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Canada  

Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

Backtracking police powers

Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in Ontario to stop any motorist or pedestrian and ask where they live and why they're not home prompted the provincial government on Saturday to reconsider the measures.

As the number of infected people in hospital reached record levels, Premier Doug Ford tweeted that the measures, which also included shutting down all outdoor recreational facilities and playgrounds, would be clarified.

"Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen," Ford said. "Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds, but gatherings outside will still be enforced."

Earlier, a government source speaking on background told The Canadian Press that a "clarification" of the police powers was pending final approval.

"We have heard a lot of feedback on this in the last 24 hours in terms of the scope and applicability," said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Civil libertarians, and pundits have attacked new anti-pandemic restrictions announced Friday by Ford as misguided.

The added police powers aimed at enforcing stay-at-home orders, they said, were overkill.

The closing of outdoor spaces puzzled many public health experts, who said the measures didn't make sense.

"Outdoor activities are vital for mental and physical health, especially with stay-at-home orders," Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who sits on the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said in a tweet.

"Science is clear: Outdoor COVID transmission is extremely rare."

The pandemic, meanwhile, continued unabated on Saturday. The number of patients in hospital due to the novel coronavirus rose above 2,000 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, with 726 in intensive care and 501 needing a ventilator, authorities reported

Health officials also recorded 34 more deaths related to the virus - the highest single-day count in almost two months , when 47 people were reported as dying from coronavirus disease.

The province logged 4,362 new cases on Saturday, down from Friday's record-setting number of 4,812. Globally, the pandemic has now killed more than three million people.

Politicians were among those denouncing the new police powers.

In a note to constituents, Jill Andrew, a New Democrat provincial legislator, said the measures show the Ford government is out of touch.

"Let’s be very real here: We are not going to police our way out of the pandemic," he said. "The reality here is that this will likely impact Black, Indigenous, and people of colour."

"I am very concerned about arbitrary stops of people by police at any time," Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a tweet.

While violating restrictions can carry a $750 fine, failure to provide police with requested information can result in criminal charges, according to the province's association of police chiefs.

Large and small police forces across the province, however, said they had no intention of exercising their new-found powers.

"I would like to reassure our citizens that our officers will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said in a statement on Saturday.

Andrew Fletcher, chief of the South Simcoe Police Service, said officers would only act on complaints. Police forces from Thunder Bay to Ottawa to Toronto and Woodstock expressed similar positions.

Civil rights groups, however, took little comfort.

“Ontario is one step closer to becoming a police state,” said Joanna Baron, executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation.

“Low income and minority communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic in terms of cases and mortality, and they are now more likely to bear the brunt of police enforcement.”

The new restrictions, including a two-week extension to the province's stay-at-home order until May 20, were announced amid dire warnings from government scientific advisers that the pandemic was only set to worsen.

Other measures include further restrictions on outdoor gatherings and indoor religious services, while recreational facilities such as sports fields and playgrounds are now closed. Ontario intends to shut its borders with Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel effective Monday.

Ford said Friday the province was "on its heels" and the measures were urgently needed to bring the province's raging COVID-19 situation under control.

But experts said Ford had missed the mark on key drivers of the pandemic, including a lack of paid sick leave for essential workers and dearth of evidence playgrounds have been a transmission source.

“Doug Ford’s handling of this pandemic has been an abject failure and absolute disaster," said Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, a father of two young children, welcomed the change of heart on playgrounds, saying "common sense wins."

"Now let’s have a discussion on other outdoor amenities as well," Brown said.



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Alberta confirms Canada's second blood clot after AstraZeneca vaccine

2nd blood clot after vaccine

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

Alberta has confirmed the country's second rare blood clot case in a patient who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the province's chief medical health officer announced Saturday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the male patient, who is in his 60s and recovering, marks the second Canadian case of the blood clot disorder known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT.

The diagnosis does not change the province's risk assessment of the vaccine, she said.

