Tag Archives: fight

Olympic champ Erica Wiebe hopes IOC-China vaccine deal aids global COVID-19 fight

A Canadian Olympic gold medallist is hopeful a vaccine deal between the International Olympic Committee and China can help the global fight against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Games this summer.

Wrestler Erica Wiebe says it would be a great outcome if the partnership “can help athletes and citizens of countries with less robust vaccination plans than Canada.”

The IOC has entered into a partnership with the Chinese Olympic Committee to buy and provide vaccines for people taking part in the upcoming games in both Tokyo and Beijing. Vaccines are not mandatory for athletes to compete in the Tokyo Games. The deal comes as criticism of China continues ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Wiebe says she’s optimistic Canadians can have one dose of an approved vaccine before Canada Day. The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23.

WATCH | Should Olympians cut in line for vaccine?

Some athletes say they want to wait their turn. 2:20

The 2016 Olympic champion says it appears the vaccines being offered in the IOC-China partnership are less effective than the current vaccines approved by Canada. None of the Chinese vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

The Canadian Olympic Committee did not immediately respond for comment.

WATCH | Olympian DeBues-Stafford talks importance of vaccines:

Jacqueline Doorey speaks with Canadian middle distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, how it can affect the Olympics, and whether athletes deserve to cut the line. 5:51

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CBC | Sports News

Women in Canada turn to courts in fight for compensation over birth control implant complications

The permanent birth control device Essure has been off the Canadian market for four years — but pain and serious complications linger among some women who are seeking compensation from a manufacturer that says it intends to defend its product “vigorously.”

Keri Ponace of Regina is one of the 10,000 Canadian women who opted for the device.

But Ponace, 43, said she believes that decision led to years of pain from a series of subsequent health issues.

“I didn’t know it was going to feel that bad, and I didn’t know I was going to be stuck in my bed for as many years as I was. Essure is like the worst thing I’ve ever been through,” she said.

Ponace is not alone.

More than 700 Canadian women have gone after Essure’s owner, multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer, for compensation as a result of complications they say are from the birth control device.

“I think they should still be held accountable, and they should be responsible [for] the products that they back up,” Ponace said.

Canadian women will have to fight for that accountability in the courts. But it’s a different story for women in the United States who had the same experience.

Claims handled differently in Canada, U.S.

Bayer doesn’t admit any liability despite pulling the device off the market in Canada in 2017 and everywhere else around the world by 2018, but it’s agreed to pay $ 1.6 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits in the U.S.

It hasn’t settled any lawsuits in Canada, though, and doesn’t intend to.

  • Watch “No More Tears: The Essure Legacy” on The Fifth Estate on CBC-TV Thursday at 9 p.m. or stream on CBC Gem.

In a statement to CBC’s the Fifth Estate, Bayer Canada said that the U.S. settlement reflects a commercial decision driven in large part by the unique aspects of the U.S. mass tort system, including the high costs of U.S. litigation.

“The U.S. settlement announced on August 20, 2020, has no impact on pending litigation in Canada, as Bayer’s decision to resolve the U.S. cases is based significantly upon factors that are specific to the U.S. legal system,” read the February statement.

“Bayer believes that it has meritorious defences and intends to defend itself vigorously in the remaining litigation.”

Toronto personal injury lawyer Renée Vinett is representing just over 100 women in a mass tort lawsuit against Bayer. ‘We will vigorously litigate this in hopes of getting some sort of relief,’ she says. (John Badcock/CBC)

Toronto personal injury lawyer Renée Vinett is representing just over 100 women in a mass tort lawsuit — which involves consolidating numerous similar lawsuits — against Bayer.

She says she’s not surprised by the response.

“We simply have to go through the litigation process and fight the good fight,” Vinett said.

“We will vigorously litigate this in hopes of getting some sort of relief, if you can call a monetary relief, relief in this situation … just to get some sort of justice for these women who have lost so much as a result of a product that should never have been on the market.”

The other approximately 600 women seeking compensation are part of a country-wide proposed class-action lawsuit. They’re appealing a court decision last year against allowing their case to be certified. A class action in Quebec with about 47 women represented by the same firm has been certified, allowing it to go ahead.

Chronic abdominal and pelvic pain, excessive bleeding and autoimmune responses in women who have metal allergies are just some of the symptoms experienced by Vinett’s clients.

“Oftentimes, at least the clients I’ve spoken to, have small children and they’re trying to get on with their life and care for their family, and they are incapacitated by the side effects or complications of Essure,” she said.

A non-surgical procedure

Like so many women looking for birth control, Ponace took the advice of her doctor to have Essure implanted.

Doctors and the company that manufactured Essure claimed it was a safe and easy option compared with tubal ligation, which is surgery to close a woman’s fallopian tubes — more commonly known as having the tubes tied.

Essure was designed to work by inserting a two-centimetre coil into each fallopian tube. Scar tissue would form around the coils, closing off the tubes and preventing sperm from meeting an egg.

A diagram shows how Essure is designed to prevent pregnancy. It was designed to work by inserting a two-centimetre coil into each fallopian tube. Scar tissue would form around the coil, closing off the tubes and preventing sperm from meeting an egg. (Bayer)

It was promoted as a non-surgical, non-invasive sterilization procedure that could be done in the doctor’s office in just 15 minutes.

But six months after the implant in 2012, Ponace said she was in pain — leaving her stuck either on the couch or in a fetal position on her bed, which made work and caring for her five children difficult.

In 2016, she convinced her doctor to remove her tubes containing the coils, but that didn’t relieve the pain.

“It’s like I have two screwdrivers drilling me in the sides of my hips … or somebody just took a knife and pushed it and twisted it,” Ponace told the Fifth Estate in 2018.

