Tag Archives: Community

Come From Away plays to (almost) packed crowds in Australia, restoring sense of community

While most theatre companies wait to safely welcome back audiences, Come From Away is playing eight shows a week in Melbourne, Australia, to an almost packed house.

The musical retelling of how the citizens of Gander, N.L., responded during the events of 9/11 is one of the most successful Canadian theatrical exports, spawning numerous productions in North America, Britain and Australia.

Nine months into its run in Melbourne, Come From Away was forced to close its doors as the country worked to get the coronavirus under control.

Now, with the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne down to single digits, Come From Away has raised the curtain again. The Australian production, which resumed on Jan. 19, was one of the first shows to welcome back audiences, with new safety measures.

Contact tracing is required for all ticket holders, as is mandatory mask-wearing, and the 1,003-seat Comedy Theatre is limited to 85 per cent capacity.


Musical director Luke Hunter describes how ‘moving’ it was to hear a live audience roar after living through months of Australia’s restrictive lockdown measures. (CBC News)

Luke Hunter, the company’s musical director, remembers all too well the months of strict lockdown stuck in his apartment. He says the feeling from audiences when the cast returned to work surprised him.

Come From Away ends with a dramatic flourish as the lights go out and Hunter stands on a chair playing the accordion.

On the show’s opening night, the crowd roared. “I’d forgotten how impactful it is to hear the sound of a group of people that have been through an experience together…. It was really moving,” Hunter said.


In Melbourne, fans such as Mike Benjamin are returning to see the show again because of what it represents.

“With the show being uplifting, it is that sense [that] I’m able to return to a sense of normality. It does warm the soul.”

As Benjamin drove home after the show, he listened to a news item about a new case of COVID-19 discovered in the community. While he said he doesn’t relish the idea of another lockdown, he thinks that’s why the musical’s message resonates.

“I think the big theme there is about looking out for other people and recognizing that we’re in this together.”


A big fan of Come From Away, Mike Benjamin, shown with a friend, went to see the musical again as soon as it reopened in Melbourne. (Submitted by Mike Benjamin)

American actor Sharriese Hamilton plays Hannah in the Australian production and understands all too intimately the toll the virus can take.

When the production first shut down, she flew home to Chicago, where restrictions were less effective.

Hamilton lost some of her relatives to COVID-19, including the family’s matriarch. She went from performing for hundreds to trying to grieve over loved ones via Zoom.


Sharriese Hamilton went home to Chicago when Come From Away first shut down in March 2020. After losing family members to COVID-19, she now channels that experience into her nightly performances. (CBC News)

Now she finds herself back on the other side of the globe, where the sun is shining and theatres are open. Seeing the audience there waiting, Hamilton choked back tears.

“Being in that room with all of those people who came out and put their masks on, it was an overwhelming feeling. I think we all were just like, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.'”

For Hunter, Hamilton and the rest of the cast and crew, the pandemic has changed what Come From Away stands for.

“It’s definitely deepened the message,” Hamilton said. “There’s a very different energy amongst us on stage and amongst the audience that we’ve been through something and we need each other.”

Performers talk about providing a service and feeling the audience respond and revel in the shared experience. But Hunter says the Australian company is also acting as a beacon for the the other Come From Away companies, still waiting to return.

“I’m acutely aware … when I sit down to conduct the show that there are four other companies of this show that are not doing what we get to do,” he said.

WATCH: Come From Away theatre companies send messages for opening night:

While the show goes on in Melbourne, the four other Come From Away productions sent messages to be played on opening night. ‘Chookas’ is an Australian expression that means good luck or break a leg. 1:18

For opening night, the Come From Away teams on Broadway, in Toronto and London, as well as with the touring company contributed a special video message played for the audience.

In the now-familiar mosaic of Zoom squares, the cast and crew members wished the Melbourne company “Chookas,” an Australian expression similar to break a leg or good luck.

“It has been unexpected to feel that responsibility, heartwarming as well,” Hunter said.

