Tag Archives: helping

U.S. taxi services see business boost helping Canadians avoid hotel quarantine

Airport transport service, Buffalo Limousine, lost about 70 per cent of its business during COVID-19 pandemic. But the company said its luck changed recently, thanks to Canadian snowbirds returning from U.S. sunbelt states who want to avoid Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement. 

“This is a huge, huge shot in the arm for us, this Canadian snowbird travel,” said Carla Boccio, owner of Buffalo Limousine. “It’s a godsend.”

Since February 22, air passengers entering Canada have been required to quarantine for up to three days in a designated hotel and pay for the cost — up to $ 2,000. However, travellers entering by land are exempt from the rule. 

To avoid the hotel quarantine, some snowbirds are flying to U.S. cities close to the Canadian border — such as Buffalo, N.Y. — and then hiring a ground transport service — such as Buffalo Limousine — to drive them across the Canadian border.

“When Canada imposed that hotel [quarantine], then it was just like our phones were exploding,” said Boccio. “What I hear from the majority of these people, it’s not even so much the cost, it’s like you’re in jail … with this hotel quarantine.”

A new post on Buffalo Limousine’s website informs Canadian travellers that it will drive them from Buffalo, N.Y., across the Canadian border. (Buffalo Limousine)

CBC News interviewed three airport transport services based in Buffalo and one in Burlington, Vt., which is about 70 kilometres from the Quebec border. The companies said they’ll drive Canadians to or across the Canadian border for around $ 100 US and, for an added fee, the Buffalo companies will drive passengers directly to their homes in Ontario. 

Each company said it has seen a boost in business after Canada introduced the hotel quarantine requirement.

Since late February, Buffalo Limousine has, on average, transported 50 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its lagging business by around 50 per cent, Boccio said. 

“I’m more thankful than I could even put into words.”

Buffalo Limousine charges about $ 120 US to drive a couple from the Buffalo airport across the border to neighbouring Fort Erie, Ont., or Niagara Falls, said Boccio. A trip to downtown Toronto costs around $ 300 US.

Crossing by land has different rules

The federal government surprised snowbirds abroad when it changed the travel rules on Feb. 22, requiring air passengers entering Canada to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine in a hotel to await the test results.

Ottawa introduced the hotel quarantine requirement to discourage international travel and help stop the spread of COVID-19 infections, which are surging due to more contagious variants

But travellers entering Canada by land face no hotel quarantine requirement. Instead, they must quarantine at home for 14 days and take multiple COVID-19 tests, including one in the U.S. within 72 hours of arrival at the Canadian border. 

According to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data, land entries into Canada jumped by 15 per cent during the first three weeks of March, compared to the same period in February (when the hotel quarantine rules were not yet in effect). Those entries include both leisure travellers and essential workers who aren’t truck drivers.

WATCH | Quarantine hotels problems include access to food, travellers say

Some Canadians who’ve had to stay at a mandatory quarantine hotel say they’ve been met with long delays, crowded waiting areas and issues accessing basic needs like food. 2:07

To avoid the hotel quarantine requirement, snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said when he returns home from Florida later this month, he will fly to Buffalo, and take a taxi across the border to his home in Fort Erie, Ont. 

Stanczuk, who got the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, said he’s taking the necessary safety precautions during the pandemic and feels the hotel quarantine is a needless step. 

“You want me to get a COVID-19 test? I’m happy with that. You want me to get one when I arrive? I’m happy with that. But why punish me with three days of quarantine in a hotel?” 

Canadian snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said he plans to fly to Buffalo when he returns to Canada from Florida and then take a taxi across the Canadian border. (submitted by Jaroslaw Stanczuk)

Other snowbirds are also travelling by cab. Since the hotel quarantine rule took effect, Buffalo Airport Taxi said it has driven, on average, 20 to 30 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its business by at least 50 per cent.

“They want to go home. They don’t want to go to quarantine prison,” said Buffalo Airport Taxi manager, Saleman Alwhishah. “It boosted our business tremendously.”

Why can U.S. drivers cross the border?

John Arnet, general manager of 716 Limousine in Buffalo, said he’s been inundated with requests for transport across the Canadian land border and questions about the rules for entering Canada during the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic.

“Most of the questions are … ‘Can you take us across the border?'” said Arnet. “Yes, we can take you across the border. We’re an essential service.”

CBSA said that foreign transport workers such as taxi and bus drivers can enter Canada during the border closure, if they establish they’re employed as a driver and are performing a service related to their job. 

CBC News asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for comment about Canadians travelling home by land to avoid the hotel quarantine requirement. The agency did not provide a direct response. Instead, it listed the types of fines and other penalties Canadians can face if they violate quarantine rules. 

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CBC | Health News

This Winnipeg lab confirmed Canada’s 1st case of COVID-19. Then it set to work helping manage the crisis

On Jan. 23, 2020, doctors at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre admitted a 56-year-old man with what appeared to be mild pneumonia. Two days later, he was “Patient Zero” — the first COVID-19 case in Canada.

Four days late, it was senior research scientist Nathalie Bastien’s team at the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg that confirmed the case.

“When you want to become a scientist, when you’re a young kid, this is what you dream of, to be part of helping people and saving lives in a way by stopping the spread of the virus,” Bastien said in a recent interview from her lab. “It’s rewarding.”

Senior research scientist Nathalie Bastien and spent years after the SARS epidemic developing a universal test that could detect any type of coronavirus, but they weren’t sure it would work on the new virus, known as SARS-CoV-2 until they got the sample last January. (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Bastien’s work is one example of 150 different COVID-19 projects at the national lab, which is is the only Level 4 lab in Canada, capable of handling the world’s deadliest pathogens. 

