The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8:30 a.m.: The Ontario government said Monday it is investing $175 million this year for upgrades, repairs and maintenance in 129 hospitals across the province, including $50 million for COVID-19 related and other urgent projects.
Trillium Health Partners will receive over $3.4 million to support projects across all three sites.
Projects include replacing HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality, installing newer and more reliable nurse call systems for patients, and repairing roofs and elevators to maintain the facilities, the province said.
The announcement was made by Health Minister Christine Elliott.
8:25 a.m.: Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Monday he will ask the Ontario government if strip clubs should be ordered closed.
Tory was reacting to an outbreak at Club Paradise on Bloor Street West that follows infections at the Brass Rail on Yonge Street.
“Do they really need to be open?” Tory said, noting the provincial order forces small theatres to stay closed while strip bars reopened.
Tory also said he’ll meet with officials including public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa on Monday to talk about rising COVID-19 infection rates and what the city can do to slow them.
He praised UHN president Kevin Smith for speaking out in the Star, agreeing with Smith that people have relaxed their personal anti-virus habits and that is helping drive the virus resurgence. People aren’t wearing masks as much and going to dinner parties outside their social bubble, he said.
“We’re going to have to redouble our efforts,” to enforce responsible behaviour, especially with kids heading back to school, Tory said.
“It’s a very complicated, unknown enemy we’re dealing with here.”
8:20 a.m.: As COVID-19 swept through southern U.S., Mel Prince watched with alarm as some of the HIV positive patients she helps in the rural Black Belt stopped showing up for lab tests and doctor’s visits.
Some fell back into drug and alcohol abuse. Others feared the AIDS virus made them more vulnerable to the coronavirus and refused to leave their homes.
Around the same time, Prince’s HIV organization in Selma, Alabama, stopped sending staff to health fairs and other sites to test people for HIV.
“The virus has made it very challenging for us,” said Prince, executive director of Selma AIR. “We just continue to let people know we’re here, and we’re trying our best to take care of their needs.”
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the delivery of all types of health care services in the U.S. Doctors have put off surgeries to conserve hospital beds and medical supplies for COVID-19 patients and turned to telemedicine for routine consultations to avoid potentially exposing patients to the virus.
The fight against HIV has not been spared. Clinics have stopped or limited testing for the disease, and public health officials overwhelmed by demands to control COVID-19 have shifted staff away from tracking HIV patients.
7:48 a.m. Global shares mostly rose Monday, continuing a period of increased volatility, as traders awaited cues from the U.S. central bank later in the week.
U.S. shares appeared set for gains with Dow futures up 1% and S&P 500 futures up 1.3 per cent before the market open. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 per cent to 5,041, while Germany’s DAX dropped 0.1 per cent to 13,189. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged down 0.2 per cent to 6,023.
Shares in SoftBank, which announced Sunday that it was selling Britain’s Arm Holdings to computer graphics chip company Nvidia for $40 billion, jumped 9 per cent. SoftBank spent $32 billion to acquire Arm in 2016. Nvidia is best known for its graphics processing chips, while Arm is renowned as an innovator in the “Internet of Things.”
7:37 a.m.: Three southern Ontario school boards, including two in GTA, have reported at least one COVID-19 case in their communities on Sunday, according to public health.
The three schools are Louise Arbour Secondary School located in Brampton, Our Lady of Fatima CES in Woodbridge and Walpole North Elementary in Hagersville, just south of Brantford.
Each school put out a letter to parents and students notifying them of the cases and how they will be dealing with them moving forward.
6:48 a.m.: Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has made a career out of bouncing back from setbacks, was released Monday from the hospital after an “insidious” bout of COVID-19 that he said was the most dangerous challenge he had ever faced.
Wearing a suit and smiling after taking off his face mask, the 83-year-old Berlusconi said doctors at San Raffaele hospital in Milan told him he had the highest levels of virus they had seen in the tens of thousands of samples they had taken over the past six months.
An emotional Berlusconi urged Italians to take the virus seriously and “rigorously” adhere to mask mandates, social distancing norms and frequent handwashing.
6:20 a.m.: South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 109 new cases took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths. The daily increase has stayed in the 100s for 12 straight days, but Monday’s increase was the lowest since mid-August.
The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul area, citing a downward trend in new infections and economic worries.
6:19 a.m.: India reopened its Parliament after more than five months Monday even as the country continues to report the most daily new infections of the coronavirus in the world and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.
Lawmakers must wear masks and follow other sanitization protocols, sit on seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited.
6:18 a.m.: Pakistan’s prime minister and education officials say all arrangements are in place to ensure that every child can go to school safely.
Authorities are preparing to reopen schools from Tuesday amid a steady decline in COVID-19 deaths and infections.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took to twitter Monday saying “tomorrow we will welcome millions of children back to school. It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn.”