WATCH | The experience of having Essure coils removed:

Regina woman Keri Ponace disappointed permanent birth control device led to a hysterectomy. 0:44

After asking for an X-ray of her pelvis, as advised by a large online community of other women struggling with Essure, it was discovered that Ponace had a one-millimetre metal particle left from Essure lodged in her uterus.

Unable to remove just the fragment, Ponace ultimately had to undergo a hysterectomy.

‘It was completely traumatizing’

Ponace first shared her story in 2018, when a Fifth Estate investigation found that insufficient information about Essure and the adverse reactions women were experiencing put some women’s health in jeopardy.

At the time, she was just weeks away from having the hysterectomy.

More than three years later, Ponace has been able to gain back what she values most — spending time with her kids.

“I can take my kids to the park and spend quality time with them, they’re not constantly seeing mom [in] pain … it was heartbreaking for them before. I can move on and move forward,” she said.

Although Ponace says she is feeling better physically, she hasn’t been able to completely put the ordeal behind her.

“Psychologically, I’m upset because I feel like there’s still a part of me missing, right?

“It was completely traumatizing all the way to the bitter end,” Ponace said. “That was the scariest thing in my life that I had to go through.”

New data backs claims

Essure, which came on the Canadian market in 2002, was originally developed by a small U.S. company called Conceptus Inc. and then sold to Bayer in 2013.

More than one million devices were sold globally, with the majority of sales in the U.S.

Bayer said it pulled the device because of commercial reasons driven by “a decline in patient demand.”

Essure was made and marketed by a small American company called Conceptus Inc. and then sold to Bayer in 2013. (Matej Povse/Ostro)

Recent data now backs claims that Essure wasn’t necessarily the safer, permanent procedure it was billed to be.

A post-market surveillance study of 1,128 women mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that 4.5 per cent of women who had tubal ligation experienced chronic pain, but for those using Essure, the rate was double at nine per cent.

The data published last year also found that 10 per cent of women with tied tubes had abnormal bleeding compared with 16 per cent for women with Essure.

The probability that women would have the coils removed after 21 months was one in seven, or 14.3 per cent.

Most recently, Bayer was found to have sat on thousands of women’s complaints of injuries that it failed to disclose to the FDA.

They came out in the summer of 2020, only after women in the U.S. filed lawsuits against Bayer.

The company disputes it was obliged to report those complaints and says that some were actually duplicates.

Information about issues with Essure historically hasn’t always been easy to come by.

Health Canada, which approved Essure in 2001, maintains an online registry where patients and doctors can report complications. However, only manufacturers and importers were mandated to report what they refer to as “adverse events.”

Dr. Nicholas Leyland, an obstetrician-gynecologist at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, has done about 100 Essure implants himself — and only reported adverse events to Health Canada when patients came back for removal. (Doug Husby/CBC)

As previously reported in 2018, It took CBC News two years through access to information requests to obtain raw data from Health Canada on problems involving Essure.

As a result of CBC’s reporting that was part of a larger global media collaboration called The Implant Files, it’s now mandatory for hospitals to report any side-effects from medical devices such as Essure.

There are currently 98 adverse event reports associated with Essure on the database.

Dr. Nicholas Leyland, a physician in Hamilton, says transparency would have been helpful.

“If we had known that there were many patients who were experiencing difficulty, we could have been looking into this and investigating it much more diligently in the early years of this device, rather than learning about it, you know, at least 10, 12 years after the fact,” he said.

The obstetrician-gynecologist at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences has done about 100 Essure implants himself — and only reported adverse events to Health Canada when patients came back for removal.

“In fact, this is a huge deficiency in the system in the United States as well as in Canada, because it’s voluntary reporting of any adverse events, and many of the doctors really don’t know the definition of what an adverse event would be associated with such a procedure,” Leyland said.

“So I think that’s something that working with Health Canada and the U.S. with the FDA, that physicians in the medical profession really need to streamline this process to make sure that we’re always aware of any complications with devices or problems with medications, etc.”

Women have become ‘E-sisters’

It was online and in private Facebook groups that women began to associate their symptoms with Essure. It was a space where their claims were validated and it wasn’t all in their heads, like so many say they were told by their doctors.

They’ve banded together, some referring to themselves as “E-sisters.”

There are more than 500 members in the main online Canadian group, along with various other provincial groups.

Amy Vandermeulen of Regina had to have two surgeries to remove the Essure coils and remaining fragments left behind. She hosts a community television show called The Four on Access Communications and has recently dedicated one of her segments to discussing problems with the device. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Amy Vandermeulen, 46, of Regina says it’s important for women to be armed with information, which is why she decided to use her platform to talk about Essure.

She hosts a community television show called The Four on Access Communications and has recently dedicated one of her segments to discussing problems with the device.

“I feel it’s important to me because it’s bringing out awareness, like some women who may be going through the same [or] similar health issues and if they have those coils in them … I think they need to be informed,” she said. “I wasn’t informed. I didn’t know where to look.”

Vandermeulen says she suffered from a range of symptoms as a result of the implant in 2012, including headaches and cramping, and was hospitalized numerous times.

“The excessive bleeding just kept going and going.”

WATCH | Spreading awareness to women:

Community television host discusses Essure device on her program 0:51

She ultimately had to have a partial hysterectomy in 2017 to remove the coils. Vandermeulen says she just needed them out.

But coil fragments were left behind after the partial hysterectomy, which led to a second surgery in 2020.

“I hope people — other women will reach out, so I can maybe help guide them and send them in the right direction, if they’re not sure where to turn to,” Vandermeulen said. “Just to be that added support for other women.”

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CBC | Health News

Microsoft, European publishers side with Australia in fight with Facebook over news

Microsoft is teaming up with European publishers to push for a system to make big tech platforms pay for news, raising the stakes in the brewing battle led by Australia to get Google and Facebook to pay for journalism.

