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Mandatory 14-day quarantines to apply to returning travellers

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Mar 26th, 2020

The federal government will start enforcing 14-day quarantines on travellers returning to Canada to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says “mandatory isolation” is needed to flatten the curve of the growth of the novel coronavirus in Canada.

The formal quarantines, which take effect at midnight tonight, come with the potential for fines or even arrests for people violating them.

“Canadians are great and people have been making real personal sacrifices,” Freeland told a news conference. “At the same time, all of us are going to be and feel safer with mandatory quarantines for anyone entering Canada.”

International travel – initially from China, then Iran and South Korea, then Europe and now the United States _ has continued to be a significant vector for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

And Canada’s border with the U.S., while closed to non-essential travel, is still open to trade and commerce, as well as travel for cross-border workers or students with visas.

Freeland says those essential workers who are permitted to cross the Canada-U.S. border will not be subject to the mandatory quarantine.

“We need to be really thoughtful about what we do there,” she said, citing the vital flow of goods and medical equipment and supplies that enter the country by truck from the U.S.

“We need to be thoughtful about how the people who provide those essential services, including cross-border trade, are treated.”

The World Health Organization has warned that the U.S. is becoming the new epicentre of the global pandemic as the spread of COVID-19 continues to accelerate, particularly in and around New York, which is urging recent visitors to self-isolate at home.

Ontario health officials reported Tuesday that nearly 20 per cent of its active cases were the result of travel in the U.S.

Asked about the possibility of more stringent screening measures at the border, Freeland called the situation “fluid and evolving” and said federal officials are monitoring the situation around the world “by the hour.”

“We are always reviewing additional measures, including measures at the border.”

However, the head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said police are on murky legal ground, even though dealing with a global pandemic can call for extraordinary measures.

“If it’s a measure of last resort and the police exercise their discretion in a way that puts public health first … then there is legal authorization to do this,” said Michael Bryant, the association’s executive director.

But Bryant said there are important constitutional issues to consider, and putting someone in jail is not necessarily the best approach.

“It’s not clear to me that a quarantine order for travel outside of a province is constitutional,” he said in an interview.

“Any travel order than restricts people’s travel from province to province, arguably, could run afoul of our constitutional rights to mobility. This may be an opportunity to test this particular Newfoundland law that clearly restricts mobility rights.”

Meanwhile, a woman was arrested in Newfoundland on Tuesday for violating public health emergency orders enacted by the provincial government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Const. James Cadigan says The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responded to complaints that a woman in Corner Brook had arrived in the province and was not self-isolating for 14 days.

He says officers spoke with her about the measures and later made an arrest due to non-compliance or orders issued under the province’s Public Health Protection and Promotion Act.

She was held in custody overnight to appear in provincial court this morning.

Individuals breaching the orders could be fined between $500 and $2,500 and could face jail sentences of up to six months.

In Quebec City, police arrested a woman last week who they say was infected with the virus and was walking outside after being ordered to stay indoors.

The arrest marked the first time Quebec City’s public health director issued an order to police under emergency powers granted after Premier Francois Legault declared a public health emergency March 14.

“When it became obvious we had to act, we acted,” Mathieu Boivin, spokesman for Quebec City’s regional health authority, said last week.

Legault has said the health emergency gives the police “all sorts of powers” to enforce his directives. Quebec also announced fines of at least $1,000 against anyone ignoring directives that prohibit gatherings.

Last Sunday, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency to deal with the pandemic and immediately enacted new restrictions and penalties under the province’s Health Protection Act.

People in Nova Scotia are prohibited from gathering in groups larger than five. Individuals caught violating the limit face a $1,000 fine, and businesses allowing large groups to gather face a $7,500 fine.

On Monday, Prince Edward Island and the City of Vancouver also introduced new penalties for anyone caught violating public health directives.

P.E.I. Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson said there would be a fine of $1,000 for a first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and $10,000 for any subsequent offences.

Vancouver city council voted unanimously to permit fines as high as $50,000 against businesses that don’t adhere to social distancing measures and up to $1,000 for individuals.

3 more deaths in Toronto related to COVID-19

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 26th, 2020

Three more people have died in Toronto, all related to COVID-19, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, said Wednesday.

The three people include an elderly man who had a pre-existing condition and two residents of Seven Oaks long-term care home. A total of four people have died in Toronto.

