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One-month-old daughter of TSN star O’Toole reportedly found safe


Oakland Newman-O’Toole, the one-month-old daughter of TSN personality Dan O’Toole, was reportedly found safe.

A Global News reporter tweeted late Thursday night that Durham Regional Police have located the infant, who was safe with her mother.

“There are no concerns for child’s safety at this point,” Travis Dhanraj tweeted.

However O’Toole took to Twitter to criticize Dhanraj on reporting about his daughter’s case before he was informed about her safety.

Hey Travis. First off, this is not a Durham police matter. Secondly, should the police maybe call me first once my child has been found?” O’Toole tweeted.

A post appeared on O’Toole’s Instagram account shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday night alongside a black-and-white picture of the little girl wrapped in a blanket.  In the post, O’Toole hinted that Oakland was missing.

“My baby Oakland. I’m praying that whoever has you, is holding you. That whoever has taken you from me, is protecting you. That however (sic) has you, let’s you come back into my arms,” the post reads. “I love you Oakland. I can’t wait to one day hold you again. My heart is broken. I am broken. To be clear, Oakland is alive, we think. But we don’t know. I have a one month old child, and I don’t know where she is.”

The post was later updated to include the following: “ATTN: my amazing ex wife Corrie has NOTHING to do with this. Please leave her alone.”

O’Toole co-stars on the nightly sports highlight/segments show SC with Jay and Dan alongside longtime TSN partner Jay Onrait.

O’Toole announced the birth of his third daughter, Oakland, at the end of May.

“Meet Oakland Eleanor Sandra Newman-O’Toole,” read an Instagram post from O’Toole’s account on May 26.

“My brand new lil girl who has a million names, and all of my heart. In case it was ever in doubt, no officially NEVER forgetting 2020.”

Reached Thursday night via email, Scott Henderson, vice-president, communications, Bell Media, said the company would not be commenting on the matter.





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Canada has power to end Meng extradition, bring Canadians home from China, Kovrig’s wife says


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Since January, China has prevented Canadian diplomats from visiting Kovrig and Spavor, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

Trudeau rejected suggestions that Canada should intervene to resolve the Meng case in an attempt to free Kovrig and Spavor.

“We continue to stand up both for the independence of our judicial system and Canadian interests and values,” the prime minister said. “We work behind the scenes and in public to ensure that everyone understands we will continue to work extremely hard to get these Canadians home.”

Garnett Genuis, the Conservative critic on Canada-China Relations, was critical of former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley and Eddie Goldenberg, a former aide to ex-prime minister Jean Chrétien, for advocating for a prisoner exchange to free Kovrig and Spavor.

“Conservatives continue to call on Justin Trudeau to respect the independence of Canada’s judicial system and reject this position by senior Liberal insiders,” said Genuis.

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in a luxury Vancouver home while her extradition case wends its way through a British Columbia court.

The United States wants to prosecute Meng for fraud, alleging she lied to banks about her company’s connections with Iran, which could possibly violate U.S. sanctions.



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LILLEY: Conservative leadership hopefuls poised to square off


Are you ready to watch the barnburner of the Conservative leadership debates this week?

Did you remember there is a Conservative leadership race on in the middle of the world melting?

Depending on how much French you speak or understand, you may want to give your ears a break on Wednesday night and skip round one. None of the leadership contenders are Francophone, none of them are naturals when it comes to speaking French, so getting by will be the order of the night.

Or you can be like me and watch to see if they hold the same positions in English as they do in French.

The leadership race was mostly put on hold during COVID-19 and is only now coming back to life. In order to vote, you had to buy a membership by May 15.

So, if you missed that date, you can enjoy the spectacle but the candidates aren’t speaking to you; they will be speaking to party members and the supporters of other candidates.

A friend posted an interesting chart the other day that showed the Facebook traffic each of the candidates was getting.

Erin O’Toole far and away had the most followers and the most traffic, Leslyn Lewis was third in terms of followers but had almost five times the interactions on postings compared to Peter MacKay.

MacKay was second in terms of Facebook followers but trailed even Derek Sloan when it came to people reacting online.

Here’s the thing, Facebook traffic doesn’t equal membership.

MacKay launched first and started out well. He fundraised, he sold memberships, he got media attention. Then he started getting the wrong kind of media attention. The campaign made mistakes.

Then COVID put the campaign on ice.

O’Toole, much like he did when he finished third in the 2017 leadership race, took a slow and steady approach. He has gained traction slowly, pitched himself as more conservative, more right-wing than I think he actually is and went after the party’s base.