The Seattle tech giant and four big European Union news industry groups unveiled their plan Monday to work together on a solution to “mandate payments” for use of news content from online “gatekeepers with dominant market power.”

They said they will “take inspiration” from proposed legislation in Australia to force tech platforms to share revenue with news companies and which includes an arbitration system to resolve disputes over a fair price for news.

Facebook last week blocked Australians from accessing and sharing news on its platform in response to the government’s proposals, but the surprise move sparked a big public backlash and intensified the debate over how much power the social network has.

Google, meanwhile, has taken a different tack by cutting payment deals with news organizations, after backing down from its initial threat to shut off its search engine for Australians.

Platforms must ‘adapt to regulators’

The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, expressed support for Australia, in the latest sign Facebook’s move has backfired.

“I think it’s very regrettable that a platform takes such decisions to protest against a country’s laws,” Breton told EU lawmakers.

The European Union’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, seen here in February 2020 in Munich, Germany, expressed support for Australia, in the latest sign Facebook’s move to block citizens there from accessing and sharing news on its platform has backfired. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

“It’s up to the platforms to adapt to regulators, not the other way around,” he said, adding that what’s happening in Australia “highlights an attitude that must change.”

Breton is leading the EU’s sweeping overhaul of digital regulations aimed at taming the power of the big tech companies, amid growing concerns their algorithms are eroding democracy.

WATCH | Facebook and Australia are in a standoff. Is Canada next?:

Facebook blocked news posts for Australian users as the government plans to make technology companies pay for sharing news content. There are concerns something similar could happen to Canadians. 7:37

EU countries to adopt new copyright rules

Microsoft is joining forces with two lobbying groups, the European Publishers Council and News Media Europe, along with two groups representing European newspaper and magazine publishers, which account for thousands of titles. The company has expressed support for Australia’s plans, which could help increase market share of its Bing search engine.

European Union countries are working on adopting by June revamped copyright rules set out by the EU executive that allow news companies and publishers to negotiate payments from digital platforms for online use of their content.

But there are worries about an imbalance of bargaining power between the two sides and the group called for new measures to be added to the upcoming overhaul of digital regulations to address the problem.

WATCH | Newspaper publisher on making tech giants pay for news:

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, says local news could be in trouble if the government doesn’t take bold action. 6:09

Publishers “might not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with these gatekeeper tech companies, who might otherwise threaten to walk away from negotiations or exit markets entirely,” the group said in a joint statement.

Google and Facebook have resisted arbitration because it would give them less control over payment talks.

Facebook did not reply to a request for comment. Google said it already has signed hundreds of partnerships with news publishers across Europe, making it one of journalism’s biggest funders and noted on Twitter that it’s working with publishers and policymakers across the EU as member countries adopt the copyright rules into national legislation.

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CBC | World News

Raptors president Masai Ujiri says fight for equality to continue outside of courts

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he will continue to fight for equality outside the courts now that a lawsuit against him has been dropped.

Ujiri issued a statement Monday in which he thanked Raptors players, staff, ownership and fans for standing with him throughout the timeline of the lawsuit, which stemmed from an altercation with a California law enforcement officer at the 2019 NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif.

The lawsuit, filed by Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland and his wife, Kelly, was dropped on Wednesday, as was a countersuit filed by Ujiri.

“I have decided my fight isn’t a legal one,” Ujiri said in the statement.

“Now the challenge is this: What can we do to stop another man or woman from finding themselves in front of a judge or behind bars because they committed no crime other than being Black? That is the work that each one of us must commit to, every day.”

Video of the 2019 incident had started to circulate online last August. Footage of Ujiri speaking about the incident that month was posted to the Raptors’ Twitter feed Monday.

“When I look at this I ask: Who are we as people?” Ujiri said in the video. “Who are we as human beings?

“It comes down to human decency.”

Countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force

Strickland was seeking $ 75,000 US in general damages as well as other compensation.

He alleged he suffered injuries in an altercation when Ujiri tried to make his way onto the court following the Raptors’ championship-clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors on June 13, 2019, at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

Ujiri’s countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force by Strickland.

The altercation between the men was captured in a widely circulated fan video, which appeared to show Strickland shove Ujiri twice before the Raptors president responded.

Strickland, who alleged Ujiri did not have the necessary credentials to access the court, filed his civil suit after prosecutors decided in October not to press criminal charges against Ujiri.

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CBC | Sports News

Capt. Tom Moore, who raised millions to fight pandemic, has died, family says

Capt. Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for health-care workers, has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.

His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him behind his walker in a happy moment, ready for an adventure.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of,” the family’s statement said. “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.”

Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic.

Donations poured in from across Britain and as far away as North America and Japan, raising some 33 million pounds ($ 58 million Cdn).

For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Moore, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden. But it was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.

“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.

When Moore finished his 100th lap on April 16, a military honour guard lined the path. The celebration continued on his birthday a few days later, when two Second World War-era fighter planes flew overhead in tribute.

Moore, a plaid blanket over his shoulders, pumped a fist as they roared past.

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth

In July, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in a physically distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle, west of London.

The 94-year-old monarch used an impossibly long sword to confer the honour as Moore, wearing his wartime medals on his chest, leaned on his walker and beamed.

“I have been overwhelmed by the many honours I have received over the past weeks, but there is simply nothing that can compare to this,” he tweeted after the ceremony. “I am overwhelmed with pride and joy.”

Born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on April 30, 1920, Moore completed an apprenticeship in civil engineering before being drafted into the army during the early months of the Second World War. After being selected for officer training, he rose to the rank of captain while serving in India, Burma and Sumatra.

After leaving the Army in 1946, Moore went to work for the family construction firm. He later became a salesman and then a manager for building materials companies.

When the concrete company he was working for was threatened with closure, Moore rounded up a group of investors and bought it, preserving 60 jobs.