As of 1 p.m., Toronto had 319 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 39 over Tuesday. About 16 per cent of the cases were linked back to community spread and 22 people are in hospital.

Dr de Villa said the number of cases linked to community spread doesn’t surprise her and they had anticipated that would happen.

Toronto also order all city-owned playgrounds and park amenities to be closed Wednesday on the advice of Dr. de Villa.

Dr. de Villa says there is still time to slow the spread of this virus, but “our window is closing.”

She added they made the decision to close them now because their hope was people could still enjoy the parks in a manner that respects social distancing, but said, “unfortunately, it appears that wasn’t the case.”

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg also said enforcement has continued on non-essential businesses that have stayed open despite the order from the province to close. Of 38 reports they received, two notices were issued. Both were gyms.


TTC subway operator tests positive for coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 25th, 2020

The TTC says a subway operator has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green confirmed to CityNews that the operator’s test came back positive on Monday.

ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC workers, said the operator works at the Wilson division and has not been at work for over a week.

The operator felt unwell shortly after their shift began on Line 1 at 5:30 a.m. on March 16 and has not returned to duty since then.

A statement from the TTC said Toronto Public Health has assured them there is no increased risk to customers or other employees, but a small number of employees who had casual contact with the operator have been asked to self-monitor for symptoms.

Quake off Russia’s far east islands prompts tsunami warning

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 25th, 2020

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Russia’s far eastern Kuril Islands on Wednesday and a tsunami warning was issued for the closest shores.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck 219 kilometres south-southeast of Severo on the Kuril chain north of Japan. It was 56 kilometres (37 miles) deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves were possible within 1,000 kilometres of the quake’s epicenter.

It said earthquakes of this strength in the past have caused tsunamis far from the epicenter, and the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center was analyzing the event to determine the level of danger.

Trudeau urges colleges, universities for help with medical supplies

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 25th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging any post-secondary schools who may be able to provide assistance during the coronavirus outbreak to contact the federal government.

Trudeau made the plea on Twitter, telling every university, college, polytechnic and CEGEP in the country, “we need your expertise and your resources.”

He asked for masks and ventilators or if they may be able to help with things like 3D printing of medical supplies.

Anyone can submit a form which tells the government what they might be able to provide here.

The prime minister announced a plan last week that would provide support to manufacturers that want to retool their assembly lines to build ventilators, masks and other personal protective gear.

And it will also help those already producing the products to quickly scale up.

Ontario has also urged businesses who may be able to provide them with medical supplies or in the production of them to contact the province. They have established a dedicated website to help manufacturers communicate what they can provide called Ontario Together.

With files from The Canadian Press

Government gets unanimous consent to quickly pass legislation for COVID-19 help

JOAN BRYDEN , THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 25th, 2020

The government received unanimous consent to quickly pass emergency legislation to free up $82 billion to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.

After a day of tense negotiations, MPs began debating the bill in the wee hours of morning, with a vote planned within a couple of hours.

The motion sent to the Speaker stated the House would resolve itself into a committee for no more than an hour to consider the matter with members getting up to five minutes for a question, and will be adjourned until April 20 after the third reading.

Starting the week of March 30, the finance minister will give a biweekly report on all actions undertaken to the pandemic, and will be discussed on April 20.

The Standing Committee on Finance will begin a review of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act within six months of the day on which the it receives royal assent and will report its findings to the House no later than March 31, next year.

The motion also said that unless the Speaker received a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties it would remain adjourned until a future date.

Earlier on Tuesday, Conservatives raised objections to what they dubbed a Liberal “power grab,” which led to a late-night discussion and early hours of Wednesday.

An emergency sitting of the House of Commons was suspended moments after it began as Conservatives balked at provisions that would give the government sweeping powers to unilaterally spend, borrow and change taxation levels without Parliament’s approval for the next 21 months.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said early in the day that his party would support emergency efforts to get money to Canadians struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, but would oppose any attempts by the Liberal government to expand its power.

His warning came before a small group of 32 MPs gathered in the Commons to debate and vote on legislation to deliver $82 billion in financial aid and tax deferrals to individuals and businesses, as proposed last week by the government to deal with COVID-19 and its ensuing economic havoc.

