Prince Philip made more than 70 visits or stopovers in Canada between 1950 and 2013, many of which included meetings and events with First Nations leaders and people.
It was during one of those visits that the prince, who died on Friday at the age of 99, made an impression on Bill Erasmus.
In 1994, Erasmus was the Dene national chief and regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). He was part of a contingent of Indigenous leaders who met with Queen Elizabeth and Philip when the royal couple paid a visit to Yellowknife to celebrate the creation of a new Inuit territory.
In a prepared speech before the Queen, Erasmus voiced his frustration that the federal government hadn’t honoured treaties signed by the monarchy nearly a century ago. He said such inaction had “tarnished and sullied” the Crown’s reputation.
But Erasmus later took part in a more private and relaxed function with the royals, where he found himself connecting with Philip over a shared interest.
“I knew that he was really big on climate change and environmental issues, so I thanked him for that,” Erasmus said.
As they talked further, Erasmus was impressed by Philip’s knowledge on the subject.
The prince criticized “how multinationals were approaching the environment, the great amount of wealth and the waste that they generated,” and was keen “to keep the Earth pristine,” Erasmus said.
“He commended our people for having a similar view, so we hit it off that way,” he said.
Erasmus said he found the prince’s forthrightness “refreshing.”
“He was really easy to get along with, really easy to speak to. He encouraged you to say what you had to say,” Erasmus said.
Arctic char for ‘a regular guy’
That easy camaraderie is also what Johnny May, a 75-year-old bush pilot from Kuujjuaq, remembers about Philip.
The Duke of Edinburgh used to pass through the northern Quebec community to refuel his private plane in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which is where May met and chatted with him on several occasions.
To him and the other pilots, Philip was just “a regular guy,” May said in an interview with CBC News.
“We didn’t treat him any special compared to any other pilot up at the airport. So I guess he enjoyed that and he seemed to be really relaxed around us.”
May recalled one time giving Philip a couple of Arctic char to take home to England. A year later, Philip flew through again and had a message for May from “the missus”: that “she enjoyed the Arctic char immensely.”
May also said that Philip had a good sense of humour and was “always joking around.”
History of controversial statements
However, some of Philip’s comments have landed him in trouble, with the prince establishing a reputation over the years for blunt, controversial and sometimes offensive statements. In particular, some of his comments about Indigenous people were seen as racist, not funny.
For example, on a 2002 visit to Australia with the Queen, Philip infamously asked a group of Aboriginal people if “you still throw spears at each other.”
In 1995, he said to a Scottish driving instructor: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”
Indeed, Buckingham Palace felt compelled to issue an apology after another gaffe in 2000, when Philip, while touring a factory in Scotland, remarked that some electrical equipment looked so crude “it must have been installed by an Indian.”
“The Duke of Edinburgh regrets any offence which may have been caused by remarks he is reported as making earlier today,” the palace said. “With hindsight, he accepts that what were intended as lighthearted comments were inappropriate.”
WATCH | Royal Family lands in present-day Iqaluit in 1970:
The Queen, her husband and two oldest children land in present-day Iqaluit for a visit to Canada’s North in 1970. 1:48
Legacy of public service
Some Indigenous leaders have indicated a desire to not dwell on any past controversies and instead focus on Philip’s public service, as well as the Royal Family’s role in advancing Indigenous affairs in Canada.
Shawn Atleo met Philip in passing as part of official royal visits when he was AFN national chief from 2009 to 2014. He spoke with CBC News in March, when Philip was in hospital.
“I know that the principals that I engaged with, whether it was the Queen herself, Prince Charles or other members, always expressed respect and support for the treaty relationship,” Atleo said.
He also expressed sympathy for the intense spotlight the family operates under.
“I know mine, like a lot of people’s hearts, will go out to the family for the amount of attention that they get,” he said.
In a statement to CBC News on Friday, current AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde extended his condolences to the Royal Family and paid tribute to Philip’s legacy.
“In almost a century of life, Prince Philip has given so much to public service and was a lifelong champion of many worthy causes, especially youth fitness and volunteerism,” he said.
