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‘Have a little compassion’: Canadians on cruise ship with 4 dead still unsure how they’ll get home

With a flu-like illness outbreak, four dead and confirmed cases of COVID-19, it’s been a horrific week for the 1,243 passengers — including 247 Canadians — stuck aboard the Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that was sailing off the coast of Panama.

Now, passengers can add more problems to the list: although Panama allowed the Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal, passengers still don’t know for certain where the cruise ship will dock, and when they’ll be able to return home. 

That’s because while the ship has plans to dock and let passengers disembark in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., county officials in the region are concerned about letting in a coronavirus-hit ship.

“They’re not wanting us there, so where are we going to go?” said passenger Cheryle Stothard of Toronto. She and her husband have been confined to their cabin for the past week, because of the illness outbreak. 

“Going through the Panama Canal is useless if we can’t get off in Florida,” said the 71-year-old.


Cheryle Stothard and husband Tony of Toronto are still aboard the Zaandam and have developed a cough and runny nose. (Submitted by Cheryle Stothard)

Since cutting short its South American cruise on March 14 due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the Zaandam has been seeking a place to dock so passengers can return home. 

On Friday, Holland America announced that 138 passengers and crew have fallen ill with “influenza-like illness symptoms,” and that four “older” passengers had died. The Zaandam is also carrying 586 crew members — one of whom is Canadian.

None of the dead is Canadian. Holland America didn’t provide a cause of death for the four passengers but said that the ship tested “a number” of patients for COVID-19 on Thursday, and two were positive.

Passengers grew hopeful on the weekend after learning that the Zaandam could pass through the Panama Canal. Late Sunday, the ship began moving through the canal.

But Holland America’s plan to then dock in Fort Lauderdale isn’t a done deal because Broward County, which includes the city, has yet to give the green light. 

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine told CBC News that the county is already overrun with COVID-19 cases — more than 1,000 to date  — so he’s apprehensive about letting in a ship that will add to its problems. 

“We’re a hotspot here. Our medical facilities are taxed,” said Udine. “If there are sick people that have to come off, I want them to be able to come off … but where are they going to go? What hospitals are going to be able to take them?”

‘Somebody’s got to let us dock’

Udine’s apprehension is upsetting for passenger Margaret Tilley, who’s desperate to return to her home in Nanaimo, B.C.

“Let’s have a little compassion,” said the 71-year-old. “It just doesn’t seem right. Somebody’s got to let us dock.” 

The Zaandam began its cruise on March 7 and had initially planned to dock on March 16 in Punta Arenas, Chile, to let passengers off early. However, the country refused to allow passengers to disembark, so the ship set course for Fort Lauderdale. 

On Saturday, Tilley and her husband were moved to the Zaandam’s sister ship, the Rotterdam. Holland America sent the ship, along with medical personnel and supplies, to rendezvous with the Zaandam and transfer “healthy” passengers to the Rotterdam.

Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.– Margaret Tilley, passenger

Both ships got permission to enter the Panama canal. Tilley said she wants Broward County to know that the healthy Canadians onboard won’t be a burden and just want to get home. 

“Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.”


The Rotterdam cruise ship joined the Zaandam on Friday to deliver medical supplies and transfer healthy passengers to the Rotterdam. (Submitted by Margaret Tilley)

Udine said that all the passengers would have to be quarantined upon arrival, because some could be asymptomatic.

“There’s a lot of things that are going to need to be worked out by this cruise ship before they simply get disembarking in Broward County.”

Udine said the county will review a plan for how Holland America will handle the situation and likely make a decision soon. 

Meanwhile, more passengers are reporting illnesses. Stothard said that she and her husband Tony have both developed a runny nose and cough. That means they must remain in their cabin, on board the Zaandam along with other ill passengers, who are in isolation. 

“We’ve got to get off,” said Stothard. “The longer we stay on here, the more cases we’re going to have.”


Passengers Chris and Anna Joiner send a message to the Canadian government asking for help while stuck on board the Zaandam. (Submitted by Chris Joiner)

Why did they go on a cruise?

Some CBC readers wondered why passengers boarded a cruise on March 7 when COVID-19 was spreading globally.

CBC News asked several Canadian passengers aboard the Zaandam this question. They responded that when they started their journey, there were very few COVID-19 cases in South America. 

The continent didn’t have any reported cases until one was confirmed in Brazil on Feb. 26. 

Some passengers also said that, when they were set to begin their trip, there was no opportunity to get a refund. 

Tilley and her husband left Nanaimo on Feb. 28 and travelled for a week in Argentina before their cruise. She said only in hindsight does she see the warning signs. 

