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Government of Canada COVID-19 measures delivering support for young people this fall



HALIFAX, NS, Sept. 15, 2020 /CNW/ – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on Canada’s youth, with many seeing their summer jobs, internships and graduation plans disappear. To help our country’s students and young people during this unprecedented time, the Government of Canada introduced a comprehensive emergency support package earlier this year. This includes the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), which has provided income support to over 700,000 post-secondary students and recent graduates across the country since its launch.

With the school year just getting started, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Member of Parliament for Halifax, Andy Fillmore, on behalf of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, visited the Young Women’s Christian Association of Halifax (YWCA Halifax) and announced an investment of $1 million for YWCA Halifax’s Launch Atlantic project under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS).

This YESS project will provide work, career, and personal development opportunities to 116 young women and female-identified or non-binary youth who are unemployed or underemployed and under-represented in the workforce. The project will also assist youth in the LGBTQ community, newcomers, those living in remote areas, and youth in low-income households. The hands-on skills they will gain are especially important in helping them gain economic independence amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parliamentary Secretary Fillmore also highlighted the Government of Canada’s fall support measures to help students through the upcoming school year. These include easing eligibility requirements for Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants to allow more post-secondary students to qualify and be eligible for greater amounts. Specifically, Canada Student Grants have been doubled for full-time students to up to $6,000 for this school year, and the cap on Canada Student Loans has been increased to $350 per week of study. These fall measures represent an investment of approximately $1.9 billion and are expected to expand the reach of the Canada Student Loans Program and benefit approximately 765,000 students.

These initiatives follow the Government of Canada’s recently introduced COVID-19 measures on supports for young Canadians and students affected by the pandemic, including:

  • Increased funding of up to $187.7 million to the YESS program to create 9,500 more work opportunities for young Canadians, particularly those facing barriers to employment. YESS projects managed by ESDC received up to $40 million for national projects that are providing flexible supports and targeted job opportunities for up to 4,700 youth aged 15-30, in the areas of social support services, transport, information technology, research and administration, and other placements that support community needs.
  • Additional funding of $61.7 million to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program to help expand the current work placement target from 70,000 to 80,000, creating 10,000 more placements for young people aged 15 to 30. To date, over 84,500 jobs have been approved, with thousands of opportunities currently available at
  • Increased funding of $266.1 million to the Student Work Placement (SWP) Program to support up to 40,000 work placements for post-secondary students in vital sectors such as healthcare.
  • A six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans (CSLP), effective until September 30, 2020, that is providing relief to over 1 million CSLP borrowers currently in repayment.

Taken together, these measures are not only helping to ensure students get the financial support they need now, but that they continue to have access to the tools and opportunities that will help them build successful careers in the future as we begin our economic recovery. 


“The economic challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a serious impact on underrepresented youth in Halifax who are eager to find good work and contribute to our community. We’re working with community organizations like YWCA Halifax to help these individuals gain the skills they need to build a career that will bring them support and stability through this difficult time and into the future.”

Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Member of Parliament for Halifax

“The uncertainty many young Canadians have felt over the past few months can be overwhelming. But in Canada, we look out for each other. We value education and hard work. The set of comprehensive measures we put in place over the last few months are helping students get through these difficult times, so they can build their career and the future they’ve been working for. We are steadfast in our commitment to build on the measures we have put in place to help students during the pandemic and will continue supporting them in the upcoming school year.”

– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

“Over the last few months, young people from coast to coast to coast have experienced unique challenges brought on by the pandemic. During these unprecedented times, they continue to inspire us through their leadership in their communities and across Canada. Our government will continue to do everything we can to support young people, especially as many of them return to their studies. The series of measures highlighted today will provide students and youth with the financial supports they need right now and for their futures.”

– The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

“Women have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19.  In March 2020, 70% of jobs lost were held by women.   With the support of the Government of Canada, YWCA Halifax is honoured to partner with YWCA Moncton and YWCA St. John’s to support the economic security of women in Atlantic Canada.  We have expanded our longstanding ESDC-funded Launch program and are ready to continue to support women for as long as it takes.” 

