Soldiers describe deplorable conditions in Canadian nursing homes

Soldiers aiding coronavirus efforts report residents left in soiled diapers, cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

Canadian soldiers helping manage the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes saw staff leaving people in soiled diapers, ignoring calls for help and reusing unsterilised equipment, an official report said on Tuesday.

Nursing homes account for about 80 percent of all deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Canada. The situation is dire in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, where approximately 1,400 soldiers are working.

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A report by the armed forces on five of the worst-affected Ontario homes revealed residents left in soiled diapers as well as “significant fecal contamination”, cockroaches and ants in patient rooms.

At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours”, the report said.

“It was the most heart-wrenching report I have read in my entire life,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, at one point on the verge of tears.

Ford – who promised a full-scale probe – said the system of long-term care was “broken” and had suffered from neglect for decades before the coronavirus pandemic tipped it over the edge.

“I’m going to fix this system, no matter what it takes,” he said, calling on the federal government for funding. Canada’s 10 provinces have jurisdiction over healthcare.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked and angry about the scenes, reiterating that Canada needed to do a much better job of taking care of its elderly population.

Both Quebec and Ontario have asked that the soldiers stay on longer than initially planned, and the federal government is likely to agree, Trudeau said.

Earlier this month Trudeau referred to “heartbreaking tragedies” in long-term care facilities, mentioning overworked employees and understaffed homes.

Official public health data showed the total coronavirus Canadian death toll had edged up by just below 2 percent to 6,566 from Monday.

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China doesn't seem to understand independence of Canada's judiciary: Trudeau

OTTAWA (Reuters) – China does not appear to understand that Canada’s judiciary is independent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday, taking a rare public swipe at Beijing at a time when bilateral ties are poor.

China says Canada must free Huawei Technologies Co Ltd chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is fighting extradition to the United States. She was arrested by Vancouver police in December 2018.

Canadian government officials have repeatedly said they cannot intervene in the case.

“Canada has an independent judicial system that functions without interference or override by politicians,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.

“China doesn’t work quite the same way and (doesn’t) seem to understand that we do have an independent judiciary.”

Shortly after Meng’s arrest, Chinese authorities detained two Canadian men in China on state security charges. Beijing also blocked imports of Canadian canola seed.

Trudeau said last month that China had suspended consular visits to the two men, citing the coronavirus outbreak.

“The fact that China is still linking an independent judicial system in the case of Meng Wanzhou with the arbitrary detention of two Canadians is saddening but that’s a challenge we’ve been working with for many months,” he said on Thursday.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment.

Canada and China are both “furious” over the case of Meng but there are signs the two sides can hold constructive talks, the Canadian ambassador to Beijing said in February.

The United States says it believes Meng covered up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions against the country.

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The New Reality: N.S. food producers reaching new customers, but will interest wane after COVID-19?

This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at the new reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Maritimes. You can find the full series here. 

Since the start of the pandemic in Nova Scotia, pies have been flying off the shelves at the Humble Pie shop in Dartmouth.

In fact, sales have been so good, co-owners Shauna MacLeod and Mike Noakes had to choose between keeping the shop open for walk-ins and moving their business to an online, pre-ordered pickup and delivery service.

They went with the latter.

“Within the first few weeks we were selling as many and a little bit more than we were selling during our regular workweek, within five days a week,” said MacLeod.

“To our surprise, we thought we were opening a service to our regular customers and promoted it solely with social media, but we’re seeing more and more new customers trying pies.”

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Humble Pie is just one of several Nova Scotia food vendors and primary producers that have seen a spike in new customers during the pandemic. They know the lock-downs have prompted a renewed interest in buying local ingredients and each has their own theory as to why.

“I think (consumers) are looking at local products differently because they feel that it’s a more secure supply,” said Michael Trombley, co-owner of the Meadowbrook Meat Market in Berwick, N.S.

Estelle Levangie, owner of Thyme for Ewe Farm in Millville, Cape Breton, said she believes people are scooping up local meat in case external supplies run out, and because they’re looking for ingredients that will keep them healthy during the pandemic.

Since COVID-19 hit, she said her supply of chicken and pork has completely sold out, and pre-orders for the incoming batch indicates the trend will continue.

“This virus does not care about how much money you have in your bank account, what’s going to make a difference is how healthy you are,” she told Global News. “Maybe people are realizing they should probably eat healthier.”

All of them hope this growth becomes the new reality, even when the risk of COVID-19 subsides.

Dave Belt, co-owner of the Seafoam Lavender Company, said he’s confident the sales will continue not only because of their quality soap and skincare products but because the public is learning to change their shopping habits.

Since January, his online business has skyrocketed by 150 per cent — 95 per cent of which comes from names and accounts he’s never seen before.