"I continue to recommend AstraZeneca for anyone who is 55 and older, and to recommend that all Albertans get vaccinated as soon as they are able," she said in a statement.

"It is the best way to protect your health and the health of those around you."

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered across Canada to date.

The global frequency of VITT has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses. In a stark comparison, Albertans 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a one in 200 chance of dying from that infection, Hinshaw said.

A Quebec woman was the first in Canada to develop a blood clot after being vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

The woman received the vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India, known as Covishield, and was recovering at home, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Tuesday.

"While every adverse reaction is unfortunate, it is important to remember that these blood clots are extremely rare and that this vaccine helps prevent the much higher risks that come from COVID-19 infection," Hinshaw said.

Other pandemic concerns simmered to the surface in Ontario on Saturday, a day after the premier announced anti-pandemic powers that allow police to stop any motorist or pedestrian and ask where they live and why they're not home.

The strict new measures drew furious criticism as the number of infected people in hospital reached record levels. Politicians and civil libertarians attacked the anti-pandemic restrictions as misguided, describing the beefed-up police powers aimed at enforcing stay-at-home orders as overkill.

"I am very concerned about arbitrary stops of people by police at any time," Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a Saturday tweet.

While violating restrictions can carry a $750 fine, failure to provide police with requested information can result in criminal charges, according to the province's association of police chiefs.

Big and small police forces across the province, however, said they had no intention of exercising their new-found powers.

"I would like to reassure our citizens that our officers will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said on Saturday.

Police forces in Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Halton Region also declared their intention to avoid random stops. Andrew Fletcher, chief of the South Simcoe Police Service, said officers would only act on complaints.

Civil rights groups, however, took little comfort in such statements.

“Ontario is one step closer to becoming a police state,” said Joanna Baron, executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation.

“Low income and minority communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic in terms of cases and mortality, and they are now more likely to bear the brunt of police enforcement.”

More than 2,000 patients were in Ontario's hospitals due to the novel coronavirus for the first time since the onset of the year-long pandemic. Of the 2,065 patients receiving treatment, the province said 726 were in intensive care and 501 were on a ventilator.

Ontario logged 4,362 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, down from the single-day peak of 4,812 recorded a day earlier.

Quebec also reported its highest number of hospitalizations and intensive care cases due to COVID-19 since the second wave.

Over the past 24 hours the province recorded 692 hospitalizations, 175 of which were in ICUs, health officials said.

The figures mark the highest number of hospitalizations since Feb. 19 and the highest number of ICU cases since Feb. 3.

The province's case count climbed by 1,537 on Saturday.

Elsewhere, officials inNunavut reported six new cases of COVID-19, all in the capital city of Iqaluit.

New Brunswick reported 11 new new infections, while Nova Scotia logged eight.

Manitoba reported 183 new COVID-19 case.


ORIGINAL: 9:40 a.m.

Alberta's chief medical officer says the province has confirmed a rare blood clot case in a patient who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the male patient, who is in his 60s and recovering, marks the second Canadian case of the blood clot disorder known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT.

More than 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered across Canada to date.

Hinshaw says the second case does not change the province's risk assessment, and she continues to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for anyone 55 and older.

She says the global frequency of VITT has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine.

In a stark comparison, she says Albertans 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a one in 200 chance of dying from that infection.

More coming.



Ontario reports 4,362 new COVID-19 cases, record number of patients in hospital

New powers draw criticism

UPDATE: 9:15 a.m.

New anti-pandemic powers that allow police in Ontario to stop any motorist or pedestrian and ask where they live and why they're not home drew furious criticism on Saturday as the number of infected people in hospital reached record levels.

More than 2,000 patients were in the province's hospitals due to the novel coronavirus for the first time since the onset of the year-long pandemic, with 726 in intensive care and 501 needing a ventilator, authorities reported

Health officials also recorded 34 more deaths related to the virus, the highest single-day count since Feb. 19, when 47 people were reported as dying from coronavirus disease.

The province logged 4,362 new cases on Saturday, down from Friday's record-setting number of 4,812.