Many of those projects are done in collaboration with academia, industry and public health partners, and more than 50 of them are related to pre-clinical research, including clinical trials in animals, testing of antibody-based therapeutics and vaccine collaborations.

It’s all part of nearly $ 2 billion in funding the lab has received in the last year as part of Ottawa’s COVID-19 pandemic response, although the lab would not give a breakdown of how that money is spent.

“Obviously, collaborating in an environment that is fast-moving, like a pandemic response, has its challenges but the willingness to work together to achieve that common goal, which is, ultimately, to protect Canadians, has been really rewarding to see,” acting scientific general Dr. Guillaume Poliquin said in a recent interview with CBC News.

Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, centre, is the acting scientific director general of the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. (Warren Kay/CBC)

For Bastien, an expert on respiratory viruses such as the flu, SARS and H1N1, Canada’s first presumed positive case of this pandemic was an opportunity to see if years of work would pay off.

After the SARS epidemic, her team had developed a universal molecular PCR lab test that they hoped would be able to detect any coronavirus.

However, they weren’t certain it would work on SARS-CoV-2 until that first sample arrived at their Winnipeg lab.

It did work. And since then, the lab has made that first-generation test even more sensitive. Those efforts have led to the standardized PCR test now used in labs across Canada.

During the early days of the pandemic, all samples were sent to the NML from provincial and territorial public health labs to confirm the presumptive results.

The NML still helps provinces and territories if their labs are overwhelmed and also supports the PCR molecular laboratory tests being done at the border to confirm or rule out active COVID-19 infections.

As well, it’s constantly doing surveillance for variants of concern.

“We’re still working like crazy,” Bastien said.

Made-in-Canada supply chain

Scientists at the lab also stepped in to solve one of the early stumbling blocks of the pandemic, a global shortage in lab supplies and equipment needed to test swabs from possible COVID-19 patients. 

This was especially true for reagents, the chemicals needed to extract the genetic material from samples.

As backlogs for testing grew, the need for a “Made in Canada” solution became apparent.

“Half jokingly, we thought: ‘Well, if we can’t buy it, can we make it?'” Poliquin said.

Allen Grolla, pictured in West Africa in 2014. Grolla has analyzed lethal pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg where outbreaks of the deadly viruses occur, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Kenya, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Guandong, China. (SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/Doctors Without Borders)

So NML managers called up biologist Allen Grolla, known as a problem-solving MacGyver. 

Grolla was enjoying his first month of retirement but agreed to return to work. 

His task was to find the right chemical cocktail to create a reagent that public health labs across the country could use to diagnose COVID-19. By April 2020, the reagent was being manufactured at New Brunswick-based LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. and shipped to public health labs across Canada.

“When we started down the pandemic road, there was a capacity to do a few thousand tests [a day]. In Canada, the latest capacity figures are over 200,000 tests per day,” Poliquin said. “Sometimes, the crisis averted is not as glamorous as the crisis solved. But at the end of the day, that’s the one that’s most important.”  

Developing vaccines

NML scientists were the ones who developed the world’s first approved Ebola vaccine, which helped save lives in Africa. So when the coronavirus pandemic emerged last year, NML scientists started developing in-house SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates.

Health Canada has approved four COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. (CBC)

There are currently four approved vaccines in Canada, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, but NML is focused on developing ones that could be effective against some of the variants of concern. There is one promising candidate that has started pre-clinical trials in animal model testing, Poliquin said.

The lab is also conducting animal tests of vaccine candidates being developed at Canadian university and industry labs to see if they’re ready for human trials.

Early warning system

Another project the lab is working on is a study with the Canadian Water Network that monitors the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The NML is providing technical guidance to labs across the country and helping them make reliable comparisons of data across communities.

Poliquin said that work made a difference in the Northwest Territories last December, when the lab alerted public health officials to community spread.

“They were seeing an increase in the amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in their wastewater in the community, where they knew of a single case that was isolated,” Poliquin said. 

“That really didn’t jibe with what we were observing. The Northwest Territories, in response, did some proactive testing and identified another five individuals that were then isolated. And from there, the signal intensity decreased. So I think that’s compelling evidence that using wastewater as an early warning system can, in fact, help avert larger outbreaks.”

The NML is providing technical guidance to communities testing their wastewater for the coronavirus. Here, researchers at the University of Ottawa test that city’s wastewater. (Pierre-Paul Couture/CBC News )

Quick investment is key

Dr. David Butler-Jones has been watching to see how his former colleagues are managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was Canada’s first chief public health officer between 2004 and 2014 and co-ordinated the response during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, which resulted in 428 confirmed deaths in Canada. An estimated 40 per cent of Canadians were immunized in a national vaccination campaign that began in October 2009. 

Butler-Jones also led the Public Health Agency of Canada from its creation and directed PHAC’s efforts to build up and co-ordinate provincial public health systems.  

Dr. David Butler-Jones was Canada’s first chief public health officer from 2004 to 2014. He says Canada learned from the SARS epidemic that funnelling money quickly into research is key when a crisis hits. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

While he says he’s seen a “diminishment in funding” in PHAC and NML’s budgets since 2012, Butler-Jones is pleased one of the big recommendations after SARS has been followed — funnelling money quickly into research where and when it’s needed.

Often, it can take more than a year between concept and development to writing proposals and receiving funding.

“When you’re in the midst of a pandemic or a crisis, you need that money now and you need to do the research,” Butler-Jones said.