“I think people just maybe needed to get into the practice of going to online buying, and once they see how easy it is, they’ll stick with it,” he explained.

“I mean why not? For a couple of bucks they can have it delivered right to their door.”

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CANADA FX DEBT-Canadian dollar climbs as investors bet on economic recovery

 (Adds dealer quotes and details throughout; updates prices)
    * Canadian dollar rises 0.4% against the greenback
    * Canada's annual inflation rate fell by 0.2% in April
    * Price of U.S. oil increases 4.8%
    * Canadian bond yields mixed across a flatter curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, May 20 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar strengthened
against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday as hopes for a global
economic recovery boosted equity markets and investors shrugged
off domestic data showing deflationary pressures.
    At 3:07 p.m. (1907 GMT), the Canadian dollar          was
trading 0.4% higher at 1.3883 to the greenback, or 72.03 U.S.
cents. The currency, which notched on Tuesday a near three-week
high at 1.3865, traded in a range of 1.3869 to 1.3960.
    "The Canadian dollar continues to benefit from a risk-on
environment and investor optimism, as stocks and commodities
have another solid day," said Michael Goshko, corporate risk
manager at Western Union Business Solutions.    
    U.S. stock markets rose, with the S&P 500 reaching a more
than two-month high, as signs of additional economic stimulus
raised hopes of a swift recovery from the coronavirus-driven
slump.             
    The price of oil, one of Canada's major exports, was
supported by signs of improving demand and a drawdown in U.S.
crude inventories. U.S. crude oil futures        settled 4.8%
higher at $33.49 a barrel. 
    Canada's annual inflation rate fell by 0.2% in April, the
first time it has hit negative territory since 2009, as the
coronavirus pandemic slashed energy prices, Statistics Canada
said.             
    "Contractionary inflation pressures are a given when the
economy comes to a complete standstill under lockdown measures,"
said Simon Harvey, FX market analyst for Monex Europe and Monex
Canada.     
    The Bank of Canada thinks there is likely to be downward
pressure on inflation once coronavirus-related shutdowns are
lifted, Deputy Governor Timothy Lane said, a sign the bank is in
no rush to raise near-record-low interest rates.             
    Since March, the central bank has slashed interest rates to
near zero and begun for the first time a large-scale bond-buying
program.
    Separate domestic data showed that wholesale trade decreased
by 2.2% in March from February, which was a smaller drop than
analysts had expected.                 
    Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a flatter
curve, with the 10-year             down 2.2 basis points at
0.570%.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)
  

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Canada coronavirus death toll passes 5,000, Trudeau wants seniors' care reform

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian coronavirus death toll passed the 5,000 mark on Tuesday and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said major reforms were needed to seniors’ residences, where more than 80% of the victims lived.

The public health agency said the number of deaths edged up by 2.9% to 5,049 from 4,906 on Monday, one of the smallest daily gains so far. Canada is the 11th nation to record more than 5,000 deaths from the outbreak.

Long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec – the two most populous of the 10 provinces – have been particularly hard hit. Officials have detailed poor conditions in some residences, where employees earn just the minimum wage.

“We’ve seen heart-breaking tragedies in long-term care facilities and nursing homes right across the country – overworked staff, understaffed residences, grieving families,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.

“There are serious underlying challenges facing these facilities and in the coming months the federal government will be there to help the provinces find lasting solutions.”

Officials earlier announced Ottawa would give seniors living on a fixed income a one-time payment ranging from C$300 ($215) to C$500 to deal with increased costs linked to the outbreak.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the tax-free payments would help seniors who need money for food deliveries and other services. It will also aid those taking taxis to avoid using public transport.

She side-stepped questions about whether Ottawa should call a national inquiry into seniors’ homes.

“What we are experiencing in Canada is unprecedented and unacceptable,” she told a briefing.

“Going forward there will be time to reflect on the lessons that we’ve learned and the work that needs to be done. But right now (we are) focused on dealing with the issue at hand.”

The total value of the payments – which will help 6.7 million people – is C$2.5 billion. Ottawa has already committed more than C$160 billion in direct spending – more than 7% of gross domestic product – on a range of programs to help businesses and people deal with the outbreak.

Ottawa was focused on short-term measures to support people “so that we can come out the other side and restart the economy soon and we won’t need to look at what we might need to do in six months if we’re still, heaven forbid, all locked down”, Trudeau said, adding that programs would be extended if needed.

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COMMENTARY: As COVID-19 hits Canada’s bottom line, MPs should share the pain

Jacinda Ardern, the cool, young prime minister of New Zealand, recently revealed that she speaks regularly on the phone to her Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau.

