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‘I’m kind of scared’: Surgery for cancer patients and others cancelled as hospitals brace for possible COVID-19 wave


Janice Ense never actually got to talk to her doctor, or anyone else for that matter.

While she was out on Monday, an assistant left Ense a voicemail message announcing that the unfolding COVID-19 crisis had forced the postponement of her kidney cancer surgery.

The operation was supposed to take place next Thursday at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. Now the 47-year-old from Manitoulin Island, an eight-hour drive north, has no idea when the tumour will be removed. As the pain from it continues unabated.

“I’m kind of scared, because I don’t know if it’s going to metastasize … It has grown substantially in the past year,” Ense said in an interview Wednesday. “I was really disappointed. I was psyched physically and mentally to have major surgery and then, boom, it’s delayed.”

She is not alone.

Relatively few Canadians have contracted the novel coronavirus and fewer still have died from it. But COVID-19 is already having a tangible impact on thousands of the ill in Canada as hospitals postpone elective surgeries and transplants and clear out clinics and wards to ready for a possible wave of infected patients.

The moves — many announced in just the last few days — are designed partly to prevent sick and immune-compromised patients from being infected by COVID-19, but mostly to free up critical-care space and equipment should the pandemic suddenly spike.

The rationale is that even if a surgery is not urgent, those patients often spend time in the intensive-care unit and occupy a ward bed, resources that would be desperately needed if Canada experiences an Italy-like surge in COVID-19 cases.

“This is a big deal, we are doing a lot less,” said Vancouver cardiologist Dr. Andrew Krahn, a spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and president of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.


Toronto General Hospital. COVID-19 is already having a tangible impact on thousands of the ill in Canada as hospitals postpone elective surgeries.

Dave Thomas/Postmedia/File

The cardiac care system has years of experience managing wait lists and ensuring the most urgent cases get looked after quickly, but there is always a concern with delaying treatment, especially if the coronavirus disruptions last for more than a few weeks, said Krahn.

“Of course there’s worry,” he said. “There’s no question indefinite delays will lead to people having bad things happen while they are waiting.”

With some variations from province to province, hospitals across the country are postponing all elective cardiac procedures, resulting in a reduction in bypass, stent and other operations of 50 to 75 per cent, said Krahn. The society is also recommending that clincs and diagnostic services essentially be closed, “except for very ill people.”

That means, for instance, that a patient who fainted because of a heart condition would be treated immediately. But those who have a routine stress test that indicates they have a borderline need for a stent will have to wait, he said.

This is a big deal, we are doing a lot less

Toronto’s University Health Network, which encompasses four major hospitals, tends to care for “the most acute patients in the country.” But it is delaying most elective surgeries — from non-urgent gall bladder and hernia operations to hip replacements — a reduction of 25 to 40 per cent, said CEO Dr. Kevin Smith.

Also postponed are kidney transplants except those involving dead donors and recipients who are “highly sensitized or quickly deteriorating,” and lung transplants for any patient who is not declining rapidly.

Smith said the process is being carried out with care, each potentially postponed case reviewed by a panel of doctors. Some cancer surgeries, such as those involving slow-developing tumours, can be delayed safely, he noted.

Smith said there’s been relatively little pushback from patients — some have even asked for a delay to lessen their potential exposure to COVID-19 — but acknowledged it can be difficult.

“No patient wants to hear ‘You’ve got a malignancy and I’m going to wait to take it out,’ ” said the CEO. “But we’re trying to balance that against the risk and needs of other patients we anticipate coming to the hospital.”

Still, a study of the spillover effects of the 2003 SARS outbreak in the Toronto area — relatively small compared to the scope of the COVID-19 changes — found that efforts to reduce the demand on hospital services had some unintended, and troubling, consequences.

There were actually reductions in high-acuity visits to Toronto emergency departments and of hospital admissions for heart attacks, gastrointestinal bleeding and pulmonary embolisms — blood clots in the lung.

Emergency physician Dr. Michael Schull, who headed the research, said some emergency departments are now also seeing significantly reduced patient volumes. Public health authorities should remind Canadians they can still go to the hospital if they have a serious problem, said the CEO of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

“As much as we’re telling patients ‘Stay home, don’t go out unless you have to’ … we should also be telling people: ‘If you need the health system, it’s there for you and make use of it.”





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Nine snowmobilers stuck on mountain near Whistler, B.C., found safe: RCMP


WHISTLER, B.C. — The RCMP say nine snowmobilers who were stuck in the Brandywine Mountain area south of Whistler, British Columbia, have been found and are safe.

The Mounties say in a news release Monday that the snowmobilers have returned to their vehicles cold and hungry, but otherwise OK.

Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes says the snowmobilers’ families and friends began calling police Sunday night to report they had not returned home to various locations in the Lower Mainland.

