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COVID-19 update for Dec. 1: 358 new cases, no deaths | Omicron variant detected in B.C. | Skiers’ group pushes for vaccination proof to ride gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb | Air travelers to U.S. likely to face tougher testing

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Dec. 1, 2021.


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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


As of the latest figures given on Nov. 30:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 218,426 (2,889 active)
• New cases since Nov. 29: 358
• Total deaths: 2,333 (no additional deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 300
• Intensive care: 104
• Total vaccinations: 4,225,218 received first dose; 4,069,988 second doses
• Recovered from acute infection: 213,053
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 5


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IN-DEPTH:   Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus in 2021 | in 2020


COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: B.C.’s vaccine passport is here and this is how it works

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19: Look up your neighbourhood in our interactive map of case and vaccination rates in B.C.

COVID-19: Afraid of needles? Here’s how to overcome your fear and get vaccinated

COVID-19: Five things to know about the P1 variant spreading in B.C.

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


Skiers’ group pushes for vaccination proof to ride gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb

Nick Green has been skiing at Whistler Blackcomb since it opened 41 years ago, but this year his enthusiasm has been dampened by concern that unvaccinated people could be riding with him on the gondolas.


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“It’s like Russian roulette because you don’t know the vaccination status of the nine other people in the gondola with you,” said Green.

The 70 year-old cancer survivor is part of a “Load Safe Whistler” group behind a 12,000 name petition, calling on the provincial health officer to order proof of vaccination to ride in the five gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb.

“Packing 10 strangers into an enclosed gondola for a minimum 25 minute ride is the very definition of an enclosed space, so it’s totally mysterious to me why Dr. Bonnie Henry won’t protect us,” he said.

Henry, the provincial health officer, told reporters on Tuesday it is not her job to micromanage businesses.

“As with many specific businesses, I think that is not my role,” she said. “My role is to advise different businesses on how to do their business safely and I would encourage people who ski at Whistler to make their views known to Vail, who makes those decisions.”


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—Lisa Cordasco

358 new cases, no deaths reported Tuesday

B.C. recorded 358 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, but no new deaths.

The number of active cases in the province rose just slightly, to 2,889.

Of the new cases, 107 were in Fraser Health, 85 in Interior Health, 57 in Island Health, 56 in Northern Health and 53 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

There are 300 people in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 104 are in intensive care.

The number of health-care facilities with active outbreaks has dropped to just five after the one at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was declared over.

One case of Omicron identified in B.C.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of concern in B.C.


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Henry said the case was found in Fraser Health from someone who had recently returned from Nigeria.

The person was among 204 people who have been identified as having recently returned from the southern part of Africa. Henry said all these people were self-isolating. She said the Omicron variant was likely not widespread in the province.

Henry added that while it’s not confirmed whether the Omicron variant – which surfaced globally last week – is more contagious or dangerous.

She said all COVID-19 layers of protection have to be used, particularly masks.

In the lead up to key religious services people attending churches, including choirs, must now wear a mask during services. Readers can remove their masks while speaking.


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Air travelers to U.S. likely to face tougher COVID-19 testing

The Biden administration is likely to impose stricter COVID-19 testing rules for air travelers entering the United States amid concerns about a new COVID-19 variant, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

A draft proposal is circulating among government agencies, officials said, that would require all air passengers arriving from other countries to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure from their point of origin.

Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.


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The administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The stricter rules could be announced Thursday, but it was not clear when they might take effect.


Germany moves toward mandatory COVID-19 shots as Europe clamps down

Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control.

Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.


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“My recommendation is that we don’t do this as a government, because it’s an issue of conscience,” he said on Tuesday in an online interview with the Bild newspaper.

Scholz and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel met with state premiers to discuss the country’s outbreak. While the measure wasn’t approved at the talks, there’s a growing consensus across the political spectrum that shots will have to be required.

—Bloomberg News

As Omicron plays havoc with markets, shares of vaccine makers surge

The emergence of a worrisome coronavirus variant is benefiting shares of vaccine makers Moderna Inc, BioNTech and Pfizer as investors search for winning bets in markets roiled by uncertainty in recent days.

Moderna shares have jumped 28% since last week when the variant, named Omicron, triggered global alarm. Shares of vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNtech have also climbed over that time, with Pfizer up 6% and U.S. shares of BioNTech jumping 15%, in contrast to a decline in the S&P 500 of 2.5%.


