New COVID-19 variant prompts Canada to announce new travel restrictions

New COVID-19 variant prompts Canada to announce new travel restrictions

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced new restrictions for travellers from seven southern African countries at a press conference on Friday. The government also urged Canadians to avoid travelling to the region. Screenshot is taken from CBC live broadcast. 

By Sophie Kuijper Dickson & Adam Beauchemin

Canada will implement travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant recently detected in South Africa, federal officials announced Friday.

“Emergence of new variants is unfortunately not unexpected,” said Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam during press conference on Friday, adding that, to date, there are no indications of the variant’s presence in Canada. 

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced Canada will impose restrictions on travel from seven countries in southern Africa: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini. 

The Omicron variant was first detected by South Africa and announced in a press conference Thursday.

While South Africa has seen an acceleration in cases, Tam said it’s too soon to say whether it is because of more relaxed health measures or because the virus has gained a biological advantage.

All Canadians who have arrived in Canada from any of the restricted countries within the past 14 days must remain in isolation until they receive a negative test result. 

Canadians arriving from travel-restricted countries will be tested upon arrival and asked to quarantine until they produce a second negative test. Foreign nationals will be prohibited from entering the country if they have been in any of the seven restricted nations within 14 days. 

Duclos noted the number of travellers Canada has been receiving from the restricted nations is small, an estimated average of 50 people day, which he said will allow the government to closely monitor the isolation and testing of those individuals. 

While officials only announced restrictions on seven countries, Alghabra stated the government has not ruled out the possibility of adding more measures as events unfold. 

Tam explained this variant is of significant concern because of the high number of mutations it contains, which may cause increased transmissibility as well as a weakened immune response among carriers. 

However, she emphasized there is still not enough information on the nature of this variant to fully understand its potential impact. 

“We know very little about this variant right now including how transmissible it is and whether it increases severity of illness or what the impact is on the vaccine,” Tam said, adding the vaccine is still the most important and effective means of protection against all strains.  

“There are still approximately three million Canadians, 12 years and older, who haven’t received a single dose of vaccine,” Duclos said, urging Canadians to get vaccinated now. 

Ukrainian-Canadian youth use social media to promote the memory of Holodomor as Russian aggression continues

Ukrainian-Canadian youth use social media to promote the memory of Holodomor as Russian aggression continues

Former Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union president Roman Grod, passes the ceremonial mace, known as a bulava in Ukrainian, to the new president, Danya Pankiw, on Sept. 27, 2021. Photo provided by Danya Wasylyk.

Canadian-Ukrainian youth are taking to social media to reclaim the legacy of Holodomor as the 88th anniversary of the man-made famine approaches on Saturday.

“It’s really a newer concept that this famine is now recognized as a genocide and has the name Holodomor, which means death by starvation,” said Danya Pankiw, 22, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union.

Sixteen countries have recognized the genocide as such, including Canada which did so in 2008.

As Russian presence intensifies at the Ukrainian border, young Canadian-Ukrainians are reflecting on this crucial moment in their collective history in a way previous generations have not.

“The older generation’s perspective is that it was not something to put a name to, often due to their own survivor’s guilt,” Pankiw said. “The youth are branding it for what it was in order to raise awareness.”

The famine swept the Soviet Republic of Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 claiming the lives of an estimated 3.9 million people.

Dasha Akhova, 22, has roots in both Russia and Ukraine and currently studies at the University of Toronto’s Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies. She said that social media helps put a spotlight on a range of voices from the Ukrainian diaspora as they explore the complexity of their identity.

“For me, Holodomor today is about setting the record straight,” she said Friday. “We are purging the extent of this Russian pressure and realizing how much it affected our identity.” 

Last year, the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union members posted QR codes across university campuses that led to a webpage with information on Holodomor. This year, their information campaign continues in the form of infographics posted to Instagram and organizing academic panels. A group of Ukrainian immigrants established the union in 1953 to preserve their culture but it has since shifted its focus toward advocacy work.

Pankiw further contextualized this cultural resurgence as part of the broader context of youth-led justice movements across Canada. 

“At this point in time there is a lot going on with other communities in Canada uncovering their past and Holodomor sits with that,” Pankiw said.

Pankiw said that the work of Ukrainian-Canadian youth is being widely recognized.

Pankiw was invited to represent Canadian-Ukrainian youth as part of a delegation that met with former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in Toronto last week. Poroshenko was in Canada to attend the Halifax International Security Forum.

“I think that really speaks to [how] our parent’s generation really see how important and impactful we are for the future of the diaspora,” Pankiw said of the invitation.

“So we are going back to those roots and seeing how we can construct a very inclusive Ukrainian national identity.”

Lack of skilled workers in Ontario causing construction labour shortage.