They convened as scheduled. However, the sitting had only just begun when government House leader Pablo Rodriguez asked that it be suspended so that the government could continue negotiating details of the legislation with opposition parties.

“Canadians need support to get through this. Fast,” Rodriguez tweeted shortly after the sitting was suspended. He said talks were ongoing and he expected MPs to reconvene later Tuesday.

But almost six hours later, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet angrily denounced the delay. If the government can’t get the unanimous consent needed to pass the legislation in one day, as hoped, Blanchet called on the government to put the bill through the normal, lengthy legislative process necessary to get the money flowing as quickly as possible.

He guaranteed Bloc support to approve the legislation.

The Commons eventually returned briefly Tuesday evening to extend the day’s sitting. Negotiations with the Conservatives were to continue and it remained possible that the Commons could yet approve the legislation by the end of the day.

If it does get through the Commons, the plan was for the Senate to approve it Wednesday, followed immediately by royal assent.

At a morning news conference, Scheer said the Conservatives had no issue with the relief package promised by Trudeau last week. But they wouldn’t agree to give the government a blank cheque to spend and tax as it pleases for almost two years, as initially proposed in a draft of the bill shared with opposition parties on Monday.

“Any conversation about new government powers should not get in the way of passing this much-needed assistance,” he said. “Canadians are counting on us.”

Even as Scheer was speaking, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the legislation would be tabled “without clause 2,” suggesting the bill would not contain the offending elements.

At his own news conference outside his residence, where he remains in self-isolation after his wife contracted COVID-19, Trudeau said the government is trying to balance the need to act quickly to help Canadians with the need to remain accountable to Parliament.

“It is an exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and rapidity of response by governments to be able to help Canadians and react to a situation that we’ve seen is moving quickly every single day,” he said.

“So saying, we have a Parliament that works, we have an Opposition that is doing its job of making sure that we are taking the right steps the right way.”

Trudeau arrived late for his news conference because he was on the phone with opposition leaders.

He said the government was negotiating “up until the last minute” to find a way to give it the flexibility it needs to get the money into Canadians’ hands quickly while maintaining “our democratic institutions and the values that are so important to us all.”

Blanchet said the Bloc agrees the government needs some flexibility to quickly get financial relief to Canadians and businesses without having to recall Parliament each time — but that extraordinary power need not last longer than September.

Scheer, meanwhile, sidestepped questions about whether the Tories are prepared to vote against the emergency-aid bill if it’s not changed to their satisfaction. Defeat of the bill would be a vote of no confidence for the minority Liberal government and possibly trigger an election.

The bill only needs one party’s support to pass the Commons eventually but it needs the support of every MP present to be put through on the one-day schedule the Liberals want.

“Our hope is that (the government) will stay focused on providing to Canadians, not focused on a power grab. Not focused on giving themselves unprecedented new powers,” Scheer said.

The Conservative position on the bill was complicated by one of its own MPs, Scott Reid, who threatened on his website Tuesday to show up in the Commons, despite not being one of the designated 11 Tories who were supposed to be present, and deny the unanimous consent needed to expedite the bill’s passage.

He later amended his post to say he has no objection to same-day passage of the relief measures provided MPs have enough time to read and understand the bill.

Parliament adjourned on March 13 until at least April 20 as part of a countrywide effort to curb the spread of the virus. It was recalled Tuesday to deal with the emergency aid package but with only about one in every 10 MPs present in the Commons, seated at least two metres apart.

After agreeing to extend the sitting beyond 7 p.m., Scheer began to cross the aisle to speak privately with Rodriguez. The two men pulled up short and spoke to each other at a safe distance.

One in five Canadians think COVID-19 pandemic blown out of proportion: Poll

JOAN BRYDEN THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Mar 24th, 2020

OTTAWA — One in five Canadians weren’t taking the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seriously as recently as last weekend, a new poll suggests.

In a Leger poll conducted between Friday and Sunday, 16 per cent of respondents said the crisis was partly blown out of proportion and another four per cent believed it was blown way out of proportion.

As well, 16 per cent said the crisis was having no impact on them going out to stores, restaurants or other places; 17 per cent said it was having no impact on the social distance they’re keeping from others; and 21 per cent said it was having no impact on visits with friends and family.

Nine per cent said they were still planning to let their kids play outside with other children.

