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Ford prepared to ask surgeons to start working weekends to clear backlog

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 11th, 2020

Ontario’s surgeons may be asked to start working weekends in order to clear a major backlog of procedures delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the premier said Thursday as he pledged funding to help tackle the issue.

Doug Ford’s comments came nine days after modelling research painted a stark picture of surgery wait times across the province.

The data, published earlier this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggested more than 148,000 procedures were postponed between mid-March, when elective operations were cancelled due to the lockdown, and May, when those restrictions eased. Researchers estimated the backlog would take at least a year and a half to clear.

Ford pegged the backlog at more than 180,000 on Thursday as he said government officials are working on solutions to address the issue.

“We’re working with our minister of health and our health table to see if we can open up a lot of these surgery rooms,” Ford said at a news conference. “We have funding to ask the docs … and the hospitals to open up surgeries, start working Saturdays and Sundays to get rid of the backlog.”

The proposal came as news to Dr. David Willliams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, who declined to comment on the idea but said the health command table co-ordinating much of the province’s pandemic response is discussing ways to address the backlog.

Ministry of Health spokesman Travis Kann said a “fall preparedness plan” that’s currently in development will contain unspecified measures to address the surgery waitlist, adding details would be released in the coming weeks.

The modelling research, published Sept. 1, did not account for additional physician hours in its projections. But the data suggested the wait list could be eliminated in 84 weeks if practitioners hit a target of 717 procedures per week.

Its authors said the data could play an important role in health planning moving forward.

“The magnitude of the surgical backlog from COVID-19 raises important implications for planning for the recovery phase and for possible second waves of the pandemic in Ontario,” study co-author Dr. Jonathan Irish, a surgeon at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, said when the research was published.

The researchers argued health systems “cannot go back to business as usual” if they want to manage the impact on patients, and must find innovative solutions to prepare for future waves of the novel coronavirus.

Ford did not indicate how much money the government has earmarked to cover the cost of additional surgeon hours or operating room time, simply saying “the funds are there.”

NDP health-care critic France Gelinas argued that finances, rather than working hours, will be the key to addressing the backlog.

She said doctors and other medical professionals already work weekends and other statutory holidays, calling the idea of asking them to put in additional time “disrespectful.”

The problem, she said, lies with underfunded hospitals that are unable to cover the cost of additional operating room time or provide enough patient beds.

Gelinas noted that while surgeons can bill the provincial health insurance program for their time, the rest of the operating room team is paid for by the hospital.

“It’s not very useful to disrespect surgeons by pretending they’re taking weekends off when they are not,” she said. “Fund our hospitals properly and they will open up more OR time, work on the backlog and make sure that we address the overcrowding in our hospitals.”

Trudeau agrees to virtual meeting devoted to federal health transfers to provinces

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 11th, 2020

His agreement during a conference call with premiers Thursday came one day after Quebec’s Francois Legault and Ontario’s Doug Ford issued a joint call for a significant increase in the funding Ottawa sends them to help cover mushrooming health care costs.

The federal government has already committed to transferring $19 billion to the provinces to help them cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including some $10 billion for health-related expenses.

But Legault and Ford pointed out that money is a one-time transfer and argued that what the provinces need is sustainable, long-term funding to cover the ballooning costs of new technologies, drugs and an aging population, as well as ongoing pandemic-related costs.

They did not put a price tag on their demand but said a significant increase to the annual transfer is needed.

The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care in the current fiscal year under an arrangement that sees the transfer increase by at least three per cent each year.

Legault argued that the federal contribution covers only 21 per cent of the cost of delivering universal health care, well down from the 50 per cent share originally agreed to decades ago.

Trudeau has been holding conference calls almost every week with provincial and territorial leaders since the pandemic shut down the country in mid-March.

While those calls — 18 of them as of Thursday — have covered a range of issues, he has now agreed to devote one meeting entirely to the health transfers issue. His office says no date has been set for that call but it is likely to take place before Sept. 23, when Trudeau’s government will issue a throne speech laying out its plan for economic recovery.

Trudeau is to join Ford on Friday for IAMGOLD’s ground-breaking ceremony for their Cote Gold Project in northern Ontario, about 130 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

During construction, the project, which involves international and local First Nations partners, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs, as well as 450 full-time jobs once completed.