Along the way, he divorced his first wife and fell in love with his employer’s office manager, Pamela. The couple married, had two daughters and eventually retired to Spain, but returned to England after Pamela became ill.

Moore’s wife died in 2006, and he moved to the village of Marston Mortaine in Bedfordshire to live with his younger daughter, Hannah, and her family. 

Family challenge sparked fundraiser

The former motorcycle racer finally slowed down after he fell and broke his hip in 2018. A walker replaced the Skoda Yeti he drove until he was 98, but he kept moving.

During a backyard barbecue in early April of last year, Moore’s family challenged him to walk the entire length of the 25-metre driveway.

After he made it to the end, his son-in-law encouraged him to keep going, offering to pay one pound for every lap and suggesting a goal of 100 laps by Moore’s 100th birthday.

Things snowballed from there.

Moore thought he might be able to raise 1,000 pounds for the doctors and nurses who took care of him after he broke his hip, and his family used social media to publicize “Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk for the NHS.”

A local radio reporter called first, then national broadcasters. Soon, international media were waiting outside the garden gate.

As he pushed his walker up and down the path, people facing the first lockdown of the pandemic watched online. Soon #TomorrowWillBeAGoodDay was trending on Twitter.

“People told me that there was something about my little walk that captured the hearts of those still in shock at the crisis,” Moore wrote in his autobiography.

“With a rising number of deaths and the prospect of months of lockdown, everyone was desperate for good news. Apparently, a 99-year-old former Army captain who’d fought in Burma, was recovering from a broken hip, and doing his bit for the NHS was just what they needed.”

WATCH | Captain Tom describes being knighted by the Queen:

The 100-year-old Second World War vet describes the experience of being tapped on the shoulders by Queen Elizabeth with her knighting sword. 7:57

Prince Harry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and dozens of celebrities cheered for him.

But it was the public that embraced Captain Tom the most, flooding the village post office with some 6,000 gifts and 140,000 birthday cards.

Moore marvelled that anyone would spend two pounds on a card for him, and then put on a mask to wait in line at a post office to mail it.

He was made an honorary member of the England cricket team, had a train named after him, and was recognized with the Freedom of the City of London award.

‘I can’t keep walking forever’

Moore enjoyed the accolades but remained focused on others.

He dedicated his autobiography, Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day, to “all those who serve on the front line of any battle — be it military, psychological or medical.”

In the end, Moore urged the public to look after one another, and he thanked the country he inspired for inspiring him.

“I felt a little frustrated and disappointed after I broke my hip and it knocked my confidence,” he said after completing his trek.

“However, the past three weeks have put a spring back in my step. I have renewed purpose and have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this exciting adventure, but I can’t keep walking forever.”

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CBC | World News

Indian farmers stage hunger strike in fight against agricultural reforms

India blocked mobile internet services in several areas around New Delhi on Saturday as protesting farmers began a one-day hunger strike after a week of clashes with authorities that left one dead and hundreds injured.

Angry at new agricultural laws that they say benefit large private food buyers at the expense of producers, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped at protest sites on the outskirts of the capital for more than two months.

At the main protest site near the village of Singhu on the northern outskirts of the city, there was a heightened police presence on Saturday as hundreds of tractors arrived from Haryana, one of two states at the centre of the protests.

“Many farmers’ groups have joined the protest site since last night,” said Mahesh Singh, a 65-year-old farmer from Haryana. “They have come to show their support and more farmers are expected to come in the next two days.”

Farmers raise their hand as they shout slogans during a day-long hunger strike to protest against new farm laws, at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India on Saturday. (Manish Swarup/The Associated Press)

India’s interior ministry said on Saturday internet services at three locations on the outskirts of New Delhi where protests are occurring had been suspended until 11 p.m. on Sunday to “maintain public safety.”

Indian authorities often block local internet services when they believe there will be unrest, although the move is unusual in the capital.

Farm leaders said the hunger strike by hundreds of protesters, primarily at Singhu and two other protest sites and designed to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, would show Indians that the demonstrations were non-violent.

“The farmers’ movement was peaceful and will be peaceful,” said Darshan Pal, a leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha group of farm unions organizing the protests. “The events on January 30 will be organized to spread the values of truth and non-violence.”

Agriculture employs about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers is one of the biggest challenges to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since coming to power in 2014.

Eleven rounds of talks between farm unions and the government have failed to break the deadlock. The government has offered to put the laws on hold for 18 months, but farmers say they will not end their protests for anything less than full repeal.

WATCH | From Jan. 26, Indian farmers descend on capital to protest reforms:

Thousands of Indian farmers converged on the capital, New Delhi, to continue their lengthy protest against agricultural reforms that they say will cost them money. 1:00

In the past week, a planned tractor parade on Tuesday’s Republic Day anniversary turned violent when some protesters deviated from pre-agreed routes, tore down barricades and clashed with police, who used tear gas to try and restrain them.

Sporadic clashes between protesters, police and groups shouting anti-farmer slogans have broken out on multiple occasions since then.

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CBC | World News

PSG, Basaksehir players kneel in fight against racism prior to match restart

Soccer players have taken a knee, unfurled slogans and demanded tougher action only to find their sport remains infested with racism.

But on Tuesday, at the end of a year of striking gestures against racial injustice and discrimination, elite players of the Champions League took the extraordinary step of refusing to continue playing in Paris after a match official was accused of using a racist slur.

In a show of solidarity, the players from Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir left the field and didn’t return until Wednesday night, when play resumed with a new referee team.

Before the match restarted Wednesday, the players took a knee in unison as the Champions League anthem played, while some — including PSG star Neymar — raised a fist. PSG won the game 5-1, with Neymar scoring three of his team’s goals.