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Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are the predominant vaccines used in the United States, and it is expected they will be able to re-engineer their products to address the new variant if required.

“They are clear COVID plays and anything that ramps up the intensity of COVID is going to benefit them,” said Kevin Kedra, pharmaceuticals analyst at GAMCO Investors. “They are the front line of defense against COVID.”

Along with the rise in vaccine stocks, the market reactions to the new variant included a sell-off in travel and leisure stocks and brief increases in stay-at-home stocks that thrived during lockdowns in 2020.



Find out how your neighbourhood is doing in the battle against COVID-19 with the latest number of new cases, positivity rates, and vaccination rates:


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LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

–with files from The Canadian Press



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Indigenous patients in B.C. still face racism in health care, despite some improvements: Turpel-Lafond

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One year after her scathing report documenting racism in hospitals, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says problems persist.

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Apologies have been issued and some improvements had been made, but much more work is needed to make B.C.’s health care system less racist, says the author of a scathing 2020 report.


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“I continue to receive complaints about racism, and the inadequacy of the complaints process,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a UBC law professor hired by the province last year to investigate the discrimination faced by Indigenous people when they sought medical help.

“I’m pleased with some of the progress I’ve seen … and at the same time I think there’s a lot to be done.”

One year ago, Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s former children’s representative, documented in her “In Plain Sight” report the “widespread stereotyping, racism and profiling of Indigenous people,” that limited access to medical treatment, disproportionately affected Indigenous women, and led to discrimination against Indigenous health-care workers.


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The 236-page report prompted Health Minister Adrian Dix to create new Aboriginal liaison positions for each of the five health authorities, and name a new associate deputy minister of health in charge of addressing the problem.

On Tuesday, Turpel-Lafond released an update on the progress made on the report’s 24 recommendations. So far there have been apologies issued by health system leaders, the hiring of more Indigenous senior leaders in health care, protecting Indigenous identity under the B.C. Human Rights Code, and discussions about an Indigenous wellness and welcoming centre at the new St. Paul’s hospital.

But “the fundamental issues” she raised in her report haven’t gone away yet, she said, noting there is no easy way for Indigenous people to lodge complaints about racism, “ineffective collaboration” with Indigenous governments has slowed the pace of change, and Indigenous patients continue to face harm or death as a result.


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“Either the system has not been welcoming, or has mistreated people for so long, that they’re not accessing the support they needed. And they are suffering with morbidities that could be treated, but they can’t get in or they haven’t got supportive treatment ,” said Turpel-Lafond, who is director of UBC’s residential school history and dialogue centre.

She is calling for more work to be done to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to health care, which includes:

• Better response to public health emergencies, such as work to increase vaccine confidence and better funding for mental health and addictions services.

• Indigenous-created, anti-racism training for all health workers and students, and for whistle-blower protection to be extended to the health sector so employees are willing to report any racism they witness.


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• All new major health care buildings should partner with local First Nations, to ensure Indigenous human rights are built into the design.

• Accelerate the production of data about health system performance and outcomes for Indigenous patients. A synopsis of this data should be made public by Nov. 30, 2022.

Change has come too slowly, Métis Nation B.C. said in a statement Tuesday.

“It is a too frequent occurrence, that I hear from my patients their experiences of dealing with a system that treats them as ‘less than’,” said Dr. Kate Elliott, a family doctor and co-chair of the Nation’s In Plain Sight Task Team.

“There is a moral imperative to act, this can no longer remain permissible. All Métis people in the province have the fundamental right to safe and equitable health care.”

In February, Turpel-Lafond issued a second report which found that while Indigenous people have higher rates of chronic disease, lower life expectancy and higher rate of opioid deaths, they have poor access to primary health care and are often turned away from hospital emergency departments.



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


People with invisible disabilities face constant struggle to be recognized, advocate says | CBC News

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Eileen Davis was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 29 — but it wasn’t apparent to anyone who saw her. 

“I kept hearing, ‘Oh, but you look fine. You look great. It’s just arthritis. Oh, you’re young, it’s OK,'” Davis said. 

Davis said the fact that her illness wasn’t apparent made her delay getting care. 

“I actually denied care for a bit because I felt like I didn’t need it … It took a while for me to actually accept that I was living with a debilitating condition,” she told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC’s On The Coast.

Today, Davis advocates on behalf of people suffering from invisible disabilities — which include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, autism, fibromyalgia and epilepsy, among others.