Trudeau is expected to tout the project as a sign that the economy, flattened by COVID-19, is starting to get back on its feet

Parks closed, tickets for partying as Kingston deals with returning students

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

Massive crowds and parties in an eastern Ontario university town have drawn criticisms from local residents and formal calls for greater co-operation to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Police and city officials in Kingston, Ont., said they’ve had to close a popular pier and beach due to crowding and issue a number of tickets since thousands of students flooded back into the city earlier this month. Local residents said they’ve also taken to the streets to break up parties in recent days.

Jeff Masuda, a Queen’s University professor, spent the early morning hours of Sunday on the long weekend trying to get dozens of Queen’s students — his neighbours — to stop partying and to abide by COVID-19 laws.

It didn’t work.

The maskless group shouted, drank and tossed beer bottles while hanging out outside and ignoring physical distancing guidelines, he said. Some yelled at the two police officers who were called to the area to deal with them, he said, while others took off to continue the night elsewhere.

Masuda walked around his neighbourhood near campus and said there were parties everywhere, including an abandoned hospital site where the same officers had shown up to deal with more revellers.

It didn’t seem like police were doing much, he said.

“There were hundreds of students mixing together across the university district,” he said.

“So now we are left in a position to wait and hope for the best. If COVID came, it’s already spread.”

The region has gone largely unscathed by COVID-19. There is currently one active case of the disease and 112 cases in total since the novel coronavirus made it to Canada. No one has died from the disease.

Kingston has a large student population even during the pandemic. While Queen’s University has limited in-person learning to about 6,600 students, or a quarter of its total population, many students learning online have returned to the city.

That has left Masuda, a professor of kinesiology and health, frustrated with the city’s plan to deal with partying students.

“Whatever plan was put in place, it failed,” Masuda said.

“It was a massive breach of COVID guidelines in the community.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson said the city, the local public health agency, police and Queen’s are doing their best.

Hundreds of Queen’s students flocked to a nearby beach and Gord Downie Pier, which led the city to issue an order to enforce physical distancing through threat of fines, Paterson said.

But police told the mayor there were simply too many people to enforce distancing, so the mayor closed the area through an emergency order on the weekend.

The number of visitors to the area had significantly increased last week after students returned to the city.

“Any other year, that would be OK, we designed and built that area for crowds of people to enjoy, but during a pandemic it’s too much,” Paterson said.

Last month, the mayor vowed to crack down on the massive parties Queen’s students have become known for.

City council approved the use of “administrative monetary penalties” that include fines for shouting, amplified sound coming from speakers and parties.

Bylaw and police officers have been out using the new laws, largely in the university district, officials said.

Since Aug. 28, the city said it has issued 45 such penalties for amplified sound, two for yelling or shouting and one nuisance party charge.

Kingston police said they laid five such charges over the long weekend.

“We’re trying to be proactive to make sure we can curb anything before it lights up here in Kingston, that’s the last thing we want,” Const. Ash Gutheinz said of cases of COVID-19.

Queen’s, for its part, said it’s been sharing all public health protocols with students and was “deeply concerned” to hear of what Masuda witnessed.

“Queen’s takes the safety of our community very seriously,” the university said in a statement. “We want to assure the community that we will continue to impress upon our students the importance of adhering to public health guidelines during these challenging times.”

Masuda said the city and the school should have engaged residents to help.

“We’re willing to put in more effort to do our part as neighbours to help the students help themselves,” he said.

The mayor said he shares the frustration of residents such as Masuda.

“This is a big challenge, I understand that, and if community members are able to help or to reach out to student neighbours, I think that’s actually a great idea,” Paterson said.

Masuda said he has since spoken to his student neighbours.

“They have been contrite and apologetic,” he said.

“With hindsight, I think many of them regret what has happened.”

Ford says Ontario will publicly report school outbreaks

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

Premier Doug Ford promised Wednesday to publicly disclose COVID-19 infection rates in the province’s schools and allow municipalities to reimpose public health restrictions if needed.

The pledge for greater transparency comes as the province begins to reopen its schools over the next two weeks for the first time during the pandemic.