He outperforms MacKay on social media and hasn’t made as many public errors, but has he sold the memberships?

Right now, that is the big question.

Lewis has been making strides but perhaps a bit too late unless she can convince people who bought memberships for other candidates to switch their vote and that may very well happen. Lewis is impressing all kinds of people with her calm demeanour and unflinching stances on key conservative issues.

As for Sloan, he’s battling it out to be the social conservative kingmaker but I’m not sure he will even accomplish this.

He draws much of his support from the Life Site News crowd, a significant army of volunteers and donors, but he hasn’t broken out of that.


Leslyn Lewis

Lewis is also coming out of the social conservative faction of the party though her backing comes mainly from the Charles McVety, Canada Christian College following. The big difference is she has grown her base from there while Sloan has not.

O’Toole has been careful not to alienate social conservatives and has asked them to make him their number two choice in this ranked ballot runoff.

MacKay called social conservative issues a “stinking albatross” around Andrew Scheer’s neck in the postmortem of last fall’s election.

I don’t see MacKay getting many votes from that camp.

The conventional thinking is that MacKay has to win on the first ballot or lose to O’Toole, if not Lewis, later on in the voting.

I’m not sure that’s the case, he just has to convince enough existing members that he’s the man to beat Trudeau.

I have no vote in this; I’m not a party member and never have been. So, I’ll be watching to see who the candidates are pitching at, trying to decipher where they think their growth is.

The biggest question going through the minds of members needs to be who can beat Justin Trudeau and lead this country back to a solid footing after the next election.



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Ontario non-profit tackling racism in justice system through education, enhanced reporting


A newly launched not-for-profit organization is embarking on a mission of tackling anti-Black and systemic racism in the justice system by working to directly support those impacted during the sentencing process and to better educate the legal community.

Faisal Mirza, a criminal trial and appeals lawyer, is one of three directors who recently launched The Sentencing and Parole Project.

The initiative, which has been in the works for months, has three focus areas: Addressing the over-representation and mistreatment of racialized residents in correctional facilities; proving education as it relates to anti-Black and systemic racism to all those involved in the justice system; and providing courts with enhanced pre-sentence reports.

READ MORE: Minorities over-represented in Canadian prisons, report finds

“You have systemic discrimination into society intersecting with systemic discrimination in the justice system, so they don’t live in silos,” Mirza told Global News in an interview.

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“In society, you will have a disproportionate number of racialized people living in the lower socio-economic conditions they will experience … which numerous studies have now documented.”

Indigenous, Black inmates disproportionately in Canadian correctional facilities

According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s (OCI) 2018-2019 annual report, Indigenous and Black inmates were over-represented in Canada’s corrections system.

While the 2016 Census found that approximately 4.9 per cent of Canada’s population is Indigenous, the OCI report said 28 per cent of those in custody were Indigenous — an 11 per cent overall increase compared to 10 years earlier.

Census data estimated Black residents make up almost 3.5 per cent of Canada’s overall population, but the OCI report found eight per cent of those in custody are Black — an overall one per cent increase compared to 10 years earlier and a two per cent decrease compared to three years earlier.


READ MORE:
Canada’s prison watchdog disturbed by ‘Indigenization’ of correctional system

Issues have been raised about mistreatment in correctional facilities. The report noted “though still low,” discrimination complaints appeared to be trending upward. The OCI said reports of discrimination from Black inmates represented 37 per cent of all complaints between 2008 and 2018.

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The OCI report also noted there has been a disproportionate increase of inmates who identify as being Muslim, noting there has been a 74 per cent increase over 10 years — now representing 7.73 per cent of the overall population. The report said the reason for this increase was unclear.

Meanwhile, the OCI found there was a “relative and proportional decline” in the total number of white inmates. As of 2018-2019, 52 per cent of those in custody are white — down overall by 14 per cent. 2016 Census data estimated almost 73 per cent of Canada’s population is white.

Pre-sentence reports and the call for enhanced information

Mirza said when it comes to the justice system and addressing systemic racism, an area that needs immediate attention is the pre-sentence report process.

Pre-sentence reports are often requested of probation officers by judges in cases where someone has been found guilty of a serious criminal offence. The specific policies and use of pre-sentence reports vary by province and territory. Judges are not bound by pre-sentence reports and can potentially use the reports as one of multiple factors in sentencing.