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
The rapid spread of more contagious coronavirus variants across Canada is driving a devastating third wave in much of the country and increasing the level of risk in situations previously thought to be relatively safe from COVID-19.
Experts say the risk of exposure is higher in everyday situations and the margin of error is lower for what we can and can’t do safely until more Canadians are vaccinated.
“The things that you’ve gotten away with previously, and that you’ve put into your mindset that were safe … it wasn’t that they were safe, it’s that you got lucky,” said Erin Bromage, a biology professor and immunologist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who studies infectious diseases.
“That luck — it’s like rolling dice.”
Bromage said activities such as visiting a loved one, sharing a meal or working out in a gym might seem safe because public health restrictions may allow them, but are even riskier now than they were before.
The variants of concern not only appear to be more transmissible and potentially more deadly, but Bromage says they may also transmit for longer periods of time in infected individuals and bind to our cells more easily — providing more opportunities for infected people to spread the virus.
WATCH | Canada facing perilous mix of coronavirus variants:
The mix of COVID-19 variants circulating in Canada has turned the country into a dangerous petri dish unlike anywhere else. 2:07
“If you’re only transmitting for a few days out of an infection cycle, you can only have so many contacts during those days,” he said. “But if that duration of shedding is now twice as long, you can have double the contacts and so therefore it moves more easily between people.”
Linsey Marr, one of the top aerosol scientists in the world and an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech, says it’s possible variants may also be causing more virus particles in the exhaled air of infected individuals for longer.
“The virus is still transmitting the same way,” she said. “What’s different is likely that either the people who are infected are releasing more virus over a longer period of time or it’s possible that it takes fewer of those viruses to make you sick.”
The number of confirmed variant cases in Canada has skyrocketed in recent weeks, rising from about 2,000 a month ago to close to 17,000 this week and counting, with more than 90 per cent of those being the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
The P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases doubling in the past week to more than 1,000 — mostly in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
And the B1351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with more than 150 cases identified in Quebec, more than 70 in Ontario and more than 50 in B.C. as of Thursday.
“The race between the vaccine and the variants is at a critical point,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters Friday. “It is clear that we need stronger control to combat variants of concern that are driving rapid epidemic growth in many areas of the country.”
Younger Canadians are being impacted harder in the third wave as well, Tam said, with infection rates highest among those aged 20 to 39 and a rise in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in those under 60.
Airborne transmission driving spread
New research is shedding light on the way in which infection was occurring around the world even before variants took hold, calling into question whether our previous public health guidelines go far enough.
A recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that a singer at a church in Australia in July was able to infect several others from a distance of more than 15 metres indoors.
While a second CDC study found an infection occurred in a New Zealand quarantine hotel in September after an exposure time of less than a minute in an open doorway.
Quebec health officials say the rise of variants and a more relaxed approach to public health rules by residents have led to the spike in cases in the province, leading them to introduce a mandatory mask mandate for outdoor activities and indoor workplaces.
“The evidence just keeps piling up in favour of the importance of aerosol transmission,” said Marr. “We thought it was important before, I would say it’s probably predominant in terms of how the virus is transmitted.”
WATCH | Quebec City’s COVID-19 surge leads to more restrictions:
Quebec is imposing more COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers swell, especially in Quebec City where variants have gained control. Quebec City, Levis, Gatineau and Beauce are facing tougher controls while Montreal and Laval are returning to an 8 p.m. curfew. 2:02
Aerosol transmission refers to spread via microscopic airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air longer than larger droplets, which tend to fall to the ground within a distance of two metres — a trait that informed the original physical distancing guidelines.
“There has been a reluctance to accept that both in schools and in hospitals,” he said of aerosol transmission. “That poor messaging has led people indoors and infection starting up that really shouldn’t have.”
Canada revised its guidelines on how COVID-19 spreads to include the risk of aerosol transmission in November, weeks after other countries and international health organizations acknowledged the airborne threat.
“People tend to latch on to the first thing they hear, which was to wipe down your groceries a year ago,” said Marr. “But I think we need really a campaign to just clarify to people kind of how the virus is transmitting and then policies that match that.”