– Miia Suokonautio, Executive Director, Young Women’s Christian Association of Halifax

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada invested up to $39.64 million for more than 47 Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) projects across the Atlantic region to ensure that young people and students have access to supports and job experiences they need right now, and for their future careers.
  • With the recent COVID-19 investments of $187.7 million to the YESS program, the Government of Canada will be supporting an additional 9,500 YESS work opportunities for youth across Canada.
  • The YESS is a horizontal Government of Canada initiative delivered in collaboration with 11 federal departments and agencies.
  • In addition to the investment of $61.7 million made to the Canada Summer Jobs program, temporary flexibilities were announced to increase the wage subsidy, expand eligibility, create more job placements and offer to employers in 2020-21 opportunities created through to February 2021.
  • The Student Work Placement Program’s funding was increased by $266.1 million, other changes to the program include an increase of the wage subsidy to cover up to 75% of the cost of wages across all placements;
  • Despite the final eligibility period for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit being August 2 to 29 students are able to apply retroactively until September 30.
  • Over $2.8 billion was invested in the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which has provided to over 700,000 post-secondary students and recent graduates with $1,250 per month in financial relief this summer ($2,000 for students with disabilities and dependents).

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The Government of Canada’s recent COVID-19 measures for youth and students play an important role in supporting Canada’s economic recovery and future growth, providing young Canadians with the supports they need to stay in school and gain meaningful work experience for their long-term goals. That is why we are taking strong actions to ensure that young people and students continue to benefit from our programming. An additional breakdown on how Canada’s youth and students are already benefiting from these programs is featured below.

Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS)

The YESS is a horizontal Government of Canada initiative delivered in collaboration with 11 federal departments and agencies, including Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Through the YESS, the Government of Canada helps young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market. Nine of the 11 federal departments and agencies that deliver YESS programs are providing opportunities and supports, such as mentorship, access to computers, and access to mental health supports, all aimed at helping youth facing barriers to the labour market.

In the current COVID-19 context, projects delivered by ESDC’s YESS program will focus on sectors that need an extra hand right now, as well as on sectors that support the delivery of essential services across Canada.

Organization: Project Learning Tree Canada

Title: PLT Canada’s Green Jobs Initiative (COVID-funded)

Description: Provide green job opportunities for youth and underrepresented youth facing employment barriers to employment through skills development in the forest, conservation and parks sectors and to help foster interest and further education opportunities.

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories

Funding Amount: $7,787,000

Target Number of Participants: 1,200

Organization: Acuta

Title: [email protected]:  A COVID-relief program in support of student jobs and vulnerable youth

Description: Create a new for-credit internship program and a new for-credit leadership summit for Indigenous youth. Youth and underrepresented youth will be provided with valuable skills-building opportunities via remote learning as well as relevant and meaningful work experience via subsidized employment.

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories

Funding Amount: $5,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 600

Organization: Algonquin College

Title: COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative

Description: Algonquin College will provide a minimum of 200 Indigenous youth with training and development programs such as an accelerate Health Care Aide program and training in Pandemic Safety in the workplace (both integrated into a work skills series initiative).

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories

Funding Amount: $2,500,000

Target Number of Participants: 200

Organization: Canadian Mental Health Association

Title: At Work National Youth Service COVID Response

Description: Assist youth who are homeless and/or living with mental illness to learn soft skills and leadership training through a series of workshops. Work placements will help bolster these skills with case management operations.

Region: Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, New-Brunswick, Nova-Scotia, Prince-Edward-Island

Funding Amount: $702,591

Target Number of Participants: 90

Organization: YWCA Halifax

Title: Launch Atlantic

Description: Enable young women to move from poverty and/or income assistance to economic independence through individualized support, career and personal development, work experience, and mentorship opportunities. Youth will have the required support to develop the nine essential employment skills, as well as soft skills development through community workshops and certification training.

Region: Nova-Scotia, New-Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador

Funding Amount: $1,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 116

Organization: MaRs

Title: Essential Youth

Description: Essential Youth is a youth employment project that builds digital infrastructure and scales supports in the youth employment sector to rebuild youth’s access to those entry-level jobs that lead to increased opportunity. The project builds on workforce development best practice, and leverages Opportunity for All Youth’s network of service providers, growing digital toolkit, and coalition of employers to deploy intake, interview preparation, hiring, outcome tracking, and follow-up at scale for those employers ready to hire.