“There are so many [conditions] where you can’t tell somebody might be living with them just by looking at them,” she said. 

This week marks Invisible Disabilities Week, which was started to address some of the barriers people with such disabilities face — like not being believed they have a disability in the first place.

“When people can’t see [the issue], they tend to diminish the severity of the disability. That can be really difficult for somebody who’s actually going through it because research suggests that those who have a strong support network actually have better outcomes,” said Davis.

The pandemic has in some ways made the issue more important, Davis says. It’s often the people who downplay these disabilities who also downplay the risk of COVID-19, she says.

“When I’m out and about and I need to keep my social distance and make sure those people around me are vaccinated or wearing a mask, sometimes they may downplay the severity about catching COVID-19, or even just the flu or any respiratory illness,” she says. 

Davis says the most important thing she wants people to take away from her experiences is not to make assumptions about what someone might be going through, despite their outward appearance. 

“Any time you see somebody sitting on a bus or a SkyTrain and they’re in a seat for seniors or people with disabilities, even if they’re young, they may still be dealing with a disability,” she said.

On The Coast6:47National Invisible Disabilities Week

Arthritis advocate Eileen Davis on National Invisible Disabilities Week. 6:47


COVID-19: Health professionals in private practice face vaccine mandate

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On Friday, B.C. recorded 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new deaths.

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B.C. doctors, dentists and other health professionals in private practice will soon be required to get vaccinated.


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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order Friday putting unvaccinated health professionals on notice that they would be required to be vaccinated in order to see patients or provide care or services in B.C.

The notice was directed at health professionals not covered by previous orders, including those who work in private practice and do not have privileges at a hospital or health-care facility. Henry’s order did not specify a deadline.

COVID-19 vaccinations are already mandatory for staff at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities. Anyone who works in a health-care facility, including hospitals, will be required to be fully immunized by Oct. 26.

In a note sent to members on Friday, the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. said it “interprets the order to mean that, in time, all of our registrants will be required to be vaccinated to provide health care or services in B.C.”


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It said it supports Henry’s office and expects members to comply with provincial health officer orders.

Doctors of B.C. also said it supports mandatory vaccination of health-care workers. The vaccination rate among physicians is about 97 per cent, said the organization.

On Friday, B.C. recorded 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new deaths.

Eleven of the deaths occurred in the Fraser Health region, where Willingdon Care Centre, a Burnaby long-term care facility, has been grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak since late September that has infected at least 90 people. Two deaths occurred in the Interior.

Out of 5,128 active cases in the province, 367 people are in hospital including 152 in intensive care.

The new figures come a day after Henry introduced “circuit-breaker” restrictions in most of northern B.C., where hospitals have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.


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Northern Health, which has seen the highest rate of infections and hospitalizations in the province, reported 184 cases on Friday. Fraser Health had 246 cases; Interior Health, 101; Vancouver Coastal, 75; and Island Health, 59.

There have been 196,433 cases of COVID-19 and 2,055 deaths from the virus in B.C. since the start of the pandemic.

More than 3.8 million people, or 83 per cent of eligible British Columbians 12 and older, are fully vaccinated, while 89 per cent have received their first dose.

G et the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

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Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Victoria Nolan: Like so many other Canadians who rely on guide dogs, I face discrimination frequently

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Opinion: I’ve been denied access to restaurants, cafés, schools, gas stations, pharmacies, malls, hair salons, gyms, hospitals and medical offices — — you name it, it happens everywhere

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As a Paralympian proudly representing Canada on the international sports stage in rowing, I recently returned from Tokyo where, in the athletes’ village, I went to restaurants and shops — all without hassle. All without being asked to leave and escorted to the exit. Contrast this with my experience in my home country, and it is a completely different story. Like so many other Canadians who rely on guide dogs, I face discrimination frequently.


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Although it’s illegal in Canada to deny access or refuse service to a person who is working with a guide dog, it happens far too often. In all of Canada’s 13 jurisdictions, legislation prohibits discriminating against a person with a disability who’s working with a service animal. Discrimination includes denial of access to any premises to which the public would normally have access — and it is typically rooted in ignorance.

What most people don’t know is that in five provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador — police and RCMP have the authority to investigate a complaint of access denial under either the Service Dog Act or Blind Persons’ Rights Act. These Acts state that anyone who is in violation of the Act has committed an offence and may be fined up to $5,000 under summary conviction. Although only these provinces have legislation that give police the authority to lay charges, a complaint can be filed with the Human Rights Tribunal in all provinces and territories, with fines of up to $10,000.


