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Stress from scuffle with police ‘more than Mr. Floyd could take’, medical officer testifies

George Floyd’s scuffle with police, along with Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck, was too much for his underlying heart condition and caused the death of the 46-year-old Black man, the local county’s chief medical officer told a Minneapolis court on Friday.

“[The adrenaline is] going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd and ruled his death to be a homicide.

Baker’s testimony marked the 10th day of the murder trail of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is facing trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Floyd.

“And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” Baker said.

Baker’s testimony veered somewhat from what the court had previously heard from other medical witnesses called by the prosecution.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on the back of his neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down.

Witness reaffirmed autopsy report

The outcome of the high profile trial is being closely watched after video of the arrest of Floyd captured by a bystander prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests over race and police brutality across the U.S. and around the world.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell questions Baker at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Court TV/Associated Press)

The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck while detaining him on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, caused his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.

The court has so far heard from prosecution medical experts, including a leading lung specialist, who have testified that Floyd died from asphyxia — or insufficient oxygen — because of the actions of police. Baker has not ruled asphyxiation to be a cause of Floyd’s death.

Previous witnesses had significantly downplayed Floyd’s pre-existing medical conditions and drugs found in his system as playing a role in his death. 

However, Baker reaffirmed the findings of his autopsy report. He said those elements were contributing factors, though not the primary cause of death.

Adrenaline impacts

Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Baker explained that Floyd had narrowed coronary arteries — about 75 per cent blockage in his left anterior descending artery and 90 per cent blockage in his right coronary artery. Floyd also had hypertensive heart disease, meaning his heart weighed slightly more than it should.

Chauvin’s defence attorney Eric Nelson cross-examines Baker. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Floyd’s confrontation with police, which included being pinned facedown on the pavement while Chauvin pressed his knees into his neck, produced adrenaline that made Floyd’s heart beat faster.

Baker testified that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” 

Asked to explain cardiopulmonary arrest, Baker said that was “fancy medical lingo for the heart and the lungs stopped.”

He also explained the definition of “homicide” in an autopsy report, that it was a medical and not a legal term, which is applied when the actions of other people were involved in an individual’s death.


During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson seized on the potential role played by Floyd’s heart condition and drugs found in his system.

“In your opinion, both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death?” Nelson asked Baker.

“In my opinion, yes,” Baker said. 

Chauvin takes notes at his trial in the death of George Floyd. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Baker also agreed that he had certified overdose as the cause of death in other autopsies where that individual had much lower levels of fentanyl in their system than was found in Floyd.

Nelson asked Baker if he recalled having conversations last year with prosecutors in which he described the level of fentanyl found in Floyd’s system was a “fatal level.”

“I recall describing it in other circumstances, it would be a fatal level,” Baker said.

But Baker also agreed that he had described Floyd’s s death as a “multifactorial process.”

He said drugs and hypertension were not “direct causes” but they were “contributing causes.”

The trial continues. 

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CBC | World News

Biden wants Russia, China to take part in climate talks

U.S. President Joe Biden is including rivals Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China among the invitees to the first big climate talks of his administration, an event the U.S. hopes will help shape, speed up and deepen global efforts to cut climate-wrecking fossil fuel pollution, administration officials told The Associated Press.

Biden is seeking to revive a U.S.-convened forum of the world’s major economies on climate that George W. Bush and Barack Obama both used and Donald Trump let languish.

Leaders of some of the world’s top climate-change sufferers, do-gooders and backsliders round out the rest of the 40 invitations being delivered Friday — including to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It will be held virtually April 22 and 23.

WATCH | Environment minister on Canada’s ambitions for emissions reduction targets:

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the federal government will announce more aggressive emissions reduction targets in April at the U.S. climate summit: “We need to ensure our targets are aligned with the science.” 2:26

Hosting the summit will fulfil a campaign pledge and executive order by Biden, and the administration is timing the event with its own upcoming announcement of what’s a much tougher U.S. target for revamping the U.S. economy to sharply cut emissions from coal, natural gas and oil.

The session — and whether it’s all talk, or some progress — will test Biden’s pledge to make climate change a priority among competing political, economic, policy and pandemic problems.

It also will pose a very public — and potentially embarrassing or empowering — test of whether U.S. leaders, and Biden in particular, can still drive global decision-making after the Trump administration withdrew globally and shook up longstanding alliances.

The Biden administration intentionally looked beyond its international partners for the summit, reaching out to key leaders for what it said would sometimes be tough talks on climate matters, an administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. plans for the event.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among a group of 40 world leaders the U.S. is inviting to participate in a virtually-hosted forum on climate issues next month. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Leaving behind Trump’s approach

Trump mocked the science underlying urgent warnings on global warming and the resulting worsening of droughts, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. He pulled the United States out of the 2015 UN Paris climate accords as one of his first actions as president.

That makes next month’s summit the first major international climate discussions by a U.S. leader in more than four years, although leaders in Europe and elsewhere have kept up talks.