6:17 a.m.: Sweden has removed Britain from its list of countries with travel warnings, allowing Swedes to travel to the United Kingdom.
At the same time, the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm said Sweden is now part of a group of countries for which the United Kingdom considers that the risks regarding the virus are lower and is no longer covered by Britain’s quarantine regulations.
6:15 a.m.: Berlin’s top health official has expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany, particularly among young people.
Dilek Kalayci told public broadcaster rbb that experience showed young people could easily become “super spreaders” resulting in older, more vulnerable people becoming sick with COVID-19 too.
Germany’s disease control centre on Monday reported 927 new cases across the country in the past day.
One county that’s seen the number of infections in a week rise above the threshold of 50 per 100,000 is Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.
Locals there have reacted with anger to news that a 26-year-old American woman with symptoms had visited several local bars despite being told to quarantine while waiting for her test result.
As a result, all restaurants in the Alpine town must close at 10 p.m. for the next week.
5:47 a.m.: There are 136,659 confirmed cases in Canada.
Quebec: 64,986 confirmed (including 5,780 deaths, 57,268 resolved)
Ontario: 44,504 confirmed (including 2,815 deaths, 39,841 resolved)
Alberta: 15,415 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 13,718 resolved)
British Columbia: 6,962 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,273 resolved)
Saskatchewan: 1,726 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,603 resolved)
Manitoba: 1,428 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,173 resolved)
Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)
Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)
New Brunswick: 193 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)
Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 47 resolved)
Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)
Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
Nunavut: No confirmed cases
Total: 136,659 (0 presumptive, 136,659 confirmed including 9,171 deaths, 120,431 resolved)
5:44 a.m.: Ontario’s legislature returns for its fall session today, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting daily life, the Progressive Conservative government’s house leader says it will not be business as usual.
Paul Calandra says the legislature will continue to respect public health rules while returning to its regular four-day-a-week schedule for proceedings.
He says the government will be focused in the coming weeks on the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, school reopenings, and the health-care system.
Calandra says Ontario’s 2020-2021 budget — which was delayed by the pandemic — will be delivered on November 15.
The government is also expected to table a formal report on the state of emergency declared by the province earlier this year in response to the pandemic.
Calandra says the government is also leaving itself leeway in the legislative schedule in case it needs to introduce additional legislation to address COVID-19 this fall.
5:41 a.m.: Infectious-disease specialists warn we could face a double whammy of COVID-19 and flu this fall and winter. Among those urging vigilance is Jeanne Marrazzo, a director of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a physician researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“The big concern this year, of course, is that we are going to see what could be a perfect storm,” she said. “We really can’t be complacent about this.”
The difficulty is not just that flu and COVID-19 will be circulating at the same time, said John Zurlo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Thomas Jefferson University. It is hard to tell one disease from the other.
Both illnesses can be characterized by fever, aches, and shortness of breath. Among the few distinguishing features is the sudden loss of smell experienced by some COVID-19 patients. Flu can impair the sense of smell, too, but in that case the culprit is a stuffy nose, whereas in COVID-19 the reason is temporary damage to olfactory cells, Zurlo said.
Monday 5:39 a.m.: The morning bell Monday marked the first entrance to the classroom for the children of Codogno, Italy, since February 21, when panicked parents were sent to pick up their children after the northern Italian town gained notoriety as the first in the West to record local transmission of the coronavirus.
While the reopening of Italian schools marks an important step in a return to pre-lockdown routine, the step bears more symbolic weight in the 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto that were the first to be sealed off as coronavirus red zones.
Codogno Mayor Francesco Passerini said the town of 17,000 has had virtually no new cases for months now, but authorities are not being complacent. He said they have spared no effort in working with school administrators to provide maximum protection to the city’s 3,500 students.
Monday 4 a.m. Some Ontario school boards are delaying the start of virtual learning due to a growing demand for online education in the run-up to back-to-school.
Three Toronto-area boards say they’ve seen a surge in parents opting to keep their kids out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic in the eleventh hour, further complicating the already difficult task of co-ordinating classes.
The Peel District School Board, for instance, says it had to push back live online classes because 10,000 students signed up for virtual learning in the past week.
It says such classes will now start on Sept. 21 for elementary students and Sept. 22 for high schoolers — a week’s delay — so the board can wrangle more staff to account for the 64,000 students who are now learning from home.
The Halton District School Board advised parents Friday that online learning will begin on Wednesday rather than Monday because of “recent and increased demand” for the remote option.
That board says it working through a “significant” waitlist for virtual school and advised people who are currently attending in-person classes to continue doing so, as some virtual classes are full.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Toronto District School Board announced that while elementary students attending classes in-person will have a staggered start to the school year on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, those doing online learning — and most high school students — will begin on Thursday.
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 CTVNews.ca 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
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 nature.ca/awards.
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, nature.ca.
Information for media:
Head, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
Chief Marketing Officer
Canadian Museum of Nature
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.
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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