It’s been two years since figure skaters have had a world championship, and one year without international competition at all.
But all that changes March 22 with the start of this year’s figure skating world championships in Stockholm, Sweden.
The event is going ahead despite COVID-19 still being a major factor in many participating countries. And although there is no required quarantine upon arrival in Sweden, athletes will be tested before they leave, again upon arrival and will be in a bubble while continuing to be tested throughout the six days of competition.
COVID-19 protocols aren’t the only thing making this world championship unique. Because each country was hit by the pandemic differently, skaters come into competition with different levels of preparation. For example, Russia saw fewer restrictions than most countries so skaters competed fairly regularly, albeit nationally, throughout the season. Compare that with Canadian skaters who saw multiple lockdowns and faced varying restrictions pending on their province, stopping them from training. Canadian Nationals were cancelled and the only competition in the past year was one held virtually.
Throw world titles and qualification spots for next year’s Beijing Olympics into the mix and it’s safe to say this world championship is unlike any other.
CBC Sports has complete coverage of the week’s events, starting Wednesday with live streams of every event available on CBC.ca/Sports and the CBC Sports app. The full schedule is at cbc.ca/sports/broadcast. Coverage continues this weekend on Road to the Olympic Games with Brenda Irving and Kurt Browning providing commentary.
That Figure Skating Show will be live on CBC Sports YouTube channel right after every #stockholm2021 short program. Join hosts Dylan & Asher & special guests as they react, provide insight and spill the tea on Worlds
WATCH | Preview of championships:
Jacqueline Doorey breaks down the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships with ‘That Figure Skating Show’ star Asher Hill. 5:27
With reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France opting out of this season to prepare for the Olympics, the chance for a world title has never been better for Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. The duo, who train in Toronto, saw incredible success prior to the sports shutdown with a gold at Skate America and silver at both the Rostelecom Cup and Four Continents Championship. Plus, they’re coming back with their 2019-20 programs — their freeskate to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now being a fan favourite — so expect an inspired performance no matter what. But depending on how slippery the ice is that day, the American and Russian teams could very well take up the podium. So expect a tight race.
Canadians to watch: Ice dance is Canada’s best event and the country is sending three teams, with the second spot going to Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen. The Montreal-pair haven’t been seen internationally in over a year because of a knee injury Sorensen suffered back in 2019, which of course was followed by the pandemic hiatus. They’ll be joined by Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, who also train in Montreal and are in their second senior season and experiencing their first senior world championship.
It’s a battle of the giants: Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu versus American Nathan Chen. These two are the most dominant male skaters in the world, each fantastic at both the artistic and technical side of the sport. Hanyu, 26, is an older skater who’s conditioning and asthma sometimes holds him back, but the year off may have given him fresh legs. And since he didn’t compete this season to avoid COVID-19, worlds will be the first look at him in over a year. On the other hand Chen, 21, is a young phenom who was world champion in 2018 and 2019, so no doubt he’s looking to make it a three-peat.
Canadians to watch: Despite having multiple talented skaters like Nam Nguyen and Roman Sadovsky who could be competitive at worlds, Canada had only one quota spot which went to Keegan Messing. The 29-year-old lives and trains in Alaska and this will be the veteran’s third world championship and he no doubt hopes to win his first worlds medal. But the technical elements are becoming harder and more common, so Messing will have to land all his quads and triples to be competitive.
Looks like te Russia could sweep the podium, even with 2020 Grand Prix final champion Alena Kostornaia unable to compete due to injury and sickness. But Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva are all on deck and have the technical skills to sweep the event. However, Japan’s Rika Kihira and South Korea’s Young You could sneak onto the podium. Expect to see lots of quads and triple axels as the women’s event is more technical than ever before.
Canadians to watch: Canada’s women’s skating program is in a building phase. This will be Madeline Schizas and Emily Bausback’s first senior world championships. Schizas, who is 18 and trains in Milton, Ont., won the recent Skate Canada Virtual Challenge and wants to skate two, personal best programs in Sweden. Bausback, also 18, trains in Burnaby, B.C and will try to recreate the fire that helped her become national champion back in 2019. So worlds will be a glimpse at the next chapter of Canadian women’s skating.
A Canadian pair could get their first world medal. Kirsten Moore-Towers (28) and Michael Marinaro (29) train in Oakville, Ont., and have skated together since 2014. They head to worlds with two very solid programs but they’ll have to skate their best to beat the Russian teams and the gold-medal favourites Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China. This will be easier said than done considering their lack of competition opportunities this year, however, the duo said they’ve never trained harder in their careers and are feeling confident.
Canadians to watch: Evelyn Walsh (19) and Trennt Michaud (24) will join Moore-Towers and Marinao representing Canada. The pair trains in Brantford, Ont., and this is their first senior worlds. Moore-Towers mentioned she’d love to place well in worlds to help Canada’s chances at two quota spots for Beijing 2022, in hopes Marsh and Michaud will get the opportunity to go to their first Games next year.
A COVID-19 vaccine shortage has forced California to temporarily close five mass vaccination sites, all in Los Angeles, including one at Dodger Stadium.
Over the past week, state health officials say they have received less than 20 per cent of the doses they need to maintain the sites.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would exhaust its supply of Moderna first doses — two are required for full immunization — forcing it to close drive-thru and walk-up vaccination sites Friday and Saturday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the sites closed even earlier than expected after running out of doses on Thursday.
They may not reopen until the city gets more supplies, perhaps next Tuesday or Wednesday. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue operating.
WATCH | Procurement minister updates Canadians on AstraZeneca vaccine supply:
Procurement Minister Anita Anand provides an update on Canada’s expected AstraZeneca vaccine supply. 3:00
California leads the United States in COVID-19 deaths with 45,496, edging past New York’s toll of 45,312, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Vaccine supply constraints are slowing ambitious vaccination programs in the U.S., as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily in states including New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses.
The U.S. has seen more than 27.3 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and more than 475,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
In-person schooling can resume safely with masks, physical distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The CDC released its long-awaited road map for getting students back to classrooms in the middle of a pandemic. But its guidance is just that — the agency cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Thursday predicted that it will be “open season” for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States by April as increased supply allows most people to get shots.
WATCH | Trudeau on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply. 1:51
Speaking to NBC’s Today Show, the science adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden said the rate of vaccinations will greatly accelerate in the coming months. He credits forthcoming deliveries of the two approved vaccines, the potential approval of a third and moves by the Biden administration to increase the nation’s capacity to deliver doses.
