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Visitors to B.C. care homes deemed ‘essential’ move to front of vaccine line — others wait and worry

Jody Vance said her heart skipped a beat when she got an unexpected phone call from the long-term care facility where her elderly father lives.

She braced herself for bad news, but instead the voice on the other end told her something so many Canadians would love to hear: a dose of the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine was being set aside for her.

“It was kind of was a little bit surreal,” she said. “It felt like hope.”

Vance got the shot because staff at the long-term care facility in Delta, B.C., declared her an “essential” visitor for her 82-year-old father. Driving him to emergency cancer surgeries during the pandemic made her eligible for such status.

To Vance, the main benefit of being vaccinated is that her dad won’t need to be isolated from her for his own protection. 

B.C. is one of the few provinces — Ontario and Nova Scotia are taking a similar approach — ushering essential visitors to the front of the vaccine line as a priority group. It’s up to the discretion of each facility to determine who is considered essential.

There is no cap in B.C. on the number of approved essential visitors, but only one will be allowed at a time with exceptions made for end-of-life care.

Those left to wait say they are also left to wonder if the delay could ultimately be too long.

Visiting loved ones in long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic often means no physical contact. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A frustrating process

“I don’t know how long she’ll be with us,” said Niovi Patsicakis, speaking about her 98-year-old mother, who lives at Evergreen Long-Term Care in White Rock.

Patsicakis said her mom has been mostly confined to her room in the facility for nearly three months, and Patsicakis hasn’t been able to visit since before Christmas. She said she fears the lack of in-person mother-daughter visits has affected her mom’s health.

But unlike Vance, Patsicakis said she has not been deemed essential by her mom’s long-term care facility. 

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), essential visits include those for compassionate care reasons such as critical illness, hospice care, end of life and medical assistance in dying. They can also include visits by a person who assists with feeding, mobility and communication needs.

WATCH | British Columbians with loved ones in long-term care talk about their experiences trying to get vaccine priority: 

As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential. 2:03

The B.C. Health Ministry has also said a clergy member can be designated as an essential visitor.

Health authority and facility staff, in collaboration with the long-term care resident, determine who gets essential visitor status, according to BCCDC in guidelines published on Jan. 7.

Patsicakis’ visits in the past have tended to be social in nature, but Patsicakis said her mother’s health seems to be deteriorating since their loss of contact.

“I can see a huge difference in how mom has gotten much worse,” said Patsicakis. “Her language skills have weakened as well as her mood. Sometimes, she’s confused or doesn’t want to get out of bed.”

Trying to get an essential designation has been difficult and frustrating, she said.

Niovi Patsicakis, right, says she has tried multiple times to be designated as an essential visitor so she can spend time with her mom, Sophie Patsicakis, left, who is 98 years old and in a long-term care facility in White Rock, B.C. (Submitted by Niovi Patsicakis)

Patsicakis said essential visitors to Evergreen are evaluated by a group that includes facility faculty and a representative from the local health authority, Fraser Health. She said she wrote Evergreen administration three times to plead her case and filed a complaint with an advocate at the health authority’s patient quality care office.

She said she requested Evergreen’s decision be sent to her in writing in November and never received it. As of Jan. 20, she said hadn’t heard anything from Fraser Health either.

“I know so many people are devastated,” she said, adding she is part of a social media group of others like herself who are supporting one another as best they can.

The National Institute on Ageing said families in British Columbia are enduring the most restrictive long-term care home visitation policies in the country.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says decisions around who qualifies as an essential or designated visitor can be arbitrary because care-home residents and their families don’t have an association that represents them. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the lack of an association that represents residents and their families at the 300 care homes in B.C. means they don’t have a voice in policy discussions between the government and care-home operators.

She said care home operators seem to be arbitrarily deciding who qualifies as an essential or designated visitor.

Patricia Grinsteed, 91, who survived COVID-19, touches hands with her daughter through a glass barrier at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, B.C. in June. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, provided the latest numbers of people who had qualified as essential visitors during a press event on Jan. 18.

Henry said about 8,000 people have met the criteria and will receive a vaccination during the province’s first phase of a four-phase immunization program, which is underway. There are approximately 30,000 people living in long-term care facilities

“The default, we believe, should be that every person, every resident who has a person who can care for them, should have a designated essential visitor, but that has been a challenge to operationalize,” said Henry.

Applications for essential status are available on the provincial health ministry’s website. There is an appeal process for people who do not like the initial decision.

One Abbotsford long-term care home operator said the more people who are designated essential, the better.

“Because of staffing levels, this gives us that extra layer of assistance — they are doing things like supporting their loved one with feeding or mobility,” said Dan Levitt, executive director of Tabor Village. “So they need that vaccine, and that’ll make a big difference for all of us.”

B.C. Health Minister, Adrian Dix, said by March, when residents and staff at long-term care facilities have had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, people will have more social visiting access to their loved ones and some daily activities put on hold will begin to resume for residents. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

During a Friday press briefing, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the frustration felt by people disappointed to hear they are not considered essential.

“Everyone should feel that their participation, their social life, their visiting of their loved ones is essential,” he said.

Dix said vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care and assisted living facilities now could lead to eased restrictions around social visits by March, when all residents and staff are expected to have received both doses of their vaccines.

“It’s going to allow a lot of things to happen, including more visits from family members and loved ones and friends,” he said.