Experts say now more than ever, Canadians need to mitigate the increased risk of transmission from variants by going above and beyond public health guidelines and moving activities outdoors — though not all outdoor environments are created equal.
“Imagine, for example, the terrace of a cafe that would be enclosed by plastic sheeting on three of the four walls, in which you have a lot of people close to one another at tables,” said Dr. Raymond Tellier, an infectious diseases specialist and associate medical professor at McGill University. “This is logically outdoor, but physically has all the characteristics of an indoor environment.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Md., says it’s important to remember that while transmission can occur outdoors, it’s much less likely.
“Even with the more contagious variants, the virus is still going to have difficulty transmitting in those settings,” he said.
“But when you look at some of the issues that we had in the United States, for example the protests after George Floyd’s death, those were all outdoors and we saw very little transmission.”
The fact is Canada’s third wave of COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down as the vaccine rollout gradually ramps up — meaning Canadians need to buckle down until more of us get a shot, experts say.
Bromage says both Canada and the U.S. have a “rough” couple of months ahead, but that Canada’s slower vaccine rollout means our third wave could last into June.
“The race is really on in the U.S.,” he said. “The variants are winning in Canada right now, whereas I think in the U.S. it’s sort of neck and neck.”
Canada blanked Wales 3-0, but lost captain Christine Sinclair to an injury in the first half of a soccer friendly Friday.
Sinclair, playing her first game for Canada in more than a year, had to leave two-thirds of the way through the first half after contact with a Welsh player with Canada leading 1-0.
The 37-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., was clearly in pain as she lay on the ground but hobbled off the field under her own power in the 32nd minute, holding one of her boots.
There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury.
Deanne Rose, Evelyne Viens and Jessie Fleming scored for Canada at Leckwith Stadium as coach Bev Priestman got the offence she has been looking for. Canada had scored just three goals in its previous seven matches (1-4-2).
It marked the first time the Canadian women had scored three goals or more since Feb. 1, 2020, when they blanked Jamaica 9-0 in Olympic qualifying play.
Canada plays No. 6 England Tuesday
Canada is ranked eighth in the world, compared to No. 31 for Wales. The two teams had met just once before, with a teenage Sinclair scoring twice in a 4-0 win at the 2002 Algarve Cup.
Canada heads 235 kilometres northeast next to Stoke-on-Trent for a game Tuesday against No. 6 England.
Canada turned its early superiority into a goal in the 25th minute with Quinn, who goes by one name, playing provider. Taking advantage of a poor clearance, the midfielder sliced open the Welsh defence with a superb looping ball from inside her own half that put Rose in all alone. The University of Florida forward smashed a high shot home for her 10th international goal.
Viens, who had replaced the injured Sinclair, made it 2-0 in the 58th minute with a nice touch at the near post to knock in a Janine Beckie cross for her first for Canada in her fourth appearance.
Fleming made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute, curling in a beautiful shot past goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan for her 11th goal in Canadian colours.
Sinclair had not played for Canada since a tournament in France in March 2020. She missed the SheBelieves Cup in February due to injury.
Sinclair, who earned her 297th cap Friday after tweeting “It’s go time” prior to kickoff, is the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 186. She almost notched No. 187 in the 21st minute after a giveaway in a dangerous position by Rachel Rowe but a diving O’Sullivan was able to palm her shot around the post.
Controlling the tempo
Priestman fielded a more experienced starting 11 than she was able to at the SheBelieves Cup, with several veterans inured or unable to take part in the Florida tournament due to quarantine issues.
Her starting 11 Friday came into the match with a combined 939 caps — compared to 604 for the SheBelieves Cup finale 2-0 loss against Brazil on Feb. 24.
Only six of the starters against Brazil were back in the 11 Friday, with Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema, Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles and Quinn joining them.
The Canadians controlled the tempo early, moving the ball around and threatening on several corners. Quinn was influential in midfield.
Wales had a chance in the 29th minute but a deflected shot proved to be easy pickings for goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
Sinclair’s departure seemed to rattle Canada. Wales came on as the first half wore down, playing more in the Canadian end. Still Canada had 59 per cent of the possession in the first 45 minutes, outshooting Wales 6-4 (2-0 in shots on target).