Fauci said that “by the time we get to April,” it will be “open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” He cautioned it will take “several more months” to deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted the “overwhelming majority” of people in the U.S. could be vaccinated by the middle and end of the summer.
What’s happening in Canada
WATCH | See some of what experts had to say about Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling and hear what it might mean for people in the province:
Dr. Zain Chagla tells CBC News that reopening is fine provided the province can shut down again quickly, if there’s a jump in new cases. 3:37
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says people need to continue what they’ve been doing but with “even more diligence” to counter the more contagious variants that have been identified in several provinces.
Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Tam said that means keeping up “individual public health practices” to limit spread, protecting the vulnerable and allowing time for vaccination programs to expand.
WATCH | Tam on why provinces are not using COVID-19 rapid tests:
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, responds to questions about why she thinks provinces are not using their supplies of COVID-19 rapid tests. 0:58
As of Friday, eight provinces had reported more than 429 cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said.
There were also 28 recorded cases of the B1351 variant, which was first reported in South Africa, and one case of the P1 variant blamed for a surge of cases in Brazil.
“At least three of these provinces are reporting evidence of community spread ” and variants have been “linked to outbreaks.”
The federal government on Friday announced it is stepping up its capacity to identify and track cases of COVID-19 variants of concern with a $ 53-million investment.
“Funding will expand upon existing public health networks to establish regional clinical and public health teams to quickly identify and characterize variants of concern,” a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
According to PHAC, the increased funding will “help rapidly scale up our surveillance, sequencing and research efforts.”
Starting Feb. 22, airline travellers landing in Canada will have to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said arriving passengers will need to take a COVID-19 test and book a government-approved hotel as they await results in the city in which they first arrive in Canada, either Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal.
WATCH | An infectious disease expert on new international travel measures:
CBC News Network’s Andrew Nichol’s speaks with Dr. Chakrabarti hours after the Canadian government announces new testing, and quarantine measures for all travellers coming into Canada. 6:29
If the test result is negative, the traveller can leave for home or catch their connecting flight to their final destination. Those who test positive will be sent to another designated government quarantine facility.
The testing requirement is in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for returning non-essential travellers.
As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 819,866 cases of COVID-19 — with 36,914 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,152.
Ontario on Friday reported 1,076 cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 763, with 295 people in intensive care units.
The Ontario government on Friday issued a list of regions that will remain under a stay-at-home order while others transition into a colour-coded framework of restrictions, as of Feb. 16.
The only regions not transitioning out of the stay-at-home order on that date include Peel and York regions, Toronto and North Bay Parry Sound District.
Ontario is reporting 1,076 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and over 62,000 tests completed. Locally, there are 361 new cases in Toronto, 210 in Peel and 122 in York Region. <br> <br>As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 442,441 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
In Quebec, health officials reported 984 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 25 additional deaths on Friday. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 849, with 137 people in intensive care units, according to an update published by the province on Friday.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while New Brunswick reported five new cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday reported 50 new cases of COVID-19, a day after it reported a single-day high of 100 new cases.
Faced with rising COVID-19 case numbers in the St. John’s area, the province’s chief electoral officer on Thursday delayed voting for the provincial election in almost half of the province’s 40 districts. In 18 districts, in-person voting will be rescheduled and won’t go ahead as planned on Saturday.
There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Thursday.
In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister announced a plan to procure a made-in-Canada vaccine that is in early trial stages.
The province on Friday reported 81 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. There are now 240 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, the government said in a release, down by four from Thursday, with 29 of those people in intensive care, down by three.
WATCH | Manitoba buys its own made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine:
Manitoba is the first province to buy its own COVID-19 vaccine rather than relying on the federal government. 1:53
Saskatchewan reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the respiratory illness on Friday. There are currently 182 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 23 of whom are in intensive care.
Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday in the community in Arviat, while health officials in the Northwest Territories reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Yukon.
Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday, more than 108 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 60.5 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.
In Europe, Portugal is getting more help from its European Union partners to ease pressure on hospitals crunched by the pandemic, with France and Luxembourg the latest countries to offer medical workers.
The Portuguese health ministry said France is sending a doctor and three nurses, while Luxembourg is providing two doctors and two nurses. The health ministry said in a statement late Thursday the medics should arrive next week.
The German army sent eight doctors and 18 nurses earlier this month to help at a Lisbon hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care fell Thursday for the third straight day, but Portugal’s seven-day average of daily deaths remained the world’s highest, at 1.97 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Germany, the health minister said he will consider introducing penalties for people who jump the queue for coronavirus vaccines. Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that there had been several such reports in recent days and the government would discuss with parliament “whether sanctions in this area could make sense.”
Spahn had previously downplayed the issue of queue jumping, but persistent reports have surfaced of senior officials in hospitals and cities getting the vaccines before doctors and nurses. This week the Catholic bishop of Augsburg acknowledged receiving the vaccine, despite being far down the priority list.
Patient rights campaigners warned Spahn last year that Germany’s complicated vaccination system could open the door to corruption and queue jumping, but the ministry rebuffed repeated calls for criminal penalties.
In Africa, South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.
Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, local media reported, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday the country’s COVID-19 inoculation program will likely begin on Feb. 20, brought forward by the earlier receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than originally anticipated.
Australia’s second-largest city will begin its third lockdown as a results of a rapidly spreading COVID-19 cluster centred on hotel quarantine.
The five-day lockdown will be enforced across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital Melbourne, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced would be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport.
WATCH | Australia’s Victoria state enters a ‘short, sharp’ circuit-breaker lockdown:
It’s a necessary circuit breaker to limit further spread of COVID-19, officials said. A highly contagious strain, first reported in the U.K., was detected at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. 1:32
A population of 6.5 million people will be locked down from 11:59 p.m. until the same time on Wednesday because of a contagious variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people.
In the Americas, Mexico’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,677 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,474 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,968,566 cases and 171,234 deaths. The government said the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than reported levels.
In the Middle East, Israel began reopening its education system on Thursday after a more than six-week closure because of the surge in coronavirus infections.
Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment on Saturday hampered rescuers after a strong earthquake left at least 46 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.
Operations were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed trapped following early Friday’s magnitude 6.2 quake, said Saidar Rahmanjaya, who heads the local search and rescue agency.
Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta landed late Friday for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati said rescuers had so far recovered the bodies of 37 victims in Mamuju and nine in neighbouring Majene district.