Not the time to celebrate

Back in Toronto, public health officials have set up a field hospital in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Hospital’s Bayview campus with 100 beds to take the stress off the intensive-care wards as they prepare for a possible third wave of the pandemic.

A mobile field hospital, pictured March 10, 2021, is being assembled in an empty parking lot at the Bayview campus of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto amid fears of a third wave of COVID-19. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Poliquin knows his own teams have been working full-out for more than a year. He hopes they eventually get a break and the thanks they deserve.

“We’ve all been so busy,” he said. “It’s been less of a time to sit back and reflect on our successes and more of a time to put our heads down and get the work done.

“I think there will be a time and a need to celebrate everything that was achieved.… But the work isn’t done yet.”

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CBC | Health News

Biden’s trade pick says she’s focused on helping U.S. workers, holding back China

Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden met to set a new tone for Canada-U.S. relations, the Biden administration official whose decisions may affect Canada’s economy the most sat for three hours of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee Thursday.

Some cabinet confirmations become partisan wrestling matches. By the end of her appearance, the confirmation of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative felt more like a collective laying on of hands.

The chair, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, called her a “superb choice.” All ranking Democrats and Republicans from not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee applauded the depth of her skills and experience with a long list of complimentary adjectives.

Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts, appearing as a guest Democratic chair of the House committee, told senators he considers Tai to be like family after her seven years as legal counsel for his committee. Tai played a critical role in crafting and negotiating bipartisan support for endgame revisions that ensured Congressional approval of the revised North American trade agreement by delivering more environmental and labour protections.

“There is one issue that all of us in this room agree upon: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement of these trade agreements,” Neal said, praising Tai’s “understated grit.” Biden’s pick was endorsed by leaders from the environmental, business and labour communities, Neal said.

Tai accompanied Neal on a critical trip to Ottawa in November 2019 to persuade Canada to agree to amend the new NAFTA so it could get through Congress. The Trudeau government had thought its negotiations with the Trump administration were over.

Canada’s ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, came to know Tai well as Canada’s lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. She said she remembers having lunch with her that day and their “vibrant conversation” with the assembled politicians about how international trade can benefit domestic workers — a focus the Biden administration now embraces.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States. (Power & Politics)

“I think that’s just telling on where some of the priorities may well lie,” Hillman told CBC News earlier this winter. “She has specific expertise in that area.”

Fortunately for the Trudeau government, Tai’s vision for “expanding the winner’s circle” of beneficiaries of international trade lines up with the beliefs of Canadian Liberals like Chrystia Freeland who have spoken about making deals work for small businesses and middle class workers — not just corporations.

Winning with win-wins

During Thursday’s hearing, Tai said she wants to move away from negotiations that pit one sector’s workers against another.

It’s a sharp contrast with the zero-sum style of the Trump administration, which was more focused on scoring targeted political wins than mutually-beneficial gains.

We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time.– USTR nominee Katherine Tai

While that could come as a relief for trading partners like Canada, Tai’s hearing also revealed several priorities to watch carefully.

For example, will Tai continue Robert Lighthizer’s push to “re-shore” as many commodities in as many supply chains as possible, to repatriate jobs for American workers?

“There’s been a lot of disruption and consternation that have accompanied some of those policies,” she said — without specifically calling out Trump administration tactics like using national security grounds to slap tariffs on foreign steel. “I’d want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner.”

And what about the critical product shortages the U.S. is facing, especially during the pandemic?

President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors.

“A lot of the assumptions that we have based our trade programs on [have] maximized efficiency without regard for the requirement for resilience,” Tai said.

Rethinking the China strategy

Between 2011-14, Tai was the USTR’s chief counsel for trade enforcement with China. 

On Thursday, she told senators the U.S. needs a “strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its state-directed economics.” The government must have “a united front of U.S. allies,” she added.

“China is simultaneously a rival, a partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges,” she said. “We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, himself a former USTR during the George W. Bush administration, pushed her to explain how the U.S. could compete with the “techno-nationalist” approach China takes on semiconductors — which he said are subsidized by up to 40 per cent, allowing the Communist regime to dominate the global market.

“We can’t compete by doing the things China does, so we have to figure out how we can compete by marshalling all the tools and resources that we have in the U.S. government,” Tai said.

Later she described how the Chinese state is able to conduct its economy “almost like a conductor with an orchestra,” while Americans trust the “invisible hand” of the free market. The U.S. government may need to revisit this, she said, “knowing the strategy and the ambition that we are up against.”

‘Laser-focused’ on Huawei

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, urged Tai to form a “coalition of the willing” to compete with the Chinese “authoritarian capitalism” model that’s enabled the rise of tech giants like Huawei.

Trade negotiations have to protect the security of digital infrastructure, he said, and the U.S. should consider asking trading partners to prohibit certain Chinese technologies. 

“If we keep Huawei out of American domestic markets but it gets the rest of the world, we’re not going to be successful,” Warner said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) looks on as then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivers the annual financial stability report to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Tai agreed with him, and said the U.S. government should be “laser-focused” on this, and not just in trade negotiations.

To counter China’s influence, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked whether it would be a “fool’s errand” to rejoin partners like Canada in the Pacific Rim trading bloc — which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left it in 2017.

Tai said the thinking behind the CPTPP remains a “solid equation” but the world in 2021 is “very different in important ways” to the climate in 2016, when Congress failed to approve the TPP.

Carper also asked how trade policy is affected by the Biden administration’s renewed multilateral approach to climate change.

“The rest of the world is coming up with its own climate solutions, and that means that as other countries and economies begin to regulate in this area, climate and trade policies become a part of our competitive landscape,” she said.