WATCH | Australian audiences return to theatre for Come From Away:

With its low COVID-19 case numbers, Melbourne, Australia, has reopened its theatres to audiences, and Come From Away — set in Gander, N.L., after 9/11 — is one of the first productions returning to the stage. 2:03

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Health-care system’s history with Black community is affecting attitudes around COVID-19 vaccine

Before Brayana Taylor went into labour with her now 16-month-old daughter, she read up and carefully planned for the day. While much of it was a blur, she says she remembers her time at the hospital as traumatic, and that her concerns and feelings were dismissed.

“I just feel like, during the most vulnerable and crucial moments of my entire life, my care was mishandled.”

She rarely talks about what happened to her in detail, but after speaking to another Black mother, Taylor soon found out that she wasn’t alone in her experience. It’s something that she says has hurt her trust in the health-care system, and it has also affected how Taylor feels about the COVID-19 vaccine.

While health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Taylor is one of those who attribute their vaccine hesitancy to eroded trust in the health-care system as a whole for its treatment of Black and Indigenous people.

Taylor runs an Instagram page called Black Motherhood Collective. In response to pushback she and others have received for being vaccine-hesitant, she put out a post outlining statistics about Black maternal health as an answer to why some Black women feel skeptical about the medical system.

One of them is an alarming stat from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that reveals 84 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2018 were Black women. There’s limited race-based medical research data available in Canada, but a 2015 McGill study found that Black women have significantly higher preterm births than white women.

“I think to a lot of people, it’s just hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want a vaccine, you know, because the pandemic has been around for what seems like forever at this point,” Taylor said.

“But in practice, we have to understand that there [are] a lot of kinks in our institutions and in our systems that really do obstruct a lot of progress when it comes to our communities.”


Brayana Taylor runs an Instagram account called Black Motherhood Collective. She says it was important to her that the skepticism she and other Black women feel about the COVID-19 vaccine and the health care system be taken seriously. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Black people have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up 9 per cent of Toronto’s population, a quarter of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.

It’s something Cheryl Prescod, the executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre in North York, Ont., is working hard to address as part of the effort to vaccinate all Canadians and stop the spread of the virus.

Prescod notes that the predominantly Black and brown neighbourhood is home to many essential workers living in precarious conditions. Social distancing is made harder when they shuttle to work in crowded buses and come home to densely populated, high-rise apartment buildings.

“This has been a hotspot since the beginning of COVID. We have a high number of positive cases, and we also have a low testing rate,” Prescod said.

Of the top 10 COVID-19 hot spots in Toronto last month, eight were in the city’s north-west end.

Prescod adds that while the vaccine isn’t yet available to most of the general public, the work to address their questions and inform them about it needs to happen now.


Cheryl Prescod, executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre, says she sees first-hand how Black and other racialized Torontonians have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

In a recent virtual information session, the Black Creek Community Health Centre put together a panel of health professionals and community members to take questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Attendees weighed in with questions ranging from how the COVID-19 vaccine works differently than the flu vaccine, to whether or not there was a microchip in it being used to track people, particularly low-income people of colour. Prescod has heard a lot of it before.

“Can we trust that substance? Can we trust what’s happening? There’s still that mistrust around that science, around the development of the vaccine, around the fact that certain populations might be used as guinea pigs,” Prescod said.

One of the historical examples Prescod hears patients refer to is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where 600 Black men in Alabama were experimented on without being told what for. In Canada, Indigenous children in residential schools were also experimented on to learn about the effects of malnutrition.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted in Alabama from the 1930s to the 1970s, took blood samples from Black men for an experiment they didn’t know they were participating in. The unethical study is often cited by experts when systemic racism in health care is discussed. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Dr. Upton Allen, head of infectious diseases at Sick Kids Hospital, has been meeting with the Ontario government, urging it to factor the need to repair relationships with vulnerable communities into the province’s vaccine rollout plan.

“It’s really important to ensure that the Black community is engaged in discussions and decision-making, and that the community can feel that they are part of the process,” Dr. Allen said.

“It’s important to ensure that the messaging relating to vaccine prioritization is appropriate, and is very transparent and very clear, so that there’s no misinterpretation of intent.”

Dr. Allen says he received his first dose of the vaccine a few weeks ago, and that he is confident recommending it to others in the Black community.