At least 415 houses in Majene were damaged and about 15,000 people were moved to shelters, Jati said.
Bodies retrieved by rescuers were sent to a police hospital for identification by relatives, said West Sulawesi police spokesperson Syamsu Ridwan.
He said more than 200 people were receiving treatment in the Bhayangkara police hospital and several others in Mamuju alone. Another 630 were injured in Majene.
Among those pulled alive was a young girl who was stuck in the wreckage of a house with her sister.
The girl was seen in video released by the disaster agency Friday crying for help. She was being treated in a hospital.
She identified herself as Angel and said that her sister, Catherine, who did not appear in the video, was beside her under the rubble and was still breathing.
The fate of Catherine and other family members was unclear.
Landslides, power outages
The quake set off landslides in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to Majene. Power and phone lines were down in many areas.
Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi province with nearly 75,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A governor office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge collapsed and patients with drips laid on folding beds under tarpaulin tents outside one of the damaged hospitals.
Two hospitals in the city were damaged and others were overwhelmed.
Many survivors said that aid had not reached them yet due to damaged roads and disrupted communications.
Video from a TV station showed villagers in Majene, some carrying machetes, forcibly stopping vehicles carrying aid. They climbed onto a truck and threw boxes of instant noodles and other supplies at dozens of people who were scrambling to get them.
Two ships headed to the devastated areas from the nearby cities of Makassar and Balikpapan with rescuers and equipment, including excavators.
State-owned firm AirNav Indonesia, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the quake did not cause significant damage to the Mamuju airport runway or control tower.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Friday that he instructed his cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to co-ordinate the response.
In a telegram sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, the pontiff expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.”
The Pope was praying for “the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve.” Francis also offered encouragement to those continuing search and rescue effects, and he invoked “the divine blessings of strength and hope.”
International humanitarian missions including the Water Mission, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross said in statements that they have joined in efforts to provide relief for people in need.
Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground.
A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
In a normal year Jamie Drysdale would have already played around 30 games as a defenceman for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters.
Of course, there is nothing normal about 2020.
Like most of the players on Canada’s roster at this year’s 2021 IIHF world junior championship, Drysdale hasn’t played a competitive game since March, when the country’s three major junior hockey leagues were shut down over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s very different,” said the 18-year-old from Toronto who was picked sixth overall by the Anaheim Ducks in this year’s NHL draft.
“Not playing the game in seven or eight months could really take a toll on you. We did a good job in camp doing everything we could to get our bodies back in game shape and our minds back in game shape as well.”
WATCH | World Juniors to proceed despite COVID-19:
Ten cases of COVID-19 have made it inside the World Hockey Juniors bubble in Edmonton. This is despite a gauntlet of quarantines and daily testing of staff and players. But so far, it’s still game on. 2:14
Getting ready for this year’s world juniors has been a “different ballgame” for everyone, but especially for goaltenders, said Taylor Gauthier, one of the team’s three goalies.
“Shooters, in the summer, they can shoot pucks, pretty much practice all the skills required to play in a game,” said the 19-year-old Calgary native who plays for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. “For a goalie, it’s a little different.
“You have to get back on the ice, and then you have to get used to seeing the puck again, get used to reading movements and reading plays.”
Tournament prep underway
Team Canada held a training camp in Red Deer, Alta., before travelling to Edmonton to join nine other teams in a bubble.
The tournament is scheduled to begin Christmas Day with no fans in Rogers Place. Canada’s first game is Dec. 26 against Germany.
The Canadians will be limited to one exhibition game on Dec. 23 against Russia. Their scheduled Dec. 21 exhibition game against Sweden was cancelled because of positive coronavirus test results on the Swedish team.
The WHL has delayed its plan to begin playing Jan. 8. The OHL is looking at starting a 40-game season beginning Feb. 4. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League began play in October but has decided to close until Jan. 3 due to COVID-19 issues.
While Canadian teams have been idle, many junior teams in Europe have continued to play games.
“It’s something that we could possibly use as an excuse, but at the end of the day we know the talent that our team possess,” Gauthier said. “Come Boxing Day we’re all going to be in game shape.
“The factor that other countries have been playing for a certain period of time, I don’t think that will come into play very much.”
Michael Dyck, a Team Canada assistant coach, said avoiding injuries after a long layoff was one of the priorities when training camp opened Nov. 16.
“It’s something we had to wean ourselves into,” he said. “We wanted to hit the ground running, but at the same time we were very mindful of their hips, groins, their hamstrings and being put into a really competitive environment after not being in a competitive environment for a quite some time.”
WATCH | Feds revisit world junior plan after rising case totals:
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Alberta and Canadian, Swedish and German teams dealing with outbreaks, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo says they are “keeping an eye” on the situation and will “revisit” their protocols when players start travelling to Alberta. 1:45
Drysdale said playing inter-squad games helped the team physically and mentally.
“Seeing plays that you haven’t seen in a while, getting that mental side of the game back, your reads back,” said Drysdale, who helped Canada win a gold medal in last year’s tournament.
“It’s nice [to] block a shot again. It’s nice to just give a hit, take a hit.”
The camp underwent a 14-day quarantine after two players and one non-core staff member tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s funny,” said Dyck, head coach of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. “We got back going again, we played a couple of games before heading into Edmonton, and it honestly didn’t take long for these guys to get their timing back and shake some of the rust off.
“It’s a challenge that we knew we would have to encounter, and I think the guys have a done a really good job dealing with it.”
Drysdale said Canada may show some rust against Germany.
“No one is going to be perfect,” he said. “It’s the first real game we’ll play together. Everyone will have a lot of energy and be ready to go.
“It’s not going to be a perfect game, I can guarantee you that. Mistakes are going to be made. But as the same time, we’re a team. We’re going to stick together and get through all of it together.”
There also will be some butterflies.
“Regardless of whether I’ve been playing for three or four months or not, I think there’ll be some nerves,” Gauthier said. “It’s the world juniors. It’s a moment all of us have dreamed of since we were young.
“It’s good to be nervous and it’s good to feel those pressures. Just embrace it and feel lucky and fortunate that you’re able to play, because right now, there’s no one playing hockey.”
A lack of raw materials used in the manufacture of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine played a role in the company’s decision to slash its 2020 production target, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
Pfizer has said in recent weeks that it anticipates producing 50 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year. That is down from an earlier target of 100 million doses. Pfizer’s vaccine relies on a two-dose regimen, meaning 50 million doses is enough to inoculate 25 million people.