“The walk off by both Basaksehir and PSG together lays down a marker in Europe,” Piara Powar, executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe anti-discrimination network, told The Associated Press. “Many players are fed up with half measures to tackle racism and are more prepared than ever to exercise their right to stop a match.”

The flashpoint came 14 minutes into Tuesday night’s game when referee Sebastian Coltescu of Romania was accused of using a racial term to identify Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, who is Black.

An enraged Webo demanded an explanation for the slur, repeating at least six times: “Why you say Negro?”

“You are racist,” Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk declared to Coltescu. “Why when you mention a Black guy, you have to say `This Black guy?”‘ added Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba, who is Black.

WATCH | Players from both sides exit field after alleged racial slur:

The Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed until Wednesday when players walked off the field on Tuesday after alleging that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania used a racial term when identifying an assistant coach. 9:58

The exchanges were broadcast live around the world from soccer’s biggest club competition at PSG’s Parc des Princes. While racism at soccer games has typically come from the stands, the match Tuesday was played without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of a crowd made the comments clear to hear.

Dismissing any attempts to excuse Coltescu’s language, French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said Wednesday that “pointing at someone by their [skin] colour is unacceptable and inexcusable” and praised the players.

“It’s unprecedented and sends a strong signal also to soccer institutions,” she said.

Powar, of the anti-discrimination FARE network, said there was no question the comment was racist.

“Our colleagues at the Romanian state anti-discrimination organization have confirmed it is racist in Romanian to refer to a player by using his race as an identifier,” said Powar, whose group helps UEFA, the Champions League competition organizer, prosecute discriminatory acts like Tuesday’s incident .

“There is no ambiguity. This incident shows the need for much better training of match officials. Unintentional racism is still racism,” Powar said.

Meanwhile, the persistent racism infesting soccer was on show again Wednesday in England, where two lower-league matches were played with limited crowds.

WATCH | How activism has increased among Black athletes:

From the NBA to the NHL, our sports panellists look at the different responses from pro athletes in the wake of another police shooting of a Black man, in Wisconsin. Plus, the role fans need to play moving forward. 9:39

In the fourth division, Exeter City reported a suspected discriminatory comment by a fan toward a visiting player from Northampton Town. The referee spoke to the players and managers, and the game continued.

Earlier this year in Portugal, Porto striker Moussa Marega tried to walk off the field in February after being the target of racist abuse from fans in a game against Guimarães and demanded to be substituted. But he faced attempts by his own teammates and opposing players to prevent him from leaving the field.

The referee then gave Marega a yellow card for refusing to continue in the game — the type of action that dissuades players from walking off.

Setting a standard

The Romanian referee who was in charge of the game in Paris on Tuesday — Ovidiu Hategan — was in the same role for the 2013 Champions League game when Manchester City player Yaya Toure complained about the lack of action against monkey noises he heard from CSKA Moscow fans.

“If officials cannot set the standards by their own behaviour,” Powar said, “they cannot be relied on to deal with racism on the pitch or in the stands.”

Players might now feel more emboldened to leave the field after seeing the largely positive reaction to what happened Tuesday in Paris.

“What they’ve done was very good from both sides to support those who were in the incident,” said Japhet Tanganga, a defender with Premier League club Tottenham, who is Black.

But the dismissive response from Jorge Jesus, the coach of Portuguese club Benfica, reinforced why activists face ongoing challenges trying to change attitudes.

“This is very fashionable today, this racism thing,” he said. “Anything that can be said about a Black man is always a sign of racism. The same thing can be said about a white man, but then it’s no longer a sign of racism. There is this wave being implanted in the world.”

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CBC | Soccer News

The fight over U.S. voting rights is nothing new — it’s just got a pandemic twist this time

A drumbeat of legal battles unfolding during this year’s U.S. presidential election is a modern chapter in an old American struggle over access to the ballot box.

The number of lawsuits over voting rights leading to the Nov. 3 election has exploded this year, with hundreds of cases related to casting ballots during a pandemic — and U.S. President Donald Trump in the thick of it.

“Trump is pulling out all the tricks,” Milwaukee pastor Larry Jackson said in an interview.

Jackson grew up on a plantation in the Jim Crow South, where his family didn’t even bother trying to vote; while it was technically legal for Blacks to vote, it was rendered nearly impossible by absurdly complex and discriminatory rules.

He says today’s discrimination is less blatant than the old South’s poll taxes, literacy tests and guessing games about the number of jellybeans or soap bubbles in a jar.

Nowadays it’s voter roll purges, ID rules, gerrymandering, polling place closures and disenfranchisement of ex-prisoners — which all disproportionately hurt Black voters.

“It’s more covert [nowadays],” Jackson said. 

Hundreds of court challenges

By one estimate, this is the most-litigated U.S. election in decades. Each day brings new court decisions in different jurisdictions, with Democrats currently winning more of them than Republicans.

There are fights over the deadline for returning mail ballots; the packaging requirements for ballots; the financial donations cities can receive to help process mailed votes; and the number of ballot drop-box locations allowed in each county.

WATCH | What is a ‘naked ballot’?:

City Commissioner of Philadelphia Lisa Deeley demonstrates how easily ballots can be excluded if they are ‘naked,’ or not packaged correctly. 0:59

These battles fit a familiar historical pattern, pitting whiter, more rural, more Republican areas against more diverse, Democratic-leaning cities. 

Underlying these fights is the new electoral reality that more Democrats intend to vote by mail during this pandemic and are fighting in court to make it easier, while the Trump campaign is fighting to make it harder.

This means the rules for handling mail ballots could prove decisive, a fact acknowledged by the Republican president. 

Trump has called losing these lawsuits the “biggest risk” to his re-election. He’s already been declaring fraud, in claims repeatedly shown to be misleading.

Claims of voter fraud have been used as an excuse for further restrictions, even though they have been found to be exaggerated or downright wrong, again and again and again.