‘Digging in’ on dairy

Tai also promised to work closely with senators who raised issues about commodities important to their states — and Canada. But the veteran trade diplomat didn’t tip her hand too much on what Canada should expect.

Idaho’s Mike Crapo was assured she’ll work on “longstanding issues” in softwood lumber. 

She told Iowa’s Chuck Grassley she’s aware of the “very clear promises” Canada made on dairy as part of concluding the NAFTA negotiations, and how important they were to win the support of some senators.

Some of these Canada-U.S. issues “date back to the beginning of time,” she said, adding she was looking forward to “digging in” on the enforcement process her predecessor began in December.

Several senators pushed for more attention to America’s beef, of which Tai said she was a “very happy consumer.” 

South Dakota Sen. John Thune expressed frustration with the World Trade Organization’s ruling against the cattle industry’s protectionist country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules, prompting a commitment from Tai to work with livestock producers on a new labelling system that could survive a WTO challenge.

One of the toughest questioners Thursday proved to be former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the lack of transparency in past trade negotiations and told Tai her administration needs to “take a hard line.” Warren called for limiting the influence of corporations and industries on advisory committees and releasing more negotiating drafts so the public understands what’s being done on their behalf.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Wyden asked Tai to send her ideas for improving the transparency of trade processes to the committee’s bipartisan leadership within 30 days.

Throughout the hearing, senators described Tai’s confirmation as “historic.” She’s the first woman of colour and first Asian-American (her parents emigrated from Taiwan) to serve as USTR.

Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey asked if she’d commit to working on women’s economic empowerment and participation in trade laws.

She answered with just one word: “Yes.”

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CBC | World News

For Ness Murby, coming out as a trans athlete is about helping others — all while making Paralympic history

Unshackled from societal constructs and speaking with the joy and clarity of someone who understands fully the freedom that exists within self actualization, Canadian Paralympian Ness Murby begins sharing his story.

“I’m blind. I use a guide dog. I’m also genderqueer. Transmasculine. And my pronouns are he and him,” Murby told CBC Sports from his home in Vancouver. 

Then he laughs, a little nervously but also with relief. 

It’s taken 35 years to get this point — not without dark, lonely and searching moments, somewhat all but a distant memory now as Murby basks in this newfound ecstasy of being able to openly and publicly speak about his journey. 

He credits his grandparents, specifically his grandmother Shirley Dawn Murby, for igniting a spark within him at a very young age that for more than two decades was ruminating in his head and heart.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” she asked me when I was six years old,” Murby said. 

“And without pause I said a husband and a father. You couldn’t have done it better in Hollywood. That actually happened. It’s surreal.”

Murby is happily married to his wife Eva Fejes, who is responsible for getting him to Canada in the first place. The two met years ago in Japan and immediately fell in love. Fejes is a Canadian citizen and the two eventually settled in Vancouver. 

“I’m in awe of how she’s defined her life. I will say it is an honour to be married to her. I love her so dearly,” he said. 

Murby uses a guide dog for competition. (Submitted by Ness Murby.)

Born and raised in Australia

Murby was born and raised in Australia with limited eyesight and is today blind. He competes in the F11 category in discus, that includes athletes who “have a very low visual acuity and/or no light perception.”

He’s competed for his native country of Australia, Japan and Canada at a number of international events, including the most recent at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil, traversing the world not only in pursuit of the podium in a myriad of sports but has also been unrelenting in his search to love and accept himself — the two are inextricably linked. 

“I had the embers of self-concept burning within me my entire life. My grandparents taught me I was enough just being me,” Murby said. 

“I’ve always known who I am but being congruent with that knowing and understanding that knowing has been the journey.”

Murby competes in the F11 category in discus, that includes athletes who “have a very low visual acuity and/or no light perception.” (Submitted by Ness Murby)

Destination complete. In a recent interview on the podcast Five Rings to Rule them All, Murby came out publicly as trans for the first time, speaking about the importance of this moment and wanting to be intentional about meeting it. 

“I wanted to be sure that I was able to represent where I’m at with conscious words. Words matter. This being the first time to speak openly about my gender identity in any setting,” he said. 

Despite potentially becoming the first trans athlete to compete at the Paralympics or Olympics, this was never about publicity or drawing attention to Murby — he makes that very clear. 

“It’s my experience that Para athletes don’t get attention. This was entirely about doing this openly and recognizing that it might help someone else,” he said. 

“Not doing this publicly means it’s less likely to be universally observed.”

Or talked about. And Murby wants people to ask questions, get uncomfortable and challenge their own limiting beliefs.

Murby speaks about all of this with the perspective of someone who has spent many waking hours and sleepless nights contemplating the cost of living incongruently and how that shows up in life and sport. 

“There’s never going to be a right time. And there’s never going to be a too late time. Being present and mindful in the moment. It is about who you are right here, right now. Nothing that’s gone before that changes the integrity of who you want to be,” Murby said. 

“I understand that living in limbo and incongruence can really be damaging.”

Weight of the feeling

It has been damaging for Murby, the weight of feeling like he wasn’t living authentically pressing down on him at every turn. But deep down there’s always been a desire to break through that — that time has finally arrived. 

And now as Murby sets his sights on competing in Tokyo in discus at next summer’s Paralympics for Canada, he wants his story to serve an important tale about what it means to not only create space for oneself but also to create space for those around us to show up fully. 

“This has shown me that it does feel better to be open, to be out, to be me. I look forward to competing unquestionably as me, because it will be the very first time. This is the very first time for me where the trade off won’t be my self concept. And that’s huge,” he said. 

