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Ontario personal support worker is first Canadian to get dose of COVID-19 vaccine 

An Ontario long-term care worker became the first person in Canada to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, kicking off an immunization campaign expected to last the better part of a year.

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place in Toronto,  sat down for her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortly after 12 p.m. ET.

The shot was administered at a site in the University Health Network, a system of hospitals and health-care facilities throughout the city. The exact location is being withheld for security reasons, the province says. 

Quidangen was one of five front-line health professionals slated to get a first dose of the vaccine, which arrived by plane in Hamilton from the United States last night. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses several weeks apart.

“This is a watershed moment — the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain on our guard.”

WATCH | Toronto personal support worker becomes first Canadian to get a COVID-19 vaccine:

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker in Toronto, became the first person in Canada to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020. 0:44

Ford also specifically acknowledged Quidangen, who has been a personal support worker since 1988 and often did double-shifts during the pandemic to care for residents. 

“Anita has spent years rolling up her sleeves to protect our province, and today, she didn’t hesitate to find a new way to do so,” Ford said.

The other health-care workers to receive the first dose of vaccine today were:

  • Cecile Lasco, personal support worker. 
  • Derek Thompson, personal support worker. 
  • Lucky Aguila, registered practical nurse. 
  • Colette Cameron, registered nurse. 

Cecile Lasco, a personal support worker with decades of experience, was the second person in Canada to be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Speaking to CBC News Network this morning, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, called it “an incredible day.

“I think there’s a little trickle down the spine of every single person in the province and in the public service and in the health sector who have been working for months, who have been fighting COVID-19,” he continued.

WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier on the arrival of first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Ontario:

Retired general Rick Hillier, head of Ontario’s vaccine task force, calls the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine ‘an incredible day.’ ‘We’re on the way out of the abyss,’ he said.   0:50

Ford was on hand at Hamilton International Airport on Sunday to greet the UPS plane carrying the vaccine when it landed, marking a major milestone in the massive immunization campaign about to begin in earnest.

“Today’s milestone officially launches the first phase of our three-phase vaccine implementation plan to keep Ontarians safe and marks the beginning of the long journey to return life back to normal,” he said today.

Some 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are going to the UHN, while another 3,000 will go to The Ottawa Hospital.

An additional 85,000 or so doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to be provided to 14 hospital sites in Ontario regions currently in the red and lockdown levels of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions system by the end of the year.

Health-care workers, long-term care residents and their caregivers will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health-care will also be priority groups, the Ministry of Health has said.

The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses — allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people — during the first three months of 2021, with vaccines becoming more broadly available to the general public in April. It will take another six to nine months to immunize all Ontarians who opt to get the vaccine.

“I encourage everyone to be patient. This is the biggest immunization program in a century, and our vaccine supply will arrive in stages,” Ford said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrive at Hamilton International Airport last night. (Government of Ontario)

Meanwhile, this morning Ontario reported another 1,940 cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths from the illness.

The new cases include 544 in Toronto, 390 in Peel Region, 191 in York Region, 134 in Hamilton and 114 in Windsor-Essex.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Waterloo Region: 71
  • Durham Region: 68
  • Halton Region: 64
  • Niagara Region: 58
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 47
  • Ottawa: 45
  • Middlesex-London: 43
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 33
  • Eastern Ontario: 27
  • Southwestern: 26
  • Brant County: 13
  • Huron Perth: 12
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 11
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

The Ministry of Education also reported 137 new cases that are school-related: 114 students and 23 staff members. Some 889 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 18.4 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 18 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

The new cases bring the seven-day average to 1,841.

There are currently 16,586 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide.

Ontario’s network of labs processed 57,091 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.6 per cent, the highest it has been in about a week. 

Moreover, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness increased 44 up to 857. Of those, 244 are being treated in intensive care and 149 require the use of a ventilator.

The 23 additional deaths bring the official toll to 3,972.

York, Windsor-Essex move into lockdown

As of today, York and Windsor-Essex have joined Toronto and Peel in the lockdown level. 