Lawsuits have erupted as many Republicans want mail voting made more difficult, while Democrats want it made easier. (Scott Galley/CBC News)

These numerous disputes are made possible by a unique attribute of the head-spinningly complex American electoral process, which has more than 10,000 different election administration systems.

Voting is administered differently across thousands of cities and counties — which handle federal, state and local races on their ballots.

That’s the opposite of other countries, such as Canada, where a national election is a stand-alone event, with one set of rules for ballot access coast to coast to coast.

‘I know my rights’

A recurring pattern throughout American history is new rules popping up that cause disproportionate harm to minority voters.

A famous recent example is photo ID laws, such as the one in Wisconsin, which may (or may not) have clinched that state for Trump in 2016.

Larry Jackson, a church pastor, lives in Milwaukee but was born on a Mississippi plantation in the Jim Crow South. He says voting discrimination is more subtle now than it was then. (Alex Panetta/CBC News)

Jackson, the pastor, shared a story about struggling to help a churchgoer register to vote under that law for the 2018 midterm elections. 

He accompanied Tony Carter to a Department of Motor Vehicles branch to help him obtain a voter ID card required in Wisconsin, but Carter couldn’t qualify: His bus pass was insufficient and his birth certificate was rejected.

“The name on my birth certificate had my mother’s maiden name,” said Carter, 65, a former restaurant worker.

Tony Carter of Milwaukee, 65, was told in 2018 that he didn’t qualify for a voter ID card. The rules disproportionately hurt Black voters. (Alex Panetta/CBC News)

Also in Milwaukee, in 2018, Angela Lang had to fight to be allowed to vote.

A poll station worker tried turning her away because she’d just moved to a new apartment in the same building and her photo ID showed the previous unit address.

Lang managed to vote after demanding to speak to a manager. She works as a community activist and knew that the law was being applied incorrectly.

Angela Lang, a community activist in Milwaukee, said she was almost turned away the last time she tried voting, in 2018, but she knew the poll worker was applying the law incorrectly. (Alex Panetta/CBC News)

“I was like, ‘I know my rights. I’m on the board of the ACLU. I’ve been doing voter suppression and voter rights for a while,'” she recalled in an interview. 

Lang said the poll workers later apologized. But she said another voter, less certain of the law, might have been discouraged from voting and gone home.

150 years of voter suppression

The American history of voter suppression is charted in the book One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson.

It describes how, soon after the Civil War, when newly freed slaves were being elected to Congress, Mississippi enacted a barrage of rules: registration requirements, poll taxes, literacy tests.

The stated rationale? Limiting fraudulent votes.

Black voter participation rates in Mississippi plummeted, from 67 per cent in the 1860s to just 4.3 per cent in 1955. Other southern states followed. 

A number of court fights involve how many drop boxes like this one, in Washington, D.C., are allowed per county, with Democrats seeking more and Republicans seeking fewer. (Alex Panetta/CBC News)

Then the Voting Rights Act of 1965 set federal standards that restored ballot access — but, as the book describes, southern election authorities responded with new tactics.

Contemporary Republicans have used a similar approach, massively exaggerating evidence of fraud to justify broad crackdowns on election organizing.

“The devices the Republicans used are variations on a theme going back more than 150 years,” Anderson wrote. 

Voters lined up on Oct. 12 at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta on the first day of advance voting in Georgia. Black voters in the state are going to the polls by the thousands and waiting in line for hours to vote early. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via The Associated Press)

“They … soak the new laws in racially neutral justifications — such as administrative efficiency or fiscal responsibility — to cover the discriminatory intent. Republican lawmakers then act aggrieved, shocked and wounded that anyone would question their stated purpose for excluding millions of American citizens from the ballot box.”

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Blunter explanations occasionally bubbled to the surface.

The founder of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which crafted voter suppression laws that have spread through the U.S. since the early 2000s, once said in a speech: “I don’t want everybody to vote.”

Forms of suppression

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 stripped down the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates to new laws affecting the vote.

These laws have taken different forms:

  • Polling location closures. Hundreds of polling stations were closed soon after the Supreme Court decision, one study reported. That exacerbated a long-standing disparity, in which lineups to vote were worse in Black areas. Georgia’s governor ordered such closures in 2018 — in a race he was running in
  • Voter roll purges. Updating voter lists is normal in any democracy. But some recent efforts in the U.S. have been found to eliminate exponentially more legitimate voters than illegitimate ones, especially members of minority groups. More than 10 per cent of Georgia’s voter list was deleted from 2016 to 2018, according to research from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. In Florida, hundreds, and potentially thousands, were wrongly removed from the voter rolls before the 2000 election, a number larger than the 537-vote victory margin that made George W. Bush president. 
  • Felon disenfranchisement. Millions of voters have been stripped of their voting rights because they served time in prison. Florida is one state that had a lifetime ban on ex-felons voting — disenfranchising more than 20 per cent of Black people in the state. The rule dates back to 1868, a few years after the Civil War ended. It was struck down in 2018, but this year the state diluted the effect of the change by requiring ex-convicts to pay off fines before they could vote again. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated to a fund to help a portion of those people pay their fees.
  • Gerrymandering: This is an issue in legislative districts, not presidential races. Most states allow partisan politicians to draw up election maps, leaving some bizarrely shaped districts in the U.S. and state congresses. Across the country, in a number of Republican-controlled states, the maps are drawn in a way that limits the number of districts where Black voters can make a difference. When a key architect of Republican map-drawing efforts died in 2018, his daughter released his secret files that showed he used racial data in his work. Analysis from The Associated Press found that Republicans controlled seven more state legislatures and 16 more U.S. House of Representatives seats than warranted by their vote share. 
  • Voter ID: A study by University of California researchers found that the gap in voting participation rates between white and minority voters nearly tripled in states with strict ID laws, like Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia and Ohio. Several of these laws allow use of ID — like gun or driver’s licences — disproportionately held by older, white, more Republican-leaning groups, but not student or public-housing ID. 