Amid the grim tally, politicians, civil libertarians, and pundits attacked new anti-pandemic restrictions announced Friday by Premier Doug Ford as misguided.

The added police powers aimed at enforcing stay-at-home orders, they said, were overkill.

"I am very concerned about arbitrary stops of people by police at any time," Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a Saturday tweet.

In a note to constituents, Jill Andrew, a provincial New Democrat politician in Toronto, said the measures show just how out of touch the Ford government is.

"Let’s be very real here: We are not going to police our way out of the pandemic," Andrews said. "The reality here is that this will likely impact Black, Indigenous, and people of colour."

While violating restrictions can carry a $750 fine, failure to provide police with requested information can result in criminal charges, according to the province's association of police chiefs.

Big and small police forces across the province, however, said they had no intention of exercising their new-found powers.

"I would like to reassure our citizens that our officers will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said on Saturday.

Andrew Fletcher, chief of the South Simcoe Police Service, said officers would only act on complaints. Police forces in Thunder Bay and Ottawa also took similar positions.

Civil rights groups, however, took little comfort in such statements.

“Ontario is one step closer to becoming a police state,” said Joanna Baron, executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation.

“Low income and minority communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic in terms of cases and mortality, and they are now more likely to bear the brunt of police enforcement.”

The new restrictions, including a two-week extension to the province's stay-at-home order until May 20, were announced amid dire warnings from the government's scientific advisers that the pandemic was only set to worsen.

Other new measures include further restrictions on outdoor gatherings and indoor religious services, while recreational facilities such as sports fields, playgrounds and golf courses are now closed. Ontario intends to close the borders with neighbouring provinces Quebec and Manitoba effective Monday.

Ford said the province was "on its heels" and the new measures were urgently needed to bring the province's COVID-19 situation under control.

But experts said the Ford government had missed the mark on key drivers of the raging pandemic, including a lack of paid sick leave for essential workers.

“Doug Ford’s handling of this pandemic has been an abject failure and absolute disaster," said Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Randall Denley, a former Ontario Tory candidate based in Ottawa, called the moves an "odd mix of bluster, misdirection, overdue restrictions and authoritarian, punitive measures" that would simply anger people.

"This is a police-state tactic that has the potential to lose the voluntary public support that is the key to the provincial plan," Denley wrote in a National Post column.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, urged Ford to reconsider the expanded law enforcement powers.

“To give the police the right to stop and question citizens is akin to martial law," Thomas said. "If improperly applied or perceived as being used to target, it will be remembered in history as carding on steroids."


ORIGINAL: 8:20 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 4,362 new cases of COVID-19 today along with a record number of virus patients in provincial hospitals.

There are currently 2,065 people receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19, marking the first time that figure has topped the 2,000 mark since the onset of the pandemic.

Of those patients, 726 are in intensive care units and 501 need a ventilator.

The number of new infections is down from the single-day high of 4,812 recorded a day earlier.

Provincial health officials also reported 34 more deaths related to the pandemic today.

That's the highest single-day death count since Feb. 19, when 47 people died from the virus.

The high numbers come a day after Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus, while giving police new powers to enforce the measures.



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'Disgusted:' Miller reacts to security guard's actions toward Indigenous woman

'Disgusted' by viral video

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has expressed his disgust over a video showing a security guard in a physical altercation with an Indigenous woman who was accused of shoplifting from a grocery store.

The nine-minute video posted on social media Wednesday shows a man, who identifies himself as a security guard, kneeling on the woman as he tries to handcuff her in the Saskatoon store's parking lot.

The woman, saying she threw the receipt for her purchases in the garbage, struggles with the man and at one point punches him in the face.

Miller said Friday that he saw a brief clip of the altercation.

"Equally disgusted, as any other video of the same nature that seems to pop up far too often," Miller said when asked about the video. "I hope that the full force of the law will be applied in this situation after a proper and due investigation.

"I have very few words that others haven't expressed."