Priestman brought on Beckie and Jayde Riviere in the 53rd minute with Beckie soon influencing play.
Wales argued unsuccessfully for a penalty in the 60th minute when Natasha Harding went down after contact with Labbe. Canada came close in the 69th but O’Sullivan tipped Viens’ powerful shot over the crossbar.
Canadian substitute Sarah Stratigakis had a good chance at the far post but was off target.
Friday’s game was the first as Wales coach for Gemma Grainger, who worked in the England setup with Priestman.
It was game No. 4 for Priestman at the Canada helm. She went 1-2-0 at the SheBelieves Cup, losing to the U.S. and Brazil and beating Argentina.
Canada’s Brendan Bottcher downed Norway’s Steffan Walstad 6-4 in the men’s world curling championship Thursday — an important win for the host country.
The victory ensured the Canadian rink a spot in the playoffs, thus qualifying the country for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The World Curling Federation confirmed to CBC Sports that Canada clinched following the match.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET; Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The top six teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round Friday remain in contention for the world title while qualifying for the Olympics.
The top two seeds earn byes to Saturday’s semifinals. Sergey Glukhov’s Russian Curling Federation team and Sweden’s Niklas Edin locked down those semifinal berths with 10-2 records Thursday.
John Shuster of the United States earned a playoff spot with a 9-3 record.
Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Canada are tied at 8-4, and Norway and Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz are both 7-5 . They will battle for the three remaining playoff berths Friday. Canada caps the round-robin against Germany (4-8) on Friday.
Teams third through sixth in the standings will compete in qualification games with winners reaching the final four. The medal games are Sunday.
WATCH | Bottcher clips Walstad for key victory:
Canada clinches playoff spot in the men’s world curling championship and qualifies for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing with Brendan Bottcher’s 6-4 win over Norway’s Steffen Walstad. 0:42
Much of Canada is in the grips of a worsening third wave as COVID-19 vaccinations slowly ramp up, and experts say the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants is throwing gasoline on an already-raging fire.
“We have a lot of virus moving around the country and escalating very, very quickly,” said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair of emerging viruses.
“Vaccinations are certainly starting to pick up, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be to get this thing under control.”
More than 15,000 cases of the more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants have been reported across Canada to date, with more than 90 per cent of those being the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
But the P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases doubling in the past week to close to 1,000 — mostly in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
And the B1351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with over 150 cases identified in Quebec, more than 70 in Ontario and over 50 in B.C as of Tuesday.
WATCH | Variant first found in Brazil newest COVID-19 challenge in B.C.
The P1 COVID-19 variant, first seen in Brazil, is creating a big problem for health officials because of how quickly it spreads. Currently concentrated in the Vancouver area, modelling shows it could spread out of control by late April. 2:06
“People were hoping that we could get to the finish line and get everyone vaccinated without having to deal with another wave and unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case,” said Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
“That’s a combination of both our reopening too quickly and now you add in these variants of concern.”
Canada has emerged as one of the only countries in the world with significant outbreaks of three different variants occurring at the same time — turning us into a giant experiment on the world stage.
“There’s no other country that’s kind of dealing with it as we are — we have all of them emerging at once,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
“What happens to all three of them in the mix? Which one takes over? Which one is the fittest of the three?”
Variants could threaten vaccine effectiveness
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says another unanswered question that has huge implications for our ability to control the third wave is whether variants like P1 pose a threat to COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.
“This virus might be capable of evading the immune response,” she said. “But we do not have an actual vaccine effectiveness estimate that is solidified.”
Tam says she has asked medical officers of health across the country to gather more information on vaccine effectiveness against P1 in particular, while encouraging Canadians to get vaccinated and provinces and territories to keep public health restrictions in place.
Amid that black hole of data, Tam says Canada may be able to fill the international research void due to our surging rates of variant cases — for better or worse.
“We don’t have enough information from other countries, including Brazil, about how well these vaccines work against P1,” she said. “If Canada is seeing the evolution of spread of P1, we might be a country where we will be able to produce some of this data.”