A company spokeswoman said the “scale-up of the raw material supply chain took longer than expected.” She also cited later-than-expected results from Pfizer’s clinical trial as a reason for the smaller number of doses expected to be produced by the end of 2020.
The spokeswoman added that the modifications to Pfizer’s production lines are now complete and finished doses are being made at a rapid pace.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the news. It reported that an unnamed person directly involved in the development of the Pfizer vaccine said “some early batches of the raw materials failed to meet the standards,” which caused production delays.
Pfizer applied in November for emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. regulators. U.S. officials said they expect its vaccine to get regulatory clearance this month. The U.S. government expects its first allocation of the vaccine to include 6.4 million doses, with more to follow.
Regulators in the U.K. have already authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for use in that country.
Vaccine distribution, the inability to pull off a mass campaign that could spark crowds and the absence of a national immunization registry are among the top hurdles facing Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, says the head of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
“To me the challenge is … the distribution. So we make the recommendations, but between that and getting the vaccine into people’s arms is going to be quite a challenge,” Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday.
The independent committee is made up of experts tasked with advising the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on the use of vaccines. One of its goals is to help provinces and territories determine who should first receive the COVID-19 vaccine, considering some populations have higher needs and initial supply will be limited.
Key populations for prioritization include seniors, front-line workers and others at risk of contracting or transmitting the illness. The committee says other considerations, such as people who belong to multiple at-risk populations, the characteristics of approved vaccines and the severity of outbreaks should also be factored into the country’s distribution plan.
It’s up to specific jurisdictions to hammer out the logistics of those plans, Quach-Thanh said, adding that strategies used during 2009’s H1N1 pandemic won’t work today.
“We’re not going to be able to do the mass vaccination campaign like we were doing for H1N1, for instance, because … putting people together increases the risk of spreading COVID,” she said. The campaign was Canada’s largest vaccination program and drew crowds and lengthy lineups from those seeking a vaccine.
The physician said the NACI has yet to see data from either pharmaceutical company regarding their Phase 3 trials, but added that she hopes to see that information soon.
The federal government has agreements with the two companies, along with Novavax and Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. It also has deals with Sanofi/GSK, AstraZeneca and Medicago.
Canada is to receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine should they make it through clinical trials and get the green light from Health Canada.
Another obstacle, Quach-Thanh said, is the fact that the country has no national immunization registry to oversee and track Canadians’ vaccination records — something that could prove useful given that the Pfizer and Moderna candidates must be administered twice.
“It adds a challenge to this issue,” she said. “I think that most provinces have registries so that they’re able to follow up on who gets what, and it’s now the time to really be able to use it.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Ottawa’s goal is to cover the “vast majority of the Canadian population” by the end of 2021.
Quach-Thanh said it’s critical to keep that timeframe in mind.
“If people think that by March everybody is going to be out of the woods because we’re all going to get vaccinated, that doesn’t work,” she said.
“We expect that those non-pharmacological interventions like physical distancing, mask wearing … will likely need to still be in place for another year or so because we don’t expect most … Canadians to have been vaccinated before that time.”
WATCH | Ottawa gears up for vaccine distribution:
The federal government is finalizing its plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccines once they are available in Canada. The plan needs to include how to transport, store and deliver millions of doses quickly and may involve military assistance. 1:54
Confusion over early access to a vaccine prompted a disconnect between federal and provincial officials this week about how many doses each province can expect to receive — and when.
PHAC officials told the House of Commons health committee on Friday that six million doses could be expected by the end of March 2021, but some provinces appear to have specific breakdowns for what they’ll receive.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott suggested Wednesday that her province could be handed up to 2.4 million doses for distribution between January and March. About 1.6 million of those would come from four million doses slated for Canada from Pfizer during that time, she said, while 800,000 would come from two million doses anticipated from Moderna.
Federal officials, however, have kept mum on the details — dodging questions about provincial figures and refusing to confirm how many doses Canada might receive from Pfizer and Moderna by early next year.
“I think the assertion of the various provinces around the number of doses that they are going to receive in their own jurisdictions is the area where we have not come to an agreement on yet,” Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday.
“We will be working out, and are working out, with the provinces and territories a sharing agreement on the number of doses each province and territory can expect to receive when those vaccines arrive in Canada,” she said. “There are a number of steps to continue to go through to receive those doses on Canadian soil.”
National criteria necessary, Manitoba premier says
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called for “national criteria” to guide the country’s distribution efforts.
“Vulnerable people, and, of course, front-line workers, are going to get it first. We all agree with that. But we need to also come to a national agreement on those criteria because it isn’t going to be here all at the same time,” said Pallister, whose province is currently experiencing the country’s highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rate.
Hajdu said Ottawa and the provinces and territories have negotiated agreements for everything needed for the pandemic so far, “whether it’s personal protective equipment or testing,” and said vaccines are no exception.
But while external groups such as the NACI are working to identify who should get the first doses, it is still up to other jurisdictions to administer them.
“For heaven’s sakes, it’s a life and death thing to a lot [of people]. I’m a 66-year-old asthma sufferer. But I shouldn’t get it first, right?” Pallister said. “I mean, there’s a lot of other people that are going to need to get that vaccine ahead of me. I’m saying we need to have those criteria because people want to get this vaccine and they want to get it right away.”
WATCH | Manitoba premier on national vaccine criteria:
Brian Pallister cautions against ‘piecemeal’ plans for access to COVID-19 vaccines and wants a standard in place across all provinces and territories. 1:28
Ever since the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 launched, they’ve been nearly impossible to find. Sometimes, an OEM builder will have stock if you’re buying a new system, even if cards aren’t available in-channel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
Origin PC’s shipping time increases from 14-16 days to 29-31 days if you want an RTX 3080. Maingear doesn’t give a specific date, but says “Lead times are currently extended for systems with RTX-3000-series cards.” Maingear already has a separate “Shipping times may be delayed from the following stated lead time due to COVID-19” and an estimated 3-4 week shipping window, but evidently the company felt the need for a second disclaimer.
A different way to get a handle on the situation is to check ProShop.de. The German company has been publishing periodic updates on everything related to Ampere GPU sales, including how many cards its customers have ordered, how many GPUs it has ordered from manufacturers, when those cards are expected to arrive, and how many GPUs have already shipped.