He also emphasizes the importance of Black people being involved and considered at every level of health care. Dr. Allen leads a team of researchers at Sick Kids looking at the rates of COVID-19 infection among Black Canadians and the factors behind them, as well as pushing for their participation in antibody testing. He says the lack of diversity in medical research can contribute to inequities in the system.

“One needs to make sure that all the major groups are included so that one can generalize across several groups, not just in terms of racial groups, but also in terms of age groups,” Dr. Allen said. “And so moving forward, it’s important that vaccine related studies — and there will be more — will include Black representatives, Black participants.”


Health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, but some say their trust in the system has been eroded due to its past treatment of vulnerable communities. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

In a statement to CBC News, Nosa Ero-Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, says that the province is talking to community health groups about how these concerns can be addressed through the Communities at Risk COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Sub-Group.

“We will be working with partners to develop culturally relevant and responsive outreach strategies for each community as part of our Vaccine Distribution Plan, so that all Ontarians can access and understand the facts they need to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Health says it is allocating $ 12.5 million in funding towards community health agencies in 15 high-risk communities for community outreach and increased testing. It adds that at-risk areas will be prioritized in Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out.

This week, the City of Toronto announced a new Black Community COVID-19 Response Plan, allocating $ 6.8 million in funding towards 12 Black-led and Black-serving organizations to provide additional support, from food delivery to vaccine education.

The Black Health Alliance has been advocating for investment in grassroots organizations that are trusted in the communities they serve.

The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight.– Paul Bailey, Black Health Alliance

“The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight,” said Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance. “The agencies or the organizations that have to engage with certain parts of the population will be able to build trust over time.”

It’s the kind of commitment Taylor says she’s been looking for from those in power.

“Make the effort and let us know that this is something that you’re very serious about, and you’re adamant about repairing the relationship, and making sure that there is a level of trust between the Black community and health-care professionals so that we can have confidence moving forward,” Taylor said.

Dr. Allen remains cautiously optimistic that the advocacy work he and others are doing is leading to change.

“I think that the issues are being heard, steps are being taken, but it’s early in the game to see whether or not these steps are going to be sustainable and appropriately resourced.”


Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


(CBC)

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CBC | Health News

Ex-diplomats, aid workers plead with the world community to stand by Afghanistan

For many of them, it was the defining professional experience of their lives.

But Canada’s legacy in Afghanistan is also something deeply personal for the more than 140 Canadian former diplomats, aid workers and police officers who have signed an open letter urging the international community — Canada included — not to abandon Afghanistan as its tentative peace process drags on.

Among the signatories is former Conservative cabinet minister Chris Alexander, who was also the country’s ambassador in Afghanistan and a UN representative in the war-weary nation. He was joined by another former ambassador, William Crosbie, and Canada’s former head of aid and development Nipa Banerjee.

“This letter’s signatories wish to remind Canadians that Afghanistan’s absence in the recent past from our news headlines should not mean its absence from our hearts,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News.

“Afghanistan is no longer a topic of political debate in Canada. Yet, we think it is essential to remind our fellow citizens and our political representatives that our continuing engagement does not go unnoticed, and we should remain engaged.”

‘We mustn’t give up’

Alexander said the plight of the war torn country is “intimate and personal” for many who served there because, in the beginning, it represented much of what the world wanted to accomplish — peace, equality and the elimination of poverty.

“We mustn’t give up. These are the kinds of things we set out to do in the 21st century,” said Alexander, who served as Canada’s ambassador in Kabul between 2003 and 2005 before becoming the United Nations deputy special representative in the country.

“I think it is personal for many of us who gave a good portion of our professional lives to it. It is certainly personal for the Afghans.”


Leadership candidate Chris Alexander speaks during the Conservative Party French language leadership debate, Tuesday, January 17, 2017 in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The letter, which was presented last week to the prime minister’s office, is seeking the wider “endorsement” of the Canadian public.

“We are not an organized, registered group, but [we] are bound by our common interest to see the Afghan people achieve peace,” Banerjee told CBC News.

“To some extent, it is an issue of passion. I am not able to explain to you why, as opposed to working in other countries, there is a special passion that grows about Afghanistan.”

