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Ontario’s local medical officers of health team up to create response guidelines where province falls short; MPs to have first hybrid video conference meeting

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The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.

7:15 a.m. Some Montreal restaurant owners are planning to take their pots and pans to the streets Wednesday morning, demanding answers on when they can reopen their restaurants.

The provincial government allowed retail stores in the city with outside access to resume business this week, but it has yet to announce when restaurants can open their dining rooms.

Earlier this month, a survey conducted by the Quebec Restaurant Association revealed 72 per cent of members wanted to reopen, even if it meant cutting seating capacity in half.

Eric Luksenberg, who owns two restaurants in Old Montreal, said that without the summer season he won’t be able to pay his rent next winter, so he came up with the idea to “make a little noise.”

Fellow owner Donato Trafficante estimates he lost more than $80,000 in revenue last weekend alone from his two establishments and says if he is unable to open this summer, it could take two to three years to recover.

He hopes Wednesday’s demonstration will attract the attention of Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

7 a.m. South Korea reported 40 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, its biggest daily jump in nearly 50 days, causing alarm as millions of children return to school.

Active tracing and testing had stabilized the country’s outbreak from its March highs, which allowed officials to ease social distancing guidelines.

But a steady rise in cases in the greater capital area in recent weeks has raised concerns as officials proceed with a phased reopening of schools. High school seniors returned to schools last week. More than 2 million high school juniors, middle school seniors, first- and second-graders and kindergartners were expected to return to school on Wednesday.

The Education Ministry said school openings were delayed in 561 schools nationwide due to virus worries, including 111 schools in Seoul.

South Korea’s top infectious disease expert said the country may need to reimpose social distancing restrictions because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for health workers to track the spread of the virus.

South Korea has confirmed a total of 11,265 cases of the coronavirus, including 269 deaths.

6:56 a.m. Bank of Montreal followed other Canadian lenders in building up reserves for loan losses to brace for the aftershocks from plunging oil prices and a pandemic that’s caused a near economic standstill.

Bank of Montreal, which has consumer-banking operations in Canada and the U.S., set aside a record $1.12 billion in loan-loss provisions in the fiscal second quarter. The Toronto-based lender joins Bank of Nova Scotia and National Bank of Canada in posting a surge in provisions, which eroded earnings in results for Bank of Montreal that missed analysts’ estimates.

5 a.m.: Later this week Ontario’s medical officers of health will announce a set of specific data-based thresholds signed off by all 34 medical officers of health in the province. It will provide real benchmarks that medical officers of health can use if they feel the need to slow things down. It is speed limits, and a steering wheel.

It started with Dr. Eileen de Villa, in Toronto. And Dr. Vera Etches, in Ottawa. And Dr. Lawrence Loh, in Peel Region. They contacted colleagues in other populous areas, like Dr. Wajid Ahmed, in Windsor-Essex. The medical officers of health in this province speak frequently, compare notes, and lean on one another, especially in a pandemic. And they have recognized there was something Ontario didn’t have but needed.

“We felt that there were a lot of decisions being made which are based on the popular opinion, rather than actual evidence-based,” says Ahmed.

“I felt it, I communicated it with some of my colleagues, and some of my colleagues also agreed that it’s about time we go back to what we normally do, in terms of our expertise and taking control of our issues, which is important. We should be the ones to make some of those decisions to protect the community.”

Almost two weeks after reopening, the province has seen a significant uptick in cases over the past week that don’t reflect any reopening changes due to the delay in symptom onset, even as testing numbers collapsed to nearly half of capacity. The premier promised a new plan will be unveiled this week. And that’s before you get to the confusion in communication.

Read more of the Star’s Bruce Arthur’s exclusive story.

4:15 a.m.: Members of Parliament will make history today as a few dozen of them gather in the House of Commons, where they’ll be joined by the other 300-odd MPs participating via videoconference.

The new hybrid of in-person and virtual proceedings goes into effect today after the NDP joined forces Tuesday evening with the Liberals to waive normal sittings of the House of Commons for another four months while the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead, they voted in favour of a government motion to continue with an expanded version of the special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a stand-in for the chamber over the past month.

The committee has been meeting twice a week virtually and once a week with a small group of MPs physically present in the Commons.

Starting today, all special committee meetings will be a mix of virtual and in-person, with most MPs participating via big screens set up on either side of the Speaker’s chair.

And there’ll be four meetings each week, Monday to Thursday, until mid-June.

4 a.m.: In the rubble of buildings and lives, modern U.S. presidents have met national trauma with words such as these: “I can hear you.” “You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything.” “We have wept with you; we’ve pulled our children tight.”

As diverse as they were in eloquence and empathy, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each had his own way of piercing the noise of catastrophe and reaching people.

But now, the known U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is fast approaching 100,000 on the watch of a president whose communication skills, potent in a political brawl, are not made for this moment.

Impeachment placed one indelible mark on Donald Trump’s time in the White House. Now there is another, a still-growing American casualty list that has exceeded deaths from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. U.S. fatalities from the most lethal hurricanes and earthquakes pale by comparison. This is the deadliest pandemic in a century.