In tossing out North Carolina’s law, a U.S. appeals court found that members of the legislature, as they designed the law, literally went through data to determine which ID forms were less commonly used by Black people. In its ruling, the court said North Carolina lawmakers had targeted Black voters with near surgical precision. A new ID law is tied up in court and will not be used in this election. 

Backlash to disenfranchisement

What’s less clear is the cumulative effect of all these rules.

For example, one expert on how election law affects voter behaviour, Michael Hanmer, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland, cited different research that concludes that strict voter ID laws can trigger a backlash effect, encouraging people to organize.

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Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been a leader off the court in the off-season — pushing Americans here in Canada to register to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. And for those who haven’t, our own dual citizen and meteorologist Colette Kennedy shows you how to do it. 2:24

“That can charge people up and make them want to go out and vote,” he said. 

“Or if you tell people, like they did in Florida, that they might be purged from the rolls, they have psychological reactions to that. It makes them more motivated.”

Hanmer said he expects a chaotic election, unless there’s a clear and resounding result. He said he’s not sure there’s a precedent for a sitting president sowing doubt about the integrity of American elections.

Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in the effect of election law on vote results, said he fears ballot access problems will be worse this year. For example, he said, any problems people had in the past getting the proper ID could be compounded if government offices are operating at reduced pandemic capacity.

“I think it’s more of a concern this year,” Burden said.

In 2016, a U.S. appeals court tossed out North Carolina’s voter ID law, finding that lawmakers had designed the law using data to determine which ID forms were less commonly used by Black people. A new ID law is tied up in court and will not be used in this election. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Count political science professor Trey Hood as more of an optimist. The University of Georgia specialist on ballot access laws said states are actually expanding voting options.

Indeed, suppression may have peaked. The Brennan Center reports that this year, five times more bills were introduced in state legislatures to make voting easier than bills to make it harder.

There are now weeks of advance in-person voting in most states and automatic registration in numerous states, and vote by mail is widespread, despite court fights over the rules.

“Let me sort of step back [for perspective],” Hood said.

“We had a poll tax [in Georgia]. We had a literacy test. We had a white primary…. It’s a completely different world now.”

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Hand sanitizer can be harmful to children, but experts say benefits outweigh risks in COVID-19 fight

One of many ways of trying to keep children safe from the COVID-19 illness has also meant increasing their exposure to products that can be toxic and have harmful side effects when misused or mislabelled.

Hand sanitizer has become ubiquitous during the pandemic as a proven way to fight the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But as the virus-killing liquids, gels and sprays proliferate in our daily lives, so do their inherent risks, especially for young children.

The number of accidental poisonings involving hand sanitizer and children has sharply increased since the pandemic began when compared with previous years, according to the Ontario Poison Centre.

In Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut (the data provided includes all three jurisdictions), there were 536 cases of accidental poisonings between January and September, compared to 318 cases in the same period last year.

August saw the sharpest one-month increase, with 101 reported poisonings. That compared with 29 in August 2019. 

The majority of cases involved children five and younger, according to the poison centre.

Dr. Anna Banerji says parents need to be cautious when using hand sanitizer with young children. (Submitted by Dr. Anna Banerji)

The amount of harm consuming hand sanitizer would have on a child would depend on the amount consumed and the ingredients, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Banerji said ingesting hand sanitizers could have less severe effects such as drowsiness, to more serious effects, including trouble breathing.

“It could even kill them,” she said in an interview.

Hand sanitizers containing methanol are of particular concern. They are not approved by Health Canada. Yet, a product has recently found its way onto store shelves in Canada. Earlier this week, discount retailer Dollarama recalled a brand of hand sanitizer containing the chemical.

Ingesting a methanol-based hand sanitizer could cause severe toxicity, blindness, kidney failure and could also be fatal, Banerji said.

Hand sanitizers have been growing in popularity for years, with big brands such as Purell becoming household names. Some even come in kid-friendly packaging, colours and scents. At least one product is marketed as “fruit flavour.”

Fruit Flavour Children Cartoon Hand Sanitizer is sold at Walmart. (walmart.ca)

Skin irritation

Along with the risk of young children accidentally consuming hand sanitizers, there’s also concern about what every day use can do to the skin.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are “drying agents” and when heavily used could be irritating to children with eczema or sensitive skin, according to Banerji. In more severe cases, hand sanitizers could dry skin to the point of cracking, which could be a risk for infection, she said.

There’s also the risk of over-sanitizing hands.

“It kills bad and good bacteria,” Banerji said. “It may change the flora of bacteria on your skin and allow aggressive drug-resistant bacteria to grow.”

The Ontario Poison Centre recommends using just one squirt when sanitizing the hands of young children and making sure to allow it to completely dry.

WATCH | How to determine a hand sanitizer is safe to use:

With recalls being issued in Canada for more than a hundred brands of hand sanitizers, The National’s Andrew Chang explains how to determine if one is safe and effective to use. 2:22

Liane Fransblow, co-ordinator of injury prevention at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said prior to the pandemic, hand sanitizer was not recommended for use with young children. Now it is, she said, but children under the age of six should be supervised by an adult when sanitizing.

Hand sanitizer should be kept out of reach and out of sight of young children, Fransblow said.

“We should keep hand sanitizer the way we would keep any other poison.”

At the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, hand sanitizer is available at screening stations located at building entrances. Many classrooms have sinks, and handwashing is encouraged. In classrooms without sinks, hand sanitizer is provided.

Hand sanitizer is only accessible in staff-supervised areas, a TDSB spokesperson said.

