N.L. and P.E.I. impose new travel restrictions, bursting the Atlantic bubble

Atlantic bubble bursts

Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador announced Monday they are temporarily pulling out of the Atlantic bubble as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick posted double-digit numbers of new cases.

"After careful consideration and consultation, I have made the tough decision to implement a circuit break," Premier Andrew Furey told reporters in St. John's, N.L. "Implementing this change for a two-week period is an effort to avoid a full lockdown."

In Charlottetown, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced what he said was a preventive move, "which we hope will allow us to maintain the level of almost ordinary life that we have been enjoying in this province." King said all non-essential travel to and from the Island would be suspended until Dec. 7., at which time the situation would be re-evaluated. The changes come into effect Tuesday. In Newfoundland and Labrador, as of Wednesday all visitors to the province from the Atlantic provinces will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, just like visitors from other parts of Canada.

The other two provinces in the region are maintaining their presence in the bubble for now. But both Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs urged residents to stay close to stay home.

"I join my fellow premiers in cautioning against all non-essential travel over the next two weeks outside of our respective provinces," Higgs told reporters in Fredericton. "Now is not the time to travel to other areas."

The four Atlantic provinces formed their so-called bubble in July to allow residents to travel freely within the region, while those visiting from outside were required to isolate for 14 days.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, pointed Monday to the ongoing outbreaks in New Brunswick and reported community spread in Nova Scotia when addressing how health officials would determine whether the bubble could be restored.

New Brunswick reported its seventh death and 15 new COVID-19 cases on Monday after reaching its highest daily number of cases Saturday, with 23 infections. There are now 89 active cases in the province.

Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, after the province flagged potential exposure at nearly 40 locationsin Halifax over the weekend. One of Monday's infections was first identified during a rapid-testing pilot program in downtown Halifax Saturday night.

Amid growing concerns of community spread, particularly among young people, stricter public health rules limiting gatherings came into effect in the Halifax region and neighbouring Hants County on Monday morning. Last week, someone tested positive in Newfoundland and Labrador after returning to the province from Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday — a woman in her 40s who travelled to the Island from outside of the Atlantic region. The province has recorded just 69 cases since the pandemic began, all travel-related. Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases Monday, both in the western region of the province. The first is a man between the ages of 20 and 39 who returned to the province after travelling to Manitoba. The second is the province's first case in a school, a girl who attends an elementary school in Deer Lake, where a cluster of connected cases was first identified last week. The province now has 23 active cases.

Rules were also tightened for Newfoundland and Labrador rotational workers Monday. Workers returning to the province from a job site now have to wait seven days to get a COVID-19 test rather than five. If the test is negative, they'll have limited freedoms, Fitzgerald said. They can visit family and public places, but they must wear a mask, even with family members, and continue to self-monitor for symptoms.


RCMP officer says he didn't give guidance on Meng's border exam

No request for codes: RCMP

The RCMP officer who took custody of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's electronic devices on the day of her arrest two years ago says foreign law enforcement never asked him to obtain the passcodes or search the devices.

Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal says American officials asked that Meng's devices be seized and stored in special bags to prevent remote erasure, which he says he considered a reasonable request.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018, nearly three hours after Canada Border Services Agency officials began questioning her as part of a border exam.

Dhaliwal testified during an evidence-gathering hearing today at B.C. Supreme Court that he never asked officers from border services to obtain the passcodes or ask any particular questions during Meng's immigration exam.

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges based on allegations related to American sanctions against Iran that both she and Chinese tech giant Huawei deny.

Her lawyers are collecting information they hope will support their allegation that Canadian officers improperly gathered evidence under the guise of a routine border exam.

RCMP boss responds to watchdog report about alleged spying on anti-oil protesters

Spying report to be public

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has responded to a long-delayed watchdog report on alleged surveillance of anti-oil protesters after a civil liberties group went to court to force her hand.

The submission of Lucki's comments on the interim report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP means the watchdog can now prepare a final report for public release.