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CBC | Health News

This is what COVID-19 looks like through the eyes of nurses on the front lines

Turning a desperately ill COVID-19 patient onto their stomach may seem simple enough to the uninitiated. It’s not.

In this case, at Quebec City’s Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus, it requires a total of seven people crowded around an intensive care bed. 

We often hear about how demanding it is for hospital staff and long-term care workers to handle the added workload foisted upon them by the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s just one illustration.

After draping a sheet over the patient, the edges are rolled into the sheet underneath. A pair of pillows are now snug to his chest, and the rolling begins. First, the patient is slid to the edge of the bed. On three, he’s turned to his side. Another three-count, and he is softly delivered onto his stomach.

The room empties. Everyone has work to do.

The Quebec capital has seen a massive spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, and a trio of nurses say they’re worried by members of the public trivializing the illness.

To help convince people to take the coronavirus more seriously during the upcoming holidays, they opened their doors to Radio-Canada.

Their names are Cathy Deschênes, Jennifer Boissonnault and Lindsay Vongsawath-Chouinard. Their aim: to show what life in the hot zone looks like.

Each of them agreed to wear a small camera so the public could see how a typical day unfolds. They filmed their colleagues and their patients, and illustrated how the pandemic has made the job harder and more complex.

(scroll up to view the video)

From left to right, Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus intensive care nurses Lindsay Vongsawath-Chouinard, Jennifer Boissonnault and Cathy Deschênes. (Radio-Canada)

Their point is not to elicit sympathy. As Deschênes says: “It’s difficult, but we love our jobs.”

Instead, they want to show the devastating path some COVID-19 patients are called upon to travel: patients who require more and more staff at their bedside, and need ever larger amounts of treatment time.

And each one of those treatments involves special planning and safety equipment. The ICU rooms have sliding doors, which makes it easier to maintain hot, warm and cold zones. And maintain them, they must.

Each shift has a nurse in charge of making sure the hygiene procedures are being followed and that personal protective equipment, like N95 masks and shields, is worn correctly.

“No one in our department has contaminated themselves (with the virus), we’ve had no outbreaks in intensive care and we’re very proud of that,” Boissonnault says, at one point.

The average age of the COVID-19 patient in the unit is between 60 and 75.

“Some might think that’s old. We don’t think so,” Boissonnault says.

The province has 390 intensive care beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients (20 for pediatric cases), and Enfant-Jésus, in the Maizerets area northeast of downtown Quebec City, accounts for 22 of them.

The unit is not short of business.

Of the 610 COVID-19 patients the hospital has treated so far this year, 90 were in intensive care. And 144 people who entered the hospital with the disease never made it home.

To work in an intensive care unit is to accept that not every patient can be saved, but COVID-19 is rough even for a group of people who must become inured to tragedy.

Public health restrictions mean it’s often not possible for patients’ relatives to be by their bedside, so when things take a turn for the worst, the only hand to hold usually belongs to a nurse, orderly, doctor or other staff member.

Staff prepare a room in the intensive care ward at Enfant-Jésus hospital in Quebec City. The unit opened its doors to Radio-Canada for a rare look at the daily battle against COVID-19. (Radio-Canada)

At one point, a family is forced to make the devastating decision to halt treatment on their intubated loved one. Two nurses each hold a hand as he is prepared for ‘comfort care’ — palliative measures.

“We’re with you sir,” says Boissonault, holding his left hand. “We’re taking care of you.”

The typical hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient lasts 17 days, but in the ICU sometimes it can stretch to 40 or beyond. Attachments form. When someone dies, there are often tears. There have been weeks when that happens four or five times in just one section of the unit. 

People infected with this virus can sometimes take a sudden, catastrophic turn.

“To give comfort to a patient whose family can’t be there with them in their final moments, to be the ones who take their hands in ours during their final moments … it’s troubling,” says Vongsawath-Chouinard, her voice cracking.

So when there is good news, it is celebrated.

Recently, a patient from the Saguenay called Daniel Bouchard made enough progress to be released from the unit to a regular COVID-19 ward in the hospital.

Daniel Bouchard, 65, is wheeled out of Enfant-Jésus hospital’s intensive care unit in Quebec City as staff applaud. He spent 8 days in the unit with COVID-19. (Radio-Canada)

It was his 65th birthday. He had been there eight days, some of them touch-and-go.

The nurses and medical staff got him a card and a small cake. He thanks them in a raspy voice and is overcome with emotion, weeping in his wheelchair as a nurse rubs his shoulders.

“Your tears say a lot,” Boissonnault says.

Safety measures oblige, the gathered staff had to sing Happy Birthday from the next room.

“Thanks so much, you’ve been an all-star team,” Bouchard says. 

Minutes later, it is time to leave. Outside the room, scrub-wearing staff line the hall.

They applaud as he is wheeled out of view.

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CBC | Health News

Canada’s largest mental health hospital calls for removal of police from front lines for people in crisis

Canada’s largest psychiatric facility is throwing its support behind mounting calls to remove officers from the front lines for people in mental health emergencies.

“It’s clear we need a new way forward,” the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto said Tuesday.

The move follows a string of deaths involving people in crisis, including Ejaz Choudry — a 62-year-old father of four with schizophrenia killed by police in Mississauga, Ont., after his family called a non-emergency line.