Although the letter has been in the planning stages since the late summer, the plea comes in the immediate wake of a Trump administration decision last week to further draw down U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the cusp of a major aid donor conference in Geneva this week.

The letter also released as other countries, notably Australia, grappled with the bloody legacy of the intractable guerilla war that has dragged on for almost two decades.

Peace negotiations, now taking place in Doha, Qatar between the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban, have stalled and violence is raging across the country.


Security forces inspect the site of a bomb explosion near a damaged vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov 16, 2020. Kabul police said a bomb attached to a vehicle detonated in the capital, causing injuries. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

“Our specific objective is to endorse an inclusive peace process,” said the letter, which went on to state that it is critical for “the international community to not abandon Afghans as they navigate the difficult path to a better future.”

Alexander said that’s a crucial point, because “the peace talks are not succeeding.”

And while the problems of Afghanistan may seem to pale in comparison with the worldwide pandemic and the political fissures in the United States, he said, Canada put “an enormous of energy into stabilizing the country” and it should not be forgotten.

Canadian troops spent over a dozen years in the country, fighting a brutal guerrilla war with Taliban extremists. The combat operations, and subsequent training mission, cost the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers.

Among the civilian casualties was Glynn Berry, a seasoned diplomat who was killed in a suicide bombing in Kandadar in 2006.    

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Sports groups defrauded by their own members face uphill battle in rebuilding community trust

Whenever an organization is the victim of theft, the impact can be deep and long lasting. When money is stolen by an employee or volunteer, it can take years to rebuild trust with the community.

That’s certainly the case for youth sports organizations, which every year provide countless programs and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Canadian families.

An investigation by CBC Sports reveals that in the past decade nearly $ 8 million has been stolen from dozens of sports leagues and associations across Canada, almost all of it by someone inside the organization, leaving it and the families who participate devastated.

“In every article that I read, the parents are shocked. And I look at that and I’m like, well, why are you shocked?” said Erik Carrozza, a Philadelphia-area accountant who has documented dozens of similar stories across the United States. “Think about it for a minute. You have a person with all of these financial resources available to them with no governance, no oversight, no accountability.”

Darren Harvieux says rebuilding trust in his small Newfoundland community was one of the key reasons he volunteered to take over as treasurer of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association after it was discovered last year his organization had been defrauded of about $ 80,000.

With a financial background and two young children who play in the league, he was concerned about how theft had tarnished the way minor hockey was now viewed in the community.

WATCH | Why community sports organizations are vulnerable to fraud:

CBC Sports reporter Jamie Strashin speaks with Jacqueline Doorey about his latest investigation into fraud in youth sports organizations across Canada. 4:23

“The stigma around the hockey association and the community is something that I didn’t like to see kids grow up in,” he said. “I still tell stories about back when I used to play hockey with all my buddies, and I wanted to make sure that the children in this association had that same chance. 

“So to be able to come back, build the trust and keep the hockey going was definitely top priority for me.”

Harvieux said the theft left the league in “an extremely difficult financial situation.” But through intensive extra fundraising, cost-cutting and countless hours of volunteer efforts, all the outstanding money has been replaced, he said. 

None of it has been easy. Beyond restoring the organization’s finances, efforts have been focused on rebuilding trust and convincing people that governance changes have been implemented.

“We were almost fighting an uphill battle, trying to gain back the trust of 400 children’s parents and guardians who bring them to the rink every day,” Harvieux said.

Harvieux says the new group of volunteers “basically started from ground zero” in rebuilding the league’s finances. They were transparent with parents and creditors, keeping everyone informed about what they were doing through monthly reports and open meetings.


Corner Brook, N.L.’s Darren Harvieux says the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association has completely changed the way it handles its finances to avoid leaving responsibility in the hands of a single person. (CBC)

Harvieux said the entire way the league conducts its business has changed.

“There’s no one single person involved in whether it be the banking, the cash handling, paying employees, it’s always a team approach,” he said. 

“We want to make sure that there’s always people watching. We want to make sure that if somebody had a question, we could answer the question on the spot.”

Carrozza, who founded the Center for Fraud Prevention to help youth sports organizations implement prevention strategies to reduce the risk of theft, says transparency in an organization is critical for regaining trust.