Saskatoon police said they received a shoplifting call at the grocery store about 4 p.m. They arrived to find a 30-year-old woman being detained by a loss prevention officer.

Police said the woman refused medical treatment. She was taken into custody and charged with theft under $5,000 and assault.

The security guard had minor injuries and was treated on scene by paramedics.

Police have not said whether they are looking into the guard's response, but confirmed they are investigating what happened.

The owner of the FreshCo store, who is Metis and the father of two daughters, posted on Facebook that he was shocked and horrified by the altercation. He said the store has ended its contract with the security company.



Ontario tightens restrictions, gives police new powers amid dire COVID predictions

Ontario tightens restrictions

Ontario is extending a stay-at-home order, limiting interprovincial travel and shutting outdoor recreational facilities while giving police new powers to enforce the restrictions amid an onslaught of COVID-19.

In stretching the current four-week stay-at-home order to six weeks, Premier Doug Ford said on Friday the province was on its heels and tougher measures were needed.

"We're losing the battle between the variants and vaccines," Ford said. "The reality is there are few options left."

Other measures include restricting outdoor gatherings to members of the same household — people who live alone can join another household — and closing recreational facilities such as sports fields, playgrounds and golf courses.

In addition, essential retailers will have to further lower capacity limits to 25 per cent, indoor religious services will be limited to 10 people, and non-essential construction will have to shut down.

To enforce the measures, police and bylaw officers will now be able to stop motorists and pedestrians to ask them where they live and why they're not at home.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the temporary enhancement of police powers was needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"This is a critical moment in Ontario's response to this deadly virus," Jones said.

The new police measures drew immediate condemnation from civil liberties activists. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called the announcement the "Black Friday of rights slashing."

Granting police the authority to stop and question anyone at random risks a "rash of racial profiling," the group warned.

"Random police stops during COVID are unconstitutional, presuming those outdoors or driving to be guilty," said Michael Bryant, head of the CCLA.

The group also said limiting interprovincial travel will hurt lower income individuals, prioritizing first-class fliers over drivers.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the measures appeared too weak to flatten the curve. She also expressed concern about the impact the restrictions, and the new enforcement powers, could have on "front-line essential heroes."

Starting Monday, checkpoints will be set up at the border with Quebec and Manitoba to prohibit non-essential entry. People crossing for work or transporting goods, among others, will be allowed in.

The new measures came just hours after Ontario's science advisers warned that the province's COVID-19 infections could soar past 15,000 cases per day by June without tougher restrictions.

The dire predictions came after the government pleaded with other provinces to send in nurses and health workers as its hospital system was pushed to the brink.

"Our progress is both frustrating and frightening," Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's science advisory panel, said in presenting the latest projections.

Ontario reported 4,812 new cases — another record — on Friday, up from Thursday's record of 4,736. It also reported 25 more deaths related to the virus.

The latest data from Critical Care Services Ontario showed 684 COVID-19 patients in adult intensive care units. That number had reached 701 by Friday.

Hospitals were "bursting at the seams" and care was already being compromised, Brown said as his group urged Ford to order everyone to stay home for six weeks, and ramp up vaccinations as the only way to gain some control of the pandemic.

Vaccines were not reaching high-risk people fast enough to stem the surge in hospital and ICU admissions, Brown said. People at lowest risk were still receiving more vaccines than those at highest risk, he said.

"That is a difference that needs to be closed," Brown said, noting the province would see "a very, very big return" in prevented cases if shots were allocated to high-risk communities.

According to the advisory group, 60 shots of a COVID-19 vaccine would prevent a single case under an age-based approach. By comparison, just 35 vaccines would prevent a single case if high-risk communities were targeted.

Ensuring workplaces were safe, supporting workers with sick leave and limiting mobility would make a provincial shutdown more effective, Brown said.

In a letter to all provinces and territories sent Friday morning, Ontario's Deputy Health Minister Helen Angus said the province was short thousands of nurses and asked whether they had any to spare. The pandemic, Angus said, had strained hospital capacity in southern Ontario, particularly intensive care.