Paul Champ, lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, received a letter Friday from Lucki confirming her response to the commission.

The association has accused the Mounties of sitting on the 2017 interim report for more than three years, prompting the group to recently ask the Federal Court to order Lucki to complete her input.

The association lodged a complaint in February 2014 with the complaints commission about the alleged surveillance.

It said the RCMP improperly collected and shared information about people and groups who peacefully opposed the planned Northern Gateway pipeline project and attended National Energy Board meetings.


The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Monday, Nov. 23

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Nov. 23, 2020:

There are 333,792 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 133,206 confirmed (including 6,842 deaths, 115,367 resolved)

_ Ontario: 105,501 confirmed (including 3,505 deaths, 88,992 resolved)

_ Alberta: 46,872 confirmed (including 471 deaths, 34,206 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 25,474 confirmed (including 331 deaths, 17,477 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 14,087 confirmed (including 236 deaths, 5,353 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 6,473 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 3,757 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,168 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,070 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 430 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 347 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 319 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 294 resolved)

_ Nunavut: 134 confirmed (including 2 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 68 confirmed (including 64 resolved)

_ Yukon: 32 confirmed (including 1 death, 22 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 10 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Total: 333,792 (0 presumptive, 333,792 confirmed including 11,494 deaths, 266,974 resolved)

Canadian Armed Forces to apologize to victims of sexual misconduct

Forces to formally apologize

The commander of the Canadian Armed Forces is preparing to formally apologize to victims of sexual misconduct.

The apology is part of a $900-million settlement agreement that the federal government reached with current and former military members, as well as civilian Defence Department employees, last year after a class-action lawsuit against the Forces.

Lawyer Jonathan Ptak, who represented the plaintiffs, says his clients are looking forward to the apology from the chief of the defence staff as well as the Defence Department's deputy minister as soon as is reasonable under the current circumstances with COVID-19.

Ptak says the apology is important for victims of military sexual abuse to heal and have their experiences acknowledged.

The Defence Department is declining to provide details on the apology, but vice-chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau recently told The Canadian Press that it is being planned alongside a week of training for military members on sexual misconduct.

It is not clear whether the apology will be delivered by the outgoing chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, or his still-to-be-named successor.

Longtime Conservative MP Peter Kent won't run again in key GTA riding

MP Kent won't run again

Longtime Conservative MP Peter Kent says he won't run again in the next federal election.

Kent captured the previously Liberal stronghold riding of Thornhill, in the Greater Toronto Area, for the Tories in 2008 and has held the seat ever since.

That's sure to make the race to replace him a contested one, and at least two people have already said they're in the running.

One is Melissa Lantsman, who has long been involved in Conservative politics, both as a senior staffer in Ottawa but also as a key part of Ontario Premier Doug Ford's election team.

Another is Progressive Conservative MPP Gila Martow, who has represented the Toronto riding in the Ontario legislature since 2014.

Kent is the latest Conservative incumbent who has chosen to bow out, along with party stalwart Diane Finley and deputy speaker Bruce Stanton.

Federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

Biz subsidy opens today

Businesses struggling to pay the bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to start applying today for a long-awaited new commercial rent-relief program offered by the federal government.

The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy replaces an earlier rent-support program for businesses introduced in the spring that saw little pickup because it relied on landlords to apply for help.

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest on a sliding scale based on revenue declines, with an extra 25 per cent available to the hardest-hit firms.

Federal cabinet ministers will highlight the program during a news conference this morning in which they will also open two initiatives designed to help businesses owned by Black Canadians.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents thousands of small companies across the country, is welcoming the new rent program as long overdue for firms hard hit by COVID-19.

However, it is criticizing the government for not opening it to businesses that would have qualified for the previous rent-relief program, but could not access federal funds because their landlords chose not to apply.

Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of 'decline'

Quebec French in peril?

Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal legislator's initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis.