OMHA short on details

But the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, which was defrauded of $ 2.4 million dollars in 2018, has communicated little to the thousands of families it represents about exactly how it lost so much money. 

The organization also has not publicly outlined what organizational changes it has implemented to protect against future thefts.

The OMHA briefly acknowledged the theft in a letter to members and during its annual general meetings but offered no details to members around accountability and took no questions.

The OMHA declined requests for an interview, telling CBC in a statement that despite a guilty plea already being in place, any comment “could affect the sentencing hearing.”

That lack of communication prompted Murray Taylor, former president of the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association, which falls under the OMHA’s umbrella, to write the organization’s leadership calling for executive director Ian Taylor to be fired or resign.

“No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month,” Murray Taylor wrote. “That is a managerial level of incompetence that simply cannot stand.” 

No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.– Murray Taylor in a letter to the OMHA

He says he never received any response.

Murray Taylor said that while most youth sports organizations are run by volunteers, the OMHA is run by a paid executive, tasked with administering hockey for much of the province. 

“My issue is with that professional arm, because I think that professional piece of it needs to be held accountable for what is going on,” he told CBC Sports. “My concern is, what have they changed, what processes have been put in place to protect themselves from it happening again?”

‘Parents are hesitant to come forward’

Murray Taylor is one of many OMHA members who CBC spoke to about the organization’s handling of this case, but one of the few willing to discuss their concerns publicly.

“It comes back to the concern around how coming forward might impact my child if you start asking questions,” he said. “Parents are hesitant to come forward because they’re worried about how it might impact their child. I think that has driven hesitancy in a lot of people’s minds about coming forward.” 

In audited statements, the OMHA says all but $ 120,000 of the stolen money was offset by insurance, but Murray Taylor says that shouldn’t absolve the OMHA from reform and accountability.

“There’s got to be a faith that when I hand over the money I’m going to get what I’m expecting to get from it. This could have really impacted a lot of hockey programs negatively,” he said.

“We were fortunate in that it didn’t hurt. But again, that doesn’t negate the fact that this happened. And how is it being addressed? That would be my question.”

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CBC | Sports News

10 new cases of COVID-19 found in Nunavut, with signs of community spread in Arviat

Just two days after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Arviat, Nunavut, nine new cases have been identified in the community as health officials warn of “signs of community transmission.”

A second case in Rankin Inlet, also reported Sunday, has also “been linked to Arviat,” a release from the chief public health officer states. 

Nunavut’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified just nine days ago, on Nov. 6. Since then, its active case count has ballooned to 18, more than doubling with the announcement of 10 new confirmed cases Sunday afternoon.

While cases have been identified in Sanikiluaq and Rankin Inlet, Arviat appears to be in the midst of a minor outbreak, with a release sent Sunday suggesting there are as yet “no clear links” between the 14 active cases in the community.

The chief public health officer’s release also says all individuals are “in isolation and doing well.”

The territory’s rapid response teams have been deployed to all three communities, and contact tracing continues, “with the end goal to trace and contain” the disease.

As of today, travel is restricted between Kivalliq communities, which includes Arviat, to help prevent further spread. Only emergency and cargo flights will be permitted, and hunters are asked not to travel to neighbouring communities.

Kivalliq schools have been closed to in-person instruction since the cases were first announced.

Sunday’s release also specified new measures to contain the spread and limit the risk to elders. 

“Due to the number of cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, anyone from Arviat who left the community on or after November 2 is being asked to immediately isolate for 14 days wherever they are,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, is quoted in the release as saying.

“In addition, to protect Elders in Arviat, there will be no visitors allowed at the Elders’ centre for at least two weeks,” the quote continues. “Exemptions to this rule will need to be approved by the public health doctor on call.”

Nunavut requires all inbound travellers from outside the territory to isolate for two weeks at dedicated centres in major southern cities. For months, the territory saw no confirmed positive cases outside mine sites.

But in both Arviat and Rankin Inlet, travellers who completed two weeks at Nunavut’s isolation centres have demonstrated symptoms upon their return to the territory. Health officials have not yet identified the source of infection.

On Friday, Patterson recommended anyone returning from those hubs self-monitor for symptoms and observe strict physical distancing for two more weeks after their return.