According to ProShop, it breaks its categories down as follows:
Customer orders: Number of current customer orders, which have yet to be delivered. Orders that have been canceled at this point are not included. Ordered from mfr: Number of graphic cards Proshop has ordered from the manufacturer. Incoming cards: Confirmed number of graphic cards to be delivered by the manufacturer to Proshop asap. Received: Total number of graphic cards received from manufacturers and shipped to customers by Proshop since launch. This doesn’t include the 3070-series, which launch on October 29.
I screenshotted ProShop’s figures on October 12, and again on October 21, added up the differences in the figures, and built a chart to show them. I should note that there are places in the original data where, instead of a number, ProShop lists “15th” or “7th.” These dates appear to correspond to when a GPU will be available for customer order, when ProShop can order it from the manufacturer, when the cards will ship to ProShop, or when ProShop will ship them itself.
Data by ProShot, 10-21-2020
The chart below contains raw figures for each category based on ProShop’s published data for 10-12 and 10-21, along with two categories I added. Fulfillable Orders is the percent of total orders that ProShop could fill on each date if it had every GPU listed as “Incoming” along with every GPU listed as “Received.” “% Mfr Supply” examines the same question, but uses the total number of cards ProShop ordered as opposed to the total number it received.
We see a few interesting things here. First, overall availability as a percentage of total customer orders is higher. This is only true because of a large number of RTX 3080s in the “Incoming” column — if we confine ourselves solely to the “Received” column, availability has only increased from 9 percent to 11 percent. If we remove the “Incoming” column from manufacturing data, GPU availability has gotten worse.
The reason I’m presenting the data this way is that GPUs on their way to the store are functional cards effectively “on the market.” The growth in “Incoming” shipments could mean that AIBs are finally able to ship some hardware.
The fact that ProShop has been unable to get allocation for weeks suggests that Samsung’s 8nm yields might be part of the problem. There were rumors months ago that Nvidia had limited its orders to Samsung out of concern that the company wouldn’t be able to manufacture enough good die. This squares with other rumors we’ve heard expressing doubts regarding Samsung’s 8nm process. It could also explain why Nvidia is rumored to be moving some production back to TSMC. DigiTimes wrote last week that Nvidia was getting a substantial discount on Samsung’s 8nm process, but that the GPU designer still wants to diversify its offerings to get around Samsung’s yield problem.
So, is Nvidia lying when it says that demand is the reason there are no RTX 3000 GPUs to be found, and that this situation will persist through the end of 2020 and possibly into 2021? It certainly looks as though there are supply problems in the mix, too, but the number of GPUs ProShop has ordered suggests that demand is genuinely sky-high. Nobody wants to sit on several thousand GPUs they can’t sell. Even Nvidia admitted during the Ampere unveil that Turing had not been the hit it was hoping for, in terms of uptake, which means there’s a lot of pent-up demand in the market.
ProShop has data on the RTX 3070 as well, but I deliberately didn’t discuss it. That GPU hasn’t launched yet, and it’s possible that there will be a wave of late shipments out to stores to boost inventory. As always, keep in mind that data like this, however thorough, is a snapshot of a single store. We do not know what these figures look like for Amazon or Newegg, where the ratios could be entirely different. Nvidia has admitted that these GPUs will be in short supply through the end of the year. There might appear to be a supply problem because Nvidia is prioritizing the largest channel distributors, but the fact that boutique builders can’t get cards all that easily, either, suggests more to the story. The rumors of low yields on Samsung 8nm and the rumors that Nvidia will return to TSMC all point in the same direction.
This is not the first time we’ve seen foundries struggle to get yield on a part (assuming that’s what’s happening), and both AMD and Nvidia had a terrible time shipping cards in 2016. It’s not unusual to see these kinds of problems at the beginning of a launch. Hopefully, they’ll resolve more quickly than anticipated.
Cuddling a child of her own was something cancer survivor Anna Camille Tucci feared might never be possible.
In 2017, the Toronto woman had a full hysterectomy as part of treatment for ovarian cancer — but not before doctors harvested her eggs and created embryos with her husband’s sperm.
“Since I can remember, I wanted kids….That’s just something that was in my heart since I was tiny,” she said. “Even the thought of not being able to carry [a baby] — that was really difficult.”
But in December 2019, the 30-year-old’s dream of being a mom came true. A surrogate gave birth to Tucci’s healthy baby boy.
Motherhood has been “bliss,” Tucci says, yet she can’t shake lingering questions she has about the thousands of dollars she and her husband paid through the surrogacy agency they’d hired to help them navigate the delicate process.
A surrogate gave birth to Anna Camille Tucci’s baby boy last December. She used a surrogacy agency to help her navigate the process and was left with serious questions about the payments she made. 9:43
In Canada, it is illegal to pay a surrogate, but it is legal to reimburse her for pregnancy-related expenses such as additional food, clothing, vitamins and any transportation costs she incurs travelling to her medical appointments. In some cases, the transactions are handled using a trust that is set up and managed by a surrogacy agency.
Over the course of a three-month investigation, CBC News spoke with dozens of people involved in surrogacy in Canada, including parents, surrogates and lawyers; their experiences reveal a burgeoning industry in which agencies lack oversight and mandatory transparency.
Five different families raised concerns about money that was paid to surrogates through their trust accounts.
Tucci wanted to know how nearly $ 2,000 a month was being spent, but the agency’s policy was that receipts aren’t released until after the birth.
In another case, an Ontario father demanded his agency send him his surrogate’s receipts. He found many didn’t have dates, some were duplicates, others were from before he’d met his surrogate, and one had a lottery ticket listed.
“I think people have found a way to pull the parents’ heartstrings,” Tucci said. “I think the industry as a whole — everyone that’s involved in it — I think they’re all there to make money in the end.”
Growing demand for surrogates
The most up-to-date data from Statistics Canada shows roughly one in six couples in Canada experience infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s. Infertility combined with an increase in same-sex couples starting families means the demand for surrogates has boomed.
No public health agency tracks surrogate pregnancies, but data voluntarily provided by Canadian fertility clinics shows at least 816 surrogate births were reported between 2013 and 2017.
Once couples factor in fees for agencies, lawyers and fertility clinics, the cost can quickly reach $ 100,000 per pregnancy.
Introduced in 2004, Canada’s reproductive legislation was meant to prevent the exploitation of women and the commercialization of surrogacy.