‘[The virus] was in China,” she said about that time period. “We thought South America would be safer.”

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Trump warns if Democrats impeach, they’ll be ‘declaring war on American democracy’

On the eve of his expected impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Donald Trump accused Democrats of pursuing an “illegal, partisan attempted coup” and declaring war on American democracy as they seek to remove him from office for pressing Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

Trump’s remarks came in a fiery letter he signed addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and released as House lawmakers met to set the rules for debate ahead of Wednesday’s planned vote on two articles of impeachment — formal charges — against Trump.

“This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth,” Trump’s letter stated, alluding to the 2020 U.S. presidential election in which he is seeking another four years in office.

The U.S. Constitution gives the House the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” part of the document’s checks and balances among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.

The Democratic-led House is expected to pass two articles of impeachment charging the Republican president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his dealings with Ukraine.

“By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy,” Trump added.


House Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, a former U.S. vice president and a leading Democratic contender to oppose him in the 2020 election. Trump is also accused of obstructing the congressional investigation into the matter.

“Look, this has been a total sham from the beginning,” Trump told reporters at the White House shortly after his letter was released.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday brushed aside a Democratic request to call four current and former White House officials as witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial expected next month, sending another clear signal that he expects senators not to remove Trump from office.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused the Democrats’ request to call four current and former White House officials as witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In duelling speeches on the Senate floor, McConnell said he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process, while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a trial without witnesses would be a “sham” and suggested Trump’s fellow Republicans favoured a coverup.

Members of the House Rules Committee met on Tuesday over the rules for the debate before the historic vote set for Wednesday in the chamber in which Trump is likely to become the third U.S. president to be impeached.

If the House approves articles of impeachment as expected, it would set the stage for a trial in the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans — on whether to convict him and remove him from office. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the Constitution, and Republican senators have given little indication of changing that.

‘Fishing expedition’

Schumer has said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses: former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and budget official Michael Duffey. Schumer has argued that such testimony could sway Republicans in favour of removing Trump.

Trump has refused to co-operate with the House impeachment process and ordered current and former officials like those mentioned by Schumer not to testify or provide documents.

McConnell took aim at Schumer and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry launched in September.

“So now, the Senate Democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats’ homework for them. And he wants to volunteer the Senate’s time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make Chairman Schiff’s sloppy work more persuasive than Chairman Schiff himself bothered to make it,” McConnell said.

McConnell and Schumer both said they expected to meet very soon to discuss how to proceed.

“From everything we can tell, House Democrats’ slapdash impeachment inquiry has failed to come anywhere near — anywhere near — the bar for impeaching a duly elected president, let alone removing him for the first time in American history,” McConnell added.

The White House also indicated opposition to Schumer’s requests for the Senate trial. McConnell has previously said there is “no chance” the Senate will convict and remove Trump and that he would work in “total coordination” with the White House and Trump’s defence team.

“What is Leader McConnell afraid of? What is President Trump afraid of? The truth?” Schumer asked on the Senate floor.

“If you’re trying to conceal evidence and block testimony, it’s probably not because the evidence is going to help your case. It’s because you’re trying to cover something up,” Schumer added.

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CBC | World News

Alec Baldwin and Wife Hilaria on Whether They’ll Try For More Kids After Suffering Miscarriage (Exclusive)

Alec Baldwin and Wife Hilaria on Whether They’ll Try For More Kids After Suffering Miscarriage (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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If Raptors want it, they’ll have to take it away from Warriors

It’s an all too familiar experience for the Golden State Warriors this time of year — for five straight seasons, the basketball juggernaut from Oakland/San Francisco has been in this exact spot. 

It couldn’t be more different for the Toronto Raptors. Canada’s team is making its first-ever trip to the NBA Finals. 

This year’s NBA championship has been billed as a David-versus-Goliath matchup. The Golden State Warriors are favoured, entering this year’s NBA Finals with a back-to-back champion swagger. The Raptors, on the other hand, continue to be referred to as the little team from the North that could. Or just might. This is new territory. 

“We know who they are. We got to go out there and do our job,” veteran Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said. “This is basketball. Ain’t no pressure. It’s fun. This is amazing. It’s a great time.”

The Warriors finished the regular season with a 57-25 record, good enough for first in the Western Conference.

Toronto was a nearly identical 58-24, putting them behind only the Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) — who the Raptors dispatched in the conference final — for second-best record in the league.

Add to the fact the Raptors defeated the Warriors in both of the team’s meetings during the season and to the casual observer, the whole Raptors underdog narrative seems bizarre if not baffling. 