Lack of skilled workers in Ontario causing construction labour shortage.

Staffing has long been an issue for the construction sector, but 2021 has seen an even greater increase in job vacancies. Photo by Lilian Fridfinnson.

Staffing long been a challenge for the construction industry, but one Ottawa-based business owner says staffing jobs has become increasingly difficult over the last year. 

“Finding the competent staff is the most important,” said Sal Idone, who owns Millennium Masonry Ltd. “As you win more contracts, the workload increases […] you go out and start searching for employees. 

“What we’re finding is nothing too good.”

The decrease in available, skilled construction workers makes hiring within the field more difficult. Some employers offer pay increases and free lunches to appeal to workers, but other employers can’t keep up, said Idone.

“It’s not the easiest line of work. People tend to go for the easier, posh jobs that aren’t so physically demanding. However, not all of us can earn our living that way.”

The job market in Canada is becoming increasingly stressed, according to a September Stats Canada report, which shows significant job vacancy increases in the construction sector.

The report cited a 46.7 per cent increase in construction vacancies over two years in specialty trades such as masonry, painting, carpentry, and electrical work.

Ontario was second only to Quebec in job vacancies, with a 24.1 per cent increase between 2019 and 2021.

To close the labour gap, the province of Ontario has released its Skilled Trades Strategy—a plan to invest an additional $90 million into funding apprenticeships for youth.

The provincial government will also invest $20 million annually to provide more opportunities for students, including 63 recruiters across 800 schools to introduce trades at an early age.

A Nov. 24 press release by the Ontario government described the program as a step toward addressing a projected labour shortage of 100,000 construction workers in Ontario over the next decade.

“The industry as a whole is finding challenges,” said John Devries, president of the Ottawa Construction Association.

Despite a significant 7.3 per cent increase in building construction investment in the second quarter of 2021, job vacancies in the sector have persisted, and recruitment of skilled employees is a top obstacle for construction businesses. 

“They all want people who can hit the road running. They want someone that has 10 years [of] experience,” Devries said.

‘Nothing about us without us’: Scholars weigh in on key legal issues facing trans people in Canada

‘Nothing about us without us’: Scholars weigh in on key legal issues facing trans people in Canada

Samuel Singer is an assistant professor at the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa. Image credit: Website of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law – Common Law Section

Trans-rights scholars and advocates stepped up their criticism of Canada’s legal landscape on Friday, acknowledging the fight for basic human rights has created “huge fatigue.”

The panel discussion, hosted by the University of Ottawa’s Public Law Centre, comes at a time of heightened controversy after the Québec government introduced a bill seeking to limit the ability to change sex identification documents to only those who have undergone gender-confirmation surgery.

D.T., a law student, said having to constantly fight for basic human rights is exhausting.

“This comes with huge fatigue,” they said. “This takes a toll on the mental health and the resilience of the people who are directly concerned.”

Many trans-rights advocates hope to get rid of the discrepancies that exist between creating legislation and actually applying it.

“The people who put pen to paper for policies do not consult, do not consult properly and do not know who to consult,” said William Hébert, an assistant professor in the faculty of public affairs at Carleton University.

“Policy-makers and those who enforce those policies are not the same people, and there is a lot of tension there,” Hébert said.

As advocates continue to fight for their rights to be recognized by policy-makers, D.T. said they are worried trans people are trapped within a stereotype of vulnerability. 

“[Trans people] have to show and explain their suffering so the law can change and so decision makers can become their allies and sympathize with them,” D.T. said, specifying this is the only way the community will receive the legal changes it needs.

Samuel Singer, an assistant professor at the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa, acknowledged that leadership needs to be informed by trans peoples’ expertise.

“There is an expression in trans advocacy communities I think probably exists in many other contexts – nothing about us without us,” he said.

One example of such leadership could be seen in Thursday’s appointment of Amita Kuttner as the interim leader of the federal Green Party. Kuttner, an astrophysicist and former candidate for B.C.’s Burnaby-North Seymour riding, is the first trans leader of a federal party.

Amita Kuttner, the interim leader of the federal Green Party. Image credit: Creative Commons

For trans people to succeed, D.T. said allyship efforts need to create opportunities.

“If someone has enough privilege to be in a place where they can give up a little bit of their [authority] to create some space for a rising trans star or for any rising trans person, then do it,” they said.

“Trans people will prove worthy of the trust that you put in them, but you just need to trust in them first.”

CAJ report shows lack of diversity in Canada’s newsrooms

CAJ report shows lack of diversity in Canada’s newsrooms

Nana aba Duncan, associate professor at Carleton University and founder of Media Girlfriends, says there needs to be a more welcoming environment for young journalists of colour in newsrooms. Photo curtesy of Nana aba Duncan.