Ontario was expected to be short 4,145 nurses in the hospital sector alone over the next four months, Angus said, while asking her counterparts for 620 health professionals, including nurses and respiratory therapists.

"We are projecting a need for this critical support for four months following the anticipated peak of the third wave," Angus wrote.

Alberta, however, declined, saying it was strapped itself, while the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia indicated they were unwilling to share vaccines but were open to giving medical assistance if they could.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged federal help as he acknowledged the dire COVID-19 situation in Ontario, particularly in Toronto.

The Canadian Red Cross was on standby for deployment of mobile vaccination teams in areas with highest need in Ontario, the prime minister said, but Ford's office said the offer was appreciated but ultimately of little use given the shortage of vaccines.

Ford took shots at the federal government over the vaccine supply and what he said were lax international border controls for the surge in coronavirus variants now plaguing Canada.

He urged limiting air travel, tightening the U.S. border and doing more on testing and quarantining new arrivals.



Doctors say lowering age cut-off for AstraZeneca vaccine makes sense as cases surge

Lower age range for AZ ?

Doctors say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered to Canadians in a wider age range as COVID-19 infections soar in many parts of the country.

Provinces limited eligibility for that vaccine to those 55 and older, after a small number of cases of an unusual and serious blood clotting condition appeared in younger people — mostly women — who had received a shot.

Dr. Daniel Gregson with the University of Calgary says the age limit can easily be dropped to as low as 35.

He says uncertainty has been planted in peoples' minds about getting AstraZeneca, but they do things that are riskier on a daily basis without a second thought.

Dr. Susy Hota with the University Health Network in Toronto says she'd also support dropping the age limit, so long as no other worrying side-effects arise and recipients are aware of the risk, however small.

She says given the surge in case counts and the impact it's having on Ontario hospitals, the vaccine should be used more.

Health Canada has deemed the vaccine safe, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

The National Committee on Immunization has not yet changed its recommendation that the shot only be offered to those 55 and up.

But the decision ultimately rests with provinces, and officials in Alberta and Quebec have both said they are discussing a change.



Canada secures 8m more Pfizer doses amid Moderna uncertainty

Securing more Pfizer doses

Canada is ramping up orders of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) amid ongoing delivery delays from Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Friday the country has ordered eight million additional doses from Pfizer on top of the doses already expected to arrive this spring and summer.

Four million additional doses will arrive in May, while two million more will come in June followed by another two million in July.

The additional doses come after Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand told the CBC earlier in the day Moderna will deliver 650,000 doses by the end of April rather than the 1.2 million doses that were due to arrive.

“As Moderna indicated this morning, it faces ongoing challenges with ramping up production to meet intense global demand due to labour shortages and other issues. As a result, our next shipment will be smaller than expected and we may see additional delays over the coming months as Moderna’s production capacity continues to increase,” she said following the prime minister’s announcement.

“We are going to press Moderna going forward to make sure that Canada’s voice is known and heard, and that we very much expect them to meet their quarterly delivery targets. We appreciate the difficulties that the company is experiencing. But again, from our government standpoint, we are still seeking to ensure that the quarterly deliveries are there.”

Anand also confirmed that the first 300,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) vaccine are due to arrive the week April 27 with deliveries arriving in the provinces and territories at the beginning of May.

U.S. federal agencies recommended suspending the use of the one-dose vaccine early Tuesday amid concerns over a small number of blood clots linked to the single-dose vaccine.

So far six possible cases out of 6.8 million doses administered have been reported.

The Americans’ pause comes weeks after similar concerns about a small number of blood clots arose over the competing AstraZeneca plc vaccine.

Canada is due to accept 4.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June.

And late last month Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under the age of 55.

Both AstraZeneca and J&J have been manufacturing traditional viral vector vaccines, while Pfizer and Moderna have been manufacturing the newer messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

Trudeau said the country would continue to follow information about the J&J vaccine as it emerges, while following recommendations from regulator Health Canada.