The next time they talk, perhaps she could encourage Trudeau to follow her example and take a personal pay cut as the planet struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ardern has emerged as one of the world’s most dynamic political leaders. “Jacindamania” caught on following her sensitive and compassionate leadership of New Zealand after last year’s shocking mosque shootings in Christchurch.

She has demonstrated her leadership skills again during the coronavirus pandemic, directing one of the globe’s toughest anti-virus lockdowns.

As the country’s economy suffered under the restrictions, Ardern announced she would share the pain.

“If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now,” Ardern said last month, announcing she and her cabinet ministers would accept a 20 per cent cut in salary.

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“I am responsible for the executive branch and this is where we can take action,” she said, noting the move was to show “leadership and solidarity” with the New Zealand people.

Other world political leaders have made similar personal sacrifices. Politicians in India, Singapore and Japan took pay cuts, while municipal mayors and councillors have tightened their belts, too.

But what of Trudeau and other federal MPs in Canada?

There’s been no pay cut, though most MPs announced they would donate their recent two per cent pay raises to charity.

That’s not good enough for Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which has launched a campaign to pressure MPs to reduce their $181,000 annual salaries.

“They’re working hard and I give them credit for that,” Wudrick told me.

“But this is not about how hard they’re working. A lot of Canadians are working hard, but they’ve seen pay cuts, they’ve had their hours cut. Millions have lost their jobs.”

Most Canadians appear to agree with him. An Angus Reid opinion poll suggested about two-thirds of Canadians support an MP pay cut.

“Canadians are in favour of this in every part of the country, every demographic, every age group, every political party affiliation,” Wudrick said, adding “tens of thousands” of Canadians have signed an online petition supporting the idea.

But would an MP pay cut be anything other than a symbolic gesture?

Perhaps, but Wudrick said a 20 per cent MP salary reduction would still save Canadian taxpayers $12 million a year.

“People have said to me, ‘Isn’t it a little mean-spirited?’ But I would say it’s all about the math. When this is all over, we are going to have to pay down a massive deficit, 10 times larger than we’ve had,” Wudrick said.

“We will have to pay the piper eventually, and MPs should show they’re willing to lead by example right now.”

I’d say the “right now” part is crucial. Trudeau and other MPs would be wise to take a pay cut sooner rather than later if they want taxpayers to give them credit for their sacrifice.

Don’t forget MPs pocket generous perks and benefits. And Trudeau and his cabinet ministers receive large salary bonuses.

They can afford to shoulder a little of the burden. And if they do take the pay cut, it could actually help their political careers if Canadians believe the move is sincere.

If Trudeau won’t listen to ordinary Canadians on this, maybe he will listen to the political opposition.

If Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was smart, he and his Tory colleagues would take a unilateral pay cut right now, while challenging Trudeau and the other parties in the House of Commons to match their efforts.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

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Coronavirus: Women in Canada's Quebec hit harder than men

Unlike other countries, women in the French-speaking province account for 59.7 percent of infections.

Women in the Canadian province of Quebec have been hit harder by the coronavirus than men, health officials say.
     
Contrary to trends in other countries where men have been most affected, women account for 59.7 percent of the people infected by the virus in Quebec, and 54 percent of the deaths, the Quebec National Institute of Public Health reported.
     
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The institute said there were 36,986 confirmed coronavirus cases in the province and 2,786 deaths.
     
The institute offered no explanation for why women were more affected than men, but a large majority of nurses and caregivers of the elderly are women.
     
The age group most affected by the virus was 30 to 49-year olds, who accounted for 28 percent of those infected.
     
People between the ages of 80 and 89 accounted for 40 percent of the deaths, followed by 33.4 percent among people 90 and older.
     
According to the institute, Quebec has a death rate of 326 per million inhabitants, placing it behind Spain (566), Italy (500) and the United Kingdom (465), but ahead of Canada as a whole (124).

As of Sunday, Canada recorded 68,952 COVID-19 cases and 4,824 deaths, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

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'You deserve a raise': Canada to help fund pay hikes for essential workers

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada and the country’s 10 provinces will boost pay for essential workers such as employees in seniors’ residences, which are linked to 80% of coronavirus deaths, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

“If you’re risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise,” he told a daily briefing.

The total number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by just over 4% to 4,280 from 4,111 on Wednesday, official data showed, further evidence the outbreak has peaked. The number of positive diagnoses edged up to 63,895 from 62,458.

Quebec, the province hardest hit by the coronavirus, has unveiled plans to gradually restart its economy but on Thursday pushed back for the second time the date when businesses can reopen in Montreal, Canada’s second biggest city.

Premier Francois Legault cited shortages of personnel in hospitals and said Quebec would offer higher pay to part-time medical workers. Montreal firms can now only open on May 25, not May 11 as originally planned.

“Montreal is fragile – the rest of Quebec is a paradise. That’s how it is, they are two completely different worlds,” said Quebec’s chief public health office Horacio Arruda.

