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  • Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health (CMOH) has co-written a letter to the province’s new health minister Jason Copping, strongly recommending additional measures in the province as the pandemic’s fourth wave continues to strain hospital capacity.

    Dr. James Talbot, former CMOH, and Dr. Noel Gibney, a critical care specialist, made seven “urgent” recommendations in their letter:

    • That the government work with AHS to start transferring ICU patients to other provinces now.
    • That the government require proof of vaccination to access all non-essential services. 
    • That a set of “fire break” restrictions are implemented for a minimum of four weeks, including closing bars, indoor dining, indoor exercise and sports, and capacity limits on indoor spaces like places of worship and stores. 
    • That masks be mandated in schools, including when students are seated in classrooms. 
    • That contact tracing be done for positive COVID-19 tests.
    • That the government and “related arms-length organizations (Alberta Blue Cross, WCB etc.)” mandate vaccines in all employees and contractors.
    • That immunization of employees be mandated in essential and non-essential businesses.
    WATCH | Dr. James Talbot says hospitals could be strained for months: 

    Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis could drag on, expert says

    5 hours ago

    The COVID-19 crisis in Alberta continues to worsen with hospitalizations reaching a record high. Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical officer of health for the province, says the dire hospital situation could extend for weeks and months. 7:54

    “My biggest concern is that … this is just going to get worse,” Talbot told CBC News Network on Sunday. 

    Of those eligible, 73.4 per cent Alberta’s population is fully vaccinated, representing 62.4 per cent of the province’s total population. 

    Talbot said the amount of still-unvaccinated people is enough to be causing what Alberta hospitals are seeing right now. Vaccines are not available to children under 12.

    “[People] are being denied things like chemotherapy, elective surgery and could eventually run into a triage protocol where worse things happen because of how clogged up the system is,” he said. 

    “We still have tools available to stop the spread of the virus in the community but the government is just choosing not to use them. They say they can’t. The truth is, they won’t.”

    Talbot and Gibney’s letter outlines a grim near future in Alberta.

    “Even if you were to implement the measures that we recommend today, it will take at least four weeks for them to have an effect on ICU beds. Time is of the essence. Albertans deserve better,” the letter reads, in part. 

    The letter said in the short term, ICU transfers out of province are the only way to stop the triage protocol from being implemented, and while such transfers provide a chance for critically ill Albertans to receive the care they need, it also comes with significant risks.

    The disconnect between what is going on in the province and what frontline healthcare workers are experiencing is incredibly difficult, Talbot said. 

    “To deal with that psychological discrepancy between business as usual in the community and the hospital care system about to collapse, I don’t know how you deal with that psychologically,” he said. 

  • The latest:

    The U.S. Travel Association said the ongoing closure of the land borders with Canada and Mexico is costing U.S. businesses an estimated $1.5 billion a month in “travel exports,” which the association defines as spending by foreign residents while visiting the U.S.

    Canada reopened its air, land and sea borders to Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Aug. 9. However, the ban on non-essential land travel from Canada and Mexico to the United States was extended last Monday for a 19th month, until Oct. 21.

    “My constituents are deeply frustrated by this, particularly given the trade and the relationships that people have across the border,” Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said last week during national security hearings with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

    “We are very mindful of the economic consequences, and not only the economic consequences but the consequences on family members who haven’t seen one another for quite some time,” Mayorkas replied.

    He said the progression of the delta variant of the coronavirus “is not yet where we need it to be” in the U.S., and that there are communities near the U.S.-Mexico border that are also suffering as a result of the closure.

    “We are looking at the situation, not only at the ports of entry on our northern border, but also on our southern border,” Mayorkas said.

    WATCH | CBC News Network’s business panel looks at proof-of-vaccination policies:

    Pandemic recovery | Business Panel

    21 hours ago

    Our weekend business panel discusses what’s needed for economic recovery and growth after the 44th general election. 13:15

    “We have heard similar concerns with respect to border communities on the South and the impact, economic and family impact, of the restrictions. We are looking at what we can do operationally, and we are moving in a very sequential and controlled manner.”

    Canada, meanwhile, remains the largest single U.S. export market, accounting for nearly 18 per cent of all American goods sent out of the country last year. The two countries trade $1.7 billion worth of goods and services each day, for a total of $614.9 billion in 2020.

    What’s happening across Canada

    WATCH | Canada’s top doctor on COVID-19 vaccines for children:

    Tam is asked to advise parents considering COVID-19 vaccines for children

    A reporter asks Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, for her advice to parents considering vaccinating their children once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to those younger than 12. 4:01

    • N.L. reports 14 new case as 80 per cent of eligible residents now fully vaccinated.