The maximum penalty for paying a surrogate for things that aren’t pregnancy-related is a $ 500,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Parents shocked by cost of reimbursements
Tucci and her husband selected a surrogate through an agency and paid the company nearly $ 10,000 in fees for consultation and to manage their surrogate’s monthly reimbursements through a trust fund. They negotiated a legal contract with their surrogate that allowed her to claim expenses up to a maximum of nearly $ 2,000 a month during the pregnancy.
“We thought she would never actually meet that max that we had in the contract. But we found out that that’s not true,” Tucci said.
The surrogate would submit her receipts to the agency every month. The agency would then review them and reimburse her through the trust fund.
When the couple realized the surrogate was claiming the maximum every month, they were shocked and began asking the agency to provide the actual receipts.
“We loved our surrogate. We trusted she was doing everything she could be doing to the best of her abilities, so it was more we were questioning [the agency’s] process of going through those receipts and what might be approved.”
The agency told Tucci she’d get the receipts but only months after the baby was born.
In the meantime, the agency sent the couple monthly expense breakdowns, showing money reimbursed in categories such as groceries, takeout meals, clothing and communications.
More than $ 700 a month was approved for groceries.
“The two of us together, I don’t think we spend that much on groceries and this is supposed to be for one person,” she said.
“This kind of made us think, even more of, ‘Wow, where is all this money coming from?'”
Tucci said she feared rocking the boat and turning the pregnancy into a “bad experience,” but she also knew paying a surrogate for anything beyond pregnancy-related expenses could land her in trouble with the law.
“No one wants to be in a situation where they’re caught doing things that they weren’t supposed to be doing without even knowing,” she said. “I am worried.”
Surrogate’s receipts include duplicates, lottery ticket
In another case, an Ontario father’s trust account was billed $ 5,000 worth of expenses last year, despite the fact his surrogate miscarried within the first month.
CBC News agreed not to publish his name because he fears backlash from the surrogacy community.
When he demanded to see the receipts his agency had reimbursed, he was sent digital images of receipts his surrogate had submitted.
CBC News reviewed them and found a lottery ticket, duplicates, more than $ 600 worth of expenses from before the father met his surrogate, and nearly $ 1,700 worth with no visible date.
“We have to play within the rules, and this is not playing within the rules, so it’s putting everybody at risk,” said his lawyer, Sherry Levitan.
“Perhaps give [the surrogate] the benefit of the doubt that she made a mistake. But it’s the kind of thing that should have been caught by the agency. So, it certainly looks like no one is being tasked with the job of looking at [the receipts] critically.”
Surrogate considered an abortion over expense fight
CBC News spoke with more than a dozen surrogates, many of whom said they were motivated by a desire to help families in need.
But one of the women we spoke with confirmed it’s not just legal ramifications couples have to worry about when questioning expenses.
The four-time surrogate described her experience carrying a baby for a New Brunswick couple last year. She isn’t named in this story to protect the privacy of the parents.
“They nickel and dimed for everything,” she said in a phone interview. “It was just bullshit after bullshit.”
During the first three months of her pregnancy, she said, the parents were “nit-picking” over expenses she had routinely claimed in previous surrogacies, such as car payments.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.’ I was going to abort the baby. It was at that point; I was so done,” she said.
“They breached [our contract] by not paying me. So, I figured, ‘Oh, I’m not going to follow the rules.”
She said the arguments with the family were never resolved and ultimately she miscarried near the end of the first trimester.
“Oh my goodness, that’s terrible,” Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen said when told of the dispute. “I think a lot of times people only see the surrogate as being very vulnerable, but the intended parents are very vulnerable, too, because someone’s carrying their baby.”
Cohen said some lawyers draft surrogacy contracts to cover a portion of car payments and car insurance, but she does not.
She said expenses that are incurred before and after the pregnancy should not be considered pregnancy-related.
“Is this an expense she would have incurred but for the fact that she’s pregnant as a surrogate or not?”
Agency says it is ‘extremely diligent’
The five families who shared their stories with CBC News were clients of the same agency — Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC).
CFC says it is the largest agency in the country. It has roughly 400 ongoing surrogate-couple relationships and oversees some 300 surrogacy births every year.
Owner Leia Swanberg is the only person who’s ever been charged for paying surrogates in Canada.
RCMP raided Swanberg’s Cobourg, Ont., offices and she was charged in February 2013. Later that year, she pleaded guilty to regulatory offences for paying surrogates without receipts and was fined $ 60,000.
In a recent interview with CBC News, Swanberg said that after the court case she started requiring receipts for all expenditures.
“It was a very relaxed system, and now it is not,” she said. “I will not take that risk for any client or any surrogate, and so I am extremely diligent with my team.”
Swanberg said her agency currently has a finance team of six people who count receipts and reimburse surrogates. CBC News requested a followup interview to address the specific concerns this investigation uncovered, but she declined to comment.
Surrogate feels ‘absolutely treacherous’
In the past two decades, at least a dozen private agencies have opened across Canada. Surrogacy agencies are unlicensed and compete to recruit and retain women they can connect with clients.
While many surrogates told CBC News they tried to keep expenses low to help families, others said they were encouraged by CFC to collect as many receipts as possible to ensure they hit their monthly maximum allowance.
CBC News has agreed not to name these women because they fear legal ramifications.
“It’s a little shady, like a lot shady,” one surrogate said of how she was encouraged to save all receipts so she would reach her monthly limit. “They don’t question it apparently.”
Another surrogate said it wasn’t until she switched from CFC to another agency that she realized some of her reimbursements were probably inappropriate.
“Now I feel absolutely treacherous. It’s not that I regret my last two [surrogacy pregnancies], but it definitely pulls at the heartstrings,” she said.
Another former CFC surrogate, who is now employed at a rival agency, showed CBC News a 2013 message exchange she had with Swanberg’s personal Facebook account.
The exchange is from after Swanberg had been charged but before the court case was finished.
In the exchange, Swanberg’s account encourages her to save receipts “from everyone” in her household.
The surrogate expressed doubt she would be able to reach her monthly expenses limit because she didn’t make enough money at her job to pay for so many things.
Swanberg’s account replied: “If you live w your parents they can start saving receipts now to, we just need them to add up to 18 plus thousand, so if you start now, getting receipts from everyone.”
Below is an image of the Facebook Messenger exchange
Swanberg told CBC News she would search her message history to see if she’d sent the message, but never replied. She also declined to comment on the surrogates who said they were encouraged to maximize their reimbursements.
Fertility lawyer Sherry Levitan says her clients have complained about other agencies as well.
