By Laura Osman in Ottawa
The government was motivated to reconsider COVID-19 restrictions at Canada’s border because of the growing popularity of new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, MPs from his caucus said Wednesday.
Several Liberal ministers confirmed they were discussing whether to continue the mandatory use of the ArriveCan app for international travellers and COVID-19 border restrictions like face masks which are set to expire on Sept. 30.
The cabinet has not made any final decisions but is set to meet Thursday afternoon.
That is when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returns from the UN General Assembly, where he did not confirm whether his government is ready to lift, or change, any of pandemic measures.
“Every step of the way we have followed the recommendations and the best advice of medical experts, of public health experts, and we will continue to do that,” Trudeau said at a news conference at the United Nations on Wednesday night.
“I can assure you that when we make decisions on how we can move forward and change the situation around various tools that we have in place to keep Canadians safe, Canadians will be the first to know,” he said.
Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault also said Wednesday the government would “follow the science” when asked about the plans on Parliament Hill.
“We’re going to continue to make sure that as we open up the economy we do so in a systematic and respectful way,” he said.
Current border restrictions mean most foreign nationals are not allowed to travel to Canada unless they have completed a primary series of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, unless they qualify for an exemption. For most vaccines that means at least two doses.
Unvaccinated foreigners who fall into specific categories, such as temporary foreign workers, health-care workers, or crew on airlines or ships, are subject to mandatory arrival tests and a 14-day quarantine.
Vaccinated travellers, including Canadians, may also be selected for mandatory random testing — a system that public health officials have used as an “early warning system” for new variants of the virus entering the country.
Several Conservative MPs welcomed the possibility of ending COVID-19 restrictions for travellers Wednesday, but said they don’t understand what has triggered these discussions — aside from changing political tides.
“I think it might have something to do with the science changing Saturday night when Pierre (Poilievre) was coronated,” quipped Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu on her way into a Conservative caucus meeting.
Poilievre is a staunch opponent of vaccine mandates, and his position on COVID-19 restrictions was a popular element of his leadership campaign.
Saskatoon—Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh said the possible change could have something to do with the latest poll figures.
“Finally they have woken up, because we have a new leader and the polls are not favourable for the Liberals,” Waugh said. “I mean, they’re in trouble.”
Boissonnault rejected the Conservatives’ suggestions outright.
“The measures that we put in place during COVID have nothing to do with the Conservative party and leadership at that time, and nothing that they’re doing on their side affects how we’re governing, or the steps we’re taking to keep Canadians safe,” he said on his way into the Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday.
“As minister of tourism, I want to see as many people come here as safely as possible and so we’re going to continue to discuss this inside government.”
Federal ministers won’t say what recommendations they plan to bring to their cabinet meeting, but assured their decisions will be directed by science rather than politics.
“As everyone knows, these measures are always being reviewed on the basis of the evidence, prudence and the epidemiology,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday.
Conservatives have criticized the government for the lack of transparency about the evidence used to inform COVID-19 public health decisions.
A case study by international research group Pandemics and Borders published in April highlighted similar concerns.
“Claims about the use of scientific evidence to guide decisions have been extensively made but with limited disclosure of what constitutes that scientific evidence,” the researchers concluded after examining Canada’s pandemic border policies.
“The reliance on science-driven narratives, in this context, increased politicization in ways that ultimately undermined the use of science.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.
— With files from Stephanie Taylor and Mia Rabson in Ottawa and James McCarten in New York.
Alberta premier defends new rules on in-person learning, no mask mandates in schools
By Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.
“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.
“That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction.”
Her comments came a day after she announced regulatory changes saying school boards must provide in-person learning. Schools also can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.
The changes take effect immediately.
“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t be denying education to kids who turn up without a mask,” Smith said.
She has said mask rules and toggling from online to in-person learning adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and strained parents scrambling to make child-care arrangements when schools shut down.
That’s over, Smith said.
“We’re just not going to normalize these kind of extreme measures every single respiratory virus season,” she said.
School boards have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, along with some COVID-19 cases, have led to high classroom absentee rates and have jammed children’s hospitals.
In Edmonton, Trisha Estabrooks, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools, said the decision provided the clarity that the board was seeking.
“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.
She said the province has made it clear that any future public health order would supersede the new rules.
The in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.
The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.