It means indoor public events, dining in restaurants and bars, and close personal care services are off-limits, indoor sports facilities must close, and non-essential retail is limited to curbside pickup.

Five other regional health units are also tightening restrictions today.

Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph move to the red “control” zone, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit moves to orange “restrict,” while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark shifts to yellow “protect.”

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Ex-U.S. embassy worker suspected of sexually assaulting 24 women

A former U.S. embassy worker in Mexico is believed to have drugged and sexually assaulted as many as two dozen women, filming many of them while they were unconscious, according to federal prosecutors.

Brian Jeffrey Raymond was arrested earlier this month in San Diego, where he had moved after leaving his job in June. He has been charged in one case involving an alleged assault on May 31 and prosecutors say they anticipate more charges involving 23 other women.

The FBI started investigating after Mexican police responding to a call May 31 found a woman naked and screaming from the balcony of an embassy-leased apartment in Mexico City.

Investigators found more than 400 photos and videos on Raymond’s iCloud account in which he appears to be filming unconscious women, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say they now have evidence for charges involving 23 other alleged victims.

Raymond has worked for the U.S. government for 23 years in numerous countries, according to court documents. Prosecutors did not specify what position he held in Mexico other than to say he was working for a U.S. government agency at the embassy.

Roberto Velasco, director general of North America in Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Raymond was the first secretary of the United States, a mid-level diplomatic post.

Mexican authorities collaborated with U.S. officials on the investigation that led to Raymond’s arrest “in order to bring to justice a potential series of sexual abuses that occurred in both countries,” Velasco said in a statement.

The Mexican government emphasized “its categorical rejection of any form of gender violence,” Velasco said.

Photos and videos found

Raymond has not entered a plea and his defence attorney did not immediately respond to phone messages and emails from The Associated Press requesting comment. The Daily Beast first reported on the charges.

Neither embassy nor State Department officials would comment on the case.

Raymond left his job in mid-June after he was questioned about the May 31 incident and his cellphones and lap top were seized, according to court documents.

Mexican police reported finding a “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help from the defendant’s balcony,” according to prosecutors. Raymond had been living there since August 2018.

The victim told investigators she had no idea that Raymond was filming her or that he had pulled down her bra, exposing her breasts.

The 23 other victims were discovered after investigators found hundreds of photos and videos, according to court documents.

If convicted, Raymond could face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, Raymond has “led an exemplary life” from all outward appearances, according to prosecutors.

“The fact that many victims in defendant’s case were unaware of his behavior until they were shown the videos and photographs made while they were unconscious is evidence of his unique ability to portray a very different public face,” prosecutors said in their court filings.

He continued to meet with women until September of this year in San Diego, according to court documents.

Raymond remains in custody in San Diego, though the case is being transferred to Washington. His preliminary hearing has been delayed until Dec. 14 because the coronavirus pandemic has impeded his new defence attorney’s ability to travel and meet with him.

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Long-term care worker among 2 new COVID-19 cases in Campbellton region linked to doctor

A long-term care worker is among two new cases of COVID-19 in northern New Brunswick linked to a family doctor who contracted the coronavirus outside the province and didn’t self-isolate when he returned.

That brings the cluster of active COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region to eight — three of them health-care workers, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced on Friday.

She said she didn’t have any information about which facility the latest confirmed worker, who is in their 30s, works at or in what capacity.

But it is a caregiver at the Manoir de la Vallée in the neighbouring village of Atholville, confirmed Guy Tremblay, president and general director of Groupe Lokia, which owns the special care home for seniors.

About 100 people, including 57 residents, could have been exposed before the night worker was diagnosed on Thursday, Tremblay said.

Rapid testing at the facility is underway and expected to be completed later Friday, Russell told reporters during a news conference in Fredericton.

All residents have also been isolated, she said.

The other new case is someone in their 60s.

Contact tracing shows people living outside the Campbellton region are in the circle of transmission, Russell said.

So the virus “could easily spread to other regions,” she said, urging people across the province to continue to be vigilant.

The Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville has an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

The doctor linked to the cases and who may have exposed at least 150 other people to the coronavirus has been suspended, the president and CEO of the Vitalité Health Network has confirmed.

The doctor, who is in his 50s, caught the virus when he recently travelled to Quebec. He then returned to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital without self-isolating for the mandatory 14 days.

Vitalité Health Network president and CEO Gilles Lanteigne said he expects 500 people in the Campbellton region to be tested for COVID-19 within the next couple of days. (CBC)

Two of the eight people in the Campbellton region who have tested positive for COVID-19 are now in intensive care, Gilles Lanteigne said Friday morning. Both patients are in stable condition, according to Russell.

The doctor’s child is among the positive cases, Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed. The child attended two daycares in the region before being diagnosed.

The other cases include two people in their 90s, someone under 19 and someone in their 40s.

Could be ‘exponential rise’ in numbers

On Friday morning, Russell told CBC’s News Network it’s a “rapidly evolving situation,” and there could be an “exponential rise in the number of cases very quickly.”

Initial contact tracing indicated at least 150 people were potentially exposed to the infected doctor, including 50 health-care workers at the Campbellton Regional Hospital and 100 people in the community.

But Russell noted that was just the “first round” of contact tracing.

WATCH | N.B.’s chief medical officer of health says probe into new cluster ongoing:

Dr. Jennifer Russell calls for people to reserve judgment until an investigation into an outbreak in Campbellton linked to a doctor who didn’t self-isolate is complete. 12:15

“As each new case is diagnosed, there’s another round,” she said.

With three of the cases being health-care workers, “this can be very widespread.”

Test offered to anyone in Campbellton who wants it

COVID-19 testing is being offered to anyone in the Campbellton region who wants it, starting today.

There are about 25,000 people in the region, also known as health Zone 5.

Test sites have been set up at the Memorial Civic Centre in Campbellton and the Dalhousie Inch Arran Ice Palace.

People don’t need to have symptoms to be tested, but must call Tele-Care 811 to get an appointment.

The region extends from Whites Brook to the Village of Belledune, including Tide Head, Atholville, Campbellton, Dalhousie, Eel River Dundee, Eel River Bar First Nation, Balmoral and Charlo.

The closure of the Campbellton Regional Hospital’s ER and cancellation of all non-urgent or elective health-care services will continue until early next week ‘due to the high risk of transmission of COVID-19,’ Vitalité Health Network said. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

On Wednesday, the premier announced a medical professional had travelled to Quebec for personal reasons, “was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick, and they did not self-isolate as a result.”

This professional then saw patients for two weeks at the Campbellton Regional Hospital and possibly other locations.

Higgs described the person’s actions as “irresponsible.”

Until last week, New Brunswick had no active cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. All 120 people infected since the pandemic began in March had recovered.

To date, 24,169 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the province.

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As B.C. stays firm, Alberta offers ‘cohort quarantine,’ seeks essential worker status for NHL players

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants the federal government to help clear the way for NHL players to come to Edmonton.

His counterpart in British Columbia, John Horgan, says his province isn’t interested in making any concessions.

The two premiers had markedly different responses to the NHL’s plan to resume the 2019-20 season, in which teams would play at two hub cities, one for each conference.

Edmonton and Vancouver, as well as Toronto, are three of the 10 cities still in the running to be host cities, should the plan come to fruition. But the NHL said Tuesday the Canadian government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country would make markets north of the 49th parallel a non-starter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney responded by sending a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he encouraged the federal government to deem professional athletes and team staff as essential workers — similar to what U.S. officials announced late last week.

“Such an exemption from the Canadian government would be necessary for (Edmonton’s) bid,” Kenney wrote. “The Government of Alberta believes there are effective strategies in place to mitigate any risk to our province if such an exemption was granted.”

Alberta: Cohort quarantine

Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the province was working on alternatives that would still observe the 14-day quarantine.

“What we’ve put together is an opportunity for a cohort quarantine, which would mean that a group that came in from international travel, such as an individual team, would have to stay together in that quarantine period and would not be able to interact with others outside of that cohort group,” she said. “They would be effectively sealed off from the rest of the community.”