Choudry was the third Canadian in crisis to be killed by police over the past month. On June 4, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, was shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Eight days later, Rodney Levi, 48, was fatally shot by the RCMP in New Brunswick. The chief of his First Nation community later described him as troubled but not violent.

D’Andre Campbell, 26, was fatally shot in April in Brampton, Ont., after his family says he called 911 for help.

“For too long, the health-care system has relied on police to respond to mental health crises in the community,” CAMH said in its statement.

“Mental Health is health. This means that people experiencing a mental health crisis need health care.

“Police should not be first responders. Police are not trained in crisis care and should not be expected to lead this important work.”

Racism compounds crisis interactions, giving rise to the “tragic outcomes” Canada has seen recently, CAMH added.

In Toronto, mobile mental health teams consist of a registered nurse and police officer, but are mandated only to provide secondary responses. Police officers alone remain the first responders, particularly for calls involving a weapon.

WATCH | Ontario shooting death raises questions about sending armed officers to mental health calls:

Serious questions are being raised about sending armed police officers to respond to mental health crises after a Mississauga, Ont., man was shot to death over the weekend. The man’s family is now demanding a public inquiry, and the officer’s firing. 1:48

That was the case in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year old Black woman who fell to her death in Toronto after police were called to her home for reports of an assault involving a knife.

In the days afterward, police chief Mark Saunders said: “There’s no way I would send a nurse into a knife fight.”

Nearby Peel Region has a similar model: the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team, launched in January, deploys from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. every day. But whether the teams serve as first responders or take a secondary role depends on the nature of the call, the force told CBC News. 

John Sewell, former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says his organization has called on the Toronto Police Services Board to have a mental health nurse paired with a plainclothes officer respond to calls for people in crisis.

At every turn, he says, he’s been met with resistance.

‘The result is that people get killed’

“The board has consistently refused and said we’ve got to send the armed, uniformed officers first,” he told CBC News. “Well, the result is that people get killed.”

As for the argument that armed officers are needed because a situation might be violent, Sewell says trained mental health professionals handle such situations regularly and are trained in de-escalation — something that police aren’t primarily trained to do.

John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, has been at the forefront of a push to restructure the system responding to people in crisis. (CBC)

“When someone has had experiences with people in uniform that involved in some way being restrained or tackled… there might be a certain amount of scar tissue so to speak when they’re put into a similar situation,” said David Gratzer, staff psychiatrist at CAMH, emphasizing the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent.

“Mental health professionals deal with agitated patients frequently and they understand that certain techniques can be highly successful.”

Alok Mukherjee, the former chair of Toronto’s police board from 2005 to 2015, says he was encouraged to see more mobile crisis units added during his time there, but says the program falls short because they don’t operate around the clock and aren’t designated as first responders.

“That’s where we hit a road block,” he said.  

Board ‘willing to explore’ other models

Of the nearly one million phone calls Toronto police receive every year, about 30,000 are mental health related, the force has said. Across Canada, from 2000 to 2017, a CBC News investigation previously found, 70 per cent of the people who died in police encounters struggled with mental health issues, substance abuse or both.

In an email to CBC News, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart said the board remains “very supportive” of the existing mobile crisis team program, but that it is “committed to working to explore enhancements of and alternatives to this concept.

“The board is also willing to explore and consider other models that would provide better service to those in our community experiencing mental health or addiction issues; these models may include these services delivered by mental health experts without police,” Hart said. 

Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantel Moore both died after police were called to do wellness checks on them. (Facebook)

All of the above cases are being investigated by the relevant police oversight agencies.

In a statement, the Peel Regional Police Board said while it couldn’t comment on individual cases, “these deaths are a tragic reminder that there is much work to be done,” adding that the incidents will inform the board’s work on key issues including community engagement, strategic planning and the upcoming budget.

As Ontario’s police watchdog has itself pointed out, however, officers at the centre of cases involving serious injury or death of civilians cannot be compelled to turn over their notes or participate in interviews with the Special Investigations Unit.

Some say that means the SIU itself lacks the teeth to fully investigate allegations of police wrongdoing.

Asked Tuesday if the province would consider amending the legislation, Jenessa Crognali, spokesperson for Ontario’s attorney general said the rules stem from “principles against self-incrimination.”

She said those rules will remain even after the current Police Services Act is replaced with the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, passed earlier this year.

As for whether police services being funded through taxpayer money means officers should be compelled to answer to an oversight body, Crognali did not answer. 

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CBC | Health News

‘Polite’ racism infects Canada says Olympian who was on front lines of Oka protests 30 years ago

Protesters standing face-to-face with armed officers from the national guard – it’s a jarring yet all-too-familiar scene playing out across the U.S. on a nightly basis right now, as thousands take to the streets demanding systemic change in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

Canadian Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller has been there before and is reminding Canadians how real racism is in this country.

“Canadians are polite racists. They don’t want to acknowledge there is that privilege,” Horn-Miller told CBC Sports.

“When we’re talking about racism in Canada, it’s not like what you face in the United States. It’s more subtle. It’s the indifference. It’s the insensitivity. Or people saying they don’t see colour.”

This summer marks 30 years since Horn-Miller spent 78 consecutive days on the front lines of resistance during the Oka Crisis.

