Tag Archives: Canada’s

Bayern eliminate Canada’s Labbé, FC Rosengård in women’s Champions League

Bayern Munich will face Chelsea and Canadian midfield-sensation Jessie Fleming in the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League after dispatching Swedish club FC Rosengård 1-0 on Thursday.

Lea Schuller headed in the winner past Canadian international goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to seal the German side’s win, and 4-0 total-aggregate victory over two-legs. 

Barcelona reached the final four by eliminating Manchester City — which also featured Canada’s Janine Beckie –  on Wednesday.

The Spanish side awaits either five-time defending champion Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain, whose quarter-final second leg was moved to April 18 after a coronavirus outbreak in the Lyon squad. Lyon leads 1-0.

WATCH | Canada’s Beckie sweeps in opening goal as Man City ousted by Barcelona:

Canadian striker Janine Beckie scored the opening goal as Manchester City beat Barcelona 2-1, but fell 4-2 on aggregate scoring in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals. 0:43

The battle of French rivals features Toronto’s Kadeisha Buchanan for Lyon, while both Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack, B.C., and Ashley Lawrence of Toronto line up for PSG.

Chelsea advanced by eliminating two-time champion Wolfsburg. The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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CBC | Soccer News

Canada’s soccer World Cup qualifier postponed after Cayman Islands misses COVID-19 tests

The complexities of executing sporting events in a global pandemic were illustrated Sunday when Canada’s World Cup qualifier against the Cayman Islands was pushed back a day to Monday.

At issue were the pre-match COVID-19 tests taken by the Cayman Islands delegation, which did not meet FIFA requirements.

It appears the Caymans delegation did its best but was foiled by a tumultuous plane ride as it tried to get to Florida from Suriname, where it lost 3-0 on Wednesday in the capital of Paramaribo.

Alfredo Whittaker, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said his team missed its scheduled testing upon arrival because of travel issues.

The team’s charter was originally scheduled to arrive at a private airport in Sarasota, Fla., only to be turned away by U.S. Customs. The plane was diverted to Miami but, as it was about to descend, the pilot was told he could not land because it was not a scheduled flight. The plane eventually landed in Tampa with the team not getting to its hotel until 1:30 a.m. local time Friday.

The delegation underwent a rapid antigen test, which detects protein fragments specific to COVID-19. While the rapid test can deliver results in as quick as 15 minutes, the results are not always accurate as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Canada hopefully to play Monday

FIFA requires a PCR test, which is considered the gold standard in testing for the virus. It involves a lab testing a sample typically collected using a swab inserted into a person’s nose or throat. Turnaround time for the PCR test is longer.

“We did a rapid test because there was no lab around the area that would give us results until Monday or Tuesday,” Whittaker said. “But miraculously we managed to get that lab that was originally closed on Saturday and Sunday to open for us [Sunday].”

The results are expected to be ready between 2 and 3 p.m. ET Monday, ahead of the 6 p.m. kickoff at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

News of the one-day postponement came out Sunday in brief releases from Canada Soccer and FIFA in the hour before the scheduled 4 p.m. kickoff. The decision to delay the match was made “to ensure the safety of all participants in the match,” according to FIFA.

Whittaker said Canada Soccer had been “very understanding.”

“We’re living in difficult times. These are requirements and we respect requirements,” he added.

Whittaker noted the Caymans have been pretty much COVID-free.

According to the Cayman Islands government website, the country had 487 confirmed cases of COVID and two deaths as of Friday. The four most recent cases were tourists, who tested positive following routine screening.

As of Friday, 28,861 (44 per cent of the estimated population) had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with 26 per cent having completed the two-dose course.

WATCH | Larin hat trick leads Canada past Bermuda:

Canada dominates Bermuda 5-1 as they start World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. 3:19

The Canadian team was still at its hotel in nearby Sarasota when it got news of the problem Sunday. Canada coach John Herdman said his squad took news of the postponement in stride, after some initial “disappointment, shock.”

“I think we’re used to the many ups and downs that this world keeps throwing at us,” Herdman said in a video posted by Canada Soccer.

“If anything we’ll look at the positives which are more recovery, more regen time for those players that played on Thursday,” he added.

Herdman said he pulled his team’s leadership group together in wake of the news. The decision was made to go ahead and hold a “light, bright” training session Sunday.

“We just turn the page and [Monday] will be the big day for us.”

Canada Soccer said teams are required to provide FIFA with negative COVID-19 PCR test results for all players and staff taken no earlier than 72 hours before accessing the venue. Without the test results, teams can’t access the stadium.

Canada Soccer said it had “engaged a laboratory to be on-site with the team to conduct its testing” and that all of its players and staff had received negative testing before arriving and while in camp in Florida.

Sunday’s game was officially a home game for the Caymans. But the three-island group has the same 14-day quarantine as Canada so opted to shift the site to Bradenton.

The current FIFA international window runs through Tuesday for CONCACAF teams. But the delay in the Caymans game means extending whatever quarantines are in place at the other end when player return home.

Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson left Friday to return to his club team Besiktas in Turkey as part of an apparent prearranged deal.