“I want to be clear we’re not talking about waiving the quarantine requirements,” Hinshaw added.

Depending on how long training camps were should the season resume, teams could feasibly conduct their camps under cohort quarantine before facing off against other teams.

B.C.: ‘Rules in place’

Horgan has been vocal about Vancouver as a hub in the past, but struck a more cautious tone than his Alberta counterpart Wednesday.

Horgan’s comments have been in line with Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, who said the government won’t be making any concessions in a jurisdiction that has done well to minimize infections.

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid and Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes when the two teams met in December. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

“We have rules in place today that we worked very hard to establish,” Horgan said.

“Because the NHL made an announcement that involved Vancouver, we’re not going to go rushing to change that. Two weeks from now, four weeks from now, it could be a completely different situation provided we continue to see the progress that we’ve seen here in British Columbia.

“I don’t want to rule out the NHL coming here. They haven’t presented a plan to us … When I talked to commissioner (Gary) Bettman, I said Dr. Henry was enthusiastic about looking at a plan and we haven’t seen one yet.”

“Today there’s a 14-day, self-isolation period in place and I expect that will be there for the foreseeable future.”

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Sask. man with cerebral palsy says government social worker suggested divorce to restore disability payments

A Saskatoon man, who lost his provincial disability payments when his wife became eligible for a federal pension and benefit, says a government social worker suggested he get a divorce to restore his payments — something the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services says is against policy. 

Allen Hall is appealing to Social Services Minister Paul Merriman to intervene in his case, saying he and his wife have fallen into a loophole that has left their household short around $ 800 per month. The minister declined to comment citing privacy reasons.

Hall and his wife Marianne are both in wheelchairs because they have cerebral palsy. 

He said his payments under the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID) program were cut in September after his wife turned 65, when she switched to a national pension plan. 

But Hall, who is 56, will not be eligible for a pension for another nine years. He said he will be eligible for spousal payments through his wife’s pension plan when he turns 60.

Hall says he believes fewer couples with disabilities get married because of complications with their benefits. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

“My disability is still the same. My age doesn’t qualify me for anything under the federal system, so they’re basically telling me for the next four years you have to live on the good graces of your wife,” said Hall. 

Hall was receiving about $ 660 a month from the SAID program, while Marianne was receiving about $ 1,100 a month from SAID. They also received an allowance from the province for water and electricity bills.   

She [social worker] made a suggestion that I get a divorce just so I can stay on the SAID program.​– Allen Hall, Saskatoon resident

Hall said he was cut from the program in late September when Marianne turned 65 and began getting the Old Age Security pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit.

Her total monthly payment through the pension is now about $ 240 less for the household. With Hall cut off too, they will not receive help from the province for power and water bills. Hall expects they will be about $ 800 shorter per month than when he was on SAID. 

“I’m expected to live with nothing, nothing, no money for myself, no money to pay the bills,” he said.

On Sept. 1, 2017, the Ministry of Social Services stopped providing SAID payments for anyone who starts receiving payments through the Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement programs.  

SAID recipients have previously raised concerns about the change. In 2018, another Saskatoon couple said it would leave them with about $ 1,000 less per month. They feared it could leave them homeless and unable to pay their medical bills when they turn 65. 

Hall said the same policy has been unfairly applied to him long before he is old enough for federal pension payments. He said he won’t be eligible for a spousal allowance through Marianne’s programs for another four years. 

He said a social worker at the Ministry of Social Services suggested that the couple get a divorce so he could stay on the SAID program. 

“I am Roman Catholic and under the rules of our church, if you divorce, you can’t even receive the holy sacrament. Once you break one of their sacraments, which marriage is … it’s not an option,” Hall said.  

The ministry said it is not its policy to advise clients on changes in marital status.

Hall believes situations like his are one reason people with disabilities do not marry as often — because of the “paperwork snafu.”

He appealed to the minister to intervene, investigate his case and revisit the legislation. 

“What would you do if you were in a wheelchair and forced through no fault of your own to live with … less and not have anything to live on, to feel like you had dignity, which is what the SAID program was set up to do — to provide dignity and respect to those people living with a disability,” Hall said. 