Region: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia

Funding Amount: $1,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 600

Organization: AIDE – Actions Interculturelles

Title: Mon avenir, j’y travaille

Description: AIDE will provide a minimum of 200 opportunities for youth to gain work experience through which they will learn and develop essential skills that will help them secure a brighter and more prosperous future. The work opportunities will average 16 weeks and will also include up to 10 additional mandatory skills development workshops. AIDE will also support employers in hiring and retaining a diversity of youth through their work experience and integration.

Region: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta

Funding Amount: $3,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 200

Organization: Trucking HR Canada

Title: Driving Youth to Careers in Trucking and Logistics

Description: Train and integrate young Canadians currently experiencing barriers to employment into meaningful, well-paying and stable employment opportunities in the trucking and logistics sector by connecting youth to employers and providing wage subsidies as required in order for participants to obtain the necessary pre-employment training and licensing.

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories

Funding Amount: $1,853,737

Target Number of Participants: 80

Organization: Electricity Human Resources Canada

Title: Discovering Potential

Description: Secure full-time employment and/or training for youth participants in Canada’s electricity industry in need of assistance to overcome employment barriers. EHRC and organizational partners will provide professional and soft skills training to youth participants based on existing programs developed by the organization itself, and will also facilitate further technical training for youth with the broader network of employer, union and post-secondary education institution partners.

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories
**Will attempt to reach across all of Canada, but due to the lower number of participants, this may not be possible.

Funding Amount: $1,048,145

Target Number of Participants: 50

Organization: Simon Fraser University (Pivot  2020)

Title: Pivot 2020

Description: Provide employment and skills building opportunities to young people affected by the COVID-19 crisis through the “Pivot 2020” program designed to enhance Canada’s economic and workforce recovery from the pandemic.

Region: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan

Funding Amount: $11,614,407

Target Number of Participants: 1,488

Organization: REEL Canada

Title: Reel Opportunities

Description: Provide information and introductory training to underrepresented youth about the Canadian film industry as a viable career path. These new positions will be in place to promote and facilitate the workshops and lend expertise to the creation of educational video content that will support the program and provide further information and training for participants. They will be drawn from the ranks of film industry professionals who are currently unemployed due to suspension of production during COVID-19.

Region: Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia

Funding Amount: $1,250,000

Target Number of Participants: 3,500

Organization: Colleges and Institutes Canada

Title: CICan ImpAct Internships

Description: Provide employment opportunities and skills-building supports to youth greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as financial and human resource supports to employers to increase community capacity and progress on Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals targets.

Region: All Canadian Provinces and Territories

Funding Amount: $1,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 100

Organization: NPower Canada

Title: Upskilling and Mentoring Vulnerable Youth for the Future of Work

Description: Provides coaching, wraparound supports and employment opportunities to low-income, diverse young Canadians enrolled in the NPower Canada Core Program and Advance Tech Upskilling Programs delivered in Toronto, Calgary and Halifax, and belonging to communities underrepresented in the technology sector, including women, racialized groups, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ youth, new Canadians and youth with disabilities.

Region: Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia

Funding Amount: $855,000

Target Number of Participants: 1,800

*Regional coverage is not definitive and could be adjusted depending on the size and availability of youth cohorts.

These projects are in addition to the approximately 114 national and regional projects from the 2019 call for proposals, which are now in place across Canada.

In addition, Quebec signed a contribution agreement through which the Government of Quebec will receive approximately $135 million over five years from ESDC’s YESS program for projects that exclusively benefit youth in the province of Quebec. A Call for Proposal was launched by the Government of Quebec to identify projects to be supported through this and other provincial investments to support youth skills and employment.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit
For post-secondary students and recent graduates who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or for Employment Insurance, but who are unable to find full-time employment or are unable to work due to COVID-19, the government has introduced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). This benefit provides income support to post-secondary students who experience financial hardship over the summer due to COVID-19. The CESB provides $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August 2020, plus an additional $750 for students with dependents and those with permanent disabilities.

To date, the Government of Canada has distributed over $2.8 billion in CESB payments to close to 700,000 post-secondary students. Of this amount, students with a disability and students with a dependant accounted for $631 million.   