Spokespersons for the chief public health officer did not respond to media requests sent Saturday. The premier and chief public health officer are next scheduled to speak to media Monday at 11 a.m.

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Indigenous-led clinic to help Quebec community still shaken by Joyce Echaquan’s death

The idea is simple, says Jennifer Brazeau, executive director of the Native Friendship Centre in Quebec’s Lanaudière region: provide “a culturally secure space” where Indigenous people can get health care without feeling afraid.

Brazeau said a reluctance to seek health services in Joliette, Que., has grown over the past month after an Atikamekw mother of seven died in a local hospital after filming staff hurling racial slurs at her.

Joyce Echaquan’s Sept. 28 death has shaken the province, raising questions about systemic racism in health care and leading to calls for the provincial government to both recognize the problem and take concrete action to stop it.

In Joliette, where about two per cent of the city’s 47,000 residents identifies as Indigenous, Brazeau said the long-standing need for a clinic where members of the community feel safe is more pressing than ever.

The proximity clinic, called Mirerimowin, will welcome its first patients Tuesday afternoon in a room at the Native Friendship Centre in the city about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

“When we launched this, we even had pregnant women wanting to know if they could have their babies here, because they don’t want to go to the hospital,” Brazeau said in a recent interview.

Making sure patients are comfortable

The clinic will operate two afternoons per month, serving patients who are Indigenous and do not already have access to a doctor.

Patients need to make appointments, and if the clinic cannot accommodate their needs, staff will try to guide and accompany them to other services, Brazeau said.

Dr. Samuel Boudreault, a Université Laval professor and a physician in a family medicine group that is affiliated with the regional health agency, is one of two doctors volunteering at the clinic.

He said the doctors as well as medical residents will collaborate with social workers at the Native Friendship Centre to make sure patients are comfortable and get medical follow-ups after their treatment.


Carol Dubé, left, says his wife Joyce Echaquan was admitted into hospital with stomach pains in September and died two days later. (Facebook)

“There is part of the population — and I think Indigenous people are clearly part of that _ that does not have as easy access to the health system as the average person,” Boudreault said in an interview Monday.

Joliette’s proximity clinic is not the first of its kind in Quebec. Native Friendship Centres opened similar facilities in recent years in Val d’Or, over 500 kilometres north of Montreal in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and in La Tuque in central Quebec.

The model works because it allows Indigenous people to feel more at ease accessing care, said Sebastien Brodeur-Girard, professor in the Indigenous studies department at Universite du Quebec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue.

“People are scared,” said Brodeur-Girard, who was on the research team of a provincial inquiry known as the Viens Commission, which concluded last year that systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples exists in Quebec’s public services.

He said several people testified during the Viens Commission hearings about being discriminated against when seeking health care in Joliette, and complaints had been filed long before Echaquan’s death.

“Joliette’s case is not exceptional,” Brodeur-Girard said in an interview, adding that similar issues exist across Quebec and Canada.

Knowing they will be poorly received, that they will be pushed aside, that they won’t be believed, that they will be subjected to discriminatory comments, some (Indigenous) people will avoid going to the hospital until it’s too late,” he said.

That’s something Brazeau hopes the proximity clinic will help tackle, but the project has limited resources and for now it will only be able to see eight patients per month.

No help from public health

Brazeau said she participated in a meeting in June with the local health agency and asked for material resources and medical personnel to be able to keep the clinic open one full day per week.

“So far they haven’t mobilized to get any of those resources, and so we’re making do with what we have,” she said. “We got a massage table as an exam table, and the doctor will bring his equipment with him.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for the regional health agency, Helene Gaboury, said the agency is aiding the clinic because doctors from the family medicine group are involved, and they are technically agency employees.

Gaboury said the doctors who offer services at the clinic will bring the equipment they need with them, “like when they provide at-home support.”

Asked what the regional health agency is doing to make sure Indigenous people feel safe accessing services, she said it held a workshop for staff over two days in mid-October to raise awareness on the realities Indigenous people face.

It is also working with the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue “to offer mandatory training for all staff and physicians” beginning at the end of November, Gaboury added.