Tam says scientists believe one specific mutation common to all three variants, called E484K, could actually allow the virus to escape the immune response and even make it possible for someone who has previously had COVID-19 to become reinfected.
“That was the initial event that caused us to be concerned about this P1,” she said. “There was reinfection in a particular person that already had COVID-19 before.”
Tam said while there have so far only been laboratory studies done on the antibody response to P1 that showed in some cases there was a reduced ability for a vaccinated person’s antibodies to neutralize P1 — the evidence so far is still a “signal of concern.”
Officials warn against travelling within Canada
Health officials are imploring Canadians to avoid recreational travel within Canada as the third wave rages, but experts say stricter travel restrictions may not be enough now to prevent widespread outbreaks of more contagious coronavirus variants.
“Variants of concern are posing new challenges in different locations across the country. Now is not the time to travel for recreational purposes,” Tam said Tuesday. “Limit your travel to essential trips only and do your part to stop the spread.”
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said individuals need to take “personal responsibility to the extent that it’s possible.”
“Stay at home as much as possible, don’t have any sort of non-essential travel — especially vacations going from one province to another.”
WATCH | Alberta renews restrictions as communities battle P1 variant outbreaks:
Several Alberta communities fighting P1 variant outbreaks are frustrated by a lack of information from health officials as the province announces a return to tougher restrictions to get its COVID-19 situation under control. 2:09
Officials there are also investigating several major P1 outbreaks at large workplaces, at least one of which is tied to a traveller returning to Alberta from out of province.
“Even before the variants have taken hold, we could have been far more responsive. But we weren’t and now we’re in a situation where we have these variants that are far more transmissible,” said Asadi.
“We have to take far more strict measures than previously, at least for a while until we can get the vaccination rates up.”
Manitoba is the only province or territory outside of Atlantic Canada and the North to implement strict regional travel restrictions, requiring a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travellers, and has so far avoided a third wave.
“Manitoba implemented it when they saw the variants and the rest of us just didn’t,” said Asadi.
“There’s just this reluctance to do anything that seems too drastic, whereas doing the same old things results fundamentally in then having to institute stay at home orders, which themselves are really quite drastic but become necessary once you lose control.”
Ontario announced sweeping restrictions and a stay at home order on Wednesday due to a surge in cases and overwhelming pressure on the healthcare system, but stopped short of regional travel restrictions to slow the spread of variants.
Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says variants already make up close to 70 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases.
“It’s incredibly widespread, so I think there’s merit in restricting movement between areas,” she said. “But as a way to control the spread of variants? That ship has likely already sailed.”
Kindrachuk said Manitoba’s travel restrictions have been a key part of their ability to control the spread of variants in the third wave, but a recent spike in cases and variants locally could jeopardize that.
“Once they get in, they start circulating a little bit under the radar, and then they start to take off,” he said.
“Now what we’re seeing is really it’s raging in basically all the provinces with the exception of the Atlantic provinces, Manitoba, and the Territories. The question is going to be now, how long can it be maintained?”
Parents and children wanting to know when COVID-19 vaccines could roll out to Canada’s youngest people recently got a glimpse at the answers.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said it is “likely that Pfizer, if all the data is fine, may be the first” vaccine that children and teens could receive.
Pfizer and BioNTech said in a media release on Wednesday that their COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, is safe with “demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy” in preventing the disease in teens aged 12 to 15.
The data hasn’t been peer reviewed or scrutinized by regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.
In the trial of 2,260 adolescents, there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group that got a placebo shot and none among those who received the vaccine.
Side-effects were similar to those reported in clinical trials in adults, such as pain at the injection site, headaches, fever and fatigue.
WATCH | Pfizer’s early data on vaccine for kids:
Pfizer-BioNTech says its vaccine is safe and showed 100 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial of 12- to 15-year-olds. Health officials say more data is needed, but parents are optimistic about the results. 2:03
Sharma said Health Canada will review Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine data on younger teens “in a couple of weeks.” Full data, including on children aged six to 12, is expected in months.
Any approvals will only come after the regulator checks the data for safety, efficacy and quality.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been cleared for people as young as 16 in Canada.