The Canadian men are ranked 73rd in the world, 120 places above the Cayman part-timers.

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CBC | Soccer News

Why Canada’s decision to delay 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccines may not work for everyone

New research from two small pre-print studies suggests delaying second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months may not be the best approach for some older Canadians.

The research comes as some experts are also questioning whether Canada’s vaccination advisers, who recommended the delay, can keep up with rapidly evolving science during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which has provided guidance to the federal government on vaccinations since 1964, met just three times a year to discuss issues related to vaccines for influenza, mumps, measles and other viruses.

But a year after the pandemic was declared, with new data emerging daily, NACI has been thrust into the spotlight and forced to evaluate new vaccines for a novel virus faster than ever before.

“NACI’s committees are basically made up of volunteers, many with heavy daily responsibilities during the pandemic,” said Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

“There’s no precedent for NACI to operate at this pace, and everyone is adapting on the fly.”

NACI has met nine times since Canada approved its first COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 10, but it has plans to ramp up in the coming months with another 13 meetings scheduled between now and the end of June.

Guido Armellin, 86, receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a clinic at a church in Toronto on March 17. A team was on-site administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to parishioners as part of a community outreach program to get seniors vaccinated at their place of worship. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The committee has previously overturned its initial guidance against immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as a controversial decision against the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for those over 65.

Delay could leave cancer patients less protected, U.K. study suggests

Perhaps one of NACI’s most impactful recommendations on Canada’s vaccine rollout was the decision to delay second doses beyond manufacturing guidelines by up to four months, but emerging research signals it may not be the best approach for vulnerable Canadians.

A new pre-print study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, analyzed 151 older cancer patients and compared their immune response with 54 healthy adults after receiving the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K.

The researchers concluded that delaying second doses to between eight and 12 weeks for most cancer patients left them “wholly or partially unprotected” and had implications on their health and the potential emergence of coronavirus variants. 

WATCH | Delaying some 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses challenged by new data:

New early data suggests that Canada’s recommendation of delaying the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months may not be effective in some older, more vulnerable patients, causing the vaccine advisory committee to re-examine its guidance. 2:36

“Our data advocates that bringing forward the second dose of the vaccine for patients who have cancer may benefit them,” said Leticia Monin-Aldama, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

“And that perhaps a sort of one-size-fits-all approach may not be ideal when delivering these vaccines to the population.”

NACI advocated for that universal approach to delay second doses by up to four months for all Canadians — the longest interval recommended by a country so far — based on limited real-world evidence and the reality of Canada’s vaccine supply.

The decision was also informed by findings from Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), who determined that one dose of the vaccine was actually more effective than clinical trials had initially shown.

NACI said if second doses were stretched to four months across the country, close to 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 could get at least one shot by the end of June.

But Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, has said the decision to delay second doses amounted to a “population level experiment” and advised against the delay in older Canadians on CTV’s Power Play this week, citing a lack of data to back up the decision.

Darryl Falzarano, a research scientist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) lab in Saskatoon, is also against the decision to increase the time between doses and said there is a growing body of research that suggests it’s not the safest approach for immunocompromised and older adults.

“The initial data look like delaying the dose of the mRNA vaccines would still provide reasonable protection to the population from severe or moderate disease, and so vaccinating more people was looked at as the greater good,” he said.

“Now, in certain populations — older people, people with comorbidities and cancers — likely delayed boosting for them is sub-optimal and possibly will lead to revised recommendations for those groups.”

Darryl Falzarano, a research scientist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization lab in Saskatoon, is opposed to increasing the time between doses and says there is a growing body of research that suggests it’s not the safest approach for immunocompromised and older adults. (Debra Marshall)

B.C. study analyzed long-term care residents

A second pre-print study released this week from researchers in British Columbia, which has also not been peer reviewed, cast further doubt on the dose delay for seniors and found that their immune response may not be as strong as in younger, healthier people.

The study analyzed antibody levels in a dozen long-term care residents in Vancouver a month after receiving their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 22 younger health-care workers — 18 of whom had not previously been infected by COVID-19 and four who had.

“The level of antibodies in older residents was fourfold lower, so significantly decreased,” said Dr. Marc Romney, a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and one of the authors of the study. “The function of those antibodies in older people was also compromised.”

Romney said antibodies are just part of the picture, and he also plans to look at the immune system’s full response in future research. But he said the fact that antibodies in the elderly didn’t neutralize the virus as well as in the younger health-care workers suggests the dose delay may need to be revised for them.

“There is emerging evidence that demonstrates that there are some populations that will probably not fare as well and have the same degree of protection following single doses of a vaccine,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

“These are groups you would want to shorten the time between dose one and two.”

WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines:

Federal government scientists have put their support behind delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines — which several provinces were already doing — and ongoing research shows some of the benefits of the adapted strategy. 2:04

‘This isn’t a regular vaccine’

The speed with which NACI members are able to make these decisions has come under fire.

Falzarano said NACI is typically used to working under a “slow-moving” vaccine regulatory process where vaccines can take up to a decade to go from research to rollout.