Canada’s military is increasing its support in Quebec and aims to have more than 1,350 members in 25 different homes in coming days, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters.

Trudeau made his announcement a day before Statistics Canada releases unemployment data for April. Analysts say they expect around 4 million people to have lost their jobs after a record 1 million were thrown out of work in March.

Manulife Financial Corp’s (MFC.TO) chief executive Roy Gori cautioned against reopening economies too soon.

“Subsequent pandemic waves could create greater … devastation than we’ve already seen,” he said.

Under the deal with the provinces, Ottawa will contribute C$3 billion ($2.1 billion), representing 75% percent of the total cost of the increased wages, the government said in a statement.

The provinces will be responsible for determining who is essential and how much they receive.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will slowly begin resuming elective and non-essential surgeries, Premier Doug Ford announced, starting with the most urgent procedures such as cancer and cardiac surgeries.

The Pacific province of British Columbia said it would unveil a plan to handle 30,000 non-urgent surgeries that have been postponed. This involves adding new capacity and hiring and training staff.

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CANADA FX DEBT-Canadian dollar gains as oil settles about 20% higher

 (Adds strategist quotes and details throughout; updates prices)
    * Canadian dollar rises 0.7% against the greenback
    * Price of U.S. oil increases by nearly 20%
    * Loonie trades in a range of 1.40 to 1.4200
    * Canadian bond yields trade mixed across a flatter curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, April 23 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar
strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as
investor sentiment got a boost from higher prices for crude oil,
one of Canada's major exports, and the prospect of further
economic stimulus.
    At 3:49 p.m. (1949 GMT), the Canadian dollar          was
trading 0.7% higher at 1.4060 to the greenback, or 71.12 U.S.
cents. The currency, which on Tuesday hit a near three-week low
at 1.4263, traded in a range of 1.40 to 1.42.
    The loonie is benefiting from a pickup in global market
sentiment, said Simon Harvey, FX market analyst for Monex Europe
and Monex Canada.    
    World stock markets          edged higher as investors
weighed a rebound in oil prices and prospects for more 
government stimulus, although gains were crimped by a report
that an experimental antiviral drug for the coronavirus flopped
in its first randomized clinical trial.             
            
    U.S. crude oil futures        settled 19.7% higher at $16.50
a barrel, spurred by the promise of more government stimulus, as
well as rising tensions in the Middle East and output cuts by
producing nations to tackle oversupply.             
    "The oil industry still sits in a state of ruins in Canada
at present prices," Harvey said. "Even a substantial pickup in
crude ... will still leave the industry's prior investment plans
in tatters."
    Canada's export credit agency said on Wednesday it would
backstop loans to hard-hit oil and gas producers, in the latest
move by Ottawa to free up credit for the energy industry.
            
    Ottawa is rolling out more than C$200 billion ($142 
billion) in measures to support Canada's economy, while the Bank
of Canada has slashed interest rates by 150 basis points since
March and begun buying Government of Canada bonds.
    Potential Bank of Canada governor candidate Jean Boivin
plans to stay at BlackRock Inc        , a spokeswoman for the
global investment manager said.                 
    Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a flatter
curve on Thursday. The 10-year             eased 2.3 basis
points to 0.593%.


($1 = 1.4069 Canadian dollars)

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter
Cooney)
  

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Canada shooting: Multiple victims as police launch manhunt for shooter – run and hide

The shooting took place in a rural community of Nova Scotia, Portapique, which has a thriving farming community. Police have identified a suspect whom they describe as armed and dangerous. They have warned people to run and hide if they see the suspect, and not to approach him. 

The suspect, Gabriel Wortman, is 51 years old. He is described as a bald, white man, between 6 foot 2 to 6 foot 3 in height, and with green eyes.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police tweeted: “51-year-old Gabriel Wortman is the suspect in our active shooter investigation in Portapique. There are several victims.

“He is considered armed & dangerous. If you see him, call 911. DO NOT approach.”

Authorities have urged the public to stay indoors after the shooting was reported, and a nearby hospital has been placed on lockdown, according to local media reports.

Police have told nearby residents to call the 911 emergency line if there is anyone on residents’ property.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau told CBC: “If possible, go into the basement, we just have an unfolding situation.a person with a firearm.

“We would like everybody to stay safe and we will provide more updates when available.”

Police were alerted to a firearms incident at approximately 11:30pm local time on Saturday.

They asked people in the area of  Portapique Beach Road, Bay Shore Road and Five Houses Road to avoid outside areas, and to stay home with their doors locked.

Local news has also reported a number of suspicious fires being set in the same area.

Firefighters of Nova Scotia wrote on Facebook that the situation was ongoing and advised residents to follow police advice. 

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