U.S. officials and some others give the Obama administration’s major-economies climate discussions some of the credit for laying the groundwork for the Paris accord. The United States and nearly 200 other governments at those talks each set targets for cutting their fossil-fuel emissions, and pledged to monitor and report their emissions.

Another Biden administration official said the U.S. is still deciding how far the administration will go in setting a more ambitious U.S. emissions target.

The Biden administration hopes the stage provided by next month’s Earth Day climate summit — planned to be all virtual due to COVID-19 and all publicly viewable on livestream, including breakout conversations — will encourage other international leaders to use it as a platform to announce their own countries’ tougher emission targets or other commitments, ahead of November’s UN global climate talks in Glasgow.

Showing commitment

The administration hopes more broadly that the session will demonstrate a commitment to cutting emissions at home and encouraging the same abroad, the official said.

That includes encouraging governments to get moving on specific, politically-bearable ways to retool their transportation and power sectors and overall economies now in order to meet those tougher future targets, something the Biden administration is just embarking on.

Like the major-economies climate forums held by Bush and Obama, Biden’s invite list includes leaders of the world’s biggest economies and European blocs.

Putin, seen listening during a meeting in Moscow this week, has been invited to participate. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin/The Associated Press)

That includes two countries — Russia and China — that Biden and his diplomats are clashing with over election interference, cyberattacks, human rights and other issues. It’s not clear how those two countries in particular will respond to the U.S. invitations, or whether they are willing to co-operate with the U.S. on cutting emissions while sparring on other topics.

China is the world’s top emitter of climate-damaging pollution. The U.S. is No. 2. Russia is No. 4.

Climate scientists and climate policy experts largely welcomed Biden’s international overture on climate negotiations, especially the outreach to China.

“China is by far the world’s largest emitter. Russia needs to do more to reduce its emissions. Not including these countries because they aren’t doing enough would be like launching an anti-smoking campaign but not directing it at smokers,” said Nigel Purvis, who worked on climate diplomacy in past Democratic and Republican administrations.

Worthwhile outreach

Ideally, government leaders will be looking for opportunities to talk over specific matters, such as whether broad agreement is possible on setting any price on carbon emissions, said Bob Inglis, a former Republican lawmaker who works to involve conservatives and conservative approaches in climate efforts.

“That’s why this kind of outreach makes sense,” he said. 

Brazil is on the list as a major economy, but it’s also a major climate backslider under President Jair Bolsonaro, who derailed preservation efforts for the carbon-sucking Amazon and joined Trump in trampling international climate commitments.

The 40 invitees also include leaders of countries facing some of the gravest immediate threats, including low-lying Bangladesh and the Marshall islands, countries seen as modelling some good climate behaviour, including Bhutan and some Scandanavian countries, and African nations with variously big carbon sink forests or big oil reserves.

Poland and some other countries on the list are seen as possibly open to moving away from dirty coal power faster. 

As a candidate, Biden pledged $ 2 trillion in investment to help transform the U.S. into a zero-emission economy by 2050 while building clean-energy and technology jobs.

Biden and other administration officials have been stressing U.S. climate intentions during early one-on-one talks with foreign leaders, and Biden climate envoy John Kerry has focused on diplomacy abroad to galvanize climate efforts.

Biden discussed the summit in a conversation Friday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with both leaders agreeing on the need to keep emissions-cutting targets ambitious, the White House said.

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CBC | World News

Who’s next? Provincial, territorial vaccination plans begin to take shape

Vaccine deliveries are starting to ramp up again and Canadians everywhere are asking themselves the same questions: When will it be my turn? And how will I know?

Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots.

All provincial and territorial governments maintain they’re ready to speed up the vaccination effort as the supply increases, but some of their timetables remain vague. Here’s what we know so far about who’s getting the shots and when.

British Columbia

B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

The subsequent phase runs over February to March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors.

B.C. says the province’s general population will start getting the vaccines in April, with older residents getting their shots first.

Andy Yoon, 77, of Abbotsford B.C., became the first long-term care resident in the Fraser Health region to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 24, 2020. (Submitted by Fraser Health)

Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

B.C. said it would start reaching out by the end of February to seniors 80 years and older, Indigenous seniors aged 65 and older and Indigenous Elders to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient’s age.

Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before choosing a location, date and time to receive the shot.

After an individual gets their first vaccine dose, they’ll be told by email, text or phone when they can book an appointment for their second dose.

For more information about B.C.’s vaccination plan, go here.


Alberta is in the first phase of its vaccine rollout. This phase — which is expected to run until the end of the month — covers health care workers who could be in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and residents of long-term care facilities.

As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities will be eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups.

Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this phase over most of March.

Masked Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the northern Alberta community on Feb. 8, 2021. Kehewin council member Greyeagle Cardinal looks on from behind plexiglass. (Jodi Cardinal)

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers.

The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day.

For more information about Alberta’s vaccination plan, go here.


Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50.