Hayes said the snowmobilers’ vehicles were found parked in the Brandywine Mountain area and they were believed to be travelling in three groups.

He says the weather appears to have changed quickly, stopping the snowmobilers from returning and preventing search crews for searching for them in the backcountry.

Police say one of the groups was equipped with satellite tracking and the snowmobilers were prepared to spend time in the backcountry.



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GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau must choose between climate pledge and Alberta’s economy


The dilemma for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on climate change and energy policy comes down to this.

If he wants to meet the promises he’s made about reducing Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions, he has to gut our oil and gas sector.

He also has to do it quickly and the consequences for Alberta’s economy, as well as Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s, will be severe.

Trudeau and his cabinet would have to reject the $20.6 billion Teck Frontier oilsands megaproject in Alberta, now up for approval after getting the go-ahead from federal regulators.

But even if the Liberals cancel that project, that wouldn’t reduce current emissions, just slow the increase of future ones.

To meet his 2030 target of cutting Canada’s current emissions to 30% below 2005 levels, Trudeau will have to eliminate the equivalent of 50 Teck oilsands megaprojects over the next decade, or five Teck megaprojects every year, for 10 years.

Even using the Trudeau government’s own projections of what emission levels will be in 2030, including projects it hasn’t started, it would still have to cut current emissions by the equivalent of 19 Teck-like megaprojects over 10 years, or almost two every year, for a decade.

To achieve his election promise of cutting Canada’s emissions to net zero by 2050, Trudeau would have to cut Canada’s emissions by the equivalent of 175 Teck-like megaprojects over the next 30 years — almost six Teck-like megaprojects annually, for three decades.

Canada has seven economic sectors that generate significant industrial emissions, but oil and gas has been the fastest-growing since 1990 and the largest since 2012.

Today, these emissions total 195 megatonnes annually, an 84% increase since 1990.

The second-largest is the transportation sector at 174 megatonnes of emissions annually, a 43% rise since 1990, but with stable emissions since 2012.

Emissions in the electricity, heavy industry and waste sectors have gone down since 1990, while emissions in the agriculture and building sectors haven’t grown significantly since 2005.

Technology in the oil and gas sector is constantly improving, reducing the carbon intensity of its emissions, meaning the energy required to produce a barrel of oil generates fewer emissions over time, but not enough to come close to meeting Trudeau’s 2030 and 2050 targets.

For that, Trudeau will have to slash current oil and gas production.

Trudeau’s dilemma is that while he has never acknowledged the severe economic consequences to the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Canadian economies of fulfilling his climate change promises, he also doesn’t have enough money — our money — to subsidize an industry his climate policies are designed to kill.

Last week we learned the price tag on completing the Trans Mountain pipeline the Trudeau government bought two years ago has increased to $12.6 billion, 70% higher than its original forecast.

A report by Reuters news said Trudeau and his cabinet are considering federal aid to Alberta if they decide to reject the Teck megaproject, with the Liberals divided on what to do when they announce their decision later this month.

Vetoing Teck would be widely seen in Alberta as a deliberate, possibly fatal blow to the province’s beleaguered economy by a vindictive Liberal government that no longer has a single seat there or in Saskatchewan.

Approving it would be viewed as a betrayal by those who supported the Liberals in last year’s election because of Trudeau’s promise to meaningfully address climate change.

Now, Trudeau has to pick a lane.

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Coronavirus live updates: WHO considers global emergency declaration as death toll hits 170


The World Health Organization is set to meet Thursday, for the third time in a week, to determine if the deadly coronavirus outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.

Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship as tests are carried out on two Chinese passengers suspected of having caught coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said on Thursday.

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The couple arrived in Italy on Jan. 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and are suffering breathing difficulties

The liner has visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.

No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out to see if the pair had the potentially deadly coronavirus, the company spokesman said.

He said it might take “a few hours” before the situation became clearer.

On Thursday countries began isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people.

Follow along below for live updates on the coronavirus outbreak from around the world and Canada:

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Calgary students battle Islamophobia during Islam Awareness Week – Calgary


Students at Mount Royal University in Calgary are fighting Islamophobia by educating themselves and others about Islam.

It’s all part of United Islam Awareness Week, an event that runs from Jan. 20 to 24 and is designed to dispel Islamophobia.

The Muslim Student Affiliations, an on-campus group for Islamic students, is marking UIAW by hosting a speaker series featuring scholars with real-life experiences dealing with racism.


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Dilly Hussain, the deputy editor of Muslim news website 5 Pillars, was the first speaker of MRU’s weeklong series.

Hussain said he has seen a rise in Islamophobia in Europe and the United States, and hopes more people start having tough conversations about religious differences.