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Just before I went to Tokyo to compete in the Paralympics, I was refused a reservation with a hotel on Vancouver Island, once I mentioned my guide dog would be accompanying me. Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax are just some of the cities where I’ve been refused rides with taxis and ride-share companies. Hotels and taxis are among the most common refusals for guide dog teams in Canada. It is also illegal for them to charge an extra fee — yet that happens every day, too.

I’ve also been denied access to restaurants, cafés, schools, gas stations, pharmacies, malls, hair salons, gyms, hospitals and medical offices — you name it, it happens everywhere. Ironically, one day I had an interview with a radio station about guide dog access — and was refused entry to the building because I was accompanied by a guide dog.


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Businesses need to familiarize themselves with the laws that affect them, and they need to uphold these laws — or it could be costly for them. Businesses must educate their employees about these laws and be aware of situations when it would be appropriate to ask a person who is accompanied by a dog to leave.

If a guide dog’s behaviour is inappropriate, the business or organization has the right to ask the guide dog handler to leave. Inappropriate behaviour generally means the guide dog is not under the handler’s control, such as barking after being told not to, or jumping up.

Guide dogs are among the most highly trained dogs in the world, performing tasks that require intensive standardized training, and are specifically trained to assist someone who is blind or partially sighted with mobility.


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It is not acceptable to ask for proof that the dog is a guide dog, unless it is behaving inappropriately. It is best practice is to assume the guide dog is a certified guide dog, unless you’re given reason to think otherwise.

At a time when federal, provincial, and municipal governments and communities are focusing on accessibility and inclusion — and smashing barriers that stand in the way of Canadians with disabilities — it’s time for businesses to step up and do their part.

Guide dogs belong everywhere. It’s the law.

Victoria Nolan is head of stakeholder relations and community engagement for CNIB Guide Dogs. For more information about the legislation that protects guide dog teams, visit 

Letters to the editor should be sent to The editorial pages editor is Hardip Johal, who can be reached at

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Allow vaccine passport exemptions or face legal challenge, group warns B.C. government

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A Calgary-based legal foundation has threatened to take the B.C. government to court if officials refuse to allow medical and religious exemptions to the province’s COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which previously supported a failed legal challenge of the province’s public health-care system, announced this week that it’s preparing litigation on behalf of individuals who will be temporarily excluded from non-essential activities such as dining in restaurants and going to the gym when the passport system takes effect later this month.

In an open letter sent to B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby on Tuesday, the group described the impact the system will have on unvaccinated individuals as “unwarranted and extreme.”

“The vaccine passport policy prevents people who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or reasons of religion or conscience from participating in public life,” it reads. “A failure to create an exemption or accommodation for these individuals is a violation of their Section 15 Charter-protected right not to be discriminated against on the basis of disability or religion.”

The foundation, which is a registered charity in Canada and named as a partner of the U.S.-based Atlas Network, which supports hundreds of right-leaning think tanks around the world, also suggested the government should exempt everyone with a non-religious but “sincerely held” belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine.

It’s unclear how a passport system would function if those individuals were to exempted as well.

Christine Van Geyn, the group’s litigation director, told CTV News the foundation hasn’t decided what relief it will be seeking from the courts, and might request that the passport system be struck down entirely.

If the litigation does go forward, she said the CCF will likely be focusing on medical exemptions.

“Our preference is not to litigate. We would like to see the government make accommodations to people,” Van Geyn added, pointing to medical exemptions already being promised in other provinces. “If Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia can do it, why can’t B.C.?”

B.C. health officials have previously said there will be no exemptions to the proof-of-vaccination requirement, which is being phased in on Sept. 13 and expected to remain in place until the end of January. Officials hope that COVID-19 transmission, which surged over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across Canada, will be under control by then.

“This is a temporary measure that’s getting us through a risky period where we know people who are unvaccinated are at a greater risk, both of contracting and spreading this virus,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last month.

“Those rare people who have a medical reason why they can’t be immunized … they will not be able to attend those events during this period.”

While unveiling the details of the government’s plan on Tuesday, Henry stressed that grocery stores and essential services will remain available to everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated for any reason.

She also noted there will be some options for those who are temporarily impacted, such as ordering takeout from restaurants instead of dining in.