The official Opposition had called on the government to centralize the reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks on schools, and Ford acknowledged on Wednesday that parents should have that information.

“I think it’s so important we report every single case as we did with long-term care, we’ll do the same in school,” he said.

Premier Doug Ford promised Wednesday to publicly disclose COVID-19 infection rates in the province’s schools and allow municipalities to reimpose public health restrictions if needed.

The pledge for greater transparency comes as the province begins to reopen its schools over the next two weeks for the first time during the pandemic.

The official Opposition had called on the government to centralize the reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks on schools, and Ford acknowledged on Wednesday that parents should have that information.

“I think it’s so important we report every single case as we did with long-term care, we’ll do the same in school,” he said.

Ford’s school reopening plan has been criticized by boards, teachers’ unions and some parents for not doing enough to cut class sizes and allow for physical distancing.

The government has repeatedly defended the plan as safe, and stressed that it has been developed in consultation with medical experts.

Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa addressed some of the concerns expressed by parents on Wednesday, saying just because one child contracts the virus doesn’t mean it will lead to widespread infection.

“I truly wish I could say that there won’t be cases, that there won’t be any cases of COVID-19 in our schools. But we know there will be,” de Villa said.

“Everyone, everyone in our community must do their part to help limit the number of cases.”

Dr. de Villa says anyone who tests positive will have to be out of school for at least 14 days. Students will only be allowed back in class when Toronto Public Health deems it safe for them do so.

She says letters are going home to all parents and guardians explaining the protections in place across Toronto’s schools.

“Over the summer, my team worked with local schools to help them plan re-opening. These plans include things we learn from other places, with schools already back. We have examples to follow about what works, and what doesn’t.”

In recent days, cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in a number of schools in the province.

Ottawa’s French Catholic School Board said six people “associated” with five of its schools, which opened last Thursday, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, a school in Oakville said an employee had tested positive for the virus after participating in a staff PA day last week.

Gail McDonald said in a letter to parents that a staff member at Oodenawi Public School tested positive for COVID-19 just days before students returned to class. All staff who had close contact with the individual have been ordered by public health to self-isolate for 14 days.

The school was informed of the positive test on Monday, she added.

Under provincial guidelines, all schools are required to disclose COVID-19 cases to parents while protecting personal privacy.

Ford said he believes the province needs to disclose the numbers and the government is working on a plan to do that along with its regular COVID-19 data.

“I know they’re rolling this out over the next week or two,” he said.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the province must take ownership of the reporting rather than leaving disclosures to individual schools or boards.

“The Ford government tried to downplay and hide the growing tragedy in long-term care homes as the virus swept in,” she said in a statement. “We can’t let them make the same mistake with our children.”

Ford also said Thursday that if cities or regional governments want to impose additional restrictions, or close bars or banquet halls to limit the spread of COVID-19, he would support them.

He said they have the power to issue local public health orders, but action at the provincial level would be far too sweeping.

“You’re the mayors, make a decision,” he said. “We’ll support you. But to say that I’m going to close the whole province, it’s unacceptable. I wouldn’t close the whole province when … 16 regions don’t have one single case. It’s not fair to the rest of the province.”

Ford’s comments come after British Columbia ordered all nightclubs and banquet halls to close after COVID-19 cases began to rise in the province.

Earlier Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the province could stop bars from serving alcohol at midnight to help limit virus spread in those businesses.

City of Toronto staff said in July they do not have the authority to order establishments to close early and the province would have to issue the order.

When Ontario entered Stage 3 of reopening this summer, Tory and other mayors asked the province to impose restricted serving hours but the Ford government declined.

“We have to watch the numbers. They are going in the wrong direction,” Tory said Wednesday. (The new cases) are occurring in crowd scenes and crowd scenes occur at parties and weddings but they also include bars … and sometimes the only way to deal with that is to have them close earlier.”

TDSB delays start date for majority of secondary school students

Lucas Casaletto | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

The Toronto District School Board says it has postponed the back-to-school start date for most high school students to Thursday, September 17.

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Students attending Special Education Congregated Sites, as well as other support programs, will begin on Tuesday, September 15.

“Given the complexities of the staffing and timetable process, we have adjusted the start dates of secondary school, in-person and virtual,” the school board said in a statement.