    What’s happening around the world

    As of Sunday morning, more than 231.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

    In Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in mid-September that he would have to spend a “few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19.

    The results of his time away from official duties, after he cancelled his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit, could be seen in photos released on Sunday, showing him fishing in Siberia.

    Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse bare-chested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin fishes during a short vacation at an unknown location in Siberia, Russia, in this undated photo taken this month and released on Sunday. (Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Reuters)

    In Asia, China has provided more than 1.25 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday. President Xi Jinping announced recently that China will provide a total of two billion doses of vaccines for the rest of the world by the end of this year.

    In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales recorded 961 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, government data showed on Sunday.

    The state’s first dose vaccination rate has climbed to 85.2 per cent of its population over 16 years of age, while 59.1 per cent of the population has had their second doses.

    New South Wales is expected to relax harsh lockdown restrictions that have been in place since June, when its population reaches 80 per cent double vaccinated some time in November.

  • It’s quieter this week on the Western University campus in the aftermath of four formal sexual assault complaints during the school’s September orientation week, a dizzying storm of allegations shared on social media followed by a massive walkout during which thousands of students decried sexual violence, misogyny and rape culture on campus.

    “It’s definitely been a tough couple of weeks,” said student leader Eunice Oladejo.

    Still, the recent political science graduate, who is also vice-president of external affairs of Western’s University Students’ Council, is pushing to keep the difficult conversation going at her London, Ont., school and beyond.

    “This isn’t just something that is happening on Western’s campus, it’s something that’s happening on a lot of different campuses.”

    WATCH | Western University students protest sexual violence on campus: 

    Western University students protest campus culture

    8 days ago

    Thousands of students at Western University walked out of classes Friday to protest misogyny and rape culture, and support survivors of sexual violence on campus. It comes after four women made formal complaints about being sexually assaulted at the London, Ont., university and there have been allegations of many more assaults. 2:08

    Western has launched a task force on sexual violence and new measures such as a mandatory training course for students and hiring more security guards. What happened has also revived talk elsewhere about the ongoing problem of sexual violence on post-secondary campuses and what institutions are doing to educate students, faculty and staff about the issue.

    Post-secondary policies about campus sexual violence vary across provinces and individual schools. While some institutions have mandatory courses about consent for staff and students, others host voluntary workshops and events. From campus to campus, resources devoted to sexual violence can range from multi-person teams amplified by student volunteers to single-person operations. 

    According to a 2020 Statistics Canada report, 71 per cent of students witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in the previous year. That number includes on-campus and off-campus situations that involved students or others associated with the school. 

    One in 10 women who participated in the research said they had experienced a sexual assault. But just eight per cent of women and six per cent of men who experienced a sexual assault reported it to someone associated with the school. Some said they believed the situation was not serious enough to report; others said they didn’t know what to do or didn’t trust the school to handle it. 

    Western University student leader Eunice Oladejo, who is also president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, wants to see more effort from her school and from the province on addressing sexual violence on campus. (Courtesy Western University Students’ Council)

    “It is important to keep these conversations going because we don’t want this to be something that just passes by,” said Oladejo, who in her additional role as president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance advocates for stronger policies from the Ontario government regarding campus sexual violence. 

    “We definitely want to keep the pressure on.”

    Compulsory course sends ‘a strong message’

    Since 2015, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have all passed legislation mandating that colleges and universities implement standalone sexual violence policies; Nova Scotia has also introduced the idea.

    At McGill University, the process to develop a policy spawned the adoption of a mandatory online course about consent called It Takes All of Us: Creating a Campus Community Free of Sexual Violence (based on a similar course at fellow Montreal school Concordia University). 

    Everyone must take it — new students, faculty and staff — by a specific date each fall. Incoming students must complete it before they can dive into frosh week activities and, furthermore, cannot register for their subsequent winter term classes until they have, said Angela Campbell, McGill’s associate provost for equity and academic policies.

    A slide from McGill’s mandatory training course It Takes All of Us: Creating a Campus Community Free of Sexual Violence. (Courtesy of McGill University)

    Making the course compulsory sends “a very strong message to our community about how seriously we take this issue and how important it is for us, for all members of our community to have at least a shared understanding of what sexual violence is, what consent is and how to respond effectively and with compassion to disclosures of sexual violence,” she said.