In the summer of 1990, the town of Oka, Que., planned to expand a golf course without consultation onto a piece of land the locals call The Pines. The land is sacred to the Mohawk, who were opposed to the expansion because it is where their people are buried.

A Mohawk from Kahnawake, Que., Horn-Miller was just 14 years old when she was tasked with cooking midnight meals and breakfast to take to the warriors who were in the bunkers. She vividly remembers the escalating tensions between protestors and police – and then the military was brought in.

“It was such a horrific misuse of the military. I’ve met people on both sides who are still traumatized from that to this day,” Horn-Miller said.

“I’d be looking down the barrels of hundreds of guns. I can’t help but think about that as I watch today. Thinking about the national guard being sent in.”

WATCH | Canadian athletes speak out against racism:

Canadian athletes have been speaking out against racism and for change, including tennis youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime, basketball legend Steve Nash, and Olympians Kia Nurse, Karina LeBlanc and Perdita Felicien 2:38

On the evening of Sept. 26, the last night of the crisis, Horn-Miller made her move to escape the area. She was trying to reach the media barricade that had been moved, fearful that if she didn’t reach the cameras in time, soldiers may harm her.

They did.

Horn-Miller was stabbed in the chest by a soldier’s bayonet while racing her four-year-old sister, Kaniehtiio Horn, to safety. The bayonet missed her heart by a centimetre.

“I looked at one of the soldiers and I said, ‘I know you.’ I pointed at him and put my four-year-old sister behind my back to protect her and that’s when I got hit in the chest,” Horn-Miller recalled, fighting back tears.

“I was in such anger and pain and sadness and rage. I thought my body was going to explode.”

Horn-Miller didn’t receive medical treatment for 22 hours, held captive inside a bus in a makeshift military base.

Turning pain into motivation

It took a long time for Horn-Miller to heal from the trauma she experienced in the summer of 1990 — she says that work continues to this day. She was young, confused and frustrated by how unequal and unfair Canada felt for her.

“Being angry was a fundamental part of me for a long time. It was slowly killing me,” she said.

She used that pain to motivate her. A prolific swimmer, Horn-Miller excelled as a water polo player. She was fierce, gritty and tenacious – attributes that landed her on the national team.

She was part of the team that won gold at the Pan Am Games in 1999, before becoming the first Mohawk woman from Canada to make it to the Olympics, doing so in 2000.

Horn-Miller became the first Mohawk woman from Canada to make it to an Olympics, co-captaining the Canadian water polo team in Sydney in 2000. (Jeff De Booy/The Canadian Press)

Horn-Miller’s stardom soared when she was put on the cover of Time magazine for being an Indigenous sporting hero and activist. It brought unprecedented attention to Canada’s water polo program.

“I was their poster girl on the cover of Time. They were getting all this press attention because I’m Native and the Oka Crisis. They were using me, but when I became a problem, I got kicked out,” she said.

Pushed out of Canada’s water polo team

The love affair ended quickly. Horn-Miller started to speak out about abuse from the coach of the program after the Olympics. The team failed to medal. Horn-Miller says the program was in disarray and needed an overhaul.

“There was this push within the team to clear house. The abuse started to rise and rise and rise,” she said.

Sport Canada and Water Polo Canada brought in representatives from York University Ethics in Sport to investigate – Horn-Miller said they found abuse, not sexual in nature, had taken place. Coaches were fired and a new regime was brought in.

“Canadians are polite racists. They don’t want to acknowledge there is that privilege– Waneek Horn-Miller

Not long after, Horn-Miller was told she would no longer be part of the Water Polo Canada team because of “team cohesion” issues.

As a co-captain of the team, Horn-Miller understood leadership from an Indigenous perspective, taught to her by her family and ancestors, about doing something and speaking out against racial abuse.

She believes many within the Water Polo Canada community could not understand why that was so important to her.

“I remember sitting there in a final meeting, with one of my teammates and my uncle on one side of the room, and the entire rest of the water polo team and their lawyers were sitting on the other side,” Horn-Miller said.

“I thought they hated me. They were so indifferent to it. That’s what’s so heartbreaking and lonely, and the worst part of this whole thing is the indifference.”

Horn-Miller is seen following her induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Horn-Miller would never compete for Canada again at an international event in water polo and says racism played a large part in that.

“I remember my teammates saying, ‘Are you calling me a racist?’ They were so angry. I don’t think Canadians truly understand racism and what it means to be racist,” she said.

‘I endured a system’

Last year, Horn-Miller was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She admits now that on the night of the awards ceremony in Toronto, she was apprehensive about attending.

“I’m up there with [skier] Alex Bilodeau and [NHL goalie] Marty Brodeur and people who have won. I’m there because I endured. I endured a system and came out the other end successful,” Horn-Miller said.

But she went, celebrated alongside some of Canada’s greatest athletes.

Months earlier at the initial announcement gala, Horn-Miller delivered a message that was met with a standing ovation by hundreds. Though she was honoured, she couldn’t help but wonder where that support was before.

“I’m on the stage and said, ‘I don’t think people should leave sport damaged, hurt and in pain.’ That’s not what sport is about,” she said.

“I looked at them as they stood and thought, where were you 20 years ago when I got pushed out?”

Now a mother of three, Horn-Miller understands how important it is to continue to shine light on the injustices facing minorities in Canada.

“Canada, for a very long time, has avoided hard conversations. We have to have hard conversations. Our children deserve a future where they can achieve their greatest potential and live in safety no matter who they are.”