“Their job is to review vaccines, but their experience is reviewing them under a much different scenario,” he said.

“They are normally looking at a full data set when they have to make decisions. They would normally make very conservative decisions, and now, they find themselves in a much different scenario than what they’re used to — and I think that’s highly challenging for them.”

Visitors to a mass vaccination clinic in Toronto on Tuesday fill in paperwork as they wait in line. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization initially recommended against giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to seniors, but that guidance changed on March 16 after it reviewed data. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

NACI’s decision to recommend against the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot for seniors on March 1 came despite emerging evidence from around the world demonstrating its ability to prevent severe COVID-19 in older adults.

But that guidance changed on March 16 after more real-world data on the vaccine’s effectiveness was reviewed by NACI, and CBC News broke the story revealing documents on the federal government’s plans to allow those 65 and older to receive it.

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and a virologist at the IWK Health Centre and the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, all in Halifax, said NACI should include more experts in emerging viruses and vaccine development to help navigate the research in the pandemic.

“This isn’t a regular vaccine that’s gone through the typical workflow for vaccine approval and vaccine development because it’s an emerging virus,” said Kelvin, who is also evaluating Canadian vaccines at the VIDO lab in Saskatoon.

“You need somebody who understands that dynamic, instead of what we would normally depend on for our medicines or vaccines.”

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, who chairs NACI, responded to criticism during a news conference on March 16, saying that as new evidence emerged on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in older adults, NACI was “busy with other files” that delayed its guidance.

“The committee is very busy, obviously, meeting weekly to discuss the emerging data on these important topics,” said Matthew Tunis, executive secretary to the committee.

“So there’s always inevitably going to be a bit of a lag between when a committee deliberates and when the advice is made public.”

Decisions take time, NACI chair says

Quach-Thanh responded to further questions about the delay in revising recommendations on CBC’s Power and Politics on Wednesday, noting that NACI isn’t equipped to review new evidence one day and make recommendations the next.

“It’s not possible, we can’t be that reactive,” she said. “I don’t think any advisory committee can be that reactive because it would mean that every time something changes, you move the needle one way or the next.

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, who chairs the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, says NACI is currently re-examining its guidance based on new research, and new guidelines on the timing of second doses for seniors and the immunocompromised could come as early as next week. (Skype)

“Then it just means that you’re changing your recommendation every other day. So you need to gather that base of evidence before you change something.”

But even after NACI has finalized its recommendations, Quach-Thanh said, it takes an entire week to translate and upload them to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website — precious time in a pandemic where new data emerges daily.

Quach-Thanh said the committee is currently re-examining its guidance based on new research, and new guidelines on the timing of second doses for seniors and the immunocompromised could come as early as next week. But Skowronski, with the BCCDC, said it’s too early to make that call definitively.

“This is a kind of a signal that we might want to follow, it’s of interest, but we cannot change or make policy on the basis of this sort of small study,” she said.

“It may come to pass that we will want to adjust depending upon how far we have come in achieving that goal of getting at least one dose into these individuals at highest risk.”

Skowronski defended the decision to delay second doses by up to four months in Canada and stressed that the benefits of vaccinating more vulnerable groups with an initial shot outweigh the risks of delaying a second.

“My preoccupation is in at least getting a first dose into those at high risk of severe complications, and we’ve not achieved that yet,” she said, adding that age was by far the biggest risk factor for severe outcomes from COVID-19.

“That’s job one. Let’s get that job one done, and then let’s debate the timing of the second dose.”

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CBC | Health News

Canada’s COVID case count set to hit 1 million next week as variants spread

After two months of relative stability, Canada’s COVID-19 case count is expected to rise rapidly in the coming weeks as virus variants take hold.

Canada is projected to hit roughly 1 million total cases next week, according to data released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

While the vaccination campaign has ramped up after a period of scarcity, the rollout can’t keep pace with the spread of the virus, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. Tam today urged Canadians to reduce their contacts in the medium-term while provinces and territories deploy more shots in the months to come.

“COVID-19 still has a few tricks in store and we need to hold on together a bit stronger and longer until vaccines have us protected,” Tam said.

While the setback is “discouraging,” she said, better days are ahead. “We are closer now than ever, but it’s still too soon to relax measures.”

Asked today when things might return to a pre-pandemic “normal,” Tam said that day is not imminent. With the caseload curve trending up, variants accelerating and vaccine distribution still quite low, a post-COVID-19 Canada is still months away, she said.

“It’s not going to be, ‘Here’s a date and after that date all is going to be good.’ It’s data, not dates,” she said. “By the fall — that’s what I think we should be aiming for.”

WATCH: Tam is asked when life will return to a pre-pandemic normal

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, responds to a question about the pandemic’s likely end date. 3:37

COVID-19 variants like B117, which is thought to have originated in the U.K., now account for a high proportion of new cases and make up half of all new cases in some areas. There are roughly 3,000 new cases being reported each day nationwide, up from about 2,000 a month ago.