Federal leaders face off in French-language debate

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With leaders of the five major federal parties going head-to-head in Wednesday’s official French-language debate, is providing real-time analysis.

Topics include: Accessibility, climate, leadership and accountability, reconciliation with the Indigenous people, and post-pandemic recovery

Watch the debate live in our video player above from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT, and follow our reporter blog below.


People seeking mental health support say they face long, potentially harmful wait times | CBC News

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Tera Hawes first reached out for help with her mental health around 2011, when she was suffering from what she now knows as a hypomanic episode.

“There [were] lots of areas where my life was kind of spiralling,” she said. 

The 37-year-old from Vancouver was overspending, using substances and had endless energy which led her to exhaust herself socially, just some of the ways hypomania affected her.

“The impact on my life was monumental.”

It wasn’t until six years later, in 2017, that Hawes was accurately diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, characterized by hypomanic episodes and deep bouts of depression.

Tera Hawes says her journey to find appropriate mental health supports has been marked by disappointment. (CBC News)

She is not actively suicidal, non-violent and not living with addiction. Those three traits place her and many other British Columbians within a group that can struggle to get timely mental health support, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

“There is a space of people who aren’t at the point of needing an emergency department or who aren’t needing crisis care who are caught in this middle space,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of CMHA BC.

“Finding the right services at the right time is challenging, or there’s a wait for those services, or the service isn’t the right fit,” said Morris.

Jonny Morris is the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. dividision. (CBC News)

Hawes needs a psychiatrist for her treatment. She has been trying to connect with one throughout the four years since her diagnosis, without success. She says at one point, her doctor told her there were simply no psychiatrists taking new patients.

“I followed up, I followed up, and nothing ever followed through,” she said. “Sometimes you just want some help, and I don’t need somebody to hold my hand. I just want to feel like I’m being supported.”

The impact of having to wait for help

The gap between asking for help and connecting with the right support has had dire consequences for Hawes at several points in her mental health journey.

“It was real deep, like not knowing how you’re going to get into the next day,” she said. 

Now COVID-19 is creating a greater need for help, from a mental health care system that is already strained. Data from the CMHA gathered through an online panel suggests 37 per cent of British Columbians’ mental health has declined during the pandemic. The margin of error in the study is plus or minus 1.7 per cent at a 95 per cent level of confidence.

Lucas Britton lives with depression symptoms, and his ability to manage them was significantly hindered by the pandemic. (CBC News)

Lucas Britton is part of the group that is struggling. The University of British Columbia student lives with symptoms of depression. He was managing them successfully until he was isolated when COVID-19 restrictions came into place in 2020.

“I was in that dark, bad space, and all of the normal things I would have done to help me out weren’t available,” he said.

It took Britton a month of searching to get an appointment with a counsellor.

Funding coming for improved accessibility

The federal Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all promised new funding for mental health initiatives should they form government.

The B.C. NDP is investing $500 million over the next three years into mental health and addictions supports. The majority of the money will go toward initiatives related to the toxic drug crisis and nearly $100 million is dedicated to youth-focused resources. A smaller portion, $61 million, is earmarked for improving accessibility and quality of mental health supports for adults like Britton and Hawes.

Since announcing those figures in the 2021 provincial budget, the province has also dedicated several million dollars of pandemic recovery funds to improve accessibility, but B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson admits some people are being left behind.

‘There are definitely still gaps’

“There are definitely still gaps in the system,” she said. “We don’t want people to have to build to a crisis in order to get access to help.”

Hawes is now managing her bipolar symptoms, but years after she first reached out for help.

“I still have yet to have somebody who I can say is fully in my corner, from a medical perspective,” she said. 


Buildings with artist and prop studios face demolition as part of new St. Paul’s Hospital

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At the end of June, White Monkey Design will be gone from its home of 33 years due to a development linked to the new St. Paul’s Hospital.

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By the end of June, White Monkey Design will be gone from its home at 496 Prior St. in East Vancouver.

Since 1981, the prop-making studio for the film industry has been in the low-rise building at the southwest corner of Prior and Jackson/Malkin. Many commuters will recognize it as the one with the old Money’s mushroom sign on its west side that says: “What food these morsels be.”

The site is being redeveloped. Sometime in the next few years, the adjacent industrial buildings that house White Monkey and other studios for artists, musicians and artisans will be replaced by two rental residential towers along with retail and office space. The project will be adjacent to the new St. Paul’s Hospital and Jim Pattison Medical Centre, the $2.2 billion project expected to accept its first patients in 2027.