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CBC | Sports News

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw Perform Intimate Duet on CMT’s ‘Feed The Front Line’ Special

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw Perform Intimate Duet on CMT’s ‘Feed The Front Line’ Special | Entertainment Tonight

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Doctors, nurses demand government fill ‘unacceptable’ gaps in protective gear on front lines

Canada’s doctors and nurses are demanding that the federal government do more to protect front line workers against COVID-19, calling a critical lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) “outrageous and unacceptable.”

Organizations representing front line workers delivered a blunt warning Tuesday that lives are at stake, and pleaded for more transparency and urgent federal action during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons health committee. 

MPs on the committee are holding regular hearings via teleconference on the government’s response to COVID-19.

Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Canada was caught flat-footed by the pandemic and now everyone is scrambling to ensure public health capacity can meet an expected surge in demand.

Calling it a “dark reality,” he said he’s hearing from physicians that the inadequate supply of surgical masks, N95 respirators, face shields, gowns and gloves is even more alarming than initially thought.

“The toll that is paid for this uncertainty weighs heavily on health care workers across the country,” he said. 

“They are scared. They are anxious. They feel betrayed. They don’t know what supplies are available.”

Buchman said he’s concerned about the problem of keeping enough doctors and other health professionals on the job, given the heightened threats they face of sickness and physical and mental burnout, and the risk they might refuse to work due to a lack of protective gear.

Physicians working in hospitals handling COVID-19 cases don’t know how long current supplies will last, and many are being asked to ration or re-use supplies, he said, adding that anxiety is heightened by a lack of information and transparency around inventories.

‘Lives are on the line’

“Asking health care workers to be on the front lines of this pandemic without the proper equipment is unacceptable. Shortages must be addressed immediately and information about supplies must be disseminated. People’s lives are on the line,”  he said.

“Would we expect a firefighter to enter a burning building, risking his or her life, without adequate protective equipment to keep them from harm? Physicians and other front line health care workers have a call to duty. They are willing to place themselves in harm’s way. But they have rights too – and that is their right to be protected when they put themselves at risk of harm.”

Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians also conveyed “disturbing” reports about shortages and rationing of protective equipment.

“The pandemic has not peaked and the virus will be with us for some time. We need to continue to build our supply and distribution chains coast to coast so all front line staff have the appropriate PPE to provide care safely,” he said. 

Preserving masks per shift

Drummond said “preservation” measures, such as limiting nurses to two masks per shift, might be considered rationing.

He also cautioned against “excessive anxiety” and said he hopes the government will deliver on its promise to deliver more protective gear and supplies.

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said she finds it “striking” that, just a few months ago, governments and managers deferred to the clinical and professional judgment of health care workers to decide what’s needed to keep patients and workers safe — yet now they’re “locking up personal protective equipment to keep it away from health care workers.”

“When faced with this level of uncertainty around a new coronavirus, especially around something so fundamental as how it spreads, we should start with the highest level of protection for health care workers – not the lowest,” she said.

“Front line workers across the country who are directly involved in the care of presumed and confirmed COVID-19 patients are not being provided with the PPE they need to do their jobs. That’s simply outrageous and unacceptable in a world-class health system like ours.”

Silas said that, since its inception in the wake of the SARS outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not made workplace safety a primary focus and has “failed over and over to consider and appropriately protect the health and safety of health care workers. “

She said the government should invoke the Emergencies Act to ensure supplies and equipment are deployed where needed across the country.

Buchman said he salutes the government’s call to enlist retired professionals and others to help in the battle against COVID-19, but he also warned that older people are at greater risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they become infected. He said that must be considered in the context of a shortage of PPE supplies.

“We do have to be careful about what we’re asking,” he said.

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CBC | Health News

‘My name is Karly’: Sex trafficking victim joins police on front lines in battle against exploitation

Warning, this story contains graphic content that readers may find disturbing.

Karly Church, 31, escaped the dangerous world of domestic sex trafficking when a police officer found her in a hotel room, and her two traffickers were arrested.

Six years later, Church now works as a crisis intervention counsellor with Victim Services of Durham Region, east of Toronto. She also teams up with Durham Regional Police detectives in the field to help underage girls and young women caught up in the heinous crime.

“I want to instill hope,” Church says. “I want them to see that there is a way out, and there is the ability that they can reach any goal that they have for themselves. That you don’t have to be stuck, that there are people who care.”

Human trafficking is a fast-growing crime in Canada and one of the most difficult to beat.

According to Statistics Canada’s latest figures, reports of the “most serious violation” of laws around human trafficking soared from a couple of dozen across the country in 2010 to 340 in 2016.

StatsCan adds that, “human trafficking is difficult to measure, due in part to its hidden nature. While there has been an increase in the number of human trafficking incidents reported by police in recent years, human trafficking remains highly underreported.”

  • WATCH: The feature about police efforts to crack down on human trafficking, Tuesday Feb. 18 on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and 10 p.m. local time on your CBC television station. You can also catch The National online on CBC Gem.

The majority of reported cases are in Ontario, and 93 per cent of the victims are female. Approximately 72 per cent of female trafficking victims are under the age of 25, and can be as young as 12 years old.

And the conditions police find victims in can be horrific.