No comment

A statement from the ministry said it cannot comment on Hall’s case — or the issue of spouses of pension recipients losing their SAID payments — for privacy reasons. 

“Under SAID regulations, income is to be deducted from benefits unless the income is specifically exempted in the regulations,” said Jeff Redekop, executive director of the ministry’s Income Assistance Service Delivery in a written response to questions. 

“Payments such as Old Age Security or Guaranteed Income Supplement that are intended to pay for the same basic needs as provincial income support programs are not exempted. When non-exempted income is received, SAID benefit amounts are adjusted commensurate with the amount of income received.”

Redekop said the overall amount of income a person or family receives each month should remain about the same under the process, as long as there are no other changes to eligibility such as a change in family size.

Planning to appeal decision

“Provincial income support programs are ‘last resort’ programs, and by design do not duplicate benefits paid by other programs for the same purpose,” said Redekop. 

“The Ministry is unable to provide you with additional policy information pertaining to the removal of an individual from an income assistance program due to a person’s spouse transitioning to federal pension benefit programs because we do not have a policy of this nature.

“The Ministry is only concerned with the federal pension benefit to the extent that it would have an impact on the budget deficit calculation for a family.”

In June, Hall tried to appeal the decision but said he was asked to wait because Social Services was going through program changes. 

Now, he is waiting for a written confirmation of the ministry’s decision before he launches his appeal, but said he is already behind in his bill payments because of the loss of income. 

He said he has spoken to a lawyer and plans to apply for a court injunction to try to force the province to continue his payments while the appeal is in process.

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East Congo villagers kill Ebola health worker, loot clinic

A mob in eastern Congo killed an Ebola health worker and looted a clinic, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, underscoring a breakdown in public trust that is hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus.

Attacks on treatment centres by armed groups and mistrust among residents who view the disease as a conspiracy have become major impediments to containing Congo’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak.

The hemorrhagic fever has so far killed 1,281 people, according to the latest ministry figures, and shows no signs of slowing its spread, with dozens of new cases a week.

The ministry said that on Saturday residents of the village of Vusahiro, in the Mabalako district, “rose up and attacked the local Ebola response team, made up of village residents who were trained to carry out certain response activities.”

A hygienist from the infection prevention and control team died of his injuries when he was transferred to hospital, it said.

Responders, healthcare workers, and community members are increasingly subjected to threats from armed groups in hotspots such as Katwa and Butembo, the World Health Organization says, complicating efforts to contain Ebola.

U.N. officials say that stopping targeted attacks on health workers requires untangling deep-rooted political problems in eastern Congo. Dialogue has led to a recent reduction in large-scale attacks on health workers, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

Still, an uphill battle remains. Between January and early May, there were 42 attacks on health facilities, with 85 workers either injured or killed, according to WHO figures from May 3.

Health workers have been attacked six times in the last eight days, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the closing session of the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday.

“These attacks demonstrate that the ongoing Ebola outbreak is more than a health crisis,” he said. “Ending it takes a coordinated and strengthened effort across the U.N. system…with strong leadership from the government.”

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Matt Bomer Hires a Migrant Worker to Be His Friend in ‘Papi Chulo’ Trailer (Exclusive)

Matt Bomer Hires a Migrant Worker to Be His Friend in ‘Papi Chulo’ Trailer (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Sask. AIDS worker calls for more drug pipes to combat high HIV rates

An AIDS support worker in Saskatchewan says pipes should be more available to drug users if the province wants to reduce HIV rates that are among the highest in North America.

Jason Mercredi of AIDS Saskatoon said there aren't any pipes available as a means of harm reduction in Saskatchewan. The province says that is because local organization's assessments have not indicated a need.

The pipes can be used to smoke crack cocaine and methamphetamine. Acquiring HIV from a pipe is less likely because the disease has been exposed to air. HIV can live longer in a needle because it's a sealed container. The hope is, if pipes are more available, drug users would use them to get high instead of needles.