White Monkey is run by Booth Milton and Jocelyn Banyard. Milton is basically resigned to moving after 33 years.


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“I get it,” he said, as he was seated outside at the back of the studio where he’s turned a parking lot into a garden. “I have to go. The closer I get to being finished, the happier I am.”

Milton is already thinking of what’s next. The couple is downsizing the 16,000-square-foot studio to a 2,400-sq.-ft. space in Burnaby, putting it in the hands of a manager, and moving to Nelson. He’s working on designing a greenhouse with salvaged leaded glass.

Banyard is upset about what they’ve been put through.

“I don’t think the city treated us very well,” she said. “I don’t think the city is treating the arts community very well. I think the arts community brings not just cultural value to the life of Vancouver, it brings a great big amount of income.”

Banyard, who took interdisciplinary studies at Emily Carr art school, said many artists like herself work in the film industry.

“Right now, it’s getting pushed out of Vancouver,” she said. “The only thing they seem to care about is condos. It’s not sustainable. It’s not healthy. It’s making us mentally ill.”

Banyard started moving Feb. 1. On the day Postmedia News visited, it was a bit of a crisis because she had run out of boxes for all the incredible variety of props, equipment and material that still remained to be moved.

Banyard said they were told that their building, which is on city-owned property, was needed for an access road for ambulances to the new St. Paul’s. Instead, it’ll be torn down for redevelopment. She feels the city hasn’t been upfront about its plans.


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“I’ve gone on heart meds because I have a crushing pain in my chest,” she said. “I’m so anxious about the move.”

Banyard said White Monkey is a one-stop ‘dirty studio’ that makes custom built objects for the movie and TV business. White Monkey’s artists, designers and engineers can make anything from masks and rockets to alien environments and sculptures.

In 2019, the Eastside Culture Crawl created a scorecard to evaluate new development or redevelopment within the Eastside Arts District. Based on 11 criteria, including whether the project has a negative impact on arts and cultural amenities, the Strand project at 456 and 496 Prior St. scores zero out of 100.

Esther Rausenberg, the Crawl’s artistic and executive director, said she thought the city was moving in the direction of no net loss of studio space. With the Prior Street project, and the loss of an estimated 36,000 sq. ft. in two buildings, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“We shouldn’t be losing space we should be increasing space,” she said. “Here we have a situation that’s on city property. It’s an opportunity for that to happen.”

At an open house in mid-May, Strand said it wants to build two residential towers of 14 storeys each on a five-storey podium. It would contain 288 market rental apartments, including 11 artist live-work spaces, 10,000 sq. ft. of unspecified cultural space, 15,000 sq. ft. of retail and 240,000 sq. ft. of office space. Strand is expected to file a rezoning application for the site later this year.

“The new St. Paul’s will help establish Vancouver as a medical and innovation tech centre in North America, and it will be an opportunity for neighbourhood-serving businesses to benefit by the additional body heat in the area,” Mike Mackay, Strand Development president, told in May.

Start your day with a roundup of B.C.-focused news and opinion delivered straight to your inbox at 7 a.m., Monday to Friday by subscribing to our Sunrise newsletter here.


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Canadians who don’t qualify for CERB are getting it anyway — and could face consequences | CBC News

by admin

More than 7 million Canadians have applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — but CBC News has learned that some of them shouldn’t actually be getting the $2,000-per-month payment.

And those receiving the money who aren’t entitled to it could be putting their own financial futures at risk.

One Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employee said she deals regularly with people who aren’t qualified to receive the benefit but are getting it anyway.

She said she spoke with a senior collecting a pension who applied for CERB on behalf of herself and her two disabled adult children.

“I noticed all three of them, living in the same household, are getting two $2,000 cheques,” she told CBC News. (The second cheques are retroactive payments.)

“So, $12,000 all on the same day. None of them were eligible.”

CBC News is not disclosing the CRA employee’s identity because she said she fears punishment for speaking publicly about what she’s seen.

‘Laughing in my face’

To qualify for the CERB, an applicant must be a Canadian resident over 15 years of age who has been forced to stop working because of the pandemic. The applicant also must have earned a minimum of $5,000 over the last 12 months and must expect to make less than $1,000 a month while collecting the benefit.

In many cases, people who don’t qualify for CERB are being encouraged or even pressured into applying by family and friends, said the source.