Breakdown of CESB recipients by province/territory, as of August 26, 2020 (numbers are subject to change):

Alberta: 74,480
British Columbia: 82,300
Manitoba: 18,100
New Brunswick: 10,240
Newfoundland and Labrador: 10,000
Northwest Territories: 580
Nova Scotia: 15,770
Nunavut: 380
Ontario: 327,180
Prince Edward Island: 1,750
Quebec: 137,240
Saskatchewan: 18,160
Yukon: 380
Out of country: 750

Canada Summer Jobs 2020

The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program provides opportunities for all youth between the ages of 15 and 30 to develop and improve their skills within the not-for-profit, small business, and public sectors. The program is also responsive to national and local priorities to improve access to the labour market for youth.
In response to COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced temporary changes to the CSJ program in April 2020 to better support job creation for youth. These temporary changes include:

  • an increase to the wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100% of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee;
  • allowing employers to adapt their projects and job activities to support the delivery of essential services;
  • an extension to the end date for employment to February 28, 2021; and
  • allowing employers to hire youth on a part-time basis.

The list of employers approved for funding are available on the Canada Summer Jobs 2020: Employers that have been approved for funding web page. 

Breakdown of approved CSJ jobs by region, as of August 14, 2020 (numbers are subject to change):

Alberta: 8,910
British Columbia: 8,295
Manitoba: 3,215
New Brunswick: 2,925
Newfoundland and Labrador: 2,985
Northwest Territories: 138
Nova Scotia: 3,100
Nunavut: 71
Ontario: 34,267
Prince Edward Island: 559
Quebec: 16,988
Saskatchewan: 3,035
Yukon: 121

Enhancing Student Financial Assistance for fall 2020

The Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) provides student financial assistance to post-secondary education students. With approximately 765,000 students currently benefiting from the program, including through grants and loans, it has the broadest reach of federal student programs.

To address additional financial needs of students caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is easing eligibility requirements for the CSLP for 2020-21 to allow more students to qualify for supports and be eligible for greater amounts. For the upcoming school year, Canada Student Grant amounts will be doubled for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students. The Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents will also be doubled. In addition, the cap on Canada Student Loans will increase from $210 to $350 per week of study.

Furthermore, no contribution will be expected from students and their spouses in determining the amount of financial aid a student can get in recognition that many students and families will struggle to save for this school year. These measures are expected to expand the reach of the program at a total estimated cost of approximately $1.9 billion.

The CSLP is delivered in collaboration with 10 participating jurisdictions. Students in Quebec, Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not receive CSLP support as these jurisdictions run their own student financial assistance programs. Additional compensation will be offered to provinces and territories that do not participate in the CSLP.

Student Work Placement (SWP) Program

The SWP Program supports partnerships between industry and post-secondary education (PSE) institutions, to create quality work integrated learning opportunities for PSE students related to their interests and field of study. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, two temporary measures were introduced, which will be in effect until March 31, 2021, including:

  • An increase of the wage subsidy to cover up to 75% of the cost of wages across all work-integrated learning placements, up to a maximum of $7,500 per placement.
  • Waiving the net new requirement, which required that employers do more placements than in previous years to access SWP funding.

New SWP projects include:

Organization: Biotalent Canada*

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the biotechnology sector. The project is also creating 1,500 new placement opportunities in the health care sector, for students from colleges and universities.

Funding Amount: $16,607,000

Target Number of Participants: 3,100

Organization: Canadian Council for Aerospace and Aviation

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the aviation and aerospace sector.

Funding Amount: $560,000

Target Number of Participants: 422

Organization: ECO Canada

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the environmental sector.

Funding Amount: $8,975,500

Target Number of Participants: 2,250

Organization: Electricity Human Resources Canada

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the electricity sector.

Funding Amount: $2,463,250

Target Number of Participants: 1,033

Organization: Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the manufacturing sector.

Funding Amount: $510,000

Target Number of Participants: 320

Organization: Information and Communication Technology Council

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the information and communications technology sector.

Funding Amount: $15,777,500

Target Number of Participants: 4,954

Organization: Magnet*

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in any sector of the economy, and creating 3,000 new placement opportunities in health care and other high demand sectors.

Funding Amount: $171,000,000

Target Number of Participants: 19,000

Organization: Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the mining sector.

Funding Amount: $2,806,750

Target Number of Participants: 502

Organization: Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in a variety of sectors. This project is pan-Canadian in scope, as it is being delivered in conjunction with the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec. Additional partners include the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and other provincial chambers (e.g., Yukon and Atlantic) who are involved in promoting the program in all regions of Canada. 