Case count could rise to 12,000 a day

With variants now circulating widely, PHAC said the case count could rise to 12,000 a day if Canadians maintain or increase the number of people they are in contact with daily. The public health measures in place in most jurisdictions will be “insufficient” to keep cases at bay, the agency said.

Alberta, B.C. and Ontario are projected to see the biggest spike in daily cases — early data suggest variants are particularly widespread in these provinces. PHAC predicts Ontario alone could record as many as 10,000 cases a day if public health measures are relaxed or maintained at their current level.

While an increase in the number of new cases is almost certain over the coming weeks in the six provinces west of Atlantic Canada, PHAC says that the country will be able to hold the line at 5,000 cases a day if Canadians reduce their contacts.

PHAC is projecting the death rate will be relatively lower than it was with past caseload spikes because some of the most vulnerable people — long term care home residents, seniors, Indigenous adults — have been vaccinated.

Tam warned, however, that the B117 variant may lead to more severe cases and could prove to be more deadly.

The public health agency said it expects many of the new cases to come from people aged 20 to 39. While death is less likely in this demographic, younger patients still face the prospect of severe health outcomes.

“The younger people, you’re going to get some people who are going to end up in hospital,” Tam said.

PHAC is predicting the cumulative case count — the number of cases reported since this pandemic began — will jump over the next week from 951,000 to between 973,000 and 1,005,000.

The spread of the variants — which are more transmissible than the strain first discovered in Wuhan — has also resulted in an increase in hospitalizations. There are now some 2,200 people in hospitals — 600 of them in intensive care units.

But the vaccination campaign is starting to bear fruit, with case counts among the 80-plus age cohort declining dramatically.

While there were 35 cases per 100,000 people aged 80 or older in January, the case rate has dropped to less than 5 per 100,000.

Most provinces and territories have been directing the early supply of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna to seniors. About 60 per cent of all people over the age of 80 have received at least one shot, PHAC said.

The number of outbreaks in long-term care homes is also much lower than it was just three months ago. There were as many as 500 long-term care home outbreaks at any one time in December, while there have been fewer than 100 reported throughout March.

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CBC | Health News

Canada’s Alphonso Davies handed 2-game ban for red card in Bayern Munich win

Canadian Alphonso Davies has been suspended for two games in the wake of his red card in Bayern Munich’s 4-0 win over VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.

The 20-year-old fullback from Edmonton was yellow-carded in the 11th minute after catching Wataru Endo’s foot with a challenge at Allianz Arena. But that was upgraded to a red a minute later after referee Daniel Schlager reviewed the incident on a sideline monitor.

The incident occurred off a Davies throw-in. The Canadian got the ball to Robert Lewandowski, who sent it back with Endo in chase. Davies’ first touch was poor and things got worse when he lunged to retrieve the ball, catching Endo’s foot/ankle with his studs.

Davies will miss Bayern’s top-of-the-table showdown with second-place RB Leipzig on April 3 and the game against FC Union Berlin on April 10 when the Bundesliga resumes after the March international break.

Davies is expected to be called by Canada for World Cup qualifiers against Bermuda and the Cayman Islands on Thursday and Sunday.

The Bermuda game is officially a Canada home game but will be played in Orlando due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. The Cayman Islands shifted the second match to Bradenton, Fla., for the same reason.

Davies has won 17 caps for Canada, with five goals and seven assists.

He was also sent off for a second yellow card in a Bundesliga match last June against Werder Bremen. And he saw red in Canada’s 2-0 friendly win over Jamaica in Toronto in September 2017.

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Canada’s Rachael Karker captures ski halfpipe gold for her 1st World Cup victory

Rachael Karker earned her first career World Cup victory Sunday, scoring 93.25 points on her third and final run in women’s freeski halfpipe in Aspen, Colo.

Zoe Atkin of Great Britain was second (91.50) and Brita Sigourney of the United States third (89.00).

Karker, 23, also won halfpipe silver in Aspen on March 12 at the freestyle world championships.

“I’m really happy, this is the perfect way to end the season,” Karker said. “We only had three contests this year, but I’m super happy to land a spot on all three podiums.”

WATCH | Karker adds World Cup gold to recent world silver medal:

The 21-year-old collected her first-ever FIS World Cup win on Sunday. 1:33

Amy Fraser of Calgary was ninth.

In the men’s event, Calgary’s Brendan MacKay scored 95.00 in a silver-medal performance.

American Aaron Blunck won with 96.50 points while New Zealand’s Nico Porteous (94.50) rounded out the medal podium.

“I think this puts me in a good place for next season and it would be really awesome to go to the Olympics so fingers crossed,” Mackay said.

WATCH | MacKay picks up silver in men’s event at Aspen:

McKay put up a score of 95.00 points in Aspen on Sunday, just 1.50 behind first spot. 2:08

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Jews in Russian city scarred by WWII massacre watch Canada’s decision on Nazi interpreter

As the evening light falls over the gentle slope of the ravine, Natalia Yefimushkina, her head tightly bound in a red scarf, stares into the heart of one of Russia’s largest mass graves.