The timing is still not known, but Phase 2 will cover the general population starting with people aged 60-69, extremely vulnerable individuals and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters.

The province expects that when Phase 2 begins, there will be 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Debbie Frier, registered nurse, left, injects Leah Sawatsky, an emergency room nurse, right, with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. 

For more information about Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan, go here.


Manitoba’s immunization teams are now vaccinating residents at 1,400 congregate living sites, including hospitals, supportive housing facilities and assisted living sites. On February 19, immunization began in Brandon and Winnipeg.

The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers.

Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they’ll receive their vaccines.

On March 5, the province expects to open two new “supersites” for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Winkler area, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.)

Michael David Blacksmith, a traditional ceremony and sun dance leader from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, is vaccinated at a pop-up site in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Government of Manitoba)

The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 people to help with the vaccination effort.

More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign once a suitable vaccine is approved for use in these settings.

Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222.


Ontario’s vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers.

As the vaccine supply increases, Phase 1 is expected to move on to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Phase 2 is set to begin in March. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Phase 3 covers the general population and is expected to begin by late summer.

The Ontario government is developing an online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. 

For more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan, go here.


Quebec continues to inoculate priority groups such as health care workers on the front lines, those who live in long-term care or seniors’ homes (known as CHSLDs) and those living in remote areas.

Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium.

A box of Pfizer/BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine is taken from a UPS truck past news photographers to the Maimonides long-term care home in Montreal on December 14, 2020. (Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services/Reuters)

It has already set up mass vaccination sites in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply.  One of them — the Palais des congrès de Montréal in the heart of downtown — expects to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day.

Quebec’s health department says it’s planning a public information campaign to inform residents about the vaccination process.

For more information about Quebec’s vaccination plan, go here.

New Brunswick

Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults and individuals 85 and over.

Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.

The N.B. government’s website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized.

New Brunswick’s first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrives on a cargo flight from Montreal. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well.

Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long-term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province.

Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older.

The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.

Long-term care resident Art Johnston, 98, was the first person other than a health care worker to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on P.E.I. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website.

For more information about Prince Edward Island’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long-term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres.

The next phase will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to regularly travel for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older.

N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province.

The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — will be at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. The province is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well.

Audrey Wiseman, 85, was one of the first long-term care residents in Nova Scotia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment.

For more information about Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

The next group to get shots will include health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized.

For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland and Labrador received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)


Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well.

As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses.

Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named ‘Balto’ and ‘Togo’) delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over.

In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses.

Agnes Mills, 85, was the first person in Yukon to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon)

All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots.

Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet connectivity may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are welcome.

For more information about Yukon’s vaccination plan, go here.

Northwest Territories

All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in March.

The strategy says enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should be delivered by the end of March.

“This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories’ limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities,” says the document.

The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered.

Chris Balla, the Beaufort Delta regional operations manager for Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, is responsible for making sure vaccines and vaccinations teams make it to their final destinations. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, meanwhile, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up.

Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses.

For more information on NWT’s vaccination plan, go here.


Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March.

Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time.

Beginning next week, seven communities will be getting their first doses of the vaccine.

In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit’s Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities.

A Canadian North Flight lands on the tarmac in Iqaluit, Dec. 30, carrying Nunavut’s first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin in March.

Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements via TV, social media, community radio and the government’s website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.

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U.K. won’t take vaccines from COVAX program, says high commissioner

The United Kingdom won’t access its share of vaccine doses from the COVAX program, says British High Commissioner to Canada Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque.

In an interview with Power & Politics, d’Allegeershecque told host Vassy Kapelos that while the United Kingdom is one of the biggest contributors to COVAX, it still doesn’t see the need to access its share of the vaccine doses. 

“I don’t think there are any plans for us to access the doses, but we were in a slightly different position from Canada,” she said.

The federal government has faced criticism from charities and opposition parties over its decision to access Canada’s share of doses from COVAX — a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly co-ordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

In a media statement, Green Party leader Annamie Paul said she was “embarrassed” by Ottawa’s decision to access vaccines from a program primarily designed to help developing countries.

But the federal government defended its action, saying COVAX has always been part of the government’s efforts to procure vaccines.

“COVAX has two streams. It has the self-financing stream for countries like Canada to purchase vaccines through and then it has the advance market commitment for donations to be made for countries who can’t purchase them,” said International Development Minister Karina Gould in a Power & Politics interview. 

The high commissioner also noted that Britain’s vaccine rollout is more advanced that Canada’s program.

“We’ve already vaccinated 15 and a half million people, which is something like 23 per cent of the population,” said d’Allegeershecque. “So at the moment, we’re able to access the doses that we need without having to draw from the COVAX facility.” 

Britain also has the capacity to manufacture its own vaccines domestically.

As it stands, Canada could receive up to 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX program by the end of March.

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What Canada could do to take advantage of the lull in COVID-19 vaccine shipments

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.

Canadians hoping to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are stuck in limbo across much of the country.