Brazeau said the Native Friendship Centre needs more support from the health agency, however, if it wants to expand the clinic to meet the community’s needs.

Quebec also needs to recognize that systemic racism exists against Indigenous people if it wants to fix the problem, she said: “It would be important for them to listen to us. That’s the first step.”

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Sinclair keeps scoring streak alive as Thorns claim Fall Series Community Shield

Christine Sinclair scored on a pair of penalty kicks and the Portland Thorns downed OL Reign 2-1 Saturday night to claim the National Women’s Soccer League’s Community Shield in the fall series.

With the win, Portland (3-0-1) locked up the top spot in the fall series. The league created the Community Shield for the series’ best team.

Sinclair scored on a penalty kick late in the first half to put the Thorns up 1-0, but the Reign drew even early in the the second half on Amber Brooks’ goal.

WATCH | Sinclair guides Thorns to victory with brace:

After opening the scoring for Portland in the 1st half with a penalty, Christine Sinclair of Burnaby, B.C., records another goal on a penalty in the 2nd half for a 2-1 win over OL Reign. 0:32

Sinclair scored on a second PK in the 73rd minute. The Canadian national team captain leads all players in the fall series with six goals.

The Reign (0-2-1) wrap up the fall series against the Utah Royals next Saturday, following a match between the Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage.


The league partnered with Verizon on the Community Shield to provide grants to local small businesses for the top three finishers in the fall series. The Thorns will grant $ 25,000 to Portland’s Mimi’s Fresh Tees.

WATCH | Sinclair opens scoring from the spot:

Christine Sinclair of Burnaby, B.C., scores on a penalty for the Portland Thorns during the 1st half in a match against OL Reign. 0:33

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Kelly Rowland Holds Back Tears Discussing Social Injustice in the Black Community (Exclusive)

Kelly Rowland Holds Back Tears Discussing Social Injustice in the Black Community (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Community’ Reunion: Donald Glover Pitches His Idea for a Movie

‘Community’ Reunion: Donald Glover Pitches His Idea for a Movie | Entertainment Tonight

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African Americans in Georgia wary of returning to work as community struggles with impact of COVID-19

“Why is it the barber shops? The bowling alleys? It’s a bit strange.”

Kebbi Williams has some pointed questions for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over the reopening of non-essential businesses in the state last week.

Georgia was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order and shut down non-essential businesses in early April to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and is among the first to start lifting these restrictions.

As of Friday night, the state had around 27,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and 1,167 deaths. The seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed cases has been declining since April 20, according to the state department of health.

“I wish that the governor would just chill out, and let this thing fly, and then everybody can go back to work, not just the front line, who are mostly black in this situation,” he said.

Williams is a Grammy Award winning saxophone player who runs a music mentoring program for inner city kids in Atlanta, which has been put on hold because of COVID-19.


Grammy Award winning saxophone player Kebbi Williams has put his music mentoring program for inner city kids hold because of COVID-19. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

He says he understands people need to work to make ends meet but worries those same people are being put in an unfair position to have to choose between exposure to the novel coronavirus and feeding their families.

In the United States, a higher proportion of African Americans and members of the Latinx community (a non-gendered term used to describe people of Latin American origin) work in the service industry than other population groups, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics.

In a demographic breakdown of 2018 labour force statistics, it found that 24 per cent of employed African Americans and 24 per cent of Latinx workers worked in service occupations compared to 17 per cent of Asian workers, and 16 per cent of employees who identified as white.

WATCH | As Georgia begins to lift restrictions, some residents worry it’s too soon to return to work:

Georgia’s black population has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and is putting a spotlight on health care and economic inequality in the state. 1:59

African Americans disproportionately affected by pandemic

Kemp allowed some sectors of the economy to start reopening last Friday and lifted the shelter-in-place order May 1 for all but the elderly and “medically fragile.”

Many of the businesses that reopened, including nail and hair salons, restaurant dining rooms, move theatres, gyms and bowling alleys, are service based.

“We have a large amount of blacks that have the virus — why, why put us on the front line and just open up?” Williams wonders.

“It doesn’t seem like he’s thinking about us.”