Dr. Noni MacDonald, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax who researches vaccine safety, said Pfizer’s research is a “bridging study.”
In a bridging study, researchers check if antibody and cell-based immune responses are equivalent to what’s seen in adults. For Pfizer, they were.
“The results are really very encouraging,” MacDonald said.
Protection for all Canadians
Moderna is also conducting a clinical trial in Canada for children aged five to 11. The results are expected early in 2022. The company also launched a trial in those aged six months to less than 12 in the U.S. in March.
Johnson & Johnson, which recently won approval for its vaccine in adults in Canada and the U.S., expanded its Phase 2 trial for those aged 12 to 17 and plans to include younger children.
But it’s only when vaccines roll out in the real world to children with diabetes, heart disease and other underlying conditions that answers on effectiveness will be clearer.
“We want to protect everybody in our community, even those who cannot be immunized or will not respond to the vaccine,” MacDonald said. “To do that, we need children, we need teenagers, we need young adults, we need middle-aged adults and we need older people.”
Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie working on COVID-19 vaccines at the VIDO lab in Saskatoon, said she’s excited about how the vaccines could help children return to school and sports.
“Children can be infected with the virus and pass on the virus,” Kelvin said. “Even though we might not see clinical disease in kids or the clinical disease might not be as severe as in adults, it’s really important that children are not able to be part of the transmission chain.”
MacDonald hopes vaccines could be ready for younger teens by September, in time for mass immunization programs in school.
Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos says one lesson learned from recessions and depressions past is to veer away from under-investing in the economy as a crisis comes to an end.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip much of the country — something Duclos himself didn’t expect to see more than one year on — it’s advice he’s backing as the federal government maps out its economic recovery from the global public health emergency.
“There is unfortunately … a tendency to under react, to be under prepared and to be under reactive … to the challenges posed either by the health or economic crisis,” the former economics professor said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.
“That is a very unfortunate outcome because it means that we are then faced with higher unemployment, lower growth, lower living standards for Canadians and therefore lower taxes and greater deficits over the longer term.”
When the first federal budget in two years is presented later this month, it’s expected to include details of Ottawa’s three-year stimulus plan, which is valued between $ 70 billion and $ 100 billion and is intended to spark the country’s post-pandemic recovery.
In a pre-budget outlook published last week, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said the temporary package could provide a “significant boost” to Canada’s economy, but cautioned it could potentially result in “materially larger budget deficits.”
Feds will support Canadians for ‘as long as it takes’
The stimulus plan was not factored into the PBO’s overall report due to a lack of details about the package. The spending watchdog projected the government would run a $ 363.4 billion deficit in the 2020-21 fiscal year — lower than the $ 381 billion figure Ottawa predicted last fall.
But the PBO noted the deficit should decrease in the years ahead — and projected employment would return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.
We are facing a third wave, which was both unexpected and certainly not the outcome we were hoping for…– Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos
When asked by CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton whether pandemic support for Canadians should continue to be extended, Duclos said the government plans to stick around “for as long as it takes.”
“Obviously, we are facing a third wave, which was both unexpected and certainly not the outcome we were hoping for at this time of the year. I think we all look forward to seeing the budget on the 19th of April,” he said.
Variant-driven surge in cases
The PBO estimate was crafted with the assumption that a so-called “third wave” of COVID-19 cases and infections of coronavirus variants would not be severe, particularly as more Canadians get vaccinated.
The country surpassed one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 this weekend.
“I think we’re going to see a rapidly increasing number of cases because of the variants’ increased transmissibility,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said in a separate interview. “I think that’s very concerning.”
Russell cited “variants, vaccines and vigilance” as the three most critical factors that will determine how quickly Canada finds its way out of the pandemic.
“I would say go below the headlines and the sound bites to understand the numbers. The risks right now in every province is higher to get infected with COVID-19 and one of the variants,” she said. “That risk is higher than any kind of a problem that you could have with any of the vaccines at this point in time.”
WATCH | Critical time for vigilance, says Russell:
New Brunswick’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell, says it’s a critical time for vigilance as the Atlantic provinces grapple with more cases involving new variants of concern. 8:43
Vaccinations alone not enough, Duclos says
Duclos also appealed to Canadians to be “mindful and focus on the work that each of us needs to do in the next few critical weeks.”