While vaccination programs are well underway for high-risk populations, shipment reductions and ongoing uncertainty mean there is a lull — potentially for weeks or even months — before Canada sees a steady flow of supplies.

The tide is set to turn eventually, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying on Friday that he has assurance from Canada’s two key suppliers, Moderna and Pfizer, that a combined six million shots are still coming down the pipe before the end of March. 

Multiple other vaccines could also gain a stamp of approval alongside the shots already being used. Paying into the World Health Organization co-led COVAX program is set to pay off and Canada recently inked a deal to produce millions of Novavax doses domestically.

That gets shots into the country. But what about getting shots in arms?

With a federal government goal in place to vaccinate all residents who want the shot before the end of 2021, and millions of Canadians longing for an end to the pandemic, this waiting period comes with an opportunity to scale up vaccination programs — before the bulk of shipments arrive on provinces’ doorsteps.

Members of the public arrive to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary coronavirus vaccination hub set up at Villa Park football stadium in Birmingham, central England, in early February. (Jacob King/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a Toronto-based palliative care physician and advocate for health justice, said Canada is in a “race against time” to build up community outreach, decentralize vaccination sites and combat vaccine hesitancy.

“We can’t waste time. Every minute, every hour every day counts,” he said. 

“Down the road, we don’t want to look back and think in early February, we were kind of just waiting for vaccines, we could have done more to address education and provide information for our communities.”

Decentralize vaccine sites

Other medical experts agree this lull period is critical, giving Canada a chance to learn from the successes of countries that are further ahead in their vaccination programs.

Earlier this month, Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table released a report outlining takeaways from Israel, where roughly 80 per cent of older adults in the country are vaccinated as scientists there are tracking a drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and critical illness.

“Israel worked around the clock to vaccinate as quickly as possible,” said Toronto-based geriatrician Dr. Nathan Stall, one of the table members.

And it goes beyond speed, he said.

Instead of just hospital or pharmacy-based vaccination sites, Israel created pop-up and drive-thru centres — leveraging teams of community-based nurses, physicians and other medical professions to vaccinate residents rapidly. 

People across the U.K. are being vaccinated in the community at sites like this pharmacy in London. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“We really, really want to try to decentralize vaccine sites away from hospital systems into the communities, and I think it’s very, very important to engage community leaders, especially in areas in remote places where accessibility is a huge issue,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.

“And you know, this is going to be absolutely key in getting as many Canadians vaccinated as possible.”

That’s the approach in the U.K. as well, where more than 10 million citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to date.

The country is using a mix of community clinics and pharmacies, hospital sites and large-scale venues like sports stadiums, totalling around 1,500 sites, with mobile units planned for highly rural areas.

The goal, according to the U.K. government, was to have every resident living within roughly 16 kilometres of a vaccination centre.

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has gotten off to a sluggish start, but there could be lessons to learn from countries such as Israel, which has vaccination clinics operating around the clock. 3:11

Provinces look to decentralization

Unlike the U.K., Canada has to contend with a population spread out over a vast geographic area. Even so, provinces are exploring decentralization in a variety of ways, although some frameworks are more fleshed-out than others. 

In Ontario, which began its vaccine rollout within the hospital system, regional public health units are  preparing and presenting vaccination plans, which may include work with community physicians and pharmacists, provincial officials told CBC News on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan has vaccination sites spread  across 10 different zones, with doses heading to more than 50 different communities, while Manitoba is primarily taking a “supersite” approach with large-scale vaccination clinics happening at several facilities like a gymnasium and convention centre, alongside the shots doled out by physicians, pharmacists and pop-up clinics.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister visits the province’s new COVID-19 vaccination centre at Winnipeg’s Convention Centre Friday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, British Columbia’s provincewide immunization plan notes 172 community-based vaccine clinics are  being organized and will be held at large facilities, including school gyms, arenas and convention centres.

“Mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles will be available for some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues,” the plan said, adding more details will be released before April.

On the East Coast, Prince Edward Island officials announced vaccine clinics in several cities set to launch in late February — and recently made changes to a law that comes into effect this month and will eventually allow pharmacists to provide COVID-19 vaccinations alongside their usual roster of shots.

Community-based approach

But ensuring that community clinics can offer vaccines widely and efficiently requires significant planning beyond finding buildings or hiring staff.

“This short amount of time, until the next series of vaccines are rolled out in large numbers, is the time to develop those prototype clinics — if you haven’t done them — to make sure you’ve got a vaccination recording system in place and have all your communications sorted out,” said Dr. Joanne Langley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Halifax-based Canadian Center for Vaccinology

Multiple experts who spoke to CBC News stressed that communication needs to include trusted community leaders, culturally sensitive messaging and information about vaccine programs provided in a variety of languages.

Toronto-based physician Dr. Naheed Dosani says during this lull period when Canada is waiting on a steady supply of vaccine shipments, it’s crucial to reach out to communities, provide educational materials and combat vaccine hesitancy. 0:42

“You can have some person on TV just talking, telling you to get vaccinated, but it’s different if you have somebody who’s trusted in the community, whether it’s a community member, priest, doctor that you know,” said Chakrabarti.