Det. Dave Davies, with the Durham Regional Police Service Human Trafficking Unit, says girls and women trapped in the sex trade are often subject to horrendous treatment. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“There are incidents with girls getting waterboarded, eating their own feces, being brutally raped,” says Detective Dave Davies, who runs the Durham Regional Police Human Trafficking Unit.

“The hardest ones are the ones that are young — the young ones that have never had sex before and they lose their virginity to some John, or they end up getting pregnant. Those are real scenarios that we’ve dealt with.”

The Durham Regional Police are one of the first in Canada to work directly with a human trafficking survivor, and they say Church is their secret weapon. With six detectives attached to the Human Trafficking Unit, most of them undercover, the police have nicknamed her Number Seven.

“She’s a part of our team,” says Detective Davies.

Church also works with Victim Services of Durham Region. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The collaboration between the Durham Regional Police Unit and Victims Services of Durham Region is about building relationships and trust with the victims. Church and Davies say it’s working.

Since Church got involved, the number of local police investigations has doubled and so has the number of victims she is supporting. In 2018, Victim Services of Durham Region helped 120 human trafficking victims, and in 2019 that jumped to 240.

Building trust

On a recent afternoon, Church and the detectives combed through online sex ads looking for clues leading to underage girls.

On any given day there can be anywhere from 30 to 100 new ads posted just in their region.

“You can see 22, 19, 22, they’re all different ages. We’re looking for younger looking females right now,” Detective Davies says.

“They can kind of give us clues to where they are. So, like, Westney Road, 401, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa. When it says ‘back in town,’ that means they were somewhere else,” he adds, a potential sign that they’re being trafficked.

Since Church started working with the Durham Regional Police Service Human Trafficking Unit, its number of investigations has doubled. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Karly helps out and gives her opinion. We work together and try and find somebody, and go talk to them.”

Undercover detectives set up fake “dates” to try and meet up with the women at nearby hotels to make sure they aren’t underage, and also that they aren’t being forced into sex.

Often Church joins the offsite operations.

Detective Dave Davies, who runs the Durham Regional Police Human Trafficking Unit, describes Karly Church’s important role with his team. 0:22

Having identified an ad that concerns the team, they all head out the door of police headquarters and meet at a nearby hotel, where the first date has been set up for the day.

These hotel operations can be dangerous. Often, the pimps are nearby in adjoining rooms or even in the room’s own bathroom, and sometimes they’re armed.

After the detectives establish the room number, they enter and make sure the person and the situation is safe. Church and Davies stay back until they get they get the okay to come in.

Karly Church and police visit a hotel room to talk to a woman involved in the sex trade. (Jennifer Barr/CBC)

Church then works to build trust with the women.

“I think immediately if somebody comes to your door and identifies as police, it’s intimidating,” Church says. “Just because a lot of times it’s like, ‘what’s  going to happen to me?’ And there’s a bit of a panic.”

This time the woman in the room has been told about Church and wants to talk to her.

Most of them do. The woman isn’t underage, but she takes Church’s contact information.

The police meet at a nearby parking lot for a debrief. Church is happy with the outcome:

Karly Church describes what defines success in her daily work with the police and victims of human trafficking. 0:21

Community outreach

Durham Region has a trafficking coalition consisting of community workers and organizations. They’re trying to raise awareness to help discourage the crime, and they also help victims find the support they may need for addiction, housing, a bus pass and even food.

Raising awareness includes school outreach and education. Church does public service announcements to spread the word about things such as signs to look for that may indicate someone is being trafficked. She also speaks to Grade 8 and 9 students.

“My name’s Karly, I’m actually a survivor of domestic sex trafficking. I had a pimp and he forced me to work in the sex trade,” Church tells a group of students.

Karly was lured in by human traffickers at a time when she had nowhere to go. She’d left home, then been kicked out of a detox centre. Another girl who’d also left the detox centre persuaded Karly to go with her to a house, where she met the traffickers who drew her into the sex trade.

Church tells a classroom how she was recruited by a human trafficker, and describes some of the signs they can watch for to avoid being manipulated by predators. (Jennifer Barr/CBC)

As the kids listen, she presents the facts on how it happened to her. She describes how traffickers prey on the most vulnerable, and can often disguise themselves as a boyfriend or someone who can be trusted.

“He is looking for someone who maybe is being bullied in school. He’s looking for someone who maybe doesn’t have that brand-name clothing or brand new iPhone,” says Church.

Karly’s presentation leaves the room silent.

What is most concerning is how many kids approach Church after her captivating presentations.

“In my experience, after every presentation I have ever done, someone has come up after and made a disclosure — either ‘this happened to me,’ or ‘I think this is happening to me,’ or ‘I know someone this is happening to.’ That’s in 36 schools,” says Church.

Besides her work with the police and outreach to schools, Church also helps women in Durham who have been trafficked and need support. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kayla Yama is a clinical director of Victim Services for Durham Region, and coordinates the public presentations with Church.

She says public outreach helps reduce the stigma, encouraging people to speak up if they or someone they know is a target of sex trafficking.

Yama says there has been a “huge shift in terms of awareness” locally. She adds that it’s due largely to people “coming forward to Victim Services of Durham Region, coming forward to the community, coming forward to their parents — the bravery that it takes, it astounds me every day — and saying that this happened to me. It allows people not to overlook it and say this is something that couldn’t happen to my child.”