“I don’t want to paint all the agencies with the same brush, because there are some that are doing a stellar job,” Levitan said.
“There are some agencies that I know coach their surrogates so that they are able to submit the maximum every month and that aren’t vetting them the way that I would have hoped that they are.”
New regulations coming
In June, Health Canada will introduce long-awaited regulations on surrogate reimbursements, but some legal experts say they likely won’t fix the problems.
The new regulations provide broad categories of what could be considered a pregnancy-related expense, so there is still room for interpretation.
While the rules also introduce a new form to declare expenses, they do not require that parents see the receipts prior to money being reimbursed to their surrogate.
“That’s clearly problematic and the regulations don’t actually help you with that,” Cohen said.
Since 2012 Health Canada has received seven complaints related to surrogacy, but the lawyers who spoke with CBC News suspect some parents don’t report their concerns.
According to Cohen, Canada should decriminalize paying surrogates so parents feel empowered to speak out against suspected wrongdoing without fear of legal consequences.
She also says the agencies should be regulated and licensed like adoption agencies.
“I just think that kind of oversight would be safer for everybody — safer for the parents, safer for the surrogate.”
A dozen games into the season and the Edmonton Oilers still share the Western Conference penthouse with the Colorado Avalanche.
The main reason for Edmonton’s success airs virtually every night on the national highlight reel: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl working their routine magic on the top line.
Just as important, however, has been the standout goaltending of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen behind a vastly improved defence (which is saying something given the dependable Adam Larsson is out with a fractured right fibula).
On Sunday afternoon, Smith and Koskinen proved mortal as Edmonton fell 6-2 to the Florida Panthers in a rare matinee at Rogers Place.
“Our goaltending has been very good,” head coach Dave Tippett said after the first home loss of the season. “[Sunday night] it was average.”
WATCH | McDavid and Draisaitl really click:
The duo in Edmonton is piling up the points and the Oilers are reaping the benefits. 1:18
Average was not going to cut it on Sunday — or on most days with this team.
The margin for error in the Edmonton net is almost non-existent given the lack of scoring depth behind the big three up front.
Going into Monday’s games, McDavid and Draisaitl are tied for second in the NHL points race with 21 — averaging nearly two points a game — while James Neal is second in goals with 10.
Take away Zack Kassian’s three goals and the rest of the forwards have combined for just two goals in 12 games.
Koskinen is a perfect 5-0 with a .922 save percentage, while even after the Florida beating, Smith is 3-3-1 with a save percentage of .914.
But Edmonton has relied on some late-game heroics — mainly from the usual suspects in McDavid, Draisaitl and Neal. They’ve played from behind in nine of 12 outings this season. Another alarming statistic? They’ve led for 188:30 minutes and trailed for 195:38.
That’s not a recipe for long-term success.
On Sunday, the Oilers looked like they’d reported for a sleepy morning skate rather than an actual game. Smith turned away seven shots in the first period before his mates fired even one at Sergei Bobrovsky in the Florida net.
The game truly slipped away in a span of 2:05 early in the second period when Smith surrendered three goals before Tippett applied the hook.
“It’s one thing to be down one, but you start feeding teams two or three and you are playing with fire a bit,” Smith said. “You’re not going to come back in a lot of those games.”
Falling behind early isn’t helping the guys charged with secondary scoring, either.
“When you’re chasing the game, it’s harder for them,” Tippett said. “They haven’t contributed as much as they’d want, and I think a lot of those guys are feeling that pressure.”
And still, there’s no question the Oilers are exceeding expectations this season.
“We’re still off to a good start, and we still want to have that positive energy in the group,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom. “But we’ve still got to learn from this.”
So, yes, on some nights McDavid and Draisaitl will no doubt have to keep carrying the team into the win column. And yes, Smith and Koskinen will need to keep stealing games here and there.
But what the supporting cast is able to muster in the weeks and months ahead will no doubt play a deciding role in the Oilers’ fate.
“We’ve got to find something down there to create some opportunities,” Tippett said. “I really feel that once they get on the board, get going, everyone will loosen up a little bit.”
This story is part of School Violence, a CBC News series examining the impact of peer-on-peer violence on students and parents.
It was a typical high school crush on an older boy. She was new to school, in Grade 9. He was in Grade 12. So when they started flirting on Snapchat, Brooke thought their relationship was special.
“But things didn’t happen the way they were supposed to,” the teen said.
After the young man picked Brooke up from a babysitting gig late one night in 2017, they went for a drive. He then parked behind a local arena in Stephenville, N.L., and things progressed at a rate with which Brooke was uncomfortable.
The teen says she was sexually assaulted and choked. Brooke wanted to resist, but was scared of how the older boy would react.
Because of a publication ban, we’re not using her real name.
9% of boys reported sexual assault by peers
Brooke is not alone.
CBC recently conducted an anonymous survey of more than 4,000 students across Canada between the ages of 14 and 21, who answered questions online about school-related physical and verbal abuse, as well as about sexual harassment and assault. They were asked to reflect on their experiences from kindergarten to Grade 12.
Watch the full Marketplace investigation at 8 p.m. Friday on CBC TV or online.
Fifteen per cent of female respondents said they have had a sexual act forced upon them, including oral sex or being forced to touch someone in a sexual manner.
That means in a class of about 20 female students, three say they’ve been sexually assaulted by another student.
“That’s an appalling statistic,” said Tracy Vaillancourt, a violence prevention expert at the University of Ottawa.
“What concerns me is that people [will] dismiss this number … because they think it’s too high and that can’t be possible. And yet it is possible.”
Nine per cent of male students also reported being sexually assaulted by peers.
Of those who reported experiencing sexually inappropriate behaviour, a quarter of students encountered it for the first time before Grade 7. More than half experienced it for the first time between Grades 7 and 10.
Janice Kennedy is the executive director of the Bay St. George Status of Women Council in Stephenville, N.L., which supports survivors of sexual violence.
“That’s the scary part,” she said of the young age some girls first experience sexual violence. “Sex is such an intimate act, and for it to be forced and done against someone’s will, it really violates a person’s sense of trust, of what is safe and what is OK.”
2 alleged assaults by same student
About 80 kilometers northeast of Stephenville, in Corner Brook, N.L., a mother sits at her kitchen counter, recalling a late-night phone call no parent wants to receive.
It was from her ex-husband. Their eight-year-old daughter, Emma, had told him that an older boy from her school had been touching her private parts — and the abuse had been going on for months.