In the Toronto area, Dosani said there’s a groundswell of innovation and support from local organizations, with community health centres already working to address vaccine hesitancy among communities where it is common — and rooted in long-standing trauma and distrust of the mainstream medical system.

But governments need to support those efforts as well, he said. 

“If we are taking an equity-based approach, what that means is putting more resources and supports in place so that the people who are less likely to take the vaccine get the supports and education that they need to so that they do take the vaccine.”

Booking system hiccups

As vaccination campaigns scale up to include more members of the community, building large-scale booking systems has been a key priority in different countries to manage the massive number of appointments.

Earlier this year, Canada’s federal government awarded international accounting firm Deloitte a multimillion-dollar contract to build a national computer system to manage the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

But there may be lessons to learn there, too. South of the border, the same system is being used in multiple states, with U.S. media outlets reporting that it’s proving buggy and unreliable

Meanwhile, in some areas of Florida, other types of online-only booking systems have sparked frustration among seniors — the age group most at risk of dying from COVID-19 — and led to reports of people stuck refreshing web pages to snag one of the limited spots or flying in from abroad to get vaccinated.

There is renewed uncertainty around delivery dates and amounts of Moderna vaccines for Canada. While Ottawa has secured more AstraZeneca doses, some criticize the plan to draw supplies from the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative. 2:19

Those approaches require computer literacy and cause unnecessary chaos, Stall said. 

“My fear is you’re going to have a vaccine booking system that’s going to be like purchasing playoff tickets for a sports team where everyone’s going to line up, crash the system, try and book as fast as they can,” he said.

“And you’re going to leave behind the people who need the vaccine the most.”

Yet, even more traditional booking methods can come with hiccups.

Prince Edward Island set up a dedicated phone line so anyone aged 80 or older can start booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments, seven days a week. It’s already so popular that seniors are struggling to get through, prompting the province to boost the number of people taking the calls and, soon, to start offering online booking options as well. 

Islanders can book appointments now by phone by calling 1-844-975-3303, but there are a lot of callers this week. An online booking option may be ready next week, Dr. Heather Morrison says. 6:26

Sustain public health measures

With so many facets to a vaccination rollout, at a scale and speed Canada hasn’t experienced before, the process is rife with challenges — but that’s where this lull might  come in handy.

“I appreciate that we don’t have an adequate supply yet to be vaccinating the general public,” Dosani said. “But there is a lot of time that’s just passing right now that can be used for things like public education.”

Officials are also stressing the need to maintain now-engrained precautions to keep the coronavirus at bay while Canadians await widespread inoculations.

Outbreaks keep happening throughout the country in high-risk populations and communities, including long-term care homes, correctional facilities, Indigenous communities and in remote areas, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, in a statement on Thursday.

“These factors underscore the importance of sustaining public health measures and individual practices and not easing restrictions too fast or too soon,” she said.

“This is particularly important in light of the emergence of new virus variants of concern that could rapidly accelerate transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.”

It’s a tense time, but light at the end of the tunnel may be closer than it seems.

“Our job is to keep ourselves and our families safe until we get that vaccine,” Langley said.

“And once it’s rolled out in the whole population, we’ll be in a different place.”

To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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Kamala Harris makes history as first woman of colour to take the oath of U.S. vice-president

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris broke the barrier Wednesday that has kept men at the top ranks of American power for more than two centuries when she took the oath to hold the nation’s second-highest office.

Harris was sworn in as the first female vice-president — and the first Black person and person of South Asian descent to hold the position — in front of the U.S. Capitol by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The moment was steeped in history and significance in more ways than one. She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who single-handedly took on a mob of Trump supporters as they tried to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol insurrection that sought to overturn the election results. Harris was wearing clothes from two young, emerging Black designers — a deep purple dress and coat.

After taking the oath of office, a beaming Harris hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President Joe Biden a first bump.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Harris share a fist-bump during the inauguration on Wednesday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary falls away, expanding the idea of what’s possible in American politics. But it’s particularly meaningful because Harris is taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities.

Those close to Harris say she’ll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the new administration.

“In many folks’ lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States,” said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world.”

WATCH | Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. vice-president:

History has been made in the United States with the swearing-in of Kamala Harris as vice-president. She is the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to ever hold the job. 1:14

Child of immigrants

Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard,” said Simon.

Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first came to Washington as a senator from California, where she’d served as attorney general and as San Francisco’s district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump’s victory quickly scrambled the nation’s capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars.

After Harris’ own presidential bid fizzled, her rise continued when Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer.

The inauguration activities included nods to her history-making role and her personal story.

Sorority marks the day

Harris used two Bibles to take the oath, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, joined the presidential escort.

To mark the occasion, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the nation’s oldest sorority for Black women, which Harris joined at Howard University, declared Wednesday as Soror Kamala D. Harris Day.