Actual deaths from COVID-19 are almost certainly higher than the numbers show, an undercount to be corrected in time.

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At every turn Trump has asserted the numbers would be worse without his leadership. Yet the toll keeps climbing. It is well beyond what he told people to expect even as his public-health authorities started bracing the country in early April for at least 100,000 deaths.

Tuesday 10 p.m.: JK Rowling is publishing a new story called “The Ickabog,” which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Harry Potter” author said Tuesday she wrote the fairy tale for her children as a bedtime story over a decade ago. Set in an imaginary land, it is a stand-alone story “about truth and the abuse of power” for children from 7 to 9 years old and is unrelated to Rowling’s other books.

Rowling said the draft of the story had stayed in her attic while she focused on writing books for adults. She said her children, now teenagers, were “touchingly enthusiastic” when she recently suggested retrieving the story and publishing it for free.

“For the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again. As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again,” she said.

“The Ickabog’s first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).”

The first two chapters were posted online Tuesday, with daily instalments to follow until July 10.

The book will be published in print later this year, and Rowling said she will pledge royalties from its sales to projects helping those particularly affected by the pandemic.

Tuesday 9 p.m.: British Columbia didn’t report any new deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, but there have been 11 additional cases of the virus.

A total of 2,541 people in B.C. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 2,122 have recovered.

There have been 161 deaths.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged people to continue their approaches to protecting themselves from COVID-19 as B.C. enters the second week of its economic restart plan and more activities resume.

Many B.C. businesses, including restaurants, hair salons and dentists’ offices, started reopening last week.

Tuesday 7:15 p.m.: Calgary’s mayor is warning citizens “don’t be like Toronto” and congregate in large numbers in parks.

Naheed Nenshi made the comment in reference to thousands of people who squeezed into a downtown Toronto park on Saturday, despite calls from public health officials to avoid large gatherings.

Nenshi is advising Calgarians against going to four popular parks in their city.

He is also urging people to find other areas for recreation.

“I just want to say to Calgarians, a sentence that Calgarians don’t need any reminding of — don’t be like Toronto,” Nenshi said Tuesday during a news conference.

While its number of active cases is declining, Calgary and its surrounding region remain the provincial epicentre of the virus, with 560 active cases and 101 of Alberta’s 139 deaths.

Read more of Tuesday’s coverage here.



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B.C. high school drops Rebels sports name linked to American Civil War

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The search is on for a new team name for a high school in B.C.’s Southern Interior.

This week, School District 58 announced that Princeton Secondary School has dropped its longstanding Rebels name, stating it was outdated and “had nothing to do with Canada, for one thing, or our school.”

The reasoning, said the school district, was that the team name was directly linked to the American Civil War.

Read more:
Simon Fraser University athletics commits to dropping ‘Clan’ team name

In an interview with Global News on Saturday, board of education chair Gordon Comeau said new staff “were researching everything out and they came across the fact that the name the Rebels had, at one point in time, been associated with the Confederate flag and the Confederate uniform, and ties, really, to the Confederate cause during the American civil war.

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“And the board felt that these images, although they were used recently and had been for years, they just have no relationship to Canada, for one thing, or our school.

“And nowadays, it’s just not an appropriate thing. We see it all over the news, and we have a policy that’s pretty clear — it’s to raise awareness and improve the understanding of the human race and lives of all people.”






Washington Redskins to undergo review of team name


Washington Redskins to undergo review of team name

Gordon said parents and students were informed of the board’s unanimous decision to drop the name.

The announcement follows recent news that the NFL’s Washington Redskins are looking at changing their name, along with Simon Fraser University committing to dropping its “Clan” team name.

Comeau said the name had been looked at a number of times over the years, but never at the board level, until the past month, adding “with SFU being a good example.”

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Comeau told Global News that the school district is committed to addressing issues when it finds them, “and we found this one.”

He continued, saying “they did find pictures that indicated that some of the uniforms, they did wear a confederate flag as a symbol on their uniform.”






Edmonton Eskimos to keep team name


Edmonton Eskimos to keep team name

Comeau said some school symbols had a cartoonish-style Civil War character carrying a gun, with another being a Confederate hat in front of two swords.

“It’s just not appropriate in this day and age to have that,” said Comeau.

He said the name change will take place in the fall, and will be done through the school, students and stakeholders.

“We’re a very strong mining and lumber community, and there’s lots of wildlife around us,” said Comeau.

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“I’m sure they’ll come up with something that will be very appropriate for their school.”




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Lester B. Pearson School Board promises immediate action on racism

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Speaking at a West Island rally against racism, the chair of Lester B. Pearson School Board promised immediate action in light of several racist incidents involving students.

“These incidents were a wake up call for us and a call to action,” said board chair Noel Burke.

Burke spoke to the assembled crowd of young people and community members, saying that the school board would immediately form an anti-racism task force, composed of staff, students and people of colour.

He said the task force’s first report will be ready by Sept 1.