New data from the Canadian Association of Journalists validates what journalists of colour have been saying in recent years – that Canada’s newsrooms are overwhelmingly white.

The association released the first-ever Canadian Newsroom Diversity Survey on Thursday, providing data on 3,873 journalists across 209 newsrooms across Canada.

The report showed that about 75 per cent of the surveyed journalists identify as white, while about 19 per cent identify as a visible minority. Six per cent identify as Indigenous.

“Almost half of all newsrooms exclusively employ white journalists,” said Zane Schwartz, who is a member of the association’s board of directors and survey lead.

“This gives us a snapshot for the first time in Canadian history of the race and gender of the people who are telling Canadian stories and reporting on what’s going on in local communities all across Canada.”

According to the report, representation of visible minorities is currently the highest among part-timers and interns. White journalists make up roughly 76 per cent of full-time staff and 53 per cent of interns.

For Raisa Patel, a national politics reporter for the Toronto Star, these statistics are not surprising.

“We’ve been discussing that racialized women and Indigenous women occupy a very different part of this industry than their white colleagues, and we’ve been speaking for many years about how representation in this industry is lacking,” Patel said.

Almost 80 per cent of the newsrooms surveyed reported having no journalists of colour in their top three leadership positions.

Nana aba Duncan, an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication and founder of the podcast production company Media Girlfriends, said there needs to be more of an emphasis on promoting the journalists of colour who are already in newsrooms to higher-level positions.

“Often when there is talk of increasing diversity at companies, people begin with filling lower-level positions,” Duncan said. “This is important, but our news organizations must recognize the leadership that already exists within their ranks and promote them as soon as they can.”

Patel said she believes the report will help others understand the issues at hand and help newsrooms take steps toward focusing on their hiring practices to recruit more journalists of colour.

“It all comes back to hiring at the end of the day, and who are the people that we are seeking out?” she said. “How are we seeking them out? Are we making sure that they feel comfortable and welcome in this industry?”

Duncan sees a welcoming environment as essential to retaining young journalists of colour in newsrooms.

“We must see that they are members of communities that need to be reflected in our news, and that what they have to offer is an expertise some of us will never have,” Duncan said.

According to Schwartz, the next step for the association involves collecting more data from more newsrooms. The professional organization plans to conduct the survey annually. 

As for the future, Patel cautions newsroom managers from stopping the work of improving newsroom environments for journalists of colour.

“I would just really, really encourage anyone in a position of leadership in this industry to move away from that sense of complacency,” Patel said. “There is still so much work to do.”

Glebe businesses, eager shoppers welcome Lansdowne Christmas Market

Glebe businesses, eager shoppers welcome Lansdowne Christmas Market

Jennifer Adam smiles behind her mask while standing in front of the various kitchen and home products inside J.D. Adam.

Glebe businesses and local shoppers welcomed the return of the Lansdowne Christmas Market Friday.

The Christmas Market first took place in 2019 but was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.

Store owners near Lansdowne looked forward to the extra traffic the market could bring.

When asked whether there was tension between local Glebe businesses and the market, Jennifer Adam, the founder of J.D. Adam Kitchen Co. on the corner of Bank Street and Third Avenue, said there was none.

 “Anything that brings people down to the neighbourhood is fantastic,” Adam, 59, said. “We like to have extra customers running up and down by the extra stores in the area.”

Adam said her business is established and has been in the Glebe for more than 30 years, but the presence of the Lansdowne Christmas Market “might be harder for newer businesses.”

Adam also said the merchandise her store sells is different from the products at the Christmas Market.

“I think it just adds to the great variety of products that we have around here,” she said, “but if someone was selling something that was the same as what we’re doing, then I would obviously have some reservations.”

Bassam Saeed, 38, is the co-owner of local sock supplier Uptown Sox and was a vendor at the market in its first year in 2019.

“As vendors, we had a blast here,” Saeed said. “At nighttime, they do a lot of events here, and a lot of families come out. So, you have that Christmas feeling right through the holiday.”

Bassam Saeed, co-owner of Uptown Sox, prepares for the opening of the second Lansdowne Christmas Market event.

Vendors are expected to open their doors for shoppers in the Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza starting at 5 p.m. Friday. Saeed said he was not worried about competing with Black Friday sales.

“It started on Black Friday in 2019 as well, and a lot of people still showed up,” Saeed said.

He added that because the Christmas Market begins later in the day, people will spend their evenings at the event.

“It’s a good evening getaway, and instead of going out on a Friday night, people come here,” he said.

Shoppers at the market Friday also expressed excitement for its return.

 “I’ll be going to the Lansdowne Christmas Market with my husband and children tonight, and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Gemma Needham, a Christmas shopper in the Lansdowne area.

“I’ve heard that they light up a giant Christmas tree on the opening night … so that’ll be tons of fun.”