“This event will certainly be a momentous occasion that will go down in the annals of our archives as one of the greatest days the founders’ of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have envisioned,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, the sorority’s international president and chief executive office.

Rep. Terri Sewell, wearing a mask with AKA, a reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, the sorority of Harris, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. The sorority declared Wednesday Soror Kamala D. Harris Day. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

She’ll address the nation later in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War.

Biden, in his inaugural address, reflected on the 1913 march for women’s suffrage the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, during which some marchers were heckled and attacked.

“Today, we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said.

Harris leaves after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States on the west front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters)

Raised not to hear ‘no’

Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity.

“I was raised to not hear `no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'” she recalled during a CBS Sunday Morning interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.”

Harris’ swearing-in holds more symbolic weight than that of any vice president in modern times.

She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All.

People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school, Jones said. They will have to understand Harris’ traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali.

“Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said.

Her election to the vice-presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election.

“We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said.

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What it will take to keep nursing home residents safe from COVID-19

To counter some of the drivers of coronavirus transmission among essential workers, governments across Canada should prioritize safety, say experts who’ve looked closely at avoiding outbreaks among the most vulnerable.

Canada’s worst outbreaks continue to hit residents of long-term care homes, where short staffing can make it difficult to care for vulnerable people sick with COVID-19. To keep them safe will require addressing long-standing staffing shortages on top of stockpiling personal protective equipment and changing how the long-term care sector is led.

Farinaz Havaei, an assistant professor in the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia, says she found a combination of good planning, strong leadership and a focus on safety contributed to how a large B.C. long-term care facility successfully kept COVID-19 at bay at the start of the pandemic.

“Their [leadership] decisions were essentially driven by prioritization of safety rather than being driven by budget and finances, which was really important,” Havaei said. She and her team analyzed surveys and reviewed administrative data and interviewed leaders, workers and family members for the research.

In contrast to the horrors reported by the military at some devastated long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in the spring, Havaei said staff at the B.C. facility went above and beyond in caring for residents.

The workers spent quality time with those under their care, reading them books, painting their nails and facilitating virtual connections with family members.

WATCH | A daughter’s devotion to helping her mom recover from COVID-19:

When her 98-year-old mother was diagnosed with COVID-19, Mary Sardelis moved into the retirement home to save her life. She said what she saw was ‘no man’s land.’ 7:52

Havaei is now planning a provincewide study of B.C.’s single-site employment policy for long-term care workers, which requires staff to work in only one high-risk site.

To Havaei, more flexible paid sick leave policies and ensuring adequate 24/7 staffing in long-term care homes go hand-in-hand with keep residents safe.

“My personal opinion is that staffing is the cause, or is probably one of the root causes, of this whole situation,” of having to call in the military to deal with outbreaks in long-term care homes during the first wave, she said. 

She says several factors exacerbate the challenges staff face in long-term care homes:

  • Crowding of residents.
  • Residents may lack the cognitive ability needed to follow handwashing and other infection prevention measures.
  • On top of their regular workload, staff became the eyes and ears of family members who weren’t allowed to visit or provide care.

Havaei points to a body of research, including her own, that’s established a link between burnout of nurses and higher likelihood of adverse events for patients or residents.

“They are more likely to make some sort of a patient-adverse event, like making a medication error, having their patient fall, violating infection prevention control guidelines that potentially result in urinary tract infection and so on,” she said. 

During the second, worsening wave of COVID-19 across much of Canada, nurses and personal support workers at long-term care homes face those everyday challenges on top of the coronavirus. About 40 per cent of all long-term care homes in Ontario alone are dealing with an active COVID-19 outbreak.

Havaei wonders whether stretching staff too thin in such a high-risk environment contributes to lapses in infection control that can allow the virus to take hold.

In B.C., health-care workers top the list of workers’ compensation claims followed by long-term care, a much smaller industry proportionately.

Staffing is probably one of the root causes of devastating outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care homes across Canada, says Farinaz Havaei. (Submitted by Farinaz Havaei)

Work both improves health and can sicken

Victoria Arrandale, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, studies how to reduce exposure to hazards in the workplace, including COVID-19. It’s a field she was drawn to after suffering an ankle injury at a pulp mill in her home province of British Columbia, plunging her into the world of filing a workers’ compensation claim.

“I just got hooked on thinking about how work does impact people’s health,” Arrandale recalled. “It improves people’s health because it provides stable income, hopefully, but it can also make people sick.”

Arrandale said paid sick leave is an important policy because it can help prevent the introduction of the coronavirus into the workplace.

From a population-level perspective, Arrandale would like to see more detailed collection of workplace data during contact tracing, as in Ontario’s Peel Region and Hamilton, and as Toronto is moving toward.

“We’ve got good information on health care, but having it for every [sector] would allow us to better understand where the workplace burden of COVID is arising,” Arrandale said. “There may be groups of people who we’re not recognizing that could be more precariously employed or racialized groups, women.”