While the poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians were taking the crisis seriously and abiding by government advice to stay home as much as possible, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the 20 per cent who weren’t taking it seriously could jeopardize nationwide efforts to curb the rapid spread of the respiratory virus.

“That 20 per cent of people must go down if we want to collectively achieve the objectives of flattening out the curve,” Bourque said in a interview, referring to the goal of keeping the number of COVID-19 cases from overwhelming the health care system.

The poll, conducted for The Canadian Press, surveyed 1,508 adult Canadians randomly selected from its online panel. Leger’s internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.

Various provincial governments have begun threatening to impose hefty fines on individuals and businesses that flout orders to close or keep at least two-metres distance from other people. A number of premiers have expressed outrage over Canadians who congregated in parks and on beaches over the weekend while others held house parties or otherwise socialized in groups beyond their immediate family.

There have also been instances of individuals refusing to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad or not abiding by quarantines after testing positive for COVID-19.

Bourque said governments have little choice but to crack down when one-fifth of the population does not appear to be taking the crisis seriously.

The poll suggests that 18-34 year olds were most likely to think the crisis is overblown — 27 per cent compared to 14 per cent for those 55 years of age or more.

But on all other questions, Bourque said the poll found little difference among age groups, including on the level of fear people are feeling.

Forty-one per cent of respondents said they were somewhat afraid of personally contracting the virus; another 16 per cent said they were very afraid. Eighteen per cent said they currently have one or more of the commons symptoms of COVID-19: a cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing and/or a fever.

Forty-four per cent said they were somewhat afraid someone in their immediate family will contract the disease; another 26 per cent were very afraid.

Only four per cent said they personally know someone who’s been diagnosed with the disease.

Fifty-six per cent said the crisis was already having an impact on their work, 54 per cent said they were stocking up on food and supplies at home and 47 per cent said it’s had an impact on their ability to visit loved ones in hospital or long-term care homes.

As well, 48 per cent said the crisis had impacted their retirement savings or other investments, 38 per cent said it’s affected their income, 35 per cent their capacity to financially assist other family members, 27 per cent their ability to pay bills and 21 per cent their ability to meet mortgage payments or pay rent.

Sixteen per cent said they’d lost their job.

Despite the hard hits, respondents signalled a relatively high level of satisfaction with the way governments are responding to the crisis. Sixty-five per cent were very or somewhat satisfied with the federal government’s performance, 67 per cent with their municipal governments.

That rose to 79 per cent for provincial governments — fuelled by a whopping 94 per cent satisfaction rate in Quebec.

Fully 63 per cent of respondents said they expect the crisis to last a few months, 12 per cent said more than a year. But 23 per cent predicted it will last a few weeks and two per cent said just a few days.

For the coming week, 60 per cent said they planned to go grocery shopping, 19 per cent planned to get takeout food from a restaurant, 15 per cent planned to get food delivered, 14 per cent intended to go to a convenience store and 11 per cent to a liquor store — although some provinces have now ordered non-essential businesses to close.

Nine per cent said they planned to shop for groceries online, five per cent planned to visit friends and two per cent intended to patronize a restaurant or bar.

Kalen Schlatter guilty of first-degree murder in death of Tess Richey

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Mar 24th, 2020

Kalen Schlatter has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Tess Richey.

The jury began deliberating on Friday and had to weigh more than a month’s worth of Crown evidence before reaching its verdict on Monday evening.

When the verdict was read a woman cried out “Yes!” and others burst into tears.

Schlatter, 23, had pleaded not guilty to killing Richey, whose body was found in an outdoor stairwell in Toronto’s Gay Village.

Schlatter took the stand in his own defence, testifying that Richey was alive when he left her following a consensual sexual encounter in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2017.

Prosecutors, however, successfully argued that Schlatter was determined to have sex with Richey, who he had met hours earlier, and lured her into the alley where he forced himself on her and strangled her when she attempted to fight him off.

The jury heard that Schlatter’s semen was found on Richey’s pants and his saliva on the inside of her bra.

Jurors also viewed security footage that showed the pair walking into the alley together just before 4:15 a.m. with Schlatter leaving alone roughly 45 minutes later.

Richey was never seen alive again.

It’s not yet clear when Schlatter will be sentenced. The COVID-19 pandemic could push sentencing back until June, the judge said before calling a recess to discuss with lawyers.

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