In the summer on 1942, the Nazi death squads first came to Rostov-on-Don, a city about 1,000 kilometres south of Moscow. Over the next year and half, they would kill 27,000 people here, most of them Jews like Yefimushkina’s grandparents. They were ordered to strip and line up along the ravine before soldiers opened fire and executed them in what has been called a “Holocaust of bullets.”

Yefimushkina is so traumatized by the stories of what happened here that she is haunted by visions of her family members.

“Up there on the top, they were standing. They were speaking in German, there were dogs, and [people were] crying — and I’m standing over there. It’s as if I’m there, too, with them,” Yefimushkina said, crying herself. 

“I’m standing here as if my grandparents see me. I can feel them … do you understand?” Yefimushkina said. “I can feel them.”

Zmiyovskaya Balka, which translates to “the ravine of snakes,” is now the site of a towering memorial to those who died here. It consists of a cluster of stone figures with outstretched arms and terror, despair and sorrow etched in their faces.

One of the figures in the memorial to the tens of thousands of people killed in Zmievskaya Balka. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)


These feelings are reflected in the faces of the living. Inna Rizhevskaya lost family here, too. The remains of her pregnant aunt and cousin lie somewhere in the ravine.

“I did not know them at all,” she said. “Of course, this is sad. It’s sad that for no reason, for nothing, they were killed.”

Given the sheer horror of what happened, many people in Rostov-on-Don were shocked to learn that a man who translated for the Nazis responsible for this ended up building a life in Canada. 

And that more than half a century later, the Canadian government still hasn’t been able to remove him.

Inna Rizhevskaya stands in front of the memorial. Her aunt and cousin were among those who died in the ravine. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

“He’s living a quiet life there? He isn’t having nightmares?” said Yefimushkina.

“They should send him to this place, then for sure he will feel his guilt. Let him come here. There’s no way he won’t feel something. The children, the young people, pregnant women, the old people — there were thousands in this pit.”

Settled in Ontario

Helmut Oberlander was just 17 when he started interpreting Russian for the German-speaking Einsatzkommando 10a, one of the Third Reich’s most brutal mobile killing units.

The kommando squads, a subgroup of the Einsatzgruppen, would move into newly German-controlled territory and kill people considered “unacceptable” or a threat. The 1946 Nuremberg tribunal estimated the units were responsible for the execution of more than two million Jews between 1941 and 1944.  

In the summer of 1942, Oberlander’s unit moved through Rostov-on-Don.

After the war, in 1954, he moved to Canada and settled in Waterloo, Ont., where he became a successful developer and community leader. But his past was eventually revealed.

According to declassified government documents, it began in 1963, when the RCMP quietly started a file on him after receiving diplomatic information from New York alerting them to Oberlander’s presence in Canada and alleging he may have taken part in war crimes.

He would face questions about what happened in Rostov when German investigators looking into war crimes deposed him in Toronto. At that time, Oberlander said he did not know the name of the unit to which he was assigned.

Helmut Oberlander has said he was forcibly conscripted by the Nazis when he was 17 years old. The 97-year-old now lives in Kitchener, Ont., and is facing deportation from Canada. (CIJA)

“I do not know anything about any executions of Jews in Rostov,” he said.

Oberlander told the authorities he only remembered working alone as a sentry in a boat anchored nearby. “I had to guard the grain so that the population could not loot it.”

But one of Oberlander’s fellow unit members, Leo Marr, repeatedly told German investigators in the ’60s that Oberlander was more involved in the operation there. He described an operation in which Jews were processed in a house: men were directed to one room, women to another. They were ordered to strip and remove their jewellery and any valuables before being transported to the ravine.

“Oberlander, the interpreter that I knew, came into our room with a girl of 19 or 20 years of age who still had her clothes on,” Marr said. “The girl was crying profusely and swore she was not a Jew, but Russian.” Marr testified that Oberlander translated for her and told her she was free to go home.

Oberlander told the authorities he has no recollection of this incident.

Case became public in ’90s

In 1985, Canada created the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, which started an exhaustive review of potential war criminals living in the country. Once-secret documents reveal Oberlander was among 29 cases flagged for special investigation. 

The next year, according to the documents, Quebec Superior Court Judge Jules Deschênes recommended “no prosecution should be started against Helmut Oberlander” because German investigators failed to prove Oberlander took part in any crimes.

Instead, it recommended he be stripped of his Canadian citizenship because he did not divulge his membership in the SS and the Einsatzgruppen to immigration officials.

Ten years later, the news of Oberlander’s past became public when Canada started proceedings to remove him. His Canadian citizenship would be revoked four times after 2000. Three times it was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, but his final appeal was quashed in 2019.

Now 97, Oberlander is awaiting an immigration hearing, which has been delayed because of complications around COVID-19 and a hearing disability that prevented him from fully communicating with his lawyer.

On Thursday, Oberlander’s lawyer, Ronald Poulton, filed a motion to permanently stay the proceedings against his client, alleging he had new evidence the government withheld important evidence.