The board says if there are further changes to start dates schools will contact families directly.

The Toronto District School Board says it is the largest in Canada serving 247,000 students in 583 schools.

Toronto District School Board trustee Shelley Laskin said on Twitter the health screening process has also changed leading up to the return to class.

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As for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, classes for all students are still expected to begin on Monday, September 14.

On to Game 7: Raptors survive Celtics in double OT thriller

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

The Toronto Raptors’ second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics has come down to just one game.

But after a thriller that took double overtime to decide, Friday’s do-or-die Game 7 might come down to which team has the most left in the tank.

Kyle Lowry poured in 33 points, including a key fadeaway jumper in the dying seconds, and the Raptors edged the Celtics 125-122 in double overtime on Wednesday to even up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at three games apiece.

Friday’s winner will meet the Miami Heat in the conference finals.

Norman Powell had 23 points off the bench for the Raptors and was outstanding in overtime. Fred VanVleet added 21 points in Toronto’s most balanced attack of the series. OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka, who’d been questionable after spraining his ankle in Game 5, each finished with 13 points, while Pascal Siakam chipped in with 12.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points, while Jayson Tatum added 29.

The Raptors’ cold shooting down the stretch of regulation forced overtime with a 98-98 score.

Walker and Norman Powell traded three-pointers in the nail biting first extra period. A pair of Powell free throws gave Toronto a two-point cushion before Brown had two free throws to even the score at 106-106 with 18.9 seconds on the clock. Powell missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, forcing a second overtime.

Dunks by Tatum and Daniel Theis had Boston up by four when Lowry muscled to the basket to slice the difference to two. A crazy sequence that started with a Lowry steal finished with a pair of Powell free throws to even it up with 2:33 to play.

Anunoby connected from three, then Powell had a steal and a running layup to give Toronto four points of breathing room with 38.8 seconds left. Tatum scored, but Lowry replied with a spectacular fadeaway with 11.7 seconds on the clock. Tatum drilled a three, but Powell’s free throws with five seconds left secured the victory.

The Raptors trailed by more than 12 points in the first half, but their offence finally started rolling in the third quarter sparked by Gasol. The Spanish big man, who’d shaved his shaggy hair before the game, blocked Tatum, then knocked down consecutive three-pointers – his first points from behind the arc in the series.

VanVleet’s personal 9-0 run – three free throws after a Flagrant 1 foul against Marcus Smart, then consecutive three-pointers – gave the Raptors their first lead since the 1-0 to start the game. Toronto would lead by as many as eight before taking a 81-77 edge into the fourth quarter.

Boston regained the lead after Tatum made a three with 8:22 to play, but Lowry replied with two buckets from long range and Toronto was back up by five.

The Raptors didn’t score over the final 4:24 of regulation, and Theis scored on a layup and dunk to tie the game at 98-98 with two minutes to go. The Raptors’ defence held strong over the final two minutes, and Anunoby hauled down a huge defensive rebound with 2.6 seconds left. Siakam’s miss at the buzzer sent the game to OT.

Gasol’s emergence – finally – was a great sign for Toronto. He and Siakam had struggled since the NBA’s restart after the four-month COVID-19 layoff. His frustration was painfully clear early on Wednesday when he missed an easy lay-in early. He hollered at himself in anger and tugged hard on his jersey. Subbed off for Ibaka just seven minutes in, he then left the bench area to gather himself.

Boston took Games 1 and 2 of the series, and the Raptors battled back to take the next two sparked by Anunoby’s astonishing buzzer-beater with 0.5 seconds to play in Game 3.

But the Celtics regained the momentum with a dominant Game 5 victory, pouncing on a Raptors team in one of Toronto’s worst games of the season.

A fast start had been key to every game between these two teams this season.

“I’ll be honest with you, I can’t believe how important the first eight to 10 minutes seem,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before tipoff. “I almost can’t even fathom it. I’m trying to not put it all on that, I think there’s so much more game to play, right? But you look at the four times we’ve lost to these guys (since the restart), it’s looked identical. It’s 25 to 10 or 35 to 18 or whatever at the end of one for whatever. . . a million reasons.”