“If there is a growing sentiment among non-Muslims in the Western world that Muslims believe in x, y and z or they find certain rituals or beliefs problematic or in contradiction with secular liberal values, then we need to have that conversation,” said Hussain.

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He said his presentation on Monday night focused on Muslims becoming more vocal, especially during tenuous political times.

“The situation isn’t getting any better,” Hussain said. “So the best thing to do is not to become shelled inside. You actually need to be out there and engaged.”

Lectures on combating Islamophobia run through the week at MRU’s Jenkins Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Upcoming topics include “Quran Burning Doubt” and “Is Jihad Lit.”




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.







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Prince Harry and Meghan would have to apply for Canadian citizenship like everyone else


Following a meeting Monday with Queen Elizabeth II, it’s clear that Prince Harry and Meghan are coming to Canada for “a period of transition.”

What’s not clear is whether the couple intend to continue to divide their time between the two countries after everything has been arranged; whether they will eventually settle permanently in Canada; or, whether they have their sights set on another country, perhaps the United States, where Meghan is reportedly still a citizen. If they did choose to make Canada their permanent, primary home, would they get any special treatment in regards to Canada’s immigration system?

As the grandson of Canada’s monarch and sixth in line to the throne, one might expect Prince Harry to have some special status in this country. But the Duke of Sussex enjoys no such privilege, nor do any of the Queen’s descendants. Even the Queen does not hold Canadian citizenship, although she could reside in Canada for as long as she wants.

“She has a different kind of status but it’s not citizenship. It’s a state authority,” said Carleton University Professor Philippe Lagassé, an expert on the Westminster system. “She’s the personification of the state, so she doesn’t need a passport to enter. She would have all legal rights because everything done by governance is done in her name.”

This special status, however, only applies to the Queen because Canadian law only recognizes the ruling British monarch.

“It’s a very simple rule — whoever’s their monarch is our monarch,” Lagassé said. “We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status. We don’t even have laws that recognize Royals as being Canadian Royals.”

Canada will not automatically grant the royal couple citizenship, and would need to apply to become permanent residents through the normal immigration process, Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for the immigration minister, told the CBC in a statement. The minister’s office did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment before deadline.

That means Prince Harry will be entering Canada as any other British citizen would, and all British citizens can stay in Canada for up to six months without a visa. It’s the same for U.S. citizens. So Harry and Meghan’s short-term plan could simply be to travel back and forth between Canada and the U.K. at least twice a year — although that would put Meghan’s application for British citizenship at risk.

If the couple wants Canada to be their economic base, visitor visas won’t help them with their long-term goal of becoming financially independent as neither of them would be permitted to work in the country, said Harjit Grewal, an immigration consultant with Sterling Immigration who works in Vancouver and London.

However, it’s entirely possible that Meghan is already a permanent resident in Canada, Grewal said. While she was filming the TV show Suits, Meghan lived in Toronto for nine months of the year for seven years, until she moved to the U.K. to live with Harry in November 2017.

If, during that time, she got a self-employed visa, aimed at people who work in cultural activities or athletics, then she would have been granted permanent residency. That would mean that Meghan is still eligible to live and work — in any field — in Canada, and that she could sponsor Harry and their son Archie.

The couple could also qualify for a business visa, if they chose to invest some of their vast wealth in Canada, Grewal said. He also pointed out that, if Meghan and Harry successfully monetize the Sussex brand, Canada could be eager to fast-track their applications and welcome them as taxpaying citizens.

We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status

Another option is the federal skilled worker (express entry) program, but the couple might not fare too well under that points-based system since Prince Harry doesn’t have a university degree and they are both over 30, Grewal said. Prince Harry is 35 and Meghan is 38.

While the couple have no legal status, in the eyes of many Canadians, there is a cultural connection to the country as members of the Royal family, Lagassé said, but that doesn’t change the law.

“To what extent do you bend the law to accommodate people of fairly significant means?” Lagassé said. “It becomes a political question, not a legal one at that point.”

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Saskatchewan conservation officer frees deer locked with another buck



It was quite the struggle for a white-tail deer in southern Saskatchewan who was locked together with another buck that was already dead.

The incident happened Dec. 18 in Rowan’s Ravine near Southey.

Conservation officers were called to the area as the live deer couldn’t get free from a dead buck that was partially eaten by coyotes.


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Upon arrival, conservation officers noticed the deer was in distress.



“The surrounding ground was disturbed in a wide area around the deer, indicating that the deer had been struggling to get free for quite some time,” said the Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers in a statement published on their Facebook page.


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An officer ended up shooting the locked antlers.

“The officer was able to get within about 15 metres of the deer, and using her patrol shotgun loaded with a lead slug, was able to shoot the locked antlers, breaking the deer apart. The deer, once freed from his dead weight, ran off towards a valley to recover from its stressful ordeal,” said the Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.