Back at police headquarters, Detective Davies says the program is a success, but his team wants to do more. He’s hopeful that in the near future the force can make that happen with some provincial funding. “It would help for sure.

“We have six detectives here. We have one Karly,” he says, adding that he’d like a “Number Eight” to join the team to help with Church’s growing workload.

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A 2-month wait to fix his 2 front teeth: The problem with the Ontario seniors dental program

A 73-year-old Windsorite is worried he might lose some of his teeth while he waits to be seen by a government-funded dentist.

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) allows low-income seniors to visit a dentist for free, but the paperwork and few approved dentists mean there’s a lengthy wait. The program was announced in June 2019 but only launched the application system at the end of November.

For Rogers Villeford, he’s already spent six months with bleeding gums — and just last week another filling fell out. 

“I’ve had this for about six months … every day I bleed,” said Villeford. “I take mouthwash and keep it in there awhile and swish it … every morning I spit out blood.” 

Villeford’s income is about $ 18,000 a year. He was accepted into the OSDCP, but the appointment he was given is nearly two months away. 

“What good are [the dentists] if you have to wait?” said Villeford.

Locally the OSDCP is run by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. According to the director of health promotion, dentists under the program started seeing patients two weeks ago. 

“Our first senior seen under the program was January 6,” said Nicole Dupuis. 

Dupuis said so far the program has seen about 15 patients, with another 46 appointments already booked. Appointment bookings are as far away as March.

Nicole Dupuis, director of health promotion with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit says so far the program has seen about 15 patients, with another 46 appointments already booked. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

According to Dupuis it takes about one month between filling out the application to receiving a card that gives you access to the program. After the card comes in, seniors can book an appointment — but the first appointment is typically just a consultation. 

“We’ll have more appointment times going forward,” said Dupuis. “We have had a wait list in our clinics … a month is actually not too bad. We hope it won’t get too much longer beyond that time frame.”

Villeford decided he can’t wait that long, so he made an appointment with a dentist — but he’ll have to pay out of pocket for his treatment. 

“I don’t want to lose my two front teeth,” said Villeford, who expects to spend about $ 500 on the visit. “It’s a sham.”

Similar to the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, there is an emergency service that might be available for people who need immediate treatment. To get emergency dental care, seniors would have to fill out a form signed by their medical provider that states they need treatment right away. 

Villeford said the WECHU gave him an emergency appointment for Tuesday, but it won’t include any work like fillings. Instead it will be to address what the health unit might consider are more serious problems.

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CBC | Health News

TFC pulls in front of Impact for final playoff spot in East

Gustavo Bou scored a late goal, Matt Turner had five saves, and the New England Revolution played Toronto FC to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.

Bou took a pass from Diego Fagundez at the corner of the area, beat a defender 1-on-1 and fired a rolling right-footer into the net to make it 1-1 in the 86th minute. Bou, a 29-year old who signed with the Revolution on July 10, has six goals in eight MLS appearances.

New England (10-9-9) is unbeaten in its last four games and has just one loss — 2-0 at LAFC on Aug. 3 — since May 8.

Nicolas Benezet, making his fourth MLS appearance, scored from point-blank range to give Toronto (10-10-8) a 1-0 lead in the 74th minute. Nick DeLeon, who came on in the 63rd, played a low cross to the back post where Marco Delgado’s first-timer was deflected by goalkeeper Matt Turner but Benezet headed the rebound into an empty net. 

WATCH | Toronto, New England play to draw:

Toronto FC and the New England Revolutions each picked up a vital point in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race as they played to a 1-1 draw. 1:10

Meanwhile, Ola Kamara scored twice in the first half as D.C. United blanked the Impact 3-0 to put a massive dent in Montreal’s playoff chances.

Paul Arriola also scored for D.C. United (11-10-9), who snapped a three-game losing skid without suspended captain and leading scorer Wayne Rooney. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made four saves for his 10th clean sheet of the season.

Evan Bush conceded three goals on four shots for the slumping Impact (11-15-4), who have lost eight of their last 11 MLS matches.

The win propelled D.C. into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points. Montreal fell below the playoff line into eighth with 37 points and four games left to play this season — three of those are at home.

Seventh-place Toronto FC lead the Impact by one point and have two games in hand.

Rough start for Montreal

It was a disastrous first half for the Impact, who conceded three goals in a 12-minute span that ended with a chorus of boos and jeers from the 18,285 fans in attendance at Saputo Stadium.

Replacing the suspended Rooney up top, Kamara got the visitors on the board in the 20th minute. After a Junior Moreno free kick ricocheted off Orji Okwonkwo, the ball fell right to an unmarked Kamara in the box for the opener.

WATCH | Impact lose ground with loss to United:

D.C. United scored three goals just over 12 minutes apart as the blanked the Montreal Impact 3-0. 1:00

The visitors made it 2-0 three minutes later when Montreal’s Samuel Piette headed Hamid’s towering goal kick right into Arriola’s path. The winger took the ball in his stride and beat Bush with a left-footed shot into the bottom corner for his sixth of the season.

Another poorly defended set piece sunk the Impact when D.C. United scored off a Felipe corner kick in the 32nd minute. Defender Frederic Brillant headed the ball across the box to Kamara, who headed it past Bush for his fourth career goal against Montreal.

