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‘I freaking love it:’ Canadian soccer superfan going for Guinness record at World Cup

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By Kelly Geraldine Malone

Lee Kormish is ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Not only is the Saskatchewan superfan finally able to watch Canada compete in the World Cup, he’s also chasing his own Guinness World Record.

“It’s not easy and it’s work, but I freaking love it,” Kormish, 44, said from the airport in Doha, Qatar, where he was waiting to pick up a crew of Canadian fans.

As the Canadian men’s soccer team marks its first appearance on the world stage since 1986, Kormish is attempting to break the record for the most attended matches at a single FIFA World Cup.

The title is currently held by South African fan Thulani Ngcobo, who went to 31 games in 2010. Kormish, if all things go according to plan, is set to attend 41 matches.

“The logistics are really crazy to try to break this record,” Kormish said.

Kormish has been planning for the record-breaking attempt for more than a year from his home in Saskatoon. He’s even been in contact with Ngcobo, who gave him support and advice.

Kormish will need time to get to each game spread across eight stadiums. He also needs two witnesses at every game to sign that he was in his seat for the entirety of game play, which means no bathroom breaks while players are on the pitch.

The hardest part was actually getting tickets, Kormish said. But he’s had practice.

Kormish has been to four previous World Cups, as well as the UEFA European Championships and the Arab Cup in Qatar last year.

Soccer fandom has been pulsing through his veins since he dropped his baseball glove to kick a ball as a teen, he said. He’s watched the Canadian team struggle time after time, but always held onto hope.

“I have been waiting for this my whole life and I have been so passionate,” Kormish said. “We’ve had so many dark times.”

Canada was a win away from qualifying in 1994 before decades of downward spirals. Canada didn’t even make it into the final round for five World Cup cycles.

Kormish said he showed up to previous World Cups with a Canadian flag and other fans from around the world told him: “Canada, you guys play hockey right?”

But that’s all changed, Kormish said, especially since John Herdman took on coaching duties for the Canadian men’s team.

“This guy is not taking anything lightly,” Kormish said. “Canada came to play.”

Kormish was able to watch Canada win 2-1 over Japan in an international friendly match on Thursday in Dubai. There were already a lot of excited Canadians in the stands, and Kormish said his emotions took over.

“Words can’t explain,” he said. “The shivers down the spine, just the shivers take over the entire body.”

Doha has been transformed into a soccer fan’s dream, with banners, posters, soccer balls and light projections of the tournament’s biggest players everywhere in the capital, Kormish said. Fans from around the world have begun trickling in and the excitement is palpable, he added.

While Kormish plans to attend a slew of games, he said the ones that will mean the most are when Canada is playing. The team faces Belgium on Wednesday.

Those games are his “heart and soul,” Kormish said.

“How cool is that? That Canada is here at the time a Canadian is going to break the Guinness record.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2022.

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COVID-19

Quebec says only people at risk who haven’t had COVID-19 should get booster dose

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Only people who are considered at risk for severe COVID-19 — and who haven’t already been infected — need to get a booster dose, Quebec’s public health director said Thursday.

The vast majority of Quebecers have hybrid immunity — protection through vaccination and through a SARS-CoV-2 infection — making regular boosters unnecessary, at least for this winter and spring, Dr. Luc Boileau told reporters.

“People with hybrid immunity … have a very good protection against a severe form of the illness,” Boileau said. “And this immunity lasts for a long enough time that we can propose changes.”

Those who have been vaccinated but haven’t contracted the virus are also protected against severe COVID-19, he said, but their immunity “has a tendency to drop with time.”

Quebec’s vaccination committee decided to focus the province’s immunization policy on preventing hospitalizations and deaths, he said. People who are 60 and older or who have chronic illnesses, health workers, pregnant women and those who live in isolated regions are among the people who should get a booster every six months — but only if they have never caught the virus, Boileau said.

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chairperson of Quebec immunization committee, said the data shows that people already vaccinated for COVID-19 who have contracted the virus “maintain their protection.”

“Adding a dose doesn’t add a lot protection for severe (illness),” she said.

Health officials estimate that more than three-quarters of Quebecers under 60 have had COVID-19 over the past three years, while about half of those over 60 have caught the virus.

Boileau said only people who are immunocompromised should continue getting boosters even if they’ve been infected, “because their immunity could be affected by their condition.”

Before Thursday’s announcement, boosters were recommended for all people considered at risk of severe COVID-19. Boileau said COVID-19 vaccines will remain available to anyone who wants one. “We won’t refuse anyone,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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Business

Senate passes Liberals’ controversial online streaming act with a dozen amendments

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By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

Big tech companies that offer online streaming services could soon be required to contribute to Canadian content as a controversial Liberal bill gets one step closer to becoming law.

The Senate has passed the online streaming act known as Bill C-11 with a dozen amendments following a lengthy study by senators.

The bill would update Canada’s broadcasting rules to reflect online streaming giants such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, and require them to contribute to Canadian content and make it accessible to users in Canada — or face steep penalties.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he hopes the House of Commons will pass the bill next week after it reviews the Senate’s changes.

Senators made amendments intended to protect user-generated content and highlight the promotion of Indigenous languages and Black content creators.

They also included a change that would prohibit CBC from producing sponsored content, and another that would require companies to verify users’ ages before they access sexually-explicit material.

Rodriguez said Thursday that the Liberal government would not accept all of the Senate’s recommendations, but he didn’t say which ones he disagrees with.

“We’ll see when the bill comes back. There are amendments that have zero impact on the bill. And others that do, and those, we will not accept them,” the minister said Thursday during a Canadian Media Producers Association panel.

The Senate also removed a clause in the bill that Sen. Paula Simons described as giving “extraordinary new powers to the government to make political decisions about things.”

Ian Scott, the former chair of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, had told a Senate committee that some provisions in the bill did move the balance point “slightly closer to lessening the independence” of the regulator — though he insisted that it would remain independent.

The CRTC, now under the leadership of Vicky Eatrides, will be tasked with enforcing the bill’s provisions.

The Senate passed the bill on the anniversary of its introduction in the House of Commons.

Between the House of Commons and Senate, there have been approximately 218 witnesses, 43 meetings, 119 briefs and 73 proposed amendments, said Rodriguez.

“It’s the longest bill,” he said.

The proposed law has come under intense scrutiny amid accusations from companies and critics who said it left too much room for government control over user-generated content and social-media algorithms.

Rodriguez said tech giants can get creative with ways they promote Canadian content, such as with billboards, advertising or, if they so choose, tweaks to their algorithms.

The bill has also caught the attention of the United States. Its embassy in Ottawa recently said that it is holding consultations with U.S. companies that it is concerned could face discrimination if the bill passes.

Last week, two U.S. senators called for a trade crackdown on Canada over Bill C-11, saying that the prospective law flouts trade agreements.

“I’m not worried, because we think it complies with trade obligations,” Rodriguez said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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