Funding Amount: $10,859,000

Target Number of Participants: 1,742

Organization: Technation*

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines looking to work in the information and communications technology sector, and creating 500 new placement opportunities in other high demand sectors, for students in all disciplines.

Funding Amount: $32,221,000

Target Number of Participants: 6,965

Organization: Venture for Canada*

Description: This project is supporting placement opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines in entrepreneurship with innovative small and medium sized enterprises.

Funding Amount: $3,646,000

Target Number of Participants: 978

* Region: Venture for Canada is focused in the Atlantic Region and is expanding their scope to other provinces. All other SWP projects are national in scope and expect to reach students across Canada.

* The funding totals indicated above for Biotalent Canada, Magnet, and Technation include both an increased wage subsidy for existing placements, and funding for the creation of 5,000 new placement opportunities in health care and other high demand sectors, which is why their funding ratios seem higher. All providers are offering the same level of wage subsidy funding to employers and are held to a maximum 10% administration fee. Amounts listed above for other organizations represent exclusively the funding balance to cover the increased wage subsidy of previously funded placements.

For reference, the Program introduced an increased wage subsidy to cover up to 75% (up to a maximum of $7,500) of the cost of wages for all placements in 2020-21 to assist employers in continuing to offer placements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, the program offers wage subsidies of up to 50% for regular placements, and up to 70% for placements targeting under-represented youth. 

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

For further information: For media enquiries, please contact: Marielle Hossack, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, 819-654-5552, marielle.hossa[email protected]; Media Relations Office, Employment and Social Development Canada, 819-994-5559, [email protected]

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Back to school: When sniffles mean COVID-19 tests, self-isolation; how families are coping




The start of school is typically a stressful time for families, but none more so than this year as families try to adjust to a new reality in which even the slightest sniffle or minor headache could mean COVID-19 tests, days of isolation, and interruptions to education and work.

Now that schools and daycares across the country have reopened and welcomed students back, coronavirus cases numbers have crept back up in certain regions, forcing children and staff to return home to get tested for the virus and self-isolate.

In some cases, entire schools have shut down in response to rising case counts, such as in Montreal where one private high school, Herzliah High School, suspended in-person learning for two weeks after more than a dozen students and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

While medical experts have been warning the public for months there would be a second wave of cases in the fall, the practical implications for families are only just being realized.

Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto and the Sinai Health system who contributed to a report by medical experts on the return to school, said public health authorities are working closely with school boards to find the right balance of teaching students while keeping them and their families safe.

“It’s really complicated. There aren’t, unfortunately, any simple fixes right now,” he told during a telephone interview on Thursday.


The confluence of coronavirus, flu, and allergies has made identifying symptoms for each a tricky task with most schools and daycares erring on the side of caution and mandating that children who exhibit any symptoms, whether it be a cough or stomach ache or runny nose, to stay home and get tested for COVID-19.

While the guidance varies across provinces and regions, generally, families have been asked to asses their children’s symptoms before taking them to school or daycare and to keep them home if there’s any sign of sickness.

“The advice in many ways hasn’t really changed,” Morris said. “Sick kids shouldn’t be going to school.”

If the child develops symptoms during the day, most schools and daycares are asking families to take them home and have them tested for coronavirus or self-isolate for two weeks before they will be allowed to return.

That was the case for Denise Faubert’s 10-year-old daughter who was sent home from her Ottawa elementary school on Monday because she had developed a headache.

“My daughter was sent home for a headache because she was dehydrated because they’re in a portable and they don’t want to drink a lot because they don’t want to go into the school to go to the bathroom,” she explained.

“We got home, literally an hour-and-a-half later, after a little Tylenol, she was fine. Like literally fine, jumping, going on the internet, going outside.”

Despite her daughter’s improvement, Faubert said she was forced to pick up her 15-year-old daughter from a nearby high school and bring her home as well. The next day, she drove her younger daughter to a testing clinic in Casselman, Ont., located 50 kilometres outside of Ottawa, for the test because the lineups in the city were too long.

On Wednesday night, Faubert said her daughter’s test results came back negative and both of her children were allowed to return to school the next day after she sent the results to both schools.

“The schools are so paranoid,” she said. “The guidelines for what they’re required to look for…They’re just too afraid of keeping anyone at school.”