Ontario asks other provinces, territories to send nurses as COVID surges

Ontario pleads for nurses

Ontario is pleading with other provinces to send nurses and other health workers as it buckles under surging COVID-19 infections.

In a letter to all provinces and territories, the Ontario government notes it is short thousands of nurses.

The deputy minister of health, Helen Angus, also asks whether her counterparts have any resources to spare.

Her letter says the pandemic has strained hospital capacity, particularly intensive care.

Angus estimates Ontario will be short 4,145 nurses in the hospital sector alone over the next four months.

The letter asks for another 620 health professionals, including nurses and respiratory therapists.

"Specifically, the province would need assistance in southern Ontario, anticipated to be in the Greater Toronto Area and immediate surrounding areas," Angus writes. "We are projecting a need for this critical support for four months following the anticipated peak of the third wave."

More to come.



Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

1st pandemic budget looms

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday's budget, while dealing with a minority Parliament where the document's defeat would topple the government.

It has been more than two years — and two throne speeches — since the Liberals delivered a federal budget, having not done so last year due to what the government said was the economic uncertainty COVID-19 had created.

The Liberals have promised to lay out a plan to green the economy, create a national child-care system and help displaced workers improve their skills.

Provinces will be looking for more health-care cash, small businesses for an extension of emergency aid, and credit-rating agencies for certainty that historic deficits and debts will be tamed over time.

Elliot Hughes, a one-time adviser to former finance minister Bill Morneau, says how the government has fuelled expectations sets up quite the day in terms of policy and spending the budget will lay out.



PM Justin Trudeau provides update on federal response to COVID-19

LIVE: Trudeau's virus update

YouTube CPAC

UPDATE 9:08 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will deploy the Canadian Red Cross to help Ontario with their mobile vaccination teams, and send aid to hospitals and long-term care homes.


UPDATE 9:04 a.m.

The Prime Minister has announced Canada has reached a new deal to purchase 8-million additional Pfizer doses. They will be delivered in May, June and July on top of the originally scheduled doses.


UPDATE 8:58 a.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada's incoming vaccine supply from Moderna will be slashed in half through the rest of April.

Anand says in a statement that Moderna will ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million.

Moderna said the limited supply is due to a "slower than anticipated ramp up" of its production capacity.

Anand says the company also told Canada that one to two million doses of the 12.3 million scheduled for delivery in the second quarter may be delayed until the third quarter.

Anand adds the federal government will continue to press Moderna to fulfill its commitments.


ORIGINAL 8:44 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses the federal government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He is joined virtually by federal ministers Anita Anand (public services and procurement) and Dominic LeBlanc (intergovernmental affairs), as well as Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer.



Prince Philip remembered as calm presence during Queen's visits to the North

Prince a calm presence

There's a road in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, that stretches all the way around Williamson Lake, a small body of water in the centre of town.

But, unlike a lot of the roads in the community then, this one was smoothed over with fresh asphalt in 1994. It's still paved today.

Most people in town know the story of why Rankin's "ring road" was paved: a visit from the Queen and Prince Philip that year.

Manitok Thompson, who lived in Rankin Inlet at the time, said organizers knew the royal couple would take that road from the airport.

"They were going to drive down to the hotel and so (the road) had to be smooth," Thompson said.

Philip, the Queen's husband of 73 years, died last week at the age of 99. A royal ceremonial funeral is to be held Saturday at Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom.

The royal couple also visited Canada's North in 1970 and 2002.

Thompson said organizing their visit to Rankin Inlet in 1994 meant ensuring every detail was thought about ahead of time, right down to how many steps the Queen would take when she got out of the airplane.

"Every second, every minute had to be planned."

Thompson, who was a teacher back then, said Canadian officials swept through the town a week before the visit.

"I was teaching at the high school when two (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) guys came into my classroom with their Inspector Gadget outfits," she said.

And when the Queen's team asked for a car to drive the royal couple around town, Thompson volunteered her Jeep, but was told it was too tall for the petite monarch.