The Raptors came out with that urgency Nurse wanted on Wednesday. But their three-point shooting woes continued. They went just 2-for-9 from distance in the first quarter. Boston’s shooting wasn’t much better though, and the Celtics led just 25-21 to start the second.

Boston stretched their lead to 12 in the second, but Ibaka connected on three consecutive three-pointers to pull the Raptors back to within five. The Celtics led 52-48 at halftime.

2020 GTA Staggered Return To School Schedule

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

With this year’s back to school schedule looking a little different, we’ve broken down which school boards across the GTA are resuming classes on each day over the next week and a half, by age group:

Thursday, September 10th

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Kindergarten to Grade 8: Students with last names H-O

Secondary: Morning Orientation

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

FDK to Grade 8: Students with last names G-N

Secondary: Grades 10, 11 & 12 Cohort A

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 2 students

Elementary: Grades 1 – 8, divided alphabetically by last name

Grade 9: Cohort A

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 1-3

Secondary:  Grade 9 cohort A

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Last names N-S

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Orientation Day for one-quarter of each class

 

Halton District School Board

Elementary: Optional Orientation, divided alphabetically

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 2

Elementary: Grades 1-8, last names G-N

Secondary: Grades 9-12 Cohort B

 

Friday, September 11th

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Kindergarten to Grade 8: Full day for students with last names P-Z

Secondary: Morning Orientation

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8: Students with last names O-Z

Secondary: Grades 10, 11, 12 Cohort B

 

York Region District School Board

Grade 9: Cohort B

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: JK/SK

Secondary:  Grade 9 cohort B

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names T-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Orientation Day for one-quarter of each class

 

Halton District School Board

Elementary: Optional Orientation, divided alphabetically

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1

Elementary: Grades 1-8, last names 0-Z

 

Monday, September 14th

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 9 students

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Full-day, last names A-K

Secondary: Full return to school

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8, last names A-L

Secondary: Grades 9-12 regular schedule based on cohorts

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 based on name

Secondary: Grades 9-12 Full schedule

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 7 & 8

Secondary:  Grade 9 -12 Cohort A

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names A-M

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Halton District School Board

First day of school for all students

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1

Elementary: Grades 1-8 all students

 

Tuesday, September 15th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: SK, Grade 5

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: SK, Grade 6

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: SK, Grades 4 & 8

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 6

Grade 7, 8 schools: Grade 7

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 9 students

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Full-day last names L-Z

Secondary: Full return to school

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8, students with last names M-Z

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 based on name

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 4 & 6

Secondary:  Grades 9 -12 Cohort B

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names N-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Halton District School Board

First day of school for all students

 

Wednesday, September 16th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 4

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 5

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 7

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 7

Grade 7, 8 schools: Grade 8

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 10, 11 & 12

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: All students Return

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8 all students return

 

York Region District School Board

All elementary students return

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names A-M

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Thursday, September 17th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: Grades 2 & 3

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: Grades 2, 3 & 4

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: Grades 2, 3, 5 & 6

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 8

Secondary: Full Return

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

York District School Board

All elementary students return

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names N-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Friday, September 18th

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 begin classes

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

Canadians reluctant to remove statues of historical figures now seen as racist: Poll

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

OTTAWA — A new survey suggests that while Canadians are divided over removing statues of politicians who harboured racist views or pushed racist policies, many oppose the “spontaneous” toppling of statues of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

The poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies follows the controversial tearing down and vandalism of a Macdonald statue in Montreal last month by activists angry over his anti-Indigenous views and policies.

Half of respondents said they oppose the idea of removing statues or monuments to politicians who espoused racist views or implemented racist policies while 31 per cent said they support such moves and 19 per cent did not know.

The divide was smaller when it came to streets, schools and other public institutions bearing the names of historic figures shown to have been racist, with 47 per cent against renaming them and 34 per cent in favour.

Yet 75 per cent of respondents to the poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies were against the Montreal-style “spontaneous” tearing down of Macdonald statues by activists while only 11 per cent said they were in favour.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the numbers suggests Canadians are more supportive of a deliberate process of dealing with such statues — and take a dim view of activists taking matters into their own hands.

The online survey of 1,529 Canadians took place Sept. 4 to 6. An internet poll cannot be given a margin of error because it is not a random sample.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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