“I absolutely think they can win the series,” said Doug Smith, longtime Raptors reporter for the Toronto Star. “These guys are just as good as them. And the thing about these Raptors, nothing is going to faze them. They might get down a game or get down deep in a game but they’re hard and tough, grown men who have been through a lot of big games.”

WATCH | Devin Heroux previews the NBA Finals:

CBC’s Devin Heroux previews the NBA Finals between Toronto and Golden State ahead of Game 1. 2:02

The playoffs are a different beast entirely. And it’s only in the playoffs, and winning championships, that people point at to measure the success of a team. That’s why most prognosticators, pundits and fans alike are all picking the Warriors to not only win easily, but to run away with their fourth championship in five years. It’s hard to argue against any of it. 

“I don’t even know who’s picking against us,” Lowry said. “It doesn’t really matter. Everyone has their own opinion, as always. For us, we’ve just got to go out there and do our job.”

WATCH | Steph Curry on playing Finals in Toronto:

The Golden State Warriors guard spoke about returning to Toronto, where he lived while his dad Dell played for the Toronto Raptors for three seasons. 0:33

The Warriors’ been-there-done-that cast of characters seems to rise to the occasion in these pressure-packed moments and series. Led by the cool, calm and smooth-shooting Steph Curry, Golden State relishes this time of year. Curry has played in all 16 of Golden State’s playoff games so far this post-season, averaging 27.3 points per game. 

And yet for all the winning this team has done, undoubtedly in the midst of a dynasty looking to win three consecutive titles, Curry said they’ve never become complacent. 

“Everybody talks about it’s hard to find that edge and get up for, (you) find some sort of monotony — I don’t know if you find that in the Finals — that’s part of human nature that you fight,” Curry said.

It would be easy for this team not to fight, or at least become lackadaisical. Maybe the shine of winning yet another title would dull. But it’s in these moments true champions emerge. And for the past five years, the Warriors have been a model of consistent will and desire to win — that’s been the difference. 

The Warriors will also have had nine full days of rest leading into Thursday’s Game 1, compared to the four days the Raptors have had since finishing off Milwaukee on Saturday, and slightly banged up in the process. Lowry has been nursing an injured hand and Kawhi Leonard has played through a sore knee.

WATCH | Kyle Lowry on similarities of Leonard and Green:

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry discusses what makes Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green such great defenders. 0:35

When you contrast the Warriors’ past five playoff appearances with the Raptors; last five playoff performances, it becomes clearer why many aren’t picking Canada’s team to put up much of a fight. 

Here’s how the previous four playoff appearances have gone for the Raptors:

  • 2014 — Lose first round in seven games to the Brooklyn Nets.
  • 2015 — Lose first round in four straight to the Washington Wizards.
  • 2016 — Lose Eastern Conference final in six to LeBron James and the Cavs.
  • 2017 — Lose second round in four straight to the Cavs.
  • 2018 — Lose second round in four straight to the Cavs.

There’s been nothing but misery and disappointment, mostly at the hand of King James. For three consecutive seasons, LeBron was the Raptors’ kryptonite. So much of Raptors history has been defined by missed shots and opportunities, and star players leaving the team. 

Times have changed though. James left for the Lakers (much to the delight of the Raps and the Warriors for that matter, who faced James the past four finals).


Kawhi Leonard has been nicknamed the King of the North. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

A new king has emerged and breathed new life into Toronto.

Leonard is having one of the greatest playoff performances in the history of the game and has been nicknamed the King of the North. He leads the NBA post-season in total minutes played (696), points scored (561), free throws made (133), and steals (28).

“He said something to the effect of these first 82 are just practice and I thought, OK, he’s getting ready to throw it into another gear here pretty soon,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of his star.

Leonard has given basketball fans in Canada reason to believe. In fact, this entire playoff run has been an exercise in exorcizing franchise demons of the past. And Leonard has been leading Toronto through it all. 

“I don’t care about being the best player, I want to be the best team,” Leonard said following the Game 6 victory over the Bucks. “We’re in the finals and we’re not done yet.”

WATCH | Nick Nurse on making adjustments:

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse speaks to the media on NBA Finals media day. 1:11

The stars have been aligning throughout this magical playoff run for the Raptors. And it culminated in one of the great nights in Toronto sporting history last Saturday when the team defeated the Bucks. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets after the 100-94 series-clinching win, chanting, cheering and celebrating into the night. 

And while the Raptors franchise has never been to an NBA Finals before, they have a finals MVP in Leonard to lean on. He guided the San Antonio Spurs to a championship in 2014.

Couple that with Golden State missing forward Kevin Durant for Thursday’s opener due to an injury, and things get just a little more interesting. All of this to say, there’s a chance. 

And Raptors fans know it. 

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