Faubert’s concerns were echoed by other parents who spoke with CTV News about their worries for what the school year will look like if they have to keep picking up their child, getting them tested, or self-isolating every time they have exhibit a symptom.

Sharon Cheng-Ghafour said she felt most anxious about having to take her 20-month-old twins to a Toronto hospital for COVID-19 testing after one of them woke up on Monday morning with a dry cough. Even though she suspected it was only a minor irritation and not the virus, she decided to keep the twins home as a precaution and informed their daycare.

Cheng-Ghafour said the daycare operator told her the twins wouldn’t be able to return unless they received a negative test result or after 14 days. She said she wished there was a pediatric assessment centre where she could have taken her children instead of the ER, but the drive-thru testing centres don’t test children under the age of two.

“You don’t want the ERs to be loaded with these parents to try to prove that their kids don’t have COVID,” she said.

With long lineups and not enough sites in some regions, Morris said the testing backlog poses a risk to the school system because families may become more reluctant to report symptoms if they know they will have to go through an ordeal to have their child tested.

“The fact that we are having people wait in line for hours, the fact that we don’t have the capacity at the moment, and for a variety of means, to do all the testing that is being demanded, that’s a huge risk to our fight against COVID,” he said.

In an effort to respond to the increasing demand for tests, provinces are scrambling to introduce more testing sites, such as at pharmacies in Ontario and Alberta, mobile clinics in Quebec, and an easier method of testing using a “mouth rinse gargle” in B.C. to speed up the process.


All of the parents CTV News spoke said they were concerned about how they would be able to manage their schedules if they’re required to pick up their children, take them for a test, stay at home with them, and work at the same time.

“I don’t know how it’s going to work in the future,” Cheng-Ghafour said. “If every time somebody has a sniffle or dry cough or something, we have to stay home for 14 days… I’m just in the process of opening a new practice and I’m thinking ‘I don’t know how it’s going to work.’”

Miriam Beamish said she’s having a particularly difficult time caring for her four-year-old daughter and making these decisions on her own after her husband died. The Toronto mother said she had to drop everything and pick up her son from his kindergarten class at a private daycare in the city after he developed a runny nose.

She said her son didn’t end up having COVID-19 and he always has a runny nose at this time of year so he was able to return a few days later, but it’s stressful to think she may have to go through this again.

“I don’t have somebody who to make these big decisions with. I have to make them all by myself and it’s really hard to know what the right thing to do is,” she said. “It’s just such a scary, scary time.”

In addition to the disruption in parents’ lives, Gilda Benhamou, whose son attends the Montreal private high school that paused in-person learning, said she’s concerned about the impact on his education.

“I’m more worried about my son’s education,” she told CTV News Montreal on Thursday. “I think the school is going above and beyond and has done everything in their power to make sure the kids are safe.”

Morris said families will have to try to be adaptable as they can as public health guidance and school policies evolve over the course of the school year in response to virus’ spread.

“Things are going to change. They [families] are getting used to changes. They’re about to have more changes,” he said. “We need to learn to adapt. When you get more information, you need to be adaptable.”

With files from CTV News Montreal  

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Finalists announced for 2020 Nature Inspiration Awards from Canadian Museum of Nature




OTTAWA, Sept. 18, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada’s national museum of natural history and natural sciences, is pleased to announce the 23 finalists and the Lifetime Achievement recipient for its 2020 Nature Inspiration Awards.

These national awards, now in their seventh year, celebrate projects by individuals, groups and organizations whose leadership and innovation connect Canadians with the natural world. Due to COVID precautions, this year’s winners will be announced by the museum on November 25 through online means, rather than during an in-person gala ceremony.

The projects led by this year’s finalists, which were selected from among 85 nominations, address topics that include biodiversity and conservation, environmental education, and sustainable practices.

Among them are youth who advocate about the wonder of species diversity, as well as adults who galvanize others to conserve natural areas. Not-for-profits show leadership in education to preserve waterways and forests, engagement of citizen-scientists, and the protection of natural environments. The businesses being recognized show innovation with the development of “green” products, as well as environmental stewardship programs.

This year’s laureate of the Lifetime Achievement Award is spiritual leader, teacher and conservationist Father Charles Brandt, who lives in Black Creek, British Columbia. Now aged 97, the “hermit-priest” is best known for galvanizing volunteers and spearheading a campaign to successfully clean up the Tsolum River on Vancouver Island. This helped revitalize the river’s salmon population, which had declined due to pollution from an abandoned copper mine.