Outside of Quebec, the angry debate may have seemed a tempête in a teapot, if it appeared on anglophones' radar at all.

But in la belle province and Ottawa, Montreal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos set off alarms when she asked the official languages commissioner in a House of Commons committee meeting last week — Friday the 13th — whether French was in peril.

“I have to see proof in order to believe that," Ms. Lambropoulos told Raymond Théberge at the official languages committee. "What exactly do you think contributes to this 'decline' of French in Quebec?" she asked, using air quotes around the word "decline."

The 30-year-old parliamentarian’s skepticism prompted a week's worth of censures from Bloc Québécois MPs as well as Conservative ones.

While Lambropoulos reversed her comments in a statement less than 24 hours afterward, calling them "insensitive" and acknowledging that French is in decline, the walk-back did little to satisfy opposition members.

"She probably said out loud what many of them do think," Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet told reporters, referring to the Liberal caucus.

“The next time Justin Trudeau claims to defend the French language, remember the questions he asks his Quebec MPs to pose at the official languages committee," Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said on Twitter.

Adding fuel to the inferno were reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, that referred to the province's 43-year-old language law, in English, as "oppressive" and "ruinous."

She too recanted with a tweet — this time in French — that stressed the importance of Quebec's French-language charter, commonly known as Bill 101, and the downward trajectory of the language.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to douse the blaze in the House on Wednesday

“We recognize that, in order for Canada to be bilingual, Quebec must first and foremost be francophone. That is why we support Bill 101 in what it does for Quebec," he said, backing legislation his prime-minister father vociferously opposed.

On Thursday, Lambropoulos extended her "deepest apologies" to all those offended, and offered to step down from the official languages committee. But the temperature remains high in the House, which will now debate the state of French in on Wednesday.

COVID-19 cases keep surging in Canada as four provinces report new one-day highs

COVID cases keep surging

Four provinces reported new highs for daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday as the virus continued its siege on some of the country's most vulnerable areas.

Health officials in New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta all reported new single-day peaks in diagnoses, recording 23, 1,588, 439 and 1,336 new cases respectively, as the nation's top doctor sounded the alarm yet again.

"More and larger outbreaks are occurring in long term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals, and spreading in Indigenous communities," Dr. Theresa Tam said in a written statement.

"These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies."

Among those areas is the fly-in community of Fond du Lac First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, which was reporting 63 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday -- 55 of them active.

About 1,000 people call the remote community home, and more than 300 of them have been told to self-isolate.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called the record 439 new cases in his province on Saturday "very concerning," adding the seven-day average for new daily cases is the highest it's ever been at 203.

Nunavut is also recording a surge in new COVID-19 cases, though it hasn't beat its single-day high.

The territory saw 25 new cases on Saturday, including 22 in hard-hit Arviat and three in Whale Cove.

There are 107 active infections in the territory, which just confirmed its first case a little more than two weeks ago.

People arriving in the Northwest Territories and Yukon are once again required to self-isolate for 14 days, while a provincewide public health order in B.C. has barred social gatherings of any size in private homes except between members of the same "core bubble."

Elsewhere, case counts rose in Atlantic Canada as Nova Scotia reported eight new cases on Saturday, pushing active infections to 33, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases for a total of 18 active infections there.

There are now 8,012 active infections in Manitoba, including 385 new cases, and 10 more people have died. The province has for weeks recorded the highest per-capita rate of new infections in Canada.

Premier Brian Pallister was put on the defensive on Saturday as he addressed Progressive Conservative party members at a convention, saying "every province west of Nova Scotia has its highest numbers in the last few days, including Manitoba."

"Trying to make the political argument that Manitoba's government missed the boat when everybody in the western world is under attack right now is not a fruitful thing — even if it was right, and it isn't," he said.

Quebec has reported 1,189 new cases and 32 more deaths, five of which occurred within the last day, while 646 people are in hospital.