In a statement, Canada Border Services, which handles deportation matters, said it cannot comment on matters before the courts, but added that it places the highest priority on removal cases involving national security, organized crime and crimes against humanity.

It’s now up to a judge to consider the motion. If the stay is not granted, immigration hearings will proceed.

If he were to be deported, Oberlander would likely be returned to Germany, even though he lost his citizenship there in 1960 when he became a Canadian.

Canadian rabbi rebuilds

Rostov-on-Don’s chief rabbi, Chaim Danziger, has struggled to explain to the community how Canada has handled the case.

WATCH | Rostov-on-Don’s rabbi talks about the community’s feelings:

Chaim Danzinger, a rabbi in Rostov-on-Don, says it’s been hard for the city’s Jewish community to learn about Oberlander. 0:43

“They came to me to explain it, like, what’s going on? How could this be? How could there be someone who was involved? What is Canada doing?” said Danzinger, who is originally from Toronto. “How do you answer such a thing?”

Danzinger came to Rostov-on-Don 12 years ago, attracted by the challenge of helping rebuild its Jewish community, which was almost completely wiped out during the Second World War. As a part of that effort, he’s worked with surviving families to put a name to every person lost in the Ravine of Snakes.

“People are still hurting with what happened. We can’t say that it happened so long ago and just let’s move on, let’s turn the page. No, the tragedy that happened in 1942 here in Rostov is felt today. The families are grieving.” he said.

Danzinger says it is unlikely an interpreter working for a Nazi death squad would not know what the unit was doing in Rostov.

“A translator was used to tell the Jews where to put their keys, where to put their jewellery, where to get undressed and where they must march,” said Danziger. “That’s what a translator was doing here.”

Rostov-on-Don reacts

Oberlander’s past denials about knowing anything about the execution of Jews haven’t gone down well in Rostov-on-Don.

“Oh, he didn’t see how they shot people?” said Maya Rozina, whose grandparents and mother’s 13-year-old sister were killed in the ravine.

“How about when he had to translate ‘get naked?'” she asked. “He was blind, I guess? Well, I think for this, too, he should be punished. But not deportation. This is not a real punishment.”

Rozina said even if authorities put him in jail for a month or two, “that will truly be a punishment for a person of 97 years. He will have no freedom. He will be sitting behind bars.”

WATCH | A relative of Jews who were killed in Rostov reacts: 

Maya Rozina’s grandparents and aunt were killed in the Ravine of Snakes. She says deportation wouldn’t be a ‘real punishment’ for Oberlander. 0:43

In the city’s only synagogue, Inna Rizhevskaya shares photos of the family she lost. She, too, is incredulous at Oberlander’s long-standing claim he didn’t know about the execution of Jews in Rostov.

“This is all nonsense. He’s making this all up. At 17, he was a translator, but the fact that they were killing people, he did not know this?” she said. 

“It seems Canada will take anyone in — the good and the bad. A very strange country,” she said.

For his part, Rabbi Danzinger is philosophical about what could happen next.

“What’s justice mean? It’s not about an eye for an eye. It’s not about punishment. Justice just means that someone has to be held accountable for something he did,” Danzinger said.

As the community watches Canada to see what it decides to do with Oberlander, Rostov’s focus is also drawn inward on healing and rebuilding its once-robust Jewish culture, with help from their Toronto rabbi.

Danzinger leads marches of remembrance, and runs an active social media profile that focuses on outreach and education. His efforts are paying off in a city that once had 13 synagogues. 

Danzinger has seen a shift as people who were once afraid to identify as Jews are openly embracing it. He said many families felt “we’re Jewish, but let’s not discuss it. Let’s not practise. Let’s not participate [in the community].” 

But now, he said, “Jews are coming out. They’re coming to participate.”

WATCH | Former Nazi interpreter living in Canada tries to stop deportation proceedings:

Jewish residents of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia are outraged that the former Nazi interpreter whose unit almost wiped out their community is ‘living a quiet life’ in Canada. WARNING: Some of the images in this story may be disturbing to some viewers. 6:17

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After a slow start, Canada’s vaccine rollout is now a race against time

Last week, before the crack of dawn, 466,800 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine landed at Toronto Pearson Airport in the belly of a FedEx plane after a journey of 8,500 kilometres, from Madrid via Paris and Indianapolis.

If cargo could fly first class, this cargo would qualify.

The vaccine doses, housed in metallic cargo containers, were unloaded before any of the other cargo. As they were carefully lowered off the hydraulic lift and onto a cargo trailer, temperature sensors showed the doses had arrived at their ideal temperature of -20ºC. Ground staff whisked the pallets off the tarmac for customs inspection so that they could be redistributed to the provinces and, eventually, injected into the arms of Canadians.

Minister for Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand was on the runway that morning to oversee the delivery — the latest in a series of deliveries that have been growing in size and frequency in recent days.

“All day long, I’m spending my time trying to move doses from [the third quarter] or from the fall to the spring … and working with suppliers to try to accelerate doses,” said Anand.

“But being here, and seeing the doses come off of the plane, means it is going to happen. Doses are going into arms in the very near term, and that is so meaningful and so important for Canadians.”

