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COVID-19

Survey reveals widening gap between views of double-vaxxed and boosted people

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OTTAWA — A new survey suggests a widening gap between the pandemic views of people who have opted to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster and those who are holding steady with only two shots.

A web panel survey carried out by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies shows 67 per cent of people with a booster dose who responded are afraid of contracting COVID-19, compared to just 52 per cent of those with two doses.

“We’re seeing what I call a ‘booster hesitancy,’ as opposed to a vaccine hesitancy, and it’s shaping some of their attitudes. Their level of concern about COVID is a bit different from the boosted. The degree to which they’re concerned about the vaccination is a bit different,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies.

For instance, 82 per cent of boosted respondents said they supported vaccine mandates at shopping malls and retail outlets, compared to only 57.8 per cent of people with two doses.

And 79 per cent of boosted people responded that they strongly support vaccine mandates in other non-essential public places like bars, restaurants and gyms.

That’s compared to only 48 per cent of people with two vaccine doses.

There appears to be a growing split between the “boosted and the two-timers,” Jedwab said.

“The issue takes on a bit more complexity than it (had) previously,” he said.

People who received a booster shot were also more likely to respond that governments should not lift COVID-19 restrictions, at 85 per cent, compared to 71.5 per cent of people with two doses.

Generally, unvaccinated people responded at the other far end of the spectrum, with 65 per cent responding that COVID-19 restrictions should be lifted, and 94 per cent expressing opposition to vaccine mandates in shopping centres.

“They’re in a completely different place,” said Jedwab.

The results were gathered from 1,547 Canadians over the age of 18 between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9, and cannot be assigned a margin of error because the web survey did not randomly sample the population.

The number of COVID-19 cases have hit record highs in January thanks to the Omicron variant of the virus, which is said to be relatively more mild compared to past variants but can infect even vaccinated people.

Governments and public health officials have urged Canadians to get a third mRNA vaccine to protect them against the most serious effects of the virus, which has still sent people to the hospital in large numbers and threatened to overrun Canadian health systems.

The booster can also stave off the effects of waning immunity from the first two shots, which appear to offer less protection against contracting the virus over time.

About 41 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 have opted for a COVID-19 booster as of Jan. 15, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, but the survey suggests 73 per cent of respondents intend to get three shots.

At the same time, less than 10 per cent of adults have eschewed vaccination against the virus altogether.

Of those with two doses who say they don’t want a third, 25.5 per cent said they don’t believe a booster would work, and 14 per cent said they felt that two shots are enough.

Those reasons are very different from the ones given my people who have opted to remain completely unvaccinated, who since the beginning of the vaccine rollout least year have typically said they’re more afraid of vaccine side-effects than the virus itself, Jedwab said.

In this latest poll, the unvaccinated were six times more worried about vaccine side-effects than getting COVID-19.

“That’s not what people who are double-vaccinated are saying and it’s not any meaningful degree,” he said.

Only eight per cent of double-vaxxed people reported being concerned about the side-effects of the booster.

“They’re more concerned with its effectiveness. So it will be up to policy-makers to remind people about the effectiveness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Judge denies bail for protester charged in southern Alberta border blockade

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A judge has denied bail for a man charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade in southern Alberta.

Chris Carbert, who is 45, appeared by video in Court of Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge on Friday to hear the decision after a bail hearing last week.

Reasons for Justice Johnna Kubik’s ruling are protected by a publication ban.

Carbert and three other men are accused of conspiring to kill police officers at a blockade near Coutts, Alta., in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

One of the men, Christopher Lysak, was denied bail in March.

Anthony Olienick, whose bail hearing began this morning, and Jerry Morin also remain in custody.

The Crown has already indicated it plans to try the four men together.

They are to return to court on June 13.

The protest near Coutts began in late January and lasted for almost three weeks.

Fourteen people were charged in February after RCMP found a cache of long guns, handguns, body armour, large amounts of ammunition and high-capacity magazines in three trailers.

Police allege a group at the protest was willing to use force if the blockade was disrupted. Officers described the threat as “very serious.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Judge decides ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich stays out on bail

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OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy” protest that gridlocked Ottawa for weeks, will remain released on bail while awaiting trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips said he made his decision because she has followed her bail conditions, her surety has supervised her well and she’s already had a “taste of jail,” which he said lowered her risk to reoffend.

The judge said he does not accept that Lich breached her release conditions by agreeing to receive an award, and added Lich can be trusted to respect the conditions of her release.

She was released in March with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

The terms of Lich’s release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the national capital, the judge said, adding the court does not seek to control people’s political views.

“The courts are not a thought police. We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behaviour will violate or likely lead to violation of the law,” he said.

The protest is over and has left Ottawa, he said, adding it would be “practically impossible” to mount a similar protest in the city again.

Lich’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said in an interview Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision.

“She’ll be able to conduct her life in a lot more normal fashion as a result of the judge’s ruling,” said Greenspon.

Moiz Karimjee, a Crown prosecutor, said last week that Lich violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept an award for her leadership during the Ottawa protest, and should be sent back behind bars to wait for her trial.

Greenspon argued last week her bail conditions should be loosened to allow her to come to Ontario and use social media.

He told the court that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and has had a huge impact on her life while she’s been out of custody.

However, Phillips said Wednesday the ban on Lich’s access to social media is warranted.

“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get egged on and caught up in group activity they would never perform on their own,” he said.

Social media “undoubtedly contributed to and even drove” Lich’s conduct related to the protest, and her separation from it is necessary to lower her risk of reoffending, said Phillips.

Noting that Lich is in her late 40s, Phillips said she should be able to remember “how to use the social skills she surely built up before the advent of the internet.”

Lich is able to communicate by many other means, including email, phone or meeting in person, he said.

Greenspon said while he would have liked to see the social media ban reversed, “the most important thing was the rejection of the Crown’s efforts to to put her back in jail for agreeing to accept an award.”

The judge did amend her release conditions to allow her to visit Ottawa.

Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed because it is under a court-ordered publication ban.

Phillips reiterated the high unlikelihood that Lich could organize an event resembling the convoy protest.

While she’s permitted to come to Ottawa, Lich is not allowed to visit the downtown core so as not “to walk around the very neighbourhoods she is alleged to have traumatized,” he said, except to attend court or meet with legal counsel.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

The “Freedom Convoy” protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that congested the streets of Ottawa in February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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