That includes refraining from any non-essential travel, regardless of someone’s vaccination status.
“It’s not the time to travel now and it’s not the time to consider opening up our borders with any country, including the United States,” Duclos said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared last week that people who are fully vaccinated can travel within the country without requiring a COVID-19 test or needing to quarantine.
“Even in the United States, where vaccination is more advanced … we’re currently speaking of a fourth wave,” Duclos said. “So that tells us that vaccination is not enough.”
Canada has recorded its one-millionth case of COVID-19 according to tracking by CBC News, just over 14 months after the first case was reported.
The milestone — reached Saturday afternoon after B.C. reported 2,090 cases from the past two days — comes as many parts of the country enter a third wave, and variants of the illness cause increased concern. Nationally, the confirmed case total is now 1,001,651; the death toll stood at 23,050, while 921,465 cases were resolved and 57,136 were active.
Canada reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19 on Jan. 25, 2020, a man who had returned to Toronto from Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected. He ultimately survived.
By the time the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, Canada had recorded about 140 cases and one death, according to CBC News tracking. The country hit the 100,000-case mark about 99 days after logging its first case.
After months of lockdowns, travel restrictions and a summer of declining cases, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared in September that multiple provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, were experiencing a second wave of the virus
“I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear. And we can’t change today’s numbers or even tomorrow’s … but what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter,” he said at the time.
Now, as a third wave of the pandemic lands in many of the same regions, all eyes are on two factors — vaccines and variants of concern.
Criticism of vaccine rollout
While Trudeau, and several other politicians, have promised that vaccines will be widely available this year for all those who want one, criticism has mounted amid delays and mixed messaging.
According to CBC tracking of vaccinations, about three per cent of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated heading into the Easter weekend.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, had predicted that by this weekend, 9.5 million vaccine doses would be distributed.
“Our distribution tempo will keep on increasing, with over 40 million doses scheduled by end June and more than 100 million doses by end September,” said Fortin.
Concerns over variants
Concerns about Canada’s pace of vaccine rollout come as cases caused by B117, B1351 and P1 variants increase, heightening the need for Canadians to be vigilant with public health measures like distancing and masking.
Some health officials and politicians have characterized the current phase of the pandemic as a race between the variants and the authorized vaccines. Studies have indicated that the variants are considerably more transmissible than the first iteration of the virus from early 2020, and can potentially lead to more serious cases, more serious cases, including hospitalizations and intensive care stays.
WATCH | ICUs filling with younger COVID-19 patients:
The third wave of COVID-19 is putting a lot of strain on ICUs across the country and doctors say this cohort of patients is significantly younger than in previous waves. 2:02
In Ontario for example, variants of concern now account for 67 per cent of all cases, according to a report from the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
It’s because of the increase in variant cases and relatively slow vaccine distribution that Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said last week, a return to pre-pandemic “normal” is not imminent.
“It’s not going to be, ‘Here’s a date and after that date all is going to be good.’ It’s data, not dates,” she said. “By the fall — that’s what I think we should be aiming for.”
WATCH | 2 doctors on how to deal with Canada’s coronavirus 3rd wave:
Infectious disease specialists Dr. Lynora Saxinger and Dr. Zain Chagla discuss the latest restrictions in several provinces and how they’re feeling about where we are in the third wave. 7:54
Health officials are projecting the death rate will be relatively lower than it was with past caseload spikes because some of the most vulnerable people — long term care home residents, seniors, Indigenous adults — have been vaccinated.
The public health agency said it expects many of the new cases to come from people aged 20 to 39. While death is less likely in this demographic, younger patients still face the prospect of severe health outcomes.
LTC homes, racially diverse neighbourhoods hit hard
The toll of the virus within Canada has not been uniformly felt in terms of demographics and geography.
According to a study released in recent days by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 69 per cent of the country’s overall COVID-19 death toll between March 2020 and February 2021 represented fatalities of persons residing in retirement communities or long-term care facilities, significantly higher than the international average of 41 per cent. During that time span, CIHI reported, more than 80,000 residents and staff members of long-term care homes were infected with the coronavirus.