Murby understands the universality of his struggle and is imploring people to see the humanity that exists within everyone. (Submitted by Ness Murby)

And while this is just one person’s story about acceptance, resilience and growth, Murby understands the universality of his struggle and is imploring people to see the humanity that exists within everyone. 

“Just because we can’t imagine doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I am just one person but I am not the only person. It’s imperative we don’t assume anyone else’s experience but that we do invite it to the table. There’s enough space for all of us,” he said. 

“Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. Allyship is active and it has to be intentional. Assuming it exists as a matter of course, doesn’t make it so. It necessitates our conscious consideration. We need to take on the accountability and carve out spaces for each other, especially when coming from a place of privilege.”

Murby exemplifies the intersectionality between sport and disability, social constructs and breaking through them — and has been unrelenting in first looking at himself critically in determining how to move forward and then also inviting those around him to do the same.

“Our present orthodoxy doesn’t nurture our self concept as being the utmost importance and doesn’t respect the gravity of that. A really important message is that without our personal concept, we cannot self actualize,” he said.

Above all, Murby stresses that none of this is easy and that it requires immense bravery. 

He says he’s been lucky because at the core of who he’s always been, there’ve been embers of self-concept burning within him. 

“I urge everyone to ask the question when we are speaking and when we act, for what purpose and what cost?” Murby said. 

“That should be at the fundamental core.”

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CBC | Sports News

Paralympian Brittany Hudak helping others through social work during pandemic

Brittany Hudak woke up with jangled nerves and gold in her sights on the first day of the 2020 World Para-Nordic Ski Championships.

Then came the knock at her hotel room door that changed everything.

In the middle of the night, organizers had cancelled the event. The Canadian team needed to fly home immediately due to the rising threat of COVID-19 in Europe.

“I thought it was a joke,” says Hudak, a bronze medallist in biathlon at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “I was super excited and felt so confident in my fitness. We train all season long to be at our best on that day in March. I couldn’t believe that it came to such a disappointing end.”

On the flight home, a despondent Hudak took stock and pledged to find her own silver lining in the midst of the pandemic.

One year earlier, she had finished her degree in social work at the University of Regina, but dedicated herself to competing instead of working in her chosen field.

So she dusted off her resume and set out to find work as a helper.

Helping others triumph

These days, she splits her time between training at the winter paradise that is the Canmore Nordic Centre and her job at a Calgary-area residential group home for teenagers.

Some of the clients are battling addictions. Some are in trouble with the law. Some are dealing with crippling financial insecurity.

“I knew social work was not going to be easy,” she says. “You see a lot in a day, and you hear a lot in a day.

“It’s about meeting the individual where they’re at and understanding their situation. I really love learning about people’s struggles and trying to help them triumph over those adversities.”

WATCH | Hudak wins bronze at the 2018 Winter Paralympics:

24-year-old Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native Brittany Hudak won bronze, her first-career Paralympic medal, in the women’s biathlon 12.5 km standing race. 6:28

Hudak, 27, understands what it’s like to struggle.

“Growing up missing part of my arm, I always knew I was in a minority group,” she says. “I know certain groups in society are oppressed and have things go against them. My background with a disability I think really helps me in social work.”

The Prince Albert, Sask., product discovered biathlon at age 18 thanks to a chance encounter with Colette Bourgonje, a 10-time Paralympic medallist.

Hudak was working at a Canadian Tire store in Prince Albert, and Bourgonje struck up a conversation, urging her to try out cross-country skiing.

“We have Colette to thank for finding Brittany,” says Robin McKeever, head coach of the Canadian para-Nordic team. “Our focus is on Beijing in 2022 and I’m hoping for Brittany to repeat the medal she won in Pyeongchang or go for a couple more medals. We have a great team around her, and she’s getting to the perfect age as a skier and an endurance sport athlete.”

Brittany Hudak waves after winning bronze in biathlon at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang. (Submitted by Brittany Hudak)

Like most elite winter athletes, Hudak has no idea when she’ll race again on the World Cup circuit. She hopes the Beijing Olympics will happen, but realizes there’s no guarantee given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

“It would be so easy to spend a lot of focus and energy wondering what is going to happen,” she says. “I’m trying to reserve my energy and focus on what’s in my control.”

To that end, she is building her fitness to be in the best shape of her life for 2022.

And, at the same time, she’s trying to help a group of teenagers in crisis find their way through their own personal storms.

“I think it’s really important to have balance,” she says. “If I didn’t ski as well as I would have liked to in an interval session, it can seem like such a big deal when I’m only focused on sports.

“When I leave and go to work, sometimes it’s a refreshing thing for me to have the mental switch. I realize a bad day for someone else is 1,000 times worse than a bad day for me on skis.”

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Goalkeeper Erin McLeod unearths new passion for helping young people

Even playing on some of the world’s greatest stages, there were times Erin McLeod’s self criticism was so heavy that she didn’t want to play the game that she loved.

Through practising mindfulness, the veteran Canadian soccer goalkeeper not only rediscovered her joy for the game, but also unearthed a new passion to help young people overcome some of the same stress and performance anxiety she once suffered from.

“It took me a long time to figure a lot of this stuff out,” she said from Garðabær, Iceland, a municipality of Reykjavik, where she’s playing professionally with Ungmennafélag Stjarnan (on loan from the Orlando Pride of the NWSL).

“How you deal with mistakes, focusing on the things you can control, just these small things that make a really huge difference on the field, but also off the field.” 

All the tools she learned in her playing career led her to The Mindful Project, a business she co-founded in March 2019 with Dr. Rachel Lindvall, a soccer coach with a PhD in mindfulness research.