The Opposition NDP criticized the new rules, saying it’s unrealistic to force schools to be all things to all students while also handling a wave of viral illnesses and not providing additional supports to do it.
Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the government needs to work with school boards to figure out how to make this work.
“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, (they) can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes,” Schilling said in an interview.
“And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that.”
Wing Li, communications director for public education advocacy organization, Support our Students, said it will be difficult for schools to offer hybrid learning without any additional resources.
“There are no teachers,” Li said in an interview. “Pivoting online was mostly due to staffing shortages, which is worse now three years in.”
Li said online learning is challenging for students but, when temporary and supported, can keep schools and communities safe from spreading illness.
“This is a quite aggressive use of the Education Act to enshrine an ideology,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022
Three Medical Policies that Need Immediate Changing
From the Brownstone Institute
You can’t make this up: The same cast of characters who erred so badly on COVID-19 want a do-over. A head-turning essay in The Atlanticwent so far as to plead for “pandemic amnesty.” For many in the medical community who have been derided by the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fanatics, these words ring hollow. Talk, as they say, is cheap, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Before a COVID-19 mulligan can be considered, here are three policies that must change.
First, “vaccine or bust” proponents must admit their approach overpromised and underdelivered. President Biden has repeatedly declared COVID-19 a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” despite the science indicating otherwise. His claim that the vaccinated “do not spread the disease to anyone else” was rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact. Simply lowering the goalposts about less severe symptoms is insufficient. This is not what we were promised.
Making matters worse was the weaponization of this misinformation to influence public policy. It wasn’t just a smug Rachel Maddow telling her audience in March 2021 that the “virus stops with every vaccinated person.” This so-called science was used to pit Americans against one another, keep children out of school and force personnel out of critically important positions in the military, schools and first responders. Last fall, 5% of unvaccinated adults reported leaving their jobs.
I should know. I’ve been on the receiving end of threats to my livelihood.
This brings us to point two: The new California law empowering the punishment of doctors deemed guilty of spreading “misinformation” must be repealed before it can inflict further damage. Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Assembly Bill 2098 enables the state to strip the medical licenses of professionals who veer from the preferred political party line.
It’s a disturbing trend taking hold across the country. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) recently voted to remove Dr. Peter McCullough, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists, from his certifications in cardiovascular disease. Mr. McCullough’s sin had nothing to do with his performance in caring for patients, but rather with questioning the necessity of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger populations. With their far-reaching certification authority, the ABIM has the power to make any doctor’s life a living hell. Mr. McCullough’s fate now hangs in the balance until his Nov. 18 appeal date. This dangerous precedent must be nipped in the bud in the nation’s most populous state (governed by an oft-mentioned future presidential candidate) before it can take hold elsewhere.
Third, the District of Columbia must scrap its vaccine mandate for children in schools once and for all. Last week’s vote to delay compliance until January 3, 2023, is not enough. DC is one of the only school districts in the country with this type of requirement, going further than their counterparts in New York City or Los Angeles.
Last month, nearly half (44.7%) of DC school students fell short of COVID-19 compliance, according to Axios. In a city where 60% of the school-age population is Black, this mandate is not only unnecessary but is perpetuating further inequity. The pandemic has already taken an incredible toll on our children’s education, with math and reading scores falling to astonishing new lows. It is beyond misguided to bar children from attending school unless they receive a vaccine for an illness that poses a far smaller hazard to their health than the soaring crime rates in our cities.
From masks to breakthrough cases to alternative treatments, the so-called experts have amassed a track record of incorrect judgments that make political pollsters look good by comparison. Even in the fog of a once-in-a-century pandemic, these decisions were not just borne of inexpert and incorrect scientific knowledge but rather driven by a rush to push a medical agenda.
Our organization, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) practices what we preach. As data evolved over time, we updated our recommendations and approaches accordingly. It wasn’t luck. We were following the science. Sadly, government agencies stuck with their unceasing policy recommendations that were increasingly divorced from the science.
One thing most people can agree on: COVID-19 won’t be the last public health emergency. There are already concerning headlines about an early spike of RSV impacting children. The leaders of captured health agencies must learn from their mistake of allowing the pharmaceutical industry unimpeded control of pandemic health policy. Americans are incredibly forgiving people willing to show grace, but step one in that process is a willingness for those in charge to admit their mistakes.
Republished from Washington Times
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