Alberta set a new single-day record for new infections for a third straight day with 1,336 cases detected on Saturday. Officials have said the high caseload has strained the health-care system and overwhelmed contact tracing efforts, as public health workers don't know where most of the 11,274 active infections in the province were contracted.

The surging numbers come a day after new federal modeling showed daily COVID-19 tallies could reach 20,000 nationwide if Canadians don't drastically limit their contacts in a bid to stop transmission.

Tam reported 52,739 active infections across the country, with an average of 71 deaths and 1,840 people treated in hospital every day between Nov.13 to 19.

The surge is "putting pressure on local healthcare resources and forcing hospitals to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in several areas," she said in a statement.

More provinces sign up for rent benefit as Liberals set up promised housing council

Provinces sign up for benefit

OTTAWA - Seven provinces have signed on to a federal rent assistance program created as part of the national housing strategy, newly released documents show.

So far, the Liberals have only announced deals with four provinces to deliver the Canada Housing Benefit to vulnerable renters, such as low-income families, Indigenous people, veterans and newcomers.

Money is already flowing to Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia but documents tabled in the House of Commons last week show three more unnamed provinces have signed up for cash.

The jointly funded federal-provincial housing benefit is tied to an individual, rather than a subsidized unit that someone could lose when they move to a different dwelling.

The government says the dollar amounts and the names of the three added provinces will eventually be revealed in official announcements that have been delayed because of the pandemic.

Sunday is National Housing Day. It also marks three years since the Liberals unveiled the decade-long housing strategy.

The Liberals have added more programs to the strategy over time, including a $1-billion, short-term initiative to help cities and housing providers buy properties and turn them quickly into affordable housing units.

Municipalities have said they plan to spend the money quickly to force the case for the government to top up the fund.

Similarly, Indigenous housing providers are pushing for the government to finally unveil a plan for First Nations, Métis and Inuit living in urban areas.

A House of Commons committee is studying the issue and should deliver a report by the end of the year, which could lay the foundation for a program to be unveiled in a 2021 spring budget.

"The federal government needs to implement a distinct housing strategy for Indigenous Peoples in urban and rural settings, and that Canadians are in favour of Indigenous Peoples themselves designing and overseeing such a strategy," said Robert Byers, chair of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association's Indigenous caucus, and CEO of Namerind Housing in Regina.

"It is time for the federal government to follow through and announce such a policy as soon as possible."

The Liberals are marking the anniversary of the housing strategy to unveil the members of a key body designed to help the government meet the plan's targets.

The national housing council will work in tandem with a federal advocate that will help root out systemic issues in the housing system. The government also announced Sunday it was launching a formal process to finally fill the role.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said in a statement that the council and advocate will help the government recognize the right to adequate housing, calling it a "remarkable step forward for housing" in the country.

Tim Richter, who will co-chair the housing council, said the group will provide a way for people who have experienced homelessness or lived in need of housing a way to participate in policy that impacts them and identify systemic gaps.

He pointed to higher COVID-19 rates in low-income and racialized communities that also live in substandard housing as an example.

The pandemic has exposed many of the issues facing the housing system, leaving too many Canadians at risk of COVID-19 for no other reason than they have poor housing, Richter said.

"The council, I think, can not only provide that policy support and give voice to those people who are experiencing housing need and homelessness in the country, but also light a fire under governments to move much more urgently to address Canada's housing crisis," said Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

PM joins G20 in promise

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20 richest nations on Sunday in a promise to work together to keep trade flowing, fight climate change and provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.

The promises are contained in a final communique issued by G20 leaders at the end of two days of largely closed-door virtual discussions ostensibly focused on co-ordinating an international response to the pandemic.

Despite the pledges, however, experts say the summit represented a missed opportunity for addressing the biggest issues facing the world today — in part because most of the commitments are not new.

The promises also do not come with any new money, including for vaccines in Africa and elsewhere, while the communique made no mention of human rights — despite the summit having been hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Trudeau did raise human rights with his counterparts throughout the virtual summit, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. He also pushed leaders on climate change, free trade and equal access to vaccines and other COVID-19 support for all people.