Benefits outweigh risks

Experts say parents should be cautious about choosing and using hand sanitizer on their children, and continue to use it in the absence of soap and water.

Kelly Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, said hand sanitizer is helping to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

“Especially in this particular time, with cold and flu season and COVID, there’s probably a lot of benefit to using hand sanitizer throughout the day to avoid getting viruses into your eyes, nose, your mouth,” Grindrod said.

Associate professor of pharmacy Kelly Grindrod says that while there are risks involved with children using hand sanitizer, it is an effective way to kill viruses and should be used during the pandemic. (Kelly Grindrod)

Most of all, parents should be watching for methanol-based products and hand sanitizers not recommended for children or pregnant women. Grindrod said they have the most risk of causing skin irritation or other side effects and could cause the most harm if ingested.

“The solution is to have better hand sanitizer,” she said.

Grindrod said you should always look for a hand sanitizer’s Natural Product Number (NPN) or Drug Identification Number (DIN), which means it has been registered with Health Canada.

According to Banerji, the risks associated with hand sanitizer are something that can be managed through proper labelling and public awareness.

“Hand sanitizers used wisely and kept in safe place is something we need to continue to do,” she said.

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Akim Aliu, Vanessa James, Asher Hill know fight for diversity on ice is just beginning

The landscape on ice is changing rapidly.

For years, hockey and figure skating have been dominated by white athletes, and to varying degrees, they still are today.

But three Black competitors on the sixth season of Battle of the Blades — former NHLer Akim Aliu and figure skaters Asher Hill and Vanessa James — are making efforts to change that.

Aliu first spoke about the racism he experienced in hockey in November, when he said he was targeted by then-Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters while the two were in junior hockey together. Peters was fired soon after.

That revelation became the tip of the iceberg, with multiple other NHL coaches being called out for abuse.

In May, as the NHL was getting set to restart its season amid a worldwide racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd, Aliu and a group of BIPOC hockey players formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA).

WATCH | Aliu, James, Hill discuss diversity in respective sports:

Akim Aliu, Asher Hill, and Vanessa James are not only part of this season’s Battle of The Blades, but also diversity alliances in their sports. 8:14

Aliu, 31, was born in Nigeria and lived in Ukraine until he was seven and moved to Toronto. He serves as co-head of the organization alongside San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane which pledges “to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.”

In July, the HDA made a series of requests to the NHL including more inclusive employment practices and supporting social justice initiatives that target racism, among other asks.

Earlier this month, unsatisfied with the NHL’s response, the HDA cut ties with the league over what it called “performative public relations.”

“It would be a lot easier to implement some of the things we want to do in some of the NHL cities with their fans and with their following but they’re not there yet,” Aliu told CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey.

“They feel that things are good status quo and we don’t, so we feel it’s up to us to take the reins of the conversation and I do believe that sooner or later they’ll have no choice but to jump on board.”

Aliu said he’s encouraged by the first few months of the HDA despite the difficult relationship with the league.

“I think we found a little bit of trouble getting pulled in different directions with some of the objectives and missions that we had, but we stuck together as a group and I feel like we’re doing a lot of good in the game of hockey right now and in society as well,” he said.

The goal now is to ensure the conversation around racial injustice in hockey doesn’t get swept under the rug.

“We didn’t want it to be a moment, we wanted it to be a movement. So we don’t want it to be one of those trendy topics like it’s been in the past,” Aliu said.

Aliu is paired on Battle of the Blades with James, a six-time French pairs champion, 2018 Grand Prix Final champion and 2019 European champion. The two are skating for The Time To Dream Foundation, which aims to make youth sports more inclusive and accessible.

WATCH | Powerful pause in sports:

Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reflects on a week in sports that saw a united show of solidarity across professional leagues in support of racial justice. 2:48

James says Aliu is making the transition from hockey to figure skating quite swimmingly.

“He’s phenomenal, he’s a hard worker, he’s naturally talented, very agile and flexible and he has these long legs that make beautiful lines when they’re straight. He’s doing a great job,” James said.

The two have already made a solid connection due to their shared experiences in predominantly white sports. James is also part of the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance (FSDIA), which carries similar goals to Aliu’s HDA.

“There’s always been a little bit of isolation and not feeling included. … If you look at [clothes] for figure skating, you don’t find tights for Black girls or people of colour, you don’t find skates that are the same colour, it’s hard to find matching things like that. So it gives the idea they’re not welcomed,” James said.

For James, the main goal is to ensure the next generation of figure skaters feel welcomed in their sport.

Hill, a 29-year-old ice dancer paired with hockey player Jessica Campbell, is skating for FreedomSchool – Toronto, which aims to intervene on anti-Black racism in the school system.

His mindset is similar to James in trying to create a more inclusive sport than he came into, and he’s also a member of the FSDIA.

“I think oftentimes we don’t see Black people in winter sports, [it’s] assumed that we don’t like the cold or we’re afraid of ice [or that] it’s a white man’s sport or a white person’s sport,” Hill said.

“But it’s just if you have access and if you’re able to do it and I think having the representation of so many Black athletes will show that you can occupy any space as long as you have the opportunity.”

Hill is aiming to create more opportunities and accessibility in the figure skating community. Like Aliu, he says the sport’s organizations fall short.

“I think it comes down to the mindset of the gatekeepers and the leaders in the sport which are our coaches and our federation heads. … It’s just changing the mindset that anyone can be part of figure skating as long as you give the opportunity,” Hill said.

Along with Aliu, James and Hill, former NHLer Anthony Stewart rounds out the Black skaters on the newest edition of Battle of the Blades. Beyond the ice, junior Canadian champion and international competitor Elladj Baldé will serve as a judge and singer Keshia Chanté joins Ron MacLean as a co-host.

“I think it’s a beautiful cast because there’s so much diversity and so much inclusion,” James said.

The season premiere airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

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