Mindfulness, by definition, is being in the present moment without judgment. In these days of constant screens, jammed schedules and lengthy to-do lists (not to mention the pandemic), it sounds simple, but practising it — through meditations, breathing exercises, imagery, stretching, to name a few – can help relax the body and mind and reduce stress.

WATCH | Erin McLeod on how mindfulness helps performance:

Canadian soccer player and co-founder of The Mindful Project Erin McLeod speaks with Signa Butler about how mindfulness can help high-performance athletes 6:36

Great feedback

The Mindful Project started out as a sports program for a younger demographic, students and athletes in the 8-14 age group, and received great feedback from Canada Scores, an after-school program for vulnerable children in B.C. 

Now in Year 2, they’re launching a high-performance program, geared toward both individuals and teams age 15 and over who are eager to get more out of themselves. It’s a personal development course which digs deeper into your thought process and feelings, paired with mindfulness. It’s been a passion project for McLeod.

Her discovery of mindfulness dates back to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She was the starting goalie for Team Canada at the tournament and was going through severe performance anxiety. 

“I had put so much pressure on myself,” she recalled. “I remember before a game and just thinking ‘ugh, I hope I get hurt’ because I had reached a point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Sure enough, I ended up tearing my ACL.”

Her injury recovery gave her time to think about how she could discover the enjoyment of football again.

“I started to look at my mindset and how I dealt with mistakes and how I talked to myself after those mistakes,” she said.    

That self-discovery coincided with a pivotal time for the national team program. Just before the 2012 London Olympics, John Herdman had taken over as coach and he brought in renowned forensic psychiatrist and sports psychologist Dr. Ceri Evans, who worked with the New Zealand All Blacks, to try and jumpstart the psyche of the team.

“His motto was presence comes from being present in the moment, which was so true and so spot on in that time of my life,” she said. “Mindfulness is ‘the zone’ in sports. I started using a lot of breathing techniques and ways to quiet the mind and be in the moment. That’s how it started.”

WATCH | CBC Sports panel details challenges of being LGBTQ+ in sports today:

Devin Heroux joined CBC News’ Heather Hiscox to discuss the CBC Sports Pride panel he hosted with former Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, former Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis, and former NFL player Wade Davis. 5:53

Pressure of competition

As a goalkeeper, often in the pressure cooker of competition, it’s been particularly helpful. She’s drawn on a breathing technique Evans suggested to her almost a decade ago – breathing in for three seconds and out for four seconds. 

“Counting the numbers gets you outside of your head and your thoughts, and the longer outbreath activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming your body down,” she said. “You breathe for seven seconds and you’re in this place where you’re calm and ready for action and in the moment.” 

Even with four FIFA Women’s World Cups and two Olympics on her resume, McLeod still uses this technique every day in training and in games. She says practising “being in the zone” off the field, makes it much more accessible on the field.  

“Being a goalkeeper you have to be able to forget and shelve things pretty quickly to focus on the next task. And I think it’s a gift to have learned that.” 

Over the last decade, McLeod’s new-found enjoyment of soccer has taken her all over the world. This latest stop in Iceland has been a good fit from both a professional and personal standpoint. She’s healthy, getting games in and able to spend more time with her partner (Gunny Jonsdottir), who is Icelandic. And with Stjarnan’s younger demographic (“they joke I’m old enough to be their mom,” she laughed), McLeod is able to share her experience both on and off the field.

And yes, that does mean throwing in the occasional guided meditation. In fact, many of the recordings on The Mindful Project feature McLeod, which she’s still not entirely used to.

“It’s weird at first to record your own voice in the soft, easy-listening, radio voice. It’s a bit awkward, but it’s all me.”

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How Khloe Kardashian’s Daughter True Is Helping Her Mom Keep Fit Amid Quarantine

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How isolation is helping an Olympic race walker find his stride

The plane was about to lose contact with Canadian soil, en-route to Paris, France when the pilot aborted with an abrupt stop followed by a sharp left turn on the runway in Toronto. Passengers onboard were confused and many scared. Sadly, the pilots explanation over the PA didn’t help alleviate anyones’ worries.

The pilot asked that all Americans disembark because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest update, implementing strict travel restrictions on U.S. citizens.

Among the roughly 60 people left on the plane was Canadian Olympic speed walker Mathieu Bilodeau. He was left to choose whether or not to continue to France for a competition that hadn’t yet been cancelled.

He chose to fly; after all, he had an Olympics to prepare for.

That was Thursday, March 12. By Sunday, he was back in Canada. 

“Everything came so fast. I was in France enjoying a French baguette and the next day I was back on a plane(s) for roughly 50 hours. Then, the next day, I was working,” Bilodeau said.

Mathieu Bilodeau is training for next Olympic Games, which would be his second as a race walker. (Kelly VanderBeek for CBC Sports)

So, when did the news sink in? That was Wednesday.

“I was like, oh my god, I was in the best shape of my life,” he explained with shock in his voice.

Keep going or call it a career?

Working toward his second Olympic Games, Mathieu had a decision to make. He took two weeks off to reflect. 

“Maybe I should retire, maybe I should keep going? So, I was back and forth for about three weeks. But then, two weeks ago, I put my feelings aside and just keeping training,” Bilodeau said. “If Tokyo happens, I’ll go; if not, I’ll focus on Eugene 2022 [the IAAF world championships].”

He feels he may be better suited than many to face forced physical distancing and change.