“I couldn’t speak. I was mad. My heart was beating out of my chest,” said Rachel.
Her and her daughter’s names have been changed to protect their identities.
The boy accused of assaulting Emma was 14, nearly twice her age. They both attended the same school, which enrols students from kindergarten to Grade 12, and rode the same bus.
This was where Emma and another young girl allege they were assaulted by the same boy.
‘I was scared’
Brooke and Rachel were disappointed by how the schools — both of which fall under the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) — handled their complaints.
Brooke said she confided in a friend about what had happened in the days after, and the friend urged her to talk with their school’s guidance counsellor. So she did.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Brooke was one of three girls at the school to come forward with allegations against the same student.
The school contacted the RCMP, and the male student, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, was arrested and charged with six counts of sexual assault, among other offences.
Three separate trials took place in the following months. The student was eventually acquitted of four counts of sexual assault, including those related to Brooke. The two other charges were dropped by the Crown, and he pleaded guilty to sexual interference in one case.
In the lead-up to his trials, the male student was allowed to return to Stephenville High School, at times attending the same classes as the young women who had come forward — a decision that changed the climate of the school and sparked tension in the community of 8,000.
“I was scared,” Brooke said, remembering the sick feeling she had at the thought of returning to school, potentially seeing the young man again.
She said she also felt let down by adults she thought were supposed to keep her safe. “I felt like I was the one who did something wrong.”
Assaults should be flagged to parents, says mom
As for Rachel’s daughter, she and her family spoke to the school’s principal the morning after Emma told them about the bus assaults. The boy’s parents removed him from the school, and he was charged with three counts of sexual assault in June 2018.
Despite the charges, no note was sent home to parents.
“They have no issues sending home a public notice for head lice or any other health concern in the school,” said Rachel. “What’s the difference in sending home a letter stating … ‘There’s been allegations of a safety concern on the school bus. We’d like you to have open lines of communication with your children, make sure that they’re OK?'”
When CBC News posed this question to the school board at the time, the director said the board would have been extremely limited in what it could say under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
During a trial that took place months later, the boy was acquitted of all charges. The boy is now back at the same school, Rachel said, so she moved Emma elsewhere.
“We had to relocate to make our child feel safe. It’s very sad,” she said.
The CBC survey asked students who had experienced sexual violence how often they reported the inappropriate acts to school officials.
Three in five female respondents said they never did. And of those who did, only a quarter of them were completely satisfied with how the school responded.
This can impact how these girls might act in the future, Vaillancourt said.
“Those who are victimized don’t feel like they have a voice,” she said. “We’re not listening to them. We’re not believing them.”
Can’t track what you don’t know
In Newfoundland, schools are required to document inappropriate student behaviour and report it to their district on a monthly basis. School boards must make sure schools are collecting, analyzing and reporting this data.
The NLESD uses Review 360, a program that tracks student behavioural and disciplinary data. According to a board report, this data is used to “help schools target areas for improvement.”
But Marketplace has learned that Brooke’s attack was never documented in the school’s system.
Even though the alleged assault didn’t take place on school property, experts say this is exactly the type of case that should be recorded in the school’s violent-incident data system.
“When something affects the school climate or the school culture, it is a reportable offence,” said Vaillancourt.
Sexual assault is likely to affect the educational potential and mental health of the victim, she said.
Brooke’s mom, who also can’t be identified because of the publication ban, said she was shocked her daughter’s case wasn’t recorded.
“It only lends to the situation that we’ve had right from the get-go with the school and the school board … that it feels like it wanted to be swept under the carpet,” she said.
School boards can’t develop prevention and intervention programs without fully understanding the issue, Vaillancourt said.
“To me, it seems so obvious that you have to first acknowledge that you have the problem, and then you do something about it.”
‘My child wasn’t enough’
Rachel’s family ran into similar issues.
Rachel said a board administrator told her Emma’s case seemed to be an isolated one and that in order to take corrective measures, this type of abuse would have to be going on at more than one school.
“[The administrator] basically told me that my child wasn’t enough,” she said.
In an effort to find out if this was a broader issue, the family made a formal request to the school board for its data on similar cases at their daughter’s school. That was how they found the school administration had improperly recorded Emma’s alleged assaults.
Between their daughter and the other girl, her family knew of at least four separate allegations at the hands of the same boy. But the school’s records claimed there had been only one reported case of sexually inappropriate behaviour in the last five years.
When the family asked NLESD about the discrepancy, the board said school staff were confused by the reporting system. The board updated their records months later — after Rachel’s family pointed out the error.
Sex assault policy still missing
The NLESD says it’s working on a protocol for staff to follow when a student comes forward with allegations of sexual assault.
“I mean it’s absolutely scandalous that they don’t have that kind of a policy,” said Lynn Moore, a Newfoundland lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases.
“Nobody was suggesting that [the male student in the Stephenville case] be denied an education. But what they were suggesting was that girls had the right to go to school in an environment free of intimidation and fear.”
Marketplace made multiple interview requests to the board’s education director, Tony Stack, but he turned down the request. Instead, NLESD sent communications manager Cheryl Gullage to speak when host David Common arrived at the board’s head office in St. John’s.
“We will continue to look to best practices and continue to work with our partners in the justice system and our police employees to make sure everyone that is working in the best interest of our students,” Gullage said.
But when pushed about a new sexual assault and harassment policy for schools, she wouldn’t provide details.
Sexual violence often lumped in with bullying
Marketplace reviewed violence prevention policies in various provinces and found that many school boards lump sexual violence with other forms of bullying. Sexual assault is often listed alongside offences such as physical violence and vandalism.
But experts say sexual violence is violating in a way other types of violence are not and requires a different approach.
When good policies are matched with staff who are trained and students who are properly educated, experts say children are less likely to be exposed to sexual violence.
Marketplacefound one policy in New Brunswick’s Anglophone West School District that stood out because it was specific to sexual violence. It provides a checklist with clear steps to take to handle the situation, along with an entire section on how to avoid inflicting so-called secondary wounds when responding to a sexual assault disclosure by not blaming or shaming the survivor.
“It’s not like we just heard about school violence,” said Vaillancourt. “This is something that existed as long as we put kids together in groups. When you have clear sanctions and clear policy, you have a clear approach to dealing with it.”
Read more stories in the series:
If you have feedback or stories you’d like us to pursue as we continue to probe violence in schools in the coming months, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.