"The chance of getting HIV or passing on HIV through a meth pipe is very slim," Mercredi said. "The rate drops quite a bit."

Saskatchewan has consistently been plagued by high rates of HIV infection. Rates in 2016 — the most recent available data — were more than 10 times the national average in some areas. Nearly 80 per cent of people with HIV in the province are Indigenous.

The province currently provides $ 562,000 annually for drug harm reduction programs to different organizations. Some programs provide needles, syringes, and education support to substance users, while others have naloxone kits and condoms.

Saskatchewan doesn't have a safe injection site, although Dr. Denise Werker, the province's deputy chief medical health officer, said there have been discussions about creating them in Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

We need other solutions that are getting to the roots because we don't want to see revolving generation of generation not healing and being well.– Margaret Poitras, CEO of All Nations Hope

Pipes are being provided in other parts of the country.

Kero Sakeub, with the AIDS Committee of Toronto, said safe injection sites in that city often have pipes available.

"Pipes are a safer option over snorting and injections," Sakeub said. "Simply because there's no blood involved and it's just saliva and you can't just get HIV from saliva."

Sakeub did note that hepatitis is easily transmissible through sharing a pipe.

Maxime Blanchette, a social worker with L'Actuel sexual health clinic in Montreal, said smoking drugs instead of injecting helps people kick their addiction.

"They're alive. They're feeling well with using the pipes instead of the needles," Blanchette said. "They're more ready to decrease the consumption."

But Shelley Marshall, a public health nurse with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, noted that while it is very unlikely to spread HIV, there is no evidence handing out pipes helps with infection rates.

"There's no hard evidence that distributing pipes reduces HIV," said Marshall, adding users are more likely to acquire hepatitis from sharing pipes.

Werker said providing pipes is something the ministry would consider depending on funding. She added it's only recently there's been in increased interest in the use of crystal meth pipes, specifically.

"Certainly there is a recognition that we still need to do more," Werker said. "We are undertaking a jurisdictional scan of harm reduction programs, specifically around the use of pipes, and learning from what other provinces have done."

Margaret Poitras, CEO of All Nations Hope, a Regina-based AIDS organization, said having more pipes available in the province would help, but it's not the only solution.

"We have to balance out those kinds of solutions with solutions that are getting to the root causes of what we're seeing with Indigenous people," Poitras said.

"We need other solutions that are getting to the roots because we don't want to see revolving generation of generation not healing and being well."

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U.K. health-care worker arrested on suspicion of murdering 8 babies

British police arrested a female health-care worker Tuesday on suspicion of murdering eight babies and trying to kill six others at a hospital neonatal unit in northwestern England.

Detectives began investigating the deaths of babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester more than a year ago on the unit that cares for premature babies and infants needing special care, after the hospital reported a higher than expected mortality rate that it could not explain. 

The hospital asked police to "rule out unnatural causes of death."

The investigation initially focused on the deaths of eight babies. Police said Tuesday that the force is now investigating the deaths of 17 babies and 15 "non-fatal collapses" at the unit between March 2015 and July 2016.

'Significant step forward'

Cheshire Constabulary said officers arrested a female "health-care professional" Tuesday on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. The force did not identify the woman or give details of her job.

Det.-Insp. Paul Hughes said the arrest was a "significant step forward" in a "highly complex and very sensitive investigation."

"We recognize that this investigation has a huge impact on all of the families, staff, and patients at the hospital as well as members of the public. Parents of all the babies are continuing to be kept fully updated and are being supported throughout the process by specially trained officers," Hughes said.

"This is an extremely difficult time for all the families and it is important to remember that, at the heart of this, there are a number of bereaved families seeking answers as to what happened to their children."

After the spike in deaths, the hospital stopped delivering babies before 32 weeks of pregnancy, transferring the expectant mothers to other hospitals.

Before police were called in, a review by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health found staffing gaps at the hospital for high-dependency and some intensive-care patients, but no definitive explanation for the baby deaths.

Hospital medical director Ian Harvey said "asking the police to look into this was not something we did lightly, but we need to do everything we can to understand what has happened here and get the answers we and the families so desperately want."

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