With Canmore’s iconic peaks behind him, Mathieu Bilodeau is keeping stride as he trains. Note: no physical distancing rules were broken in the making this image, this is Bilodeau photographed in a digital multiple exposure. (Kelly VanderBeek for CBC Sports)

“I’m struggling to be honest, to juggle [work and sport],” Bilodeau said. “[But] it’s always a struggle, so this doesn’t change much to me. I already had balance, so knew how to adapt to this new reality.”

It doesn’t hurt that Bilodeau’s a mature athlete of 36 years, married, and his athletic career has seen nothing but change. With professional aspirations, he’s dabbled in skiing, swimming, running, and triathlons. 

However, it was less than two years out from Rio 2016 that he found his stride. He began race walking and set his sights on the Olympics. Not surprisingly, many people said he wouldn’t make it.

Bilodeau’s response was “I’ll show you,” and he did.

During our time together, a town normally overrun with tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, we saw more elk than we did humans. On the upside, who needs spectators when you have elk to keep you accountable? (Kelly VanderBeek for CBC Sports)

However, Rio didn’t go as hoped.

“With my [Did Not Finish result] in Rio I feel like I need to keep going,” he explained. “I still have the passion, you know. The butterflies and like you want to be the best.”

So, training has started again, in earnest. 

Training in place

Athletes are used to moving around a lot. Between competitions and training programs, the travel demands are extensive. This change of pace forced upon everyone by the physical distancing measures looks different for all of us. For Bilodeau, it has meant eight straight weeks at home, for the first-time ever. Thankfully, his wife of nearly seven years, Marie-Pier Blais, has always been his best training partner.

No cars here in Canmore, Alta., just walkers and bikers. (Kelly VanderBeek for CBC Sports)

“She’s following me, basically. She’s 100 per cent here for me, so that’s pretty good,” he said with a smile. “She’s always on the bike, following me, giving me my fuelling. Even in Vancouver and training camps, she’s there, on her bike.” 

Professionally, Mathieu is an accountant (CPA) and his wife is in human resources, both with Deloitte. “We’re pretty lucky,” Mathieu says as they work mostly from home, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

WATCH | How Mathieu Bilodeau has adjusted to life during the pandemic:

Race walker Mathieu Bilodeau of Canmore, Alta., was on an airplane that was about to take off when the COVID-19 lockdown changed his itinerary. 6:22

In essence, not much has changed for Mathieu other than having to stay home and spend more time walking. 

“With this virus, maybe it’s a gift. I have more time now,” he says smiling. Although, he went on to describe training in Canmore, Alta., as  difficult.

Putting in the long hours of sport-specific training is still a new concept for this lover of cross-training. (Kelly VanderBeek for CBC Sports)

“Every time I look at my watch I’m like, ‘oh my god, I’m so slow, why?’ Then I load my route on my apps, and I’m like ‘ok, I was climbing pretty intense!'”  

Bilodeau says for him to get better at his sport, he needs more focus, and the fact that the games have been pushed back may benefit him in the long term.

“I’m not close to [Canadian race walking star] Evan [Dunfee] yet, but with an extra year, I think maybe we can prove that we Canadians can be the best walkers on the planet,” he said.

“I’m just trying to put all the chances on my side, and if Tokyo happens, I will have better tools and better volume in the specific way of walking.” 

Hitting his stride, Mathieu’s sights continue to be firmly set on his walk toward Tokyo. Now, it’s just a longer road than expected.

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Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies, a former refugee, helping raise funds for UN relief

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies says his message to young players is “just be themselves.”

“Every time they step on the field, play hard and know how to play with a smile on your face because when you play with a smile on your face, that’s when you play your best,” he told a Bayern Munich video news conference Tuesday. “Don’t worry about what’s going happen, just be in the moment, enjoy it.”

The 19-year-old from Edmonton said he welcomes being a role model to young kids and wants to put his platform to good use.

Davies joined AC Milan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who like Davies came to Canada as a refugee, in a soccer video-game contest on the weekend to raise COVID-19 relief funds for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN agency with the mandate to protect and help refugees.

Asked about playing real games behind closed doors because of the global pandemic, Davies said “if it happens, it’s just going to be different.”

“The fans are part of us but it’s for the safety of everyone, I guess. So I don’t really mind it,” he added.

Bundesliga teams are back training, under physical distancing conditions, and the league hopes to restart in May.

Davies signed a new deal earlier this month that will keep the Canadian international with the German powerhouse through 2025.

WATCH | Davies’ goal sparks Canada upset over U.S.:

Teenage sensation Alphonso Davies scored in Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States in Toronto. 1:17

Asked about his progress at left back, Davies deflected the praise.

“On a personal standpoint I’m proud of my achievement but I think right now it’s all because of the team I’m with. The team is playing well. Everyone’s playing well. And I also have a world-class left back (David Alaba) next to me, helping me out as well.”

Alaba, an Austrian international, has shifted to central defender at Bayern.

A former winger, Davies says he is enjoying playing left back and doesn’t anticipate changing positions.

He said his German is “coming along” but will require a lot more lessons to perfect the language.

He said the player he looked up to the most is Lionel Messi, with Cristiano Ronaldo another top talent.

Quizzed on fellow Canadian Jonathan David, Davies said the high-scoring Gent forward “has a lot of qualities.”

David has been linked with a move to Germany from Belgium.

“I think if he moved over here there’d be no problem for him to play at this level,” Davies said.

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‘Everybody is susceptible’: Why younger Canadians may be helping fuel the spread of COVID-19

Younger Canadians represent one in three of all reported COVID-19 cases, and experts say they could be unknowingly accelerating the spread of the virus in Canada and around the world.