The match was reminiscent of last year’s crucial meeting between Montreal and D.C. at the end of September. United won that match 5-0, which ultimately led to the Impact missing the playoffs.

Following a 0-0 draw at Audi Field earlier this season, Montreal has now gone 355 minutes without scoring against D.C. United.

Slide continues for Whitecaps

The Vancouver Whitecaps gave up goals about 16 minutes apart in the first half to drop a 3-1 decision to New York City FC Saturday night, losing their third Major League Soccer game in eight days.

Alexandru Mitrita scored one goal and set up another for New York City (14-5-8), which won its fourth consecutive game. Heber and Gary Mackay-Steven, an early first half substitution, also scored.

Forward Yordy Reyna scored in the 64th minute for Vancouver.

The game had an eventful first half. A crowd of 17,512 at BC Place Stadium watched New York City score twice and two Whitecaps assistant coaches get ejected for arguing a disputed call.

Mitrita made it 3-1 in the 77th minute when his free kick from about 25 yards out squeezed in between the post and Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau. It was his eighth goal of the year.

New York City used a turnover in the 10th minute to go ahead 1-0 on Heber’s 14th goal of the season. Midfielder Tony Rocha took the ball off the foot of Vancouver midfielder Jon Erice, then passed it to Mitrita. He sent it to Heber who scored on a low, hard shot. It was Mitrita’s league-leading 19th assist.

Heber limped off the field in the 21st minute after going down in a heap and was replaced by Mackay-Steven.

WATCH | Whitecaps fall to NYCFC:

New York City FC beat the Whitecaps 3-1, officially eliminating Vancouver from playoff contention 1:10

A pretty play by captain Maximiliano Moralez set up Mackay-Steven’s goal in the 26th minute. Moralez threaded a perfect pass through the Vancouver defence to a charging Mackay-Steven who chipped the ball over the Whitecap goalkeeper.

Tempers flared in the 31st minute when referee Marcos de Oliveira initially signalled a penalty kick should be awarded to Vancouver after New York City goalkeeper Sean Johnson appeared to foul Whitecaps forward Tosaint Ricketts. The call was reversed on a video replay, resulting in both goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha and assistant coach Vanni Sartini being ejected for arguing the decision.

Dahha didn’t go quietly. He rallied the booing crowd to their feet while being escorted off the pitch.

Reyna got the Whitecaps fans back into the game when he took a pass from Ricketts and took a shot from the right side of the box that curled just inside the left post.

The Whitecaps (6-15-9) were coming off a 2-1 loss to Montreal Wednesday and are (1-4-0) in their last five games. They have been outscored 11-5 in this stretch and sit last in the MLS Western Conference.

The win moved New York City into second place on the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Philadelphia Union.

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G7 leaders in France urged to present united front on Hong Kong

It has come up on the margins, but the increasingly violent clashes in Hong Kong have barely registered on the formal agenda of G7 leaders meeting in Biarritz, France.

At least one expert says the crisis is a crucial test for the world’s major democracies — one they may be failing.

A Hong Kong police officer fired a gunshot during protests on Sunday, the first time live ammunition has been used since demonstrations broke out.

Water cannons have also been deployed by authorities and protesters have reportedly lobbed bricks. 

At least 36 people were arrested Sunday. Dozens were injured on Saturday in a sharp escalation of violence, after a senior Hong Kong official warned China’s military could intervene during any civil unrest.

I think it represents what democracies are about– Colin Robertson, former diplomat

The importance of the world’s leading liberal democracies presenting a united front on events in the former British colony cannot be understated, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“I think it represents what democracies are about.”

Hong Kong, which counts approximately 300,000 Canadian-Chinese citizens, is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in Asia, and its political autonomy was guaranteed by international covenants.

The potential violation or even the stealth dismantling of its political and economic freedoms would be a major blow, and having G7 leaders lay down a marker in the face of authoritarian threats — veiled or otherwise — is important.

Protesters clash with police during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan district on Sunday. Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies against a controversial extradition bill since June 9 as the city plunged into crisis following waves of demonstrations and several violent clashes. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

“If we give China a pass, which I believe [U.S. President Donald] Trump would be inclined to do, then I think you begin to wonder,” said Robertson.

“We [democracies] are really on our back foot because around the world, we’re losing, and we appear to be losing in so many places.” 

The leader to watch, given his country’s long history in Hong Kong, will be newly installed U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Robertson added. 

“Where does he come from on this? I think his inclination might be to just put it under the table.”

The issue of Hong Kong was raised at least twice in bilateral discussions Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had with Johnson and Japan’s Shinzo Abe.

Canada and the EU issued a joint statement on Hong Kong earlier this month, calling for China to show restraint.

“It is crucial that restraint be exercised, violence rejected and urgent steps taken to de-escalate the situation,” said the Aug. 17 statement.

“Fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘one-country, two-systems’ principle, are enshrined in the [Hong Kong] Basic Law and in international agreements, and must continue to be upheld.”

The statement drew a sharp, personal rebuke for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland from Chinese authorities.

A Canadian official going into the weekend’s gathering said there hasn’t been much indication from the other countries that they consider Hong Kong a major topic for the leaders beyond where it might fit in an overall discussion about China.

Canada has made its position known on both the unrest in Hong Kong, and the arbitrary detentions of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, and has already been given assurances of support from all of the G7 nations, publicly or privately.

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CBC | World News