The shortlist for the 2020 awards comprises finalists in six categories: Youth (aged 17 and younger), Individuals (aged 18 and up), Not-for-Profits (small to medium), Not-for-Profits (large), Businesses (small to medium), and Businesses (large).

“Unlike past years, these 2020 awards are being announced at a time when access to nature, and a healthy connection with the natural world, seem more important than ever. Each of the finalists lead by example and inspire us in supporting a sustainable future,” says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature and Chair/ex-officio member of the selection jury. “We are pleased to recognize the efforts of our finalists, and even though we are forgoing our usual celebration gala, we look forward to acknowledging their achievements online through our website and social media channels.”

The Nature Inspiration Awards are supported by media partners The Globe and Mail and the Walrus. Category sponsors are the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for the Youth Award, and Ontario Power Generation for the Not-for-Profits (small to medium) Award.       

The jury included Shelley Ambrose, former Executive Director/Co-Publisher, The Walrus; Caitlyn Baikie, Education Policy Advisor, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Carolynn Beaty, Director of Granting, The Sitka Foundation; Jack Cockwell, Chairman/CEO, Partners Limited; Philip Crawley, Publisher, The Globe and Mail; Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo; Marti Ford, Executive Director, Arctic Inspiration Prize; John Geiger, CEO, Royal Canadian Geographical Society; Danika Goosney, Vice-President, Scholarships and Fellowships, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; Geoff Green, Founder and Executive Director, Students on Ice Foundation; and Erica Thompson, Senior National Director, Conservation Engagement and Development, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Winners for each category receive $5,000 that they can designate to a nature-related program of their choice. The Nature Inspiration Awards are produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature. Full details, as well as profiles of the finalists, can be found at                                                                                                                                      

Here is the list of finalists:
Youth category (aged 17 and under)

  • Vesa Barileva, youth scientist (biodegradable food packaging), Oakville, Ontario
  • Genevieve Leroux, environmental advocate for the Monarch Butterfly, Gatineau, Quebec
  • Grace Gong, founder of Greenshirt, not-for-profit that diverts used clothing from landfill, Mississauga, Ontario
  • Sophia Spencer, author, insect enthusiast and founder of #BugsR4Girls, Sarnia, Ontario

Individual category (aged 18 and up)

  • Nory Esteban, teacher and naturalist, coordinator of Wings over the Rockies bird festival, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
  • Elin Kelsey, environmental activist and author, Victoria, British Columbia
  • Amanda McConnell, co-founder of Grassroots Albany, a community forum for environmental discussion and action, Toronto, Ontario
  • Gary Schneider, environmentalist and co-founder of the Environmental Coalition of PEI, Stratford, Prince Edward Island

Not-For-Profit category (small/medium organization)

  • International Conservation Fund of Canada, programs to conserve threatened tropical ecosystems, Chester, Nova Scotia
  • Tree Canada, community engagement for tree-planting, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Water Rangers, citizen-science efforts to collect water quality data, Ottawa, Ontario

Not-For-Profit category (large organization)

  • Beaty Water Research Centre, research, education and outreach about aquatic ecosystems, and clean water. Kingston, Ontario
  • David Suzuki Foundation, Butterflyway Project: planting local wildflower, plant and shrubs patches Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Goodwill Industries of Alberta, diversion and reuse of goods from landfill, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Nature-Action Québec, protection and preservation of natural areas in Montreal’s urban areas, Beloeil, Quebec

Business category (small to medium)

  • FireRein Inc, development of bio-based, non-toxic foams for use by firefighters, Napanee, Ontario
  • PBA Tundra Supply, Ltd., research and development of a maple hybrid to grow in adverse soil conditions, West Elgin, Ontario
  • Sans façon, integration of a stormwater treatment facility into the design of an urban public park, Calgary Alberta
  • ULAT Dryer Balls, invention, patent and development of wool dryer balls Parksville, British Columbia

Business category (large)

  • Fresh City Farms, Canada’s largest commercial urban farm, with a sustainable and locally focussed approach, North York, Ontario
  • Nutrien, use of a waste byproduct from the phosphate fertilizer industry to create soil and grow trees. Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
  • Ontario Power Generation, implementation of biodiversity conservation programs and environmental assessments, Toronto, Ontario
  • TELUS, sustainable business practices towards 2030 carbon neutral goal, including tree-planting program to offset paper usage, Ottawa, Ontario