Willie Edwards says he reopened his barber shop in Atlanta because otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to pay his rent. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

Georgia is the latest state for which data has come out showing African Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by the novel coronavirus.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released this past Wednesday took a look at eight hospitals in the state. Of the 300 patients who needed to be hospitalized for COVID-19, more than 80 per cent were African American.

African Americans make up approximately 30 per cent of Georgia’s population.


People exercise at Gold’s Gym in Augusta, Ga. Gyms were among the non-essential businesses allowed to reopen last week. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)

Small county hit hard

In Dougherty County, a rural community of about 90,000 people in the southwestern part of the state, of the more than 120 COVID-19 deaths, 76 per cent are African Americans, according to the country coroner, Michael Fowler.

“I know these individuals in our community, and that’s why I’m fighting for our community. I’m tired of going and zipping up a body bag with somebody that I know,” said Fowler.

Dougherty County has the highest number of deaths in the state despite its small size and the fourth-highest number of cases per 100,000 people.


Michael Fowler, the coroner for Dougherty County, prepares to enter his small, rural morgue. The community has experienced the highest number of deaths in the state of Georgia. (Yaz Johnson)

Fowler does not criticize Kemp or question his decision. But with his small morgue already full, he’s urging people in his community to stay home.

“Money’s not that important, you can replace the house you lose, the car you lose, your job, but you can’t replace life. Life is too precious,” he said.

Governor Kemp stood by his decision during a news conference in Atlanta on Monday, citing historic unemployment numbers in the wake of the pandemic.

“I simply gave people the opportunity to reopen who literally were on the verge of losing everything they’ve got,” he said. “These are tough decisions. It wasn’t a mandate. They don’t have to do it, but they have the opportunity.”

WATCH | Salons, restaurants and tatoo parlors slowly resume business across Georgia:

Georgia allowed more non-essential businesses to open this week, easing weeks of COVID-19 restrictions, but many customers still chose to stay away. 1:58

Access to health care a factor

Cher Salmon, who owns a nail salon in Atlanta, says she’s thankful for the opportunity but would rather not have returned to work.

“It really wasn’t a tough decision, because as I said, I have no choice. I have to get to work. If there was a choice, I would be closed still,” she said.

Salmon is eight months pregnant. She applied for loans and grants in the hopes of being able to stay closed but did not qualify.

The pandemic is also bringing attention to the longstanding challenges African Americans have experienced in accessing health care in the U.S., according to Mack Willis Senior, an executive at the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.

“It’s like someone walking over to the wall and flipping a light on and exposing all of these health care disparities,” he said.

Willis is currently recovering from COVID-19, as are his two grown sons.


Mack Willis Sr., pictured third from left with his family, is recovering from COVID-19 and says the pandemic has shed light on the racial disparities in access to health care. (Mack Willis Sr.)

He wants this crisis to launch a conversation about how these disparities can be fixed.

“This is a picture that needs to be repainted, because there’s something not right about this.”

According to a December 2019 report by the Century Foundation, which describes itself as a non-partisan think tank, the “American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of colour and other marginalized groups.”

While gains have been made since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the report says, “disparities still exist across health conditions when comparing African Americans and whites, including maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.”

Only a ‘sliver of information’ so far

With COVID-19, “it seems there is a racial divide,” says Mohammed Ali, a family physician and associate professor with the faculty of global health at Emory University.

But he says more data needs to be collected before making definitive conclusions.

“It’s not clear what the drivers are that are going on, all we have is this sliver of information that’s showing major gaps,” Ali said.

“Traditionally, the African American and Hispanic experience in health care both in accessing it, in having insurance and … also how the health care provider treats you, those have always been quite different.”


A COVID-19 testing site in Conyers, Ga. There are indications the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black Americans, but there is still a lot to learn about why. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/The Associated Press)

There is another factor at play here, Ali says.

“We think there’s an association with obesity and there’s a high presence of obesity and diabetes in the African American population.”

From his perspective, the decision to reopen non-essential businesses was premature.

He fears already hard-hit communities might suffer further if physical distancing rules aren’t followed precisely.

“I worry about those communities having big flares, so we’re probably going to see wildfires in counties and zip codes that just can’t afford it.”

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