Having a more complete picture could improve understanding of where and why workplace outbreaks occur to better target prevention measures, such as staggering shifts and breaks, providing alternative lunch spaces or splitting up people who are all working in a row while still achieving workplace goals, she said.

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Canadian soccer women to take part in next month’s SheBelieves Cup

Canada will take part in the SheBelieves Cup women’s soccer tournament next month alongside the host U.S., Brazil and Japan.

The Feb. 18-24 event at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium will mark the Canadian women’s team’s first action since March 10, 2020 when it wrapped up play at a tournament in France with a 2-2 tie with Brazil.

A Canadian camp scheduled for England in October was called off on the advice of medical experts due to the pandemic.

It will also mark Canada’s first participation at the SheBelieves Cup, which started in 2016, and the debut of Bev Priestman as coach.

“I’m excited to get the team together for the first time to kick off an important 2021 season, as we build towards the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer,” Priestman said in a statement.

“The SheBelieves Cup gives us the opportunity to face some of the top football teams in the world in a tournament setting. It will be a great opportunity to get ourselves ready for the Tokyo Olympic Games, facing different styles of play and tight turnarounds.”

Priestman took over in November 

Priestman took over in November from Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who stepped down to take a coaching job in his native Denmark. Priestman spent five years as a coach with Canada Soccer prior to returning to England in June 2018 as assistant coach of the English women’s team.

Canada, tied with Brazil at No. 8 in the FIFA world rankings, is scheduled to open against the top-ranked U.S. on Feb. 18 before facing No. 10 Japan on Feb. 21 and Brazil on Feb. 24.

All four competing teams have qualified for the Tokyo Games with Canada finishing runner-up to the Americans at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship last February.

And all four made the knockout phase of the 2019 World Cup in France. The U.S. won the tournament while Canada, Brazil and Japan were eliminated in the round of 16.

The defending champion Americans have won the SheBelieves Cup three times. France won in 2017 and England in 2019.

Spain, England and Japan also took part in the 2020 event.

The tournament is scheduled during a FIFA international window.

Canada led by Christine Sinclair

Canada will once again be led by star Christine Sinclair.

Much has happened in the world since Sinclair made soccer history in January en route to helping the Canadian women book their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. The longtime Canada captain added to her remarkable resume by surpassing retired American Abby Wambach’s record of 184 international goals, at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Edinburg, Texas.

WATCH | Sinclair’s record-breaking goal:

Canadian Christine Sinclair scores the 185th goal of her career, passing American Abby Wambach on the all-time goals list. 1:10

Sinclair’s record-breaking year also earned the Canadian soccer icon the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as The Canadian Press female athlete of the year for 2020.

The 37-year-old Sinclair also won the award in 2012 after leading Canada to a memorable bronze medal at the London Olympics. She is the only soccer player to have won the Rosenfeld Award.

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EU, U.K. unveil post-Brexit trade deal set to take effect Jan. 1

The European Union and the United Kingdom made public Saturday the vast agreement that is likely to govern future trade and co-operation between them from Jan. 1, setting the 27-nation bloc’s relations with its former member country and neighbour on a new but far more distant footing.

EU ambassadors and lawmakers on both sides of the English Channel will now pore over the “EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” which contains over 1,240 pages of text. EU envoys are expected to meet on Monday to discuss the document, drawn up over nine intense months of talks.

Businesses, so long left in the dark about what is in store for them, will also be trying to understand its implications.

Most importantly, the deal as it stands ensures that Britain can continue to trade in goods with the world’s biggest trading bloc without tariffs or quotas after the U.K. breaks fully free of the EU. It ceased to be an official member on Jan. 31 this year and is days away from the end of an exit transition period.

But other barriers will be raised, as the U.K. loses the kind of access to a huge market that only membership can guarantee. They range from access to fishing waters to energy markets, and include everyday ties so important to citizens like travel arrangements and education exchanges.

EU won’t vote on document until 2021

EU member countries are expected to endorse the agreement over the course of next week. British legislators could vote on it on Wednesday. But even if they do approve it, the text would only enter force provisionally on New Year’s Day as the European Parliament must also have its say.

WATCH | U.K. reaches post-Brexit trade deal with EU:

The U.K. has reached a provisional trade deal with the EU more than four years after the Brexit vote. The agreement is expected to provide stability as the divorce becomes final on Jan. 1. 2:08

EU lawmakers said last weekend that there simply wasn’t enough time to properly scrutinize the text before the deadline, and they will debate and vote on the document in January and February, if the approval process runs smoothly.

Despite the deal, unanswered questions linger in many areas, including security co-operation — with the U.K. set to lose access to real-time information in some EU law enforcement databases — and access to the EU market for Britain’s huge financial services sector.

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The Marathon Project: ‘Time is now’ for Canadians to take shot at Olympic standard

The Marathon Project will be the first competition at the distance for Canadians Justin Kent and Ben Preisner, who also share the same coach and a love for road racing after a seamless transition from the track.

