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COVID-19

How do you like the new Question Period in Canada’s Virtual Parliament?

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Canadians have become accustomed to thinking of Parliament as a rather harsh working environment.  That’s because over the years we’ve watched politicians shouting each other down, insulting each other, and on occasion even threatening each other.  In more recent days many of us have taken to online meeting portals in waves for our daily meetings with work colleagues and contacts.

Well Parliament is now in session online and the early results are somewhere in-between each of the above examples.   There doesn’t seem to be nearly the amount of heckling as there normally is, but it’s certainly not as polite as most of our online business meetings.

If you haven’t seen an example yet, check out this video of Question Period in Canada’s Virtual Parliament.  In this video MP Rachael Harder of Lethbridge has some pointed questions about the new federal gun ban and the federal recovery package for agriculture.

What do you think?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  Remember to keep it Parliamentary!

 

Bruce Cockburn gives thumbs up to cover of perfect song for Mental Health Week

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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COVID-19

Nova Scotia judge sues chief judge, provincial court over Covid vaccine status and judicial independence

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News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is providing for the legal representation of Judge Rickcola Brinton of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia in a lawsuit against The Honorable Pamela S. Williams, former Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, among others. Brinton was threatened by Williams with suspension and referral to the provincial Judicial Council after she chose not to disclose her Covid vaccination status in late 2021. She filed her claim in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on September 29, 2023, seeking damages for the intentional violation of her judicial independence and medical privacy.

On September 29, 2021, Brinton received an email (sent to all judges of the Nova Scotia Provincial Court) from Judge Williams, then Chief Judge, asking if they would agree to share their vaccination status with each other. Chief Judge Williams also asked whether the Court should share that information with the Nova Scotia Bar.

On October 1, 2021, Brinton replied, “I realize I may be in the minority…as I have concerns with medical privacy,” she wrote. “I also know that the vaccination mandates and passports may be disproportionately impacting racialized communities. And as an essential service, will we be creating a two-tiered society for those who already feel as though we are not all free to serve them?” She thus declined to disclose her vaccination status.

In an effort to persuade her, Chief Judge Williams met with Brinton on October 7, 2021. Brinton explained that her decision not to disclose her vaccination status was a matter of conscience and the result of prayerful contemplation. She offered to get tested for Covid as often as needed, but Chief Judge Williams rejected Brinton’s proposal.

At the end of October, Brinton went on short-term disability leave. She submitted the required Proof of Illness form completed by her doctor.

On November 1, 2021, Chief Judge Williams sent out an email to all judges stating that “only fully vaccinated judges will be assigned to sit in our courtrooms.” Four days later, on November 25, 2021, she issued a public statement announcing that “[a]ll Provincial Court judges presiding in courtrooms, both now and in the future, are fully vaccinated.”

A few months later, on February 22, 2022, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton stating that she would not approve the continuation of the short-term leave unless Brinton provided evidence of her disability. She also wrote that if Brinton continued to refuse to disclose her vaccination status, she would be “considered non-vaccinated and unable to preside over in-person trial and sentencings in the Court Room,” and that she would have “no recourse other than to suspend [Brinton] and refer the matter to the Judicial Council.”

Then, on March 27, 2022, without warning or Brinton’s consent, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton’s doctor requesting that he supply her with details of Brinton’s medical issues. The doctor called Brinton to ask if she consented to this disclosure of medical information. She did not consent. The Chief Judge’s office followed up by calling the doctor’s office to once again ask for disclosure consent. Again, Brinton declined. Meanwhile, Brinton had provided necessary information to her disability benefits provider and had been approved for long-term disability.

Brinton has not received any communication from Chief Judge Williams since April 2022. Williams’ term as Chief Judge ended in August 2023. She continues to sit on the bench.

Judicial independence is a crucial and ancient constitutional principle, predating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Brinton raised concerns about interference with medical privacy and the impact of disclosing her Covid vaccination status on the independence and impartiality of both herself and the Court, particularly with respect to cases where courts have been asked to rule on issues regarding Covid vaccines; for example, whether an employee who is terminated for not taking the Covid vaccine is eligible for EI benefits, or whether it was legal for post-secondary institutions to force students out of their programof study for not taking the vaccine. As a result of raising such concerns, Brinton was threatened with suspension and disciplinary action.

Brinton’s lawsuit names the Honourable Pamela S. Williams, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, and the Attorney General of Nova Scotia representing His Majesty the King in Right of the Province of Nova Scotia, as defendants.

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COVID-19

Nova Scotia drops COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers amid ongoing staffing crisis

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is allowing unvaccinated staff to return to work when the new policy takes effect on February 26 after more than two years of being on unpaid leave.

Nova Scotia has dropped its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers amid an ongoing staff crisis.

On February 21, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced that it will no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers and is encouraging staff members who were suspended because of the mandate to return to work.

“By removing the mandatory vaccination requirement, both organizations aim to offer flexibility and support to employees, onsite medical staff, and preferred candidates,” read a joint statement from Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health.

“Staff members who chose not to receive vaccines or submit proof of immunization, when the policy was implemented, may have the opportunity to return to active employment,” the statement promised.

Under the new policy set to take effect February 26, staff members “who chose not to receive vaccines or submit proof of immunization will be eligible to apply for onsite medical privileges with Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health, provided they meet all other necessary job requirements.”

Starting in November 2021, Nova Scotia mandated the experimental vaccine for healthcare workers. Those who refused the shot were placed on unpaid leave.

 According to a letter sent to The Canadian Independent, the province is telling unvaccinated healthcare workers to return to work when the new policy takes effect.

The email informed them that it is “imperative” to reach out to their manager to “confirm your intention to return to work or resign employment with Nova Scotia Health.”

“We understand this update may raise questions and concerns associated with a return to work,” the email stated. “We encourage you to reach out to your manager to discuss any supports and resources you may need to assist with your transition back to the workplace.”

The policy change comes amid record-high healthcare wait times of 27.7 weeks, the longest in the past 30 years and 198% longer than the 1993 average of 9.3 weeks.

The data surveyed 1,200 Canadian doctors across 12 specialties and 10 provinces. The report found that Nova Scotia had the longest wait time of 56.7 weeks, followed by Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick with 55.2 weeks and 52.6 weeks, respectively.

Vaccine mandates for healthcare workers remain in place across Canada despite the critical staff shortages in hospitals. While some provincial governments have lifted their mandates, many hospitals still require the experimental vaccine.

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