Burke said the Quebec English School Board Association, of which he is a member, will be calling on the Education Ministry to do a curriculum review in order to better represent diversity in all subjects, not just history.

“The Lester B. Pearson School Board acknowledges that systemic racism exists in society, in our communities and in our schools,” said Burke.

“We must take an active role with addressing racism with students and staff.”

More than a hundred people attended the rally outside Pierrefonds Community High School on Saturday afternoon. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

More than 100 people attended the rally outside Pierrefonds Community High School on Saturday afternoon.

The event was organized by Youth Stars, a Montreal non-profit organization serving youth. They said it was a chance for young people to speak out about racism and what changes they want to see.

Malik Shaheed, a director at Youth Stars, spoke to the crowd, saying: “The goal of today’s event is for you to meet your local stakeholders. To let them know how you feel.”

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U.S. immigration to Canada is skyrocketing

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As the U.S. celebrates Independence Day, on the fourth of July, it is worth taking a look at immigration patterns from the U.S. to Canada in recent years.

Over 10,000 U.S. residents immigrated north in 2019 through Canada’s Express Entry system.

This represents a significant increase from the 600 U.S. residents who immigrated through Express Entry in 2015.

Express Entry is the main way that Canada manages skilled worker applications.

Those who are eligible under one of Express Entry’s three immigration programs are graded on their human capital characteristics such as their age, education, language skills, and work experience.

The grading scheme is known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

Every two weeks, the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) holds Express Entry draws inviting candidates with the highest CRS scores to apply for permanent residence.

IRCC then aims to process the permanent residence applications of successful candidates within six months.

Express Entry draws have remained ongoing throughout the coronavirus pandemic and Express Entry is off to its fastest start this year since 2017.

Find out if you are eligible for Express Entry

A look at U.S. skilled worker immigration to Canada

The staggering growth of immigrants moving from the U.S. to Canada is likely actually under-stating the extent of the growth.

While Express Entry is the main way for skilled workers to gain Canadian permanent residence, there are other prominent options which are also attracting skilled workers from the U.S.

The most notable is the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Under Canada’s Constitution, immigration is an area of shared federal and provincial jurisdiction, although the Constitution gives the federal government more power.

Twelve out of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories operate their own immigration programs. Quebec has its own skilled worker system due to its special status within the Canadian federation. The remaining provinces and territories welcome skilled workers through their own PNP streams.

Each province and territory designs their own PNP selection criteria and administer their PNP streams based on their local labour market needs.

Skilled workers arriving from the U.S. also obtain Canadian permanent residence through the PNP.

While some of these individuals are captured in IRCC’s Express Entry data, since a portion of PNP immigrants are processed through Express Entry each year, the available data does not capture all U.S. skilled workers who come to Canada through the PNP, as well as the other federal immigration pathways that the country offers.

Hence, there is a strong chance that the actual number of skilled workers who came to Canada from the U.S. in 2019 is markedly higher than the 10,000 who came through Express Entry.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

Why immigration from the U.S. is rising

Skilled worker immigration from the U.S. is rising for the following reasons.

First, Express Entry has played an increasingly important role in Canada’s skilled worker system since it first launched in 2015. Whereas only 26,000 individuals received an Express Entry invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence that year, the figure now stands at over 85,000 annually.

Given that skilled workers from the U.S. have a competitive edge when submitting an Express Entry profile since they are fluent in English, have high levels of education and work experience, a larger number of them in absolute terms are gaining PR through Express Entry.

Canada also launched its Global Skills Strategy in 2017 to help employers in Canada bring foreign tech talent to the country more easily. A key component of the strategy is the Global Talent Stream which enables employers in Canada to bring foreign tech workers in about one month (compared to longer processing times for non-tech workers).

Among those arriving to Canada through the strategy are workers from the U.S. who are then going on to transition to Canadian permanent residence through the likes of Express Entry.

The third major reason is likely the uncertainty surrounding U.S. immigration policy. While the need for foreign workers in the U.S. has continued to increase, political gridlock has made much needed U.S. immigration reform difficult to achieve. As such, many foreign nationals working in the U.S. have made the choice of pursuing permanent residence in Canada.

How to submit an Express Entry profile from the U.S.

If you wish to consider immigrating to Canada, Express Entry is a fairly straightforward process:

Step 1: See if you are eligible for one of the three Express Entry programs. The Federal Skilled Worker Program is likely the most viable option for you if you have not lived in Canada before.

Step 2: Submit an Express Entry profile. As part of this process, all applicants (even if they are native English speakers) must complete an English language test accredited by IRCC. Another key component of this process is obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment.

Step 3: Once you have entered the Express Entry pool, wait to see if you get an ITA for permanent residence. Express Entry draws happen bi-weekly. Another major benefit of entering the pool is you increase your immigration odds since provinces and territories can review your profile and provide you with an invitation through their PNP.

Step 4: If you obtain an invitation, submit your permanent residence application. IRCC aims to process PR applications within 6 months.

Find out if you are eligible for Express Entry

Kareem El-Assal is the Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa.

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