“When I quiz them about it, there’s a variety of answers, from laughing in my face [to] trying to establish that there’s some loophole,” she said.

Few realize that they’ll have to pay taxes on the additional income and could see clawbacks of other benefits, such as tax credits or the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the source said.

Some inmates at a jail in Trois-Rivières, Que., have been sent CERB cheques, according to Radio-Canada. Correctional Service officers intercepted the payments when they arrived at the prison.

The federal government said it is aware of that report and maintains such errors would be caught later by CRA.

Ontario credit counsellor John Cockburn said he’s also seeing people applying for the emergency benefit who are not entitled to it.

“This is kind of just in its infancy right now,” said Cockburn, who works for the Sudbury Community Service Centre.

The risk of clawbacks

He said he fears that as the pandemic crisis continues, and as food and utility bills pile up, more people will apply because they feel a growing sense of urgency.

“I haven’t heard any stories of people getting CERB just for the sake of getting $2,000 to buy a new entertainment system,” he said.

Cockburn said he also worries about people doing themselves financial harm in the long run by accepting CERB payments to which they are not entitled.

He points to one recent case on which he was consulted — a man on a disability benefit who applied for and received CERB even though Cockburn said he shouldn’t have been eligible.

The man’s social services case worker found out and convinced him to return the money. If he hadn’t, the additional income could have affected his access to disability benefits and subsidized housing, Cockburn said.

‘The vast majority of Canadians are honest’

The federal government estimates it will spend $35 billion on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. No one seems to know how many people may be taking advantage of the system.

One of the federal ministers in charge of the file told CBC News she’d heard anecdotally that some people have applied who should not.

“But I kind of reject that. I really think that the vast majority of Canadians are honest,” said Employment and Workplace Development Minister Carla Qualtrough.

Qualtrough did acknowledge the CERB benefit comes with an elevated risk of fraud.

The CERB application process involves answering just a handful of questions — and everyone who applies for the benefit will receive it, the federal government has said.

Claimants are asked to attest that they are telling the truth in their applications, but it will be up to the CRA to verify claims later and claw back funds as necessary.

‘We took the risk’

The federal government says its programs experience an overall fraud rate of less than one per cent — but Qualtrough acknowledged that making this benefit easier to access increased the risk of fraud.

“If you make something attestation-based, you are increasing the risk of fraud,” she said.

“We knew the risk was there, but it was calculated and we also knew we had to get the money to Canadians. So we took the risk and we’re going to work really hard at the back end to minimize what that’s going to mean for the government purse.”

“There’s just enormous political pressure for politicians to get money out the door,” said Kevin Page, president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa and a former parliamentary budget officer.

Page said Canada has never seen anything like the scope and cost of the programs introduced in recent weeks to limit the pandemic’s economic damage.

He said that, given the size of the CERB program and the other relief packages, even a fraud rate of one per cent could cost the federal government billions of dollars.

‘There’s so much at stake’

“These numbers on fraud, they are going to be large, and public servants know … there’s so much at stake with respect to trust of these institutions like CRA or Service Canada. They have to go after and check these things,” Page said.

Qualtrough said there are various measures in place to guard against abuse of the system. Federal staff are using social insurance numbers to check for overpayments and cross-checking between programs to ensure people aren’t being paid through more than one program.

“There’s also just ways we can tell, based on people’s T-4s when we do the taxes next year, that if you are getting income during a time for which you’re also claiming you had no income, or you had less than $1,000 [in income], we can figure that all out,” Qualtrough said.

People walk past the boarded up windows of a pub in Ottawa’s Byward Market that remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic April 10, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

National president of the Union of Taxation Employees Marc Brière said the CRA will follow up with people who don’t qualify for the benefit but receive it anyway, even if they claimed it in error.

“There’s a question of trust in this case … we want the money to be processed rapidly to go into people’s hands and [the application] is simplified, to say the least,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean there are not people at work doing verification as we speak and it will continue as time goes by.”

Qualtrough expressed sympathy for those low-income Canadians who could wind up making their own financial situations worse by claiming the CERB while unqualified.

“I absolutely share the concern for people who are in that dire a predicament that they [would] be prepared to take that kind of personal risk,” she said.

She argued her government has taken steps to help those Canadians, such as boosting the GST credit and the Canada Child Benefit.

She said she continues to believe the design of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program followed the best approach.

“I also just am very confident in the honesty of Canadians,” she said.

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