“Only together can we tackle the greatest challenges of today and tomorrow, and create a more resilient world that works for everyone,” Trudeau said in a statement after the meeting.

“The G20 virtual leaders’ summit was an opportunity to expand global efforts to fight COVID-19, restore economic growth, and combat climate change.”

Yet if the meeting was supposed to mark the start of a new era of international partnership, more than a decade after the group first came together in earnest to address the 2008 financial crisis, experts say it did anything but.

“Often with these events and communiques, you can point to five or six things on which there was some progress that was notable,” said retired Canadian diplomat Thomas Bernes, now a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion it's a missed opportunity for the world.”

Trudeau went into the G20 leaders’ summit looking for strong commitments on the provision of vaccines and other medical support to poor countries struggling with COVID-19. He also planned to push the fights against protectionism and climate change.

While Canada has committed $440 million to a global program designed to ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it is ready, observers had hoped that G20 countries would pony up another US$4.5 billion to address a funding shortfall.

That didn’t happen, said John Kirton, co-director of the University of Toronto’s G20 Research Group.

“The G20, which has spent, as they proudly declare, $15 trillion to counter COVID just this year, couldn't even agree to write down that they would come up with $4.5 billion to get those vaccines delivered around the world,” Kirton said.

A similar lack of details and concrete commitments was found when it came to many other issues, with leaders largely committing to a steady-as-she-goes approach to the pandemic as well as climate change, infrastructure spending and international trade.

That is despite Canada and many other countries now scrambling to respond to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, which is causing untold health and economic damage as well as triggering massive amounts of government spending.

Trudeau has framed that spending as an opportunity to address many of the inequities and root problems in the international economic system, including weaning the world off dirty energy and creating more sustainable infrastructure.

Such ideas were reflected in the communique, but without specifics or new timetables. Rather, it included numerous caveats giving countries plenty of wiggle room.

There was also no mention of restrictions on foreign companies bidding for infrastructure contracts. That is emerging as a source of concern for Canadian companies hoping to take advantage of such work in the U.S., in particular.

Kirton and Bernes attributed the lack of ambition and progress during the summit and in the communique to the fact the meeting was held virtually, which eliminated much of the energy, side conversations and spontaneity that typically mark such summits.

The fact it was held by Saudi Arabia, which is not accustomed to hosting such gatherings, and included what Bernes described as a “lame duck” U.S. president in Donald Trump, also contributed to the summit being what he called a “non-event.”

While Kirton described Trump’s participation, the arrival of Joe Biden as U.S. president next year and Italy taking over as president of the G20 as reason for optimism that the grouping is still relevant, Bernes said its failure on Sunday is a blow to global co-operation.

“The communique certainly identifies the challenges, but has made no substantive, significant progress in addressing COVID, climate change, the debt situation in many developing countries,” Bernes said.

“... It further erodes confidence in a multilateral system and makes the challenges therefore just much more difficult as we go forward.”

COVID-19 caution needed for holiday season: Dr. Tam

Limit Christmas gatherings

Canada's top public health officer says the best way to ensure a safe holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic is to limit gatherings and only go out for essentials.

Dr Theresa Tam is urging Canadians to be cautious amid what she describes as rapid epidemic growth across the country.

Her advice comes as Quebec and Ontario, the provinces with the most cases and deaths to date, recorded 1,154 and 1,534 new COVID-19 cases, respectively, over the past 24 hours.

Atlantic Canada is also experiencing a recent increase in cases, while numbers continue to soar in Nunavut.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, which reported three new cases today, Memorial University is postponing plans to bring some staff back to work next week and the small town of Deer Lake is asking residents to stay home and businesses to close.

Nunavut reported 18 new cases today, taking the territory's total to 128 with the bulk concentrated in the community of Arviat.

In Ontario, new lockdown measures are coming into effect in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region at midnight.

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