"I said, 'Look, I can just lie on the ground and she can just step on me."

Instead, a car was flown up on a charter plane. The vehicle was later auctioned off in the community.

When the Queen and the prince arrived, they were greeted by crowds of children. Thompson said she remembers people yelling out the Inuktitut name for Elizabeth.

"The little kids were yelling 'Hi Elisapee!' with their little hands waving at her."

Despite fond memories of the visit, Thompson noted the difficult relationship between the Crown and Inuit.

"They took over our land, which wasn't good for our country or our people," she said.

Thompson remembers Prince Philip as a peaceful man who stood at the Queen's side during her visits to the North.

"He was not overwhelming. It was like all the attention was on the Queen. He was just a constant person, right there with her.

"He was very gentle and calm."

Bill Belsey, also a teacher in Rankin Inlet at the time, photographed the royals in 1994.

"Prince Philip had quite a quick wit. But he would also notice children or elders who weren't in the Queen's view in the crowd and would bring them forward to meet her," Belsey said.

Belsey said his favourite photograph is one in which the Queen and prince, sitting next to each other, are wearing jackets made by a local seamstress. Their smiles beam out at the crowd.

"Their staff said it was one of the most natural smiles they've ever seen on the two of them. They just seemed so relaxed and completely at ease in the North."



Wilkinson urges opposition leaders to stop stalling net-zero carbon emissions bill

Stop stalling net-zero bill

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is urging opposition leaders to end stalling tactics on a bill that would require the federal government to set legally binding targets for reducing carbon emissions over the next 30 years.

In a letter this morning to opposition leaders, Wilkinson asks them to allow the opening round of debate on Bill C-12 to wrap up today so that it can be put to a vote and move on to a Commons committee for scrutiny and proposed amendments.

If debate does not end today, Wilkinson asks opposition leaders to consider supporting the government's use of what he calls "the parliamentary tools available" to force an end to second reading debate.

The letter comes one day after the minority Liberal government secured the support of the NDP to impose closure on the first round of debate on another stalled bill, one that would implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill C-12 was introduced last November and has had three days of debate at different times.

Despite the fact that all opposition parties profess to support the bill in principle, Wilkinson says "procedural manoeuvres" have repeatedly delayed it.

He does not point the finger specifically at the Conservatives, who are primarily responsible for the procedural machinations that have held up a host of government bills.

"If we all agree, let us move forward," Wilkinson writes in the letter, which includes an appended list of quotes from various opposition MPs supporting the bill in principle.

"Political leaders who support climate action should not stand idly by while it is delayed. This is not the time to procrastinate. We have a responsibility to all Canadians — and future generations of Canadians — to act now."

Both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have suggested the bill needs to be strengthened and Wilkinson goes out of his way to stress that he's open to any amendments they may propose to that effect.

"We are diligently reviewing your proposals," he says.

The push to move C-12 to committee comes one day after Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole unveiled his long-promised plan to combat climate change, which Wilkinson has dismissed as convoluted, inconsistent and ineffective.

O'Toole, who campaigned for his party's leadership with a promise to scrap what he calls the Liberals' carbon tax, is now proposing to levy his own price on carbon, the money from which would be put into personalized savings accounts which individuals could tap to make green purchases.

Allowing C-12 to proceed beyond the initial debate stage could be used by O'Toole to signal that he's serious about tackling climate change — something that was thrown into doubt at the Conservatives' convention last month when delegates rejected a resolution recognizing that climate change is real.

The bill would require the federal environment minister to set rolling, five-year targets for cutting carbon emissions starting in 2030 and ending in 2050, when the Liberal government has promised to achieve net-zero emissions.

It does not specify what those targets would be and would not require an actual number — or a plan to get there — until at least six months after it becomes law. The only penalty for failing to meet the targets would be a public admission of failure.

New Democrats and environmentalists have suggested the first target needs to be set in 2025, to reflect the fact that the next 10 year are critical for averting the worst consequences of climate change.



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