But they took different paths to this weekend’s elite-only professional race in Arizona, while the latter appears more aggressive in making an immediate push for the Tokyo Olympic standard.

“I had my eye on the Olympic standard and a lot of my training was geared towards that,” said Preisner, who spent the final five weeks of his marathon build running at altitude in Flagstaff, 270 kilometres north of Chandler, site of Sunday’s 42.2 km event.

“Through my half marathon training and what I’ve done now in the marathon, I’ve felt I’m capable of hitting the standard. This is the time to do it. The Olympic year is [approaching] and the [qualifying] window is closing [May 31]. I might as well give it a shot and be confident going in.”

Preisner, one of six Canadians who will take the line at 10 a.m. ET, also trained at Flagstaff in January until his planned marathon debut in London was postponed in March when coronavirus shut down sports in North America. The 24-year-old ran his own marathon time trial in April in two hours 15 minutes 24 seconds, nearly four minutes off the 2:11:30 men’s Olympic standard.

Ben Preisner of Milton, Ont., says he was fit to run a half marathon personal best at worlds in October after training at altitude in Arizona early in 2020. (Submitted by Richard Lee)

Preisner then shifted his focus to the half marathon and noted he was in shape to lower his 1:02:57 personal best at the world championships in October before Athletics Canada pulled its team from the event after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Poland.

“I took that fitness and it played well into this marathon build,” said the native of Milton, Ont.

Preisner won his debut half marathon in 2019 in Vancouver and four months later at the Toronto Waterfront event after five years of cross-country and track running at the University of Tulsa.

“I love the feel of road racing. It’s kind of a fast cross-country race and I’ve always excelled at the longer distances.”

Kent, who remained in Vancouver to train, pointed out many don’t reach the marathon standard in their first race like Cam Levins, who set the national record in his debut at Toronto in 2018 and is racing Sunday.

WATCH | Cam Levins smashes Canadian marathon record:

In his marathon debut, Cam Levins of Black Creek, B.C., broke Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian men’s marathon record by 44 seconds. Levins finished fourth in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of 2:09:25. 1:48

“I feel I’d be doing the distance a bit of a disservice if I said I’d run the Olympic standard in my first go,” said Kent, who is also coached by Richard Lee at BC Endurance Project. “Training has been going really well and I want to come out of this marathon with a positive experience, whether that’s 2:15 and I finish strong, or I get closer to the Olympic standard. I’d be happy either way.”

The 28-year-old mostly ran the 1,500 metres and mile before bursting on the road scene last year and winning the Vancouver Sun Run 10K.

‘There’s such an allure with the marathon’

This year, Kent won the men’s race of the first-ever virtual Canadian 10K Championships, met the world half marathon standard and ran a 62-minute half along Vancouver’s Seawall.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Anson Henry discusses the importance of pacemakers:

What is a pacemaker? Are they important? Oh, they’re important alright. CBC Sports Anson Henry breaks it down. 2:44

“I’ve always felt good running on the road,” he said. “I think my stride clicks a bit more with a harder surface and I get in a groove.

“There’s such an allure with the marathon and as a distance runner it’s always fascinated me.”

Kent said he prepared mentally for The Marathon Project, which will be contested on a fast 6.9 km loop course with roundabouts at each end, by running loops in training and 50 laps around a track last month in breaking the national 20,000 record by nine seconds in 1:01:01.

Lee believes Preisner and Kent could run sub-2:14 with a reasonable chance of being under the Olympic standard if the weather cooperates, they feel strong, control their nerves and fuel properly during the race.

Scottish runner Sarah Inglis, a physical education teacher in Langley, B.C., is also making her marathon debut in Arizona while Natasha Wodak, Kinsey Middleton and Rory Linkletter round out the Canadian contingent. Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., who won his debut half marathon earlier this month, will be a pacesetter for the 2:11:30 men’s group.

Wodak’s primary goal for Tokyo is the 10,000, but the Vancouver runner is “feeling fit and healthy” and told CBC Sports she has had several workouts suggesting she can run sub-2:27 and under the 2:29:30 women’s Olympic standard.

“In my last two big sessions I was able to hit my target paces even though I had some pain — hamstring tendinitis that comes and goes,” said Wodak, who clocked 2:35:16 in her first and only marathon in 2013. “I know when it gets tough during the race and the pain sets in, I’ll be able to endure and fight.”

Levins, like Preisner, spent five weeks in Flagstaff continuing his build from the London Marathon.

The Black Creek, B.C., athlete ran at 2:09:30 pace through 35 km in the rain and cool conditions but later dropped out when the standard didn’t feel attainable.

The thought of a quick return to racing in the United States and being part of a quality field was attractive to Levins, who lives in Portland, Ore.

“If I lower the Canadian record, I should be in a good situation for being selected for the Olympics,” said Levins, who ran the course on Tuesday. “It’ll probably take that to solidify a spot. There are a lot of good Canadians [competing], a lot of guys in good form, but I have no reason to think I’m not ready.”

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