“The problem with the conventional pre-sentence report is that it is insufficient and inadequate, and over the past several decades we’ve relied on those conventional pre-sentence reports to provide essential information about offenders and the reality is that they fail to do so,” he said, noting while some submitted reports are decent others have just basic biographical details with limited background information.

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READ MORE:
Ontario judge chastises Quebec over ‘useless’ and ‘inflammatory’ sentencing report

“What we’ve tried to do is address that gap in information because we think it’s critical for judges to have that information in order to fairly sentence people — in order to get to the right determination.”

In Ontario’s pre-sentence report process, information gathered by a probation and parole officer includes factors relating to personal and family details, education and employment history, substance use and addictions, character and behaviour, a response to community supervision, an overall assessment and recommendations for the court. The officer can potentially gather information from interviews with the person charged, family members and police sources.

At the Sentencing and Parole Project, an enhanced pre-screening report prepared for the court is written by a clinician or an expert with medical training. They too can potentially conduct interviews with the person charged as well as with family and friends.

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The enhanced report more broadly considers the person’s social history — how they identify, background on their family, their social environment, their social relationships, education, lived experiences with anti-Black racism, work history, jail conditions, substance use and addictions, their character and behaviour, and an overall assessment and summary. The enhanced report may also include more detailed interview notes and contacts.

“It’s very difficult for an individual over the span of a single interview that lasts a few hours to tell them about what it was like to grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, what it was like to have significant police presence and negative experiences with the police, what it was like to be streamed in the education system and be subject to unfairness,” Mirza said, noting systemic disadvantages have affected the ability to get employment for many.

“So it’s very hard for a probation officer to get that information from an individual because they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the time, they don’t have the training, and they don’t seem to be able to develop the trust relationship in order to pull that information out.

“If you can’t identify what the person has gone through, got them up to that point, then you can’t really figure out what programs that they should be put into and then that’s where you get the problems and the jails.”

Mirza said the enhanced pre-sentence report process is newer in Ontario, noting it took quite a bit of time to get the first test case report done. He said The Sentencing and Parole Project can now potentially file an enhanced report between 60 and 90 days, a time period consistent with conventional reporting.

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‘Level the playing field’

While Mirza said the enhanced pre-sentence report process is newer in Ontario, he cited “pioneering” work in Nova Scotia by social worker Robert Wright.

He said courts in Nova Scotia aren’t waiting for defence lawyers to get legal aid funding and that enhanced pre-sentence reports are routinely ordered by judges.

Mirza said some lawyers have brought that approach to Ontario, adding over-representation of racialized residents in the justice system is a major concern.

READ MORE: UN council to discuss report calling on Canada to address anti-Black racism

“[The reports] provide the type of information that’s required for fairness, for decisions to be based on accurate information, so they’re evidence-based decisions. [It’s} no different than if somebody had a mental health issue — you would want the judge to know the particulars of that mental health issue so that they could use that information to determine what the right disposition is and what the right programs are for the individual,” he said.

“When they receive a report, it’s not an ‘aha’ moment. It’s an, ‘I understand. I get it. I’ve been exposed to this,’ right? And I can connect the dots so that when the individualized information is presented, they move away from the one-size-fits-all approach.”

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READ MORE:
Increasing calls for Ontario government to declare anti-Black racism public health crisis

Mirza said providing access to enhanced reports helps “level the playing field” for those who are marginalized and don’t have money to get privately funded pre-sentence reports prepared by social workers and doctors.

“They provide that information and the courts will look at that and say, ‘you know, this is a good person who did something wrong.’ And then the filter through which those people are examined is entirely different,” he said.

“This is a very important piece of the puzzle and we think that there needs to be a recognition that these better pre-sentence reports are required for everyone, and in particular for people who are over-represented, to understand their experiences with racial inequality and poverty.”

Educating the legal community, calls for other measures

When it comes to tackling systemic discrimination, Mirza said the provincial and federal governments have a lot of work to do and need to make investments.

He said education and government action needs to start at the earliest levels of education, citing recent reports of allegations of racism at the Peel District School Board.


READ MORE:
Is the Liberal government’s promise to repeal mandatory minimum sentences dead?

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As for other justice system reforms, he called for mandatory anti-Black racism training for all those in the justice system, improved use of force and de-escalation training, and scrapping mandatory minimum sentences.

“Anti-Black racism is at the forefront right now because of the social movement that’s going on and it presents an opportunity for us to do some inflection and look at what are the deficiencies in our justice system.”

