outside her office at Queen’s Park and says she has been briefed by the provincial security adviser.

“This is a frightening and tragic situation.” Wynne says, “What I want people to know is all levels of government and police services are working together so the OPP and the RCMP and the Toronto Police Service, all levels are working together and the information is flowing among those organizations.”

Ontario PC Party leader Doug Ford and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath have both tweeted out thoughts and prayers, thanking first-responders on the scene.

Mayor John Tory has also released a statement.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also tweeted out a statement, saying his thoughts are with all those affect by the horrific events unfolding at Yonge and Finch.

The city has announced the Toronto sign has been dimmed and all official flags will be flown at half-mast until further notice.

Tributes continue to pour in on Twitter as well.

Van attack suspect to appear in court Tuesday morning

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 24th, 2018


Alek Minassian, the 25-year old suspect arrested after a van plowed into pedestrians Monday in the Yonge and Finch area will appear in court on Tuesday morning.

Toronto police say information about the charges he is facing will be revealed during the court appearance.

Late Monday night, York police taped off a portion of Elmsley Drive near 16th Ave and Bayview Ave in Richmond Hill, the street where Minassian reportedly lives.


A motive for the horrific attack is not yet clear.

‘Kill me’: suspect confronts police after van attack

Dilshad Burman | posted Tuesday, Apr 24th, 2018


Ten people are dead and 15 others injured following a horrific incident where a man allegedly deliberately mowed down pedestrians on a stretch of Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues on Monday afternoon.

He was apprehended by a single police officer near Sheppard Avenue.

A tow truck driver identified only as Mike witnessed the arrest while his truck was broken down in the intersection.

Mike says the suspect van was driving down the sidewalk and a police cruiser approached from the opposite direction. The police cruiser then did a U-turn and began driving “side by side” with the van.

Mike says the vehicles came to a stop and the officer was first to exit his vehicle with his gun drawn. The suspect then flung open the van door and began pointing a black object at the officer.

Mike says he heard the officer repeatedly tell the suspect to “drop it” to which the suspect responded “kill me”. A short time later the suspect dropped the object he was holding and lay down on the sidewalk. The officer then put the suspect in handcuffs and he was arrested.

Police say the suspect’s motives are unknown at this time.


Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to son, her 3rd child

Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Apr 23rd, 2018

epa06182569 (FILE) - Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2-R) walk with their children Prince George (2-L) and Princess Charlotte during a farewell ceremony at the airport after visiting the Airbus Factory in Hamburg, Germany, 21 July 2017 (reissude 04 September 2017). The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting third child, according to a statement of the Kensington Palace on 04 September 2017.  EPA/CARSTEN KOALL

Kensington Palace says the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to her third child, a boy weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces (3.8 kilograms).

The palace says the child was born at 11:01 a.m., a few hours after Kate was admitted to London’s St. Mary’s Hospital in labour.

Prince William was present for the birth of his son, who is fifth in line to the throne.

The palace says “the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news.”

Ottawa launches online public consultation on plastic, marine waste

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 23rd, 2018

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna addresses a session on protecting the environment and growing the economy at the federal Liberal national convention in Halifax on Friday, April 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The federal environment minister says she’d like to see Canada move toward zero plastic waste _ and she wants to hear what Canadians think.

Speaking from the seaside community of Eastern Passage, N.S., Catherine McKenna announced Sunday that the federal government has launched a public online consultation to help pinpoint ways for the country to eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter.

“We want to hear from Canadians about how we tackle pollution and waste,” she said, flanked by Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin and Nova Scotian MPs Darrell Samson and Andy Fillmore.

“It’s not just cleaning up after the fact: it’s actually being thoughtful about how we reduce, how we recycle, how we compost.”

The announcement was made shortly before dozens of volunteers flocked to McNabs Island in the Halifax Harbour and McCormacks Beach in Eastern Passage to pick up litter as part of an Earth Day shoreline cleanup event.

According to the federal government, more than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste is clogging the oceans worldwide. It’s estimated that plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.

McKenna said much of the waste ending up in the country’s waterways is from single-use plastics, such as shopping bags and disposable drink bottles.

“I hear from Canadians every single day saying they want to figure out how we can reduce marine litter, how we can reduce single-use products, how we can take a more life-cycle approach,” she said.

“That’s why I get up every day and I’m so motivated. I look at my three kids, and I think about what kind of future I want for them,” she said.

Monique Breau showed up Sunday morning with her 5-year-old son Jonas to help clean up litter at McCormacks Beach.

She said it’s never too early to teach children about the importance of protecting the environment.

“I want him to be able to eat fish when he’s an adult,” said Breau. “I want him to be able to play on a beach and not worry about plastic waste everywhere.”

Jonas, who was armed with a trash grabber nearly as tall as he was, seemed to already have a good idea about how plastic recycling works.

“We throw it in the plastic bin and we make it (into) new stuff,” he said.

The event was organized by Nova Scotia-based environmental charity Ecology Action Centre, in partnership with Friends of McNabs Island, Oceans North, and Ocean Conservancy.

Heather Grant, the centre’s marine communications coordinator, said the event presented an opportunity for Nova Scotians to learn what they can be doing better to protect the environment.

“As a coastal province, Nova Scotia obviously has a huge stake in the health of the marine environment,” said Grant. “So having people come to clean up the beaches is a great way to get local people engaged and invested in the health of the oceans that the province depends on.”

Louie Porta, vice-president of operations and projects for Oceans North, said garbage in the ocean can literally work its way up the food chain as bigger marine animals eat smaller ones that may have eaten plastic.

It can also contaminate the water and create health risks for people.

“The environment doesn’t know how to process plastic and waste. All of the waste going into the ocean isn’t coming back out,” said Porta. “We need to stem the tide of the waste going into the ocean.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Porta estimated roughly 60 garbage bags were removed from the beaches.

He said all sorts of items were found, including some that couldn’t even fit in the garbage bags: “A table, tires, twisted steel ropes, and all sorts of things in between.”

Porta hopes McKenna’s announcement will give Canadians a chance to provide their solutions about what kind of leadership they want to see when it comes to marine plastics.

Canadians can take part in the online consultation through the government of Canada’s website.

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