About the Canadian Museum of Nature
Saving the world through evidence, knowledge and inspiration! The Canadian Museum of Nature provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature’s past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a collection of 14.6 million specimens and artifacts, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site,

Information for media:
Dan Smythe
Head, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.698.9253 (cell)

John Swettenham
Chief Marketing Officer
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.868-8277 (cell)  

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University education program still on hold for inmates across Canada




As university and college students start school this month, inmates across the country will not have access to a program that offers university credits at no cost.

The Walls to Bridges program has been on hiatus at federal prisons and provincial jails since the start of the pandemic shutdown in March as a safety precaution. It’s not clear when it’ll start again, according to Shoshana Pollack, who founded the program in partnership with Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. in 2011.

The program has been taught in five federal institutions across Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as several provincial jails. It’s even been expanded to a jail in Paris, France.

The university or college working with the facility helps fund the course for the incarcerated students with the help of community organizations and charities, and then the other half of the class is made up of students from the school.

“We’re the only post-secondary program in Canada that brings people from outside to study with people on the inside,” said Pollack, who’s also a professor in the Department of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The program is an accessible option for students because it doesn’t require an internet connection, which inmates don’t often have access to, said Pollack.

‘Felt like I was a human being’

Rachel Fayter, who was incarcerated at Grand Valley Institution from 2014 to 2017, says she’s concerned for the students who are missing out on the program because of the pandemic.

“For those folks that are locked up, Walls to Bridges might have been their only opportunity to have an education,” said Fayter.

“There’s not very much access to [post-secondary] education, there’s not internet access, the computers are ancient … any kind of mail correspondence you have to pay for the courses yourself. So it’s very difficult for somebody in prison and has no income.”

Fayter, who’s now a third year PhD student in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, says the program changed her life.

It didn’t happen after the first class, but the confidence it gave her changed her outlook. She became hopeful again.

“In the Walls to bridges classroom, it was the first time in probably a year where I actually felt like I was a human being and my voice and experiences were valuable and respected,” said Fayter.

The classes are taught through a learning circle. The idea is to allow all perspectives into the circle, learn from one another and discover how students’ experiences have shaped how they view the world.

‘Don’t know where I’d be’

Since 2011, there have been 559 inmates across the country who have taken courses through the program.

Rachel Fayter (left) and Shoshana Pollack (second from left) with two other alumni of the program. Fayter says the program changed her life. (Submitted by Shoshana Pollack)

Melissa Alexander is another graduate. She was studying computer systems technology at Seneca College in Toronto before she became an inmate at Grand Valley Institution. 

“When you’re inside, you feel like you have no rights,” said Alexander. “Even when you get out you feel like there’s nothing you can do because you have a permanent record.”

Alexander took four courses over three years through the social work department at Laurier. 

Inmates who complete courses then become part of a collective, helping advise the program going forward. She describes that community as pivotal in helping her forge a path for herself after her release in 2017.

“Without this group, I don’t know where I’d be today,” said Alexander, who now is a peer support worker in Toronto and a carpenter apprentice. She also plans to get her degree in social work with a minor in law.

‘It’s a necessity’

Peter Stuart, chief of education at Grand Valley Institution, says when women come into the prison, they’re often hungry to learn. They want to further their education, he says, and post-secondary education is critical.

“This idea that post-secondary education is a perk for offenders, I think is an outdated concept. I think it’s a necessity,” said Stuart.

“In our society, a high school diploma is obviously essential, but it’s not really enough anymore. Especially if you have a criminal record as an obstacle, you need to have not only the same as what other people have, but if anything something more,” said Stuart.

He says the prison looked at different models such as video conferencing to keep the program going through the pandemic, but Walls to Bridges relies on having students from the outside and inside together in one space without barriers.

“The model that Walls to Bridges uses just couldn’t work while COVID protocols were in effect,” said Stuart.

The women have been taking part in literature exchanges and correspondence while the program is on hold, according to Stuart. He hopes the program will start running again in the spring of 2021 at the prison. 

“As soon as we get the go ahead from public health and provincial and federal authorities, we’ll bring it back in immediately,” said Stuart.

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