Of the 4,186 COVID-19 cases for which the Public Health Agency of Canada has provided epidemiological data, 29 per cent are aged 20 to 39 and four per cent are under 19 — meaning one-third of cases in Canada involve people who are younger than 40.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Sunday that those under 40 made up about 12 per cent of hospitalized cases

“This statistic is important because it shows that younger age groups are also experiencing illness severe enough to require hospitalization,” Tam tweeted

Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a global health law professor at York University, said that while the rates of hospitalization and death for younger Canadians are lower than older age groups, they’re not insignificant.

“It’s not even close to zero,” he said. “Twelve per cent is still a significant number that should make any younger person stop and pause to recognize that this represents a threat not only to elder members of our society, but to everyone.” 

A food courier is seen wearing a mask in downtown Toronto on March 26. Experts say young people may be catalysts for spreading infection more widely. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Hoffman said communicating the risks of dangerous activities to young people who think they’re “invincible” is always a challenge, but the damage in ignoring containment measures like physical distancing and self-isolation can have devastating effects.

“It’s just amplified during a pandemic because usually it’s young people who, in ignoring understanding of risk, are endangering themselves and themselves alone,” he said. 

“In this context, young people’s actions also can put other people at risk, especially the more older people that they come in contact with.” 

All age groups at risk of COVID-19

Dr. Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said it’s important for younger people to remember we’ve never encountered this new coronavirus, so we’ve built up no immunity to it.

“Everybody is susceptible,” he said. “Everybody.” 

A man wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19 is seen in downtown Toronto on March 26, 2020. Canadians under 40 make up about 12 per cent of COVID-19 cases in hospital. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Deonandan said a misconception that older age groups are solely susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19 came from early data on China’s cases, which showed elderly people — particularly those who smoked — were more likely to have bad outcomes.

“But by the time it made it to Europe, it was shifting dramatically,” Deonandan said. “In Europe, we’re seeing people being hospitalized a lot in their 30s, 40s and 50s and dying in that age group as well.” 

Deonandan said one of the key underlying vulnerabilities that puts every age group at risk is respiratory impairment, especially in people with conditions such as obesity, diabetes and asthma.

“That’s almost everyone,” he said. “I know people in their 20s and 30s who are a little overweight, who smoke, who vape, who enjoy inhaling marijuana — all of these things compromise your lung function sufficiently to make you vulnerable.” 

What role do children play in the spread of COVID-19? 

Hoffman said that while youth under 19 only make up about four per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada, they may be catalysts for spreading infection more widely because they interact with more people on a daily basis than the general population.

“There is a reason why school closures are one of the first things that happen in a pandemic,” he said. “Schools are a place where social networks collide.” 

Hoffman said students from different social circles come into close contact with peers and teachers daily, meaning that if a virus were to spread in a school it would quickly jump to many different groups.

“Young people actually play a disproportionate role in infectious disease spread,” he said. “And the expectation is that that trend would continue for COVID-19.”

Hoffman said teenagers and young adults may also be driving the spread of the virus to older age groups in places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard in the pandemic, with more than 100,000 cases and 12,000 deaths.

“Of course, in Italy, the big story has been about the elderly because it’s the second-oldest country in the world after Japan and we’ve seen that toll in Italian hospitals,” he said.

“But another part of that story is how has it spread so quickly? And there’s been a lot of discussion and hypotheses about the role that young people have played in actually transmitting it even though they themselves haven’t been as severely affected.” 

Dr. Alyson Kelvin says research shows children may pose a significant risk in the spread of COVID-19 to older age groups. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

One peer-reviewed study released early in the journal Pediatrics this month looked at 731 confirmed cases and 1,412 suspected cases of COVID-19 among children aged two to 13 in China.

Researchers concluded that 50.9 per cent of the children had mild symptoms, 38.8 per cent had moderate symptoms and 4.4 per cent were completely asymptomatic.

Another smaller study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases retroactively tested 36 children in the same households of confirmed adult COVID-19 cases in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

Researchers found that more than half of the cases were mild — seven had respiratory symptoms while 10 showed no symptoms at all. 

“The data suggests that because children aren’t developing as severe disease, they could be the facilitators of transmission,” said Dr. Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “So bringing it into their homes and infecting their parents where their parents are more susceptible to getting sick.” 

Older Canadians are at significant risk of serious cases of COVID-19, but younger age groups may be putting them at more risk unknowingly. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kelvin, who is also a member of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology and part of a research team for a clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine, wrote about the significant risk children play in spreading the virus in a commentary on the study

“They actually have a higher percentage of being asymptomatic. We don’t know if they have it, so parents should stop sharing food with the kids,” she said, “and make sure there are no quarantine playdates.”

‘Need to scale up testing’ 

Even though some children in the study were asymptomatic, Kelvin said one important finding was that they still presented evidence of pneumonia in their lungs — something she thinks is particularly significant for parents. 

“If you had a child that had maybe some health issues, they could be more susceptible to hospitalization because their friends might not show that they’re infected,” she said. “But interaction might lead to something more severe in certain children.”

Hoffman said that because young people are more likely to show milder symptoms of COVID-19, they’re likely not going to hospital, being tested or being added to the daily confirmed cases in Canada and around the world.

“We need to scale up testing of whether someone has this virus,” he said, “but also whether someone had the virus and whether they’ve developed immunity.” 

Hoffman said serological testing — blood testing that can detect if someone has been infected and detect antibodies — is the next key factor in determining the true spread of COVID-19 and developing an effective treatment.

“We’re not there yet. We’ll be there soon,” he said. “And then youth will become a very important part of that.”

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