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





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Crown wants to fight controversial ‘extreme intoxication’ defence ruling


TORONTO — Canada’s highest court will be asked to weigh in on a ruling that reopened the door for people accused of violent crimes to argue they were so intoxicated they had lost control of what they were doing.

The decision angered some women, and in a statement on Saturday a spokeswoman for Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said the prosecution wanted the top court to hear a challenge to it.

“I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Jenessa Crognali. “It would be inappropriate to comment further as the matters are before the court.”

Crognali said the notice of leave to appeal had yet to be filed.

I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

In overturning the convictions of two men in separate cases, the Court of Appeal on Wednesday struck down a decades-old section of the Criminal Code as unconstitutional.

The men, Thomas Chan and David Sullivan, had either killed or injured close relatives. Both were high on drugs — one had eaten magic mushrooms, the other had tried to kill himself with an overdose of a prescription stop-smoking medication.

Evidence was that both became psychotic and went on a violent rampage. Their defence, however, ran afoul of the ban on arguing self-induced extreme intoxication had resulted in their “automatism.”

The federal government had enacted the law in 1995 amid a backlash over a court ruling that recognized drunkenness could be raised to defend against a sexual assault charge.

“(The law) enables the conviction of individuals for acts they do not will,” the Appeal Court said in striking down Section 33.1.

While such cases are rare and successfully raising an intoxication defence would be difficult, critics argued it had undermined a measure aimed at protecting women from sexual violence.

“We are dismayed that women’s rights to equality and dignity are not given more adequate treatment,” the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund said of the ruling. “It also risks sending a dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication.”

Both federal and Ontario New Democrats had urged an appeal.

I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said concerns the court had reopened floodgates for men accused of violence to argue intoxication were unwarranted.

For one thing, an accused would still have the difficult task of proving they were in a state of automatism to raise the extreme intoxication defence successfully. Simply claiming to have been drunk wouldn’t cut it.

Cara Zwibel, a director with the liberties association, said the ruling had not undermined the rights of victims.

“This is a rarely used provision,” Zwibel said. “It’s not this widespread, systemic concern.”

Neither the association nor the legal fund, both interveners in the case, had any immediate comment on the proposed appeal on Saturday.





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‘We do not want to start a civil war’: Fight grows over seasonal access to cottages during COVID-19


The approach of Victoria Day long weekend — the starting pistol for cottage travel for many in Ontario and across the country — coinciding with a deadly pandemic brings fear of “a civil war” between cottagers and residents of Canada’s waterfront regions.

With concerns that cottage owners from cities with higher COVID-19 caseloads may spread the coronavirus or drain the small grocery and health-care resources of rural communities, the usually warm welcome for summer residents is in a deep chill.

“There is lots of tension between the seasonal and the permanent residents,” said Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, Ontario, 190 kilometres northwest of Toronto, which is bisected by the Saugeen River, popular with canoeists and anglers.

“We do not want to start a civil war with our cottagers.”

For some, conflict is already here.

There are some people who are fearful for their lives. They’re really scared

Some popular destinations have issued a ban against cottage owners coming to their property; others discourage cottagers by shutting off their water or closing boat ramps. Others are just pleading with cottagers to stay away.

“It’s a struggle we are all facing as mayors. It is not fun times,” said Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinross in southwestern Ontario, which includes a stretch of Lake Huron waterfront. In March he ordered water service to seasonal properties shut off.

“I get it: people want to get away to some form of semblance of their regular life, to put everything else behind. But that’s where the angst is, because for their self-comfort and their mental health and wellbeing they come and they put their thoughts ahead of people who are here year-round.

“There are some people who are fearful for their lives. They’re really scared. We do have folks that decided that, in their best interests they have a right, because they’re a taxpayer, to drive back and forth. So you try to make a decision, it’s the not the most popular decision all the time.”

For Twolan, it is not theoretical.

He said a cottager from Kitchener-Waterloo region was treated in the area’s hospital in Kincardine and later tested positive for COVID-19, sending three or four nurses home for 14 days of quarantine.

“That was what we are all scared of and it happened,” Twolan said.

Many seasonal property owners are pushing back.

Bill Armstrong, who lives in Aurora, north of Toronto, owns a cottage on Horse Island in Carling Township, not far from Ontario’s Killbear Provincial Park, which requires a boat to get to. The municipality has closed boat ramps, leaving him unable to get to his second home, he said.

In response, he is sending regular “invoices” to the township for its “rental” of his cottage at $1,500 a week. He said