    Campbell described It Takes All of Us as “an integral piece” of a larger suite of initiatives, which includes events hosted in residence buildings and targeted in-person training for student advisors, student services staffers and others.

    McGill student Christine Wang thinks the school’s mandatory consent course is a good start to combat sexual violence on campus, but she would like to see more resources and supports for students from marginalized communities. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

    McGill student Christine Wang found the course — which shares statistics, presents different scenarios and ends with support and resources — quite sobering, despite having prior knowledge about the topic and which groups are most at risk to experience sexual violence, she says.

    “It’s a good start to changing the culture on campus,” said Wang, who is pursuing a master’s degree in physiotherapy. 

    “There is more work that needs to be done in terms of having support … especially for students that are from marginalized communities, like trans students, racialized students and [students with] disabilities.”

    ‘Sexual violence affects all facets of life’

    St. Mary’s University in Halifax introduced a campus “Consent Week” in 2017 that now comes near the start of both the fall and winter term. The weeks usually feature a range of events both “fun and exciting” as well as those serious in tone, says Lyndsay Anderson, the school’s assistant director of student culture and experience. 

    “Sexual violence affects all facets of life, not just university life, but I think the university can take part in ensuring that our students are aware and understanding of that,” she said.

    Consent and masculinity can be challenging topics for younger students freshly developing their own moral code, said Brian MacAulay, manager of the counselling centre at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. (Saint Mary’s University)

    One of this week’s sessions, which were voluntary, was specifically aimed at men and male-identifying students to discuss consent and masculinity. 

    It’s a topic that can be challenging for some, especially first-year students starting to “move away from their parents’ moral codes and developing their own,” said Brian MacAulay, manager of the school’s counselling centre and co-facilitator of the talk.

    “A lot of society tells men or male-identifying people how to act and how we’re not supposed to act. And so to ask somebody to drop their barriers and be vulnerable … it’s really important to create a space that is open, caring and basically allowing people to express viewpoints and have a real discussion.” 

    A coaster advocating consent is shown at UPEI in 2018. Students, school officials, and researchers believe tackling consent education and sexual violence on campus require a multi-pronged approach. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

    Multi-pronged approach, including ‘joyful’ learning

    School officials and experts researching sexual violence agree that a multitude of measures are needed to educate campus communities.

    For every province and territory to mandate that institutions have sexual violence policies, schools having well-funded and well-staffed sexual assault offices, monitoring how investigation and adjudication is happening, as well as explicit training for staffers involved are all importance pieces of the puzzle, says Farrah Khan, manager of the Consent Comes First office at Ryerson University. 

    Also serving as co-director of Courage to Act, a national project working to prevent gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses, Khan is calling on provinces to improve consent learning at the elementary and secondary levels to reach students “before they even step foot on a university or college campus.”

    She supports mandatory consent training (something Western University is now instituting for everyone in residence) and recommends annual refresher sessions for those in student-facing positions. But she also wants to see such concepts woven into the fabric of campus life.

    WATCH | Why this educator wants to ‘make it joyful’ to learn about consent: 

    Why this educator advocates ‘joyful’ workshops on sexual health and consent

    5 hours ago

    Canadian campuses need to address sexual violence, but also have better communication on consent and positive, realistic sexuality, says Farrah Khan, manager of Consent Comes First at Ryerson University and co-director of Courage to Act, a national project to prevent gender-based violence on campus. 2:17

    “We’re having a DJ [during orientation]. Are we talking about the music that they’re playing? Are we having speakers in between sets talk about consent, talk about relationships? Are we having safety teams … roaming around the space?” said Khan.

    The downtown Toronto school regularly hosts activities like “Sexy Sexual Health Trivia” nights with sexual health educator Samantha Bitty that allow students to ask questions and learn about consent in a positive way, she said. 

    Sexual health educator Samantha Bitty is seen at right leading a trivia event with University of Waterloo students in February 2020. She uses trivia to spark deeper conversations about sex and relationships in an accessible way. (Courtesy Samantha Bitty/Jennifer Woo)

    Another ongoing and popular initiative is Curiosity Labs, a partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University that offers a fun, interactive space for students to chat about topics such as pleasure, relationship skills, break-ups and flirting.

    The overall goal is to build up consciousness about and a common language to discuss consent, Khan said.

    “We need to have those conversations and talk about not only the world of what we don’t want to have, which is a world full of sexual violence, but the world that we do want to have, which is a world full of pleasure, consent and good sex that is communicated.”

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