WATCH | Doctors bring COVID-19 vaccines to homebound seniors:
Ontario’s Covid-19 science table is pushing for more mobile vaccine units to vaccinate seniors in their homes after new data reveals that 25 per cent of Ontario seniors 75 and older have still not received their first shot because they’re either unwilling or unable to leave home for medical reasons. A look at two doctors leading the charge. 2:03
Ontario and Quebec both suffered overwhelming loss of life in long-term care facilities, leading to inquiries to examine what went wrong. In combination with a greater population density than other provinces west of Atlantic Canada, the two provinces account for about two-thirds of all recorded COVID-19 cases in the country, about five to six percentage points higher than their share of the national population.
Long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario, along with a number of remote and Indigenous communities, have needed help from outside sources, including the Canadian military, in order to tamp down outbreaks.
The most racially diverse neighbourhoods in Canada reported COVID-19 mortality rates more than twice as high as those reported by districts that are overwhelmingly white, according to new data released by Statistics Canada in March.
The data affirmed what some Canadians had reported anecdotally for months: Black people in particular have been far more likely to succumb to the virus than members of other groups.
In areas where a quarter of the population or more identified as “visible minorities” — the term the government uses for non-white and non-Indigenous people — the mortality rate averaged 35 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to an average of 16 deaths per 100,000 people in regions where less than one per cent of the population was composed of racial minorities.
The data account for deaths between January 2020 and January 2021.
What’s happening across Canada
In British Columbia, health officials have expanded vaccine access and eligibility for residents in small, remote communities on Vancouver Island.
Island Health now says any adult over 18 in Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Port Alice can now request a spot.
WATCH | Lethbridge becomes one of Alberta’s worst COVID-19 hotspots:
Lethbridge is one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in Alberta, and officials say it’s mostly because of social gatherings that break the rules. A Lethbridge woman remembers the pain of witnessing her father’s death in ICU, as local doctors raise the alarm. 1:59
More drive-thru sites are anticipated to open this week across the province.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority website said the Lloydminster site is expected to open on Sunday, the Saskatoon drive-thru site is anticipated to open on Monday and the Yorkton and Weyburn sites are anticipated to open Tuesday.
COVID-19 Immunization Alert: The SHA is expediting the opening of additional drive thru and walk-in clinics in communities in Saskatchewan to deliver vaccines. Don’t hesitate. Vaccinate. Read the rest of the announcement: <a href=”https://t.co/V09mlbXlPK”>https://t.co/V09mlbXlPK</a>
A group of physicians, infectious disease specialists and other health experts say the Quebec government needs to shut down the Montreal region, before the spread of coronavirus variants spirals out of control.
New Brunswick registered nine new cases, of which seven are in the hard-hit Edmundston region. Hundreds of residents of the region are scheduled to be vaccinated at community clinics over the weekend.
In the Northwest Territories, an outbreak has been declared at the Diavik Diamond Mine about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife after a second worker tested positive for the virus within a week.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 130.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.84 million.
In Europe, Italy has entered a three-day strict nationwide lockdown to deter Easter travel and help prevent new surges of the coronavirus. Police set up road checks to ensure people were staying close to home. Extra patrols were ordered up to break up large gatherings in squares and parks, which over Easter weekend are usually packed with picnic goers.
In Asia, South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 500 for the fourth straight day, a pace unseen since January, as experts raise concern about another viral surge amid a slow rollout in vaccines. South Korean officials have insisted they could afford a wait-and-see approach on vaccines as the country’s outbreak isn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe.
In the Americas, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez says he had an initial positive test for coronavirus, despite having been vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine in January. The Russian Gamaleya Institute, which produced the vaccine, tweeted the shot has a 91.6 per cent rate of effectiveness against infection and 100 per cent against critical cases.
In Africa, Kenya has ordered a suspension on private importations of vaccines. Private health facilities have been charging about $ 80 US for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, while the governments institutions are giving free AstraZeneca vaccines received from the global COVAX initiative