Under pressure

Canada’s vaccine rollout got off to a sluggish start. As countries like Israel and the United Kingdom started mass campaigns early in 2021, Canada saw its per capita vaccination rates plunge in international rankings.

Critics at both the federal and provincial levels have blamed the slow pace on Ottawa’s procurement process. Some have pointed to a lack of domestic vaccine manufacturing facilities, or the fact that provinces aren’t able to sign their own contracts with vaccine producers.

Anand knows she’s under enormous pressure to deliver.

“We did come through a rough period in February, and that’s because global supply chains, as a general matter, are just ramping up,” Anand said, referring to manufacturing delays at both Pfizer and Moderna that resulted in smaller-than-anticipated shipments to several countries, including Canada.

“This is the largest vaccination campaign in global history, as well as Canadian history. Having said that, we are ramping up.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand (left) and Major General Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Canada is expecting 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of March. Deliveries are set to ramp up sharply after that, fuelled by weekly Pfizer deliveries of at least a million doses. More than 7 million doses are expected to land in April alone.

Anand said she expects 36.5 million doses by the end of June — enough for every person in Canada to receive a single dose.

“The ramp-up is going to be very steep. But again, we’ve got to watch supply chains. This is very early days in this race of making sure that we have everyone inoculated,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to stick to a September deadline for getting every eligible and willing Canadian vaccinated. Because of the increasing supply — and updated guidelines that allow public health officials to wait up to four months before delivering a second dose — provinces are now looking to complete their first round of vaccinations before summer.

The ‘big lift’

The appearance of more contagious COVID-19 variants that might cause more severe illness has put increased pressure on governments to vaccinate quickly.

“The provinces and territories are telling us that they are ready, they want more vaccine. And that’s exactly what we as a federal government are aiming to do,” Anand said.

Trudeau has called Canada’s vaccine supply ramp-up “the big lift.” The prime minister told a virtual roundtable of health care workers in February that the country would be going from a trickle of deliveries in the early months of the year to “receiving millions upon millions, even tens of millions of vaccines into the spring. And we’re going to have to make sure we’re getting them out to everyone.”

The challenge is a daunting one. Taking into account the 8 million doses delivered to Canada before the end of March, about 23 million more Canadians are eligible for vaccination this spring.

To deliver first doses to that entire population between April 1 and July 1, health care workers will have to vaccinate an average of 255,000 people per day, seven days a week.

Watch: Ontario launches online booking system as fears of a third wave grow

Ontario’s provincial COVID-19 vaccine booking system launched to mixed reviews, with many saying they got an error message or waited in jammed phone queues. Meanwhile, doctors in the province raised concerns of a third wave of COVID-19 infections. 1:49

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his province has the capacity to administer 150,000 vaccines a day. “We’re making steady progress,” Ford told reporters during an update on the province’s rollout on Sunday. “We just need more vaccines.”

That’s a message the federal government is hearing a lot lately from municipalities. Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency operations for the City of Ottawa, said the city has seven clinic-based immunization sites — including re-purposed hockey arenas and community centres — plus two hospital sites and a mobile unit ready to inoculate the city’s population of one million.

He said that once he gets the doses he needs, he’ll be ready to launch on 72 hours’ notice Ottawa’s complete mass vaccination program — which is set to deliver, for a start, 11,000 shots a day through all ten sites.

Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency operations for the City of Ottawa, speaks to the CBC’s David Cochrane. (Sarah Sears/CBC News)

“Our objective for all seven of our (clinic-based) sites is to do in the neighborhood of 1,200 to 1,400 vaccinations a day, per site,” said Di Monte. 

“We’ve got some confidence that we could probably crank that up a little bit and get closer to the 2,000 mark per site once we get rolling and we have enough staff.”

With enough doses and enough people, Di Monte said, Ottawa can keep its clinics open around the clock. The city has plans for a drive-through vaccination site in the sprawling parking lot outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators; it’s also looking at using two convention centres.

‘We ramp up and we never go back’

What Di Monte fears is a disruption in supply that would force him to close a vaccination site.

“You want the machine to start going and flowing and a regular flow,” he said. “I would prefer to see that we ramp up and we never go back. We just keep going and I’ll turn the switch up as much as we have capacity.”

Anand said her department is keeping a close watch on those supply lines.

“We are seeing vaccine nationalism take hold in certain areas of the world, including in Europe and, to an extent, the United States,” she said. “And we’ve got to make sure that Canada’s supply chain is protected.”

The cargo flight Anand met at the airport last week crossed European and American borders, offering a clear example of how “vaccine nationalism” — countries limiting exports to concentrate on vaccinating their citizens first — could tie Canada’s supply lines in knots.

Anand said Canada’s diverse vaccine portfolio — four vaccines from five different suppliers — serves as a hedge against that threat.

“We have to make sure that we’re on top of this file and the delivery schedules,” she said.

“I’m thinking of all the elderly people in Canada who need vaccine, want a vaccine, and Canadians at large. This is what makes this work so important, and this is why we have to see this right through to the end so every single Canadian will have access to a vaccine before the end of summer, if not before.”

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Canada’s 1st female in-game dunker ready to make mark on March Madness

Coming off the weak side, Laeticia Amihere leaped to deflect her opponent’s pass, batting it toward halfcourt.

The six-foot-three Canadian chased after the ball, retrieved it with no one around her near the timeline, dribbled once, took two strides and made history.

Amihere, then 15, became the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game.

“A lot of people would tell me that’s not typical for girls to do that. And I don’t know how many other Canadians have been able just to do it, even in practice. So I knew that when I did it, it was something remarkable,” Amihere, now 19, told CBC Sports.

The dunk, which came in a 2017 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament game, left the rim rattling and college scouts turning their heads.

“It was crazy. Like none of my teammates expected it. The coaches didn’t expect it. But I think it was really just the momentum that carried me,” Amihere said.

Amihere, of Mississauga, Ont., now plays collegiately for the South Carolina Gamecocks, a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. South Carolina’s first game is Sunday against No. 16 Mercer at 6 p.m. ET.

She’s one of four Canadians representing each of the top seeds among 27 total competing.

Amihere typically serves as a versatile sparkplug off the bench for the Gamecocks. She averaged 6.2 points and five rebounds over 17.4 minutes per game in her 2020-21 sophomore season — both improvements over her freshman campaign when a serious knee injury zapped some athleticism and left her in a bulky knee brace.

“It kind of held me back, but just being able to be more explosive this year, definitely, I feel like is a big [improvement on] last year,” Amihere said.

In the next five months, she’ll try to win a college national championship and follow it up with Olympic gold in Tokyo.

“I really hope this can be a breakout tournament for me. I feel it. And I’ve been putting in the work,” Amihere said.

Amihere, one of four NCAA players invited to the Canadian women’s basketball virtual training camp in February, says she’ll play in Tokyo if asked.

“Making an Olympic team and competing for my country has always been my one of my biggest dreams. [My ultimate goals in basketball are] competing in the Olympics and making the WNBA,” she said.

Amihere said she envisions herself fitting right into coach Lisa Thomaidis’ high-pace system with Team Canada as a disruptive forward who is agile and can run the fast break.

She was part of the team representing Canada at the Olympic qualifying tournament in February 2020.

“She just looks comfortable — confident scoring around the basket, handling the ball a little bit away from the basket [and] just seems to fit in. Great rebounder. She’s such a presence around the hoop as well,” Thomaidis said.

At South Carolina, Amihere plays for head coach Dawn Staley, who doubles as the American national team coach. While they may have the book on each other as opponents in Tokyo, Amihere says Staley has been a massive influence on her burgeoning basketball career.

“She’s on me every single play and telling me what I need to do better. And I think that’s helped me so much, and especially in games, letting me work through what I need to work through in order to be who she thinks I can be. She instills a lot of confidence in me so I definitely don’t take that lightly,” Amihere said.

Thomaidis, meanwhile, sees no issues in having one of her national-team players develop under an opposing coach.

“Laeticia during the recruiting process was very open, but her goal was to get to the Olympics, play for the national team. So Dawn really respects those wishes and is doing everything she can to prepare Laeticia for that,” Thomaidis said.

Canadian content

But first, Amihere may have to go through some Canadian teammates in the NCAA tournament.

The only time she could meet UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, with whom she said she shares a friendly rivalry, is in the championship game.

She could also see Canada training camp invitees Merissah Russell of No. 2 Louisville and Shaina Pellington of No. 3 Arizona in the Final Four.

“Even last year at training camp, we would talk about when our teams would meet, but it’s awesome. I love those guys and it’s just awesome to be able to compete with them,” Amihere said.

Connecticut’s Aaliyah Edwards, right, could face off against Amihere in the NCAA national championship game. (Jessica Hill/The Associated Press)

A freshman with the Huskies, Edwards averaged over 10 points and five rebounds per game, earning her conference’s sixth woman of the year award. She finished the season shooting 68 per cent from the field.

Alongside American phenom Paige Bueckers, Edwards represents the next wave of talent at traditional powerhouse UConn.

“She sure hasn’t disappointed. She’s had some very impressive games and I think probably the most impressive, aside from her rebounding prowess, is her efficiency from the floor. … She’s really perfected her role this year,” Thomaidis said.

Pellington, meanwhile, came off the bench for the Canadian qualifying team last February. The explosive guard is playing the same role with the Wildcats.

“An exceptional talent and has done well with us. And it’s been fun to watch her for sure,” Thomaidis said.

Russell was a late addition to training camp when the roster expanded to 20 players. Though she may not wind up in Tokyo, the 19-year-old shooting guard is firmly on the radar.

“She’s pretty versatile. She can play a number of different positions and we like what we’ve seen from her. She definitely competes. She knows the game, just young, inexperienced and is just going to continue to get better and better,” Thomaidis said.

The NCAA tournament begins Sunday, and a national champion will be crowned April 4. The Canadian women’s team is planning on holding training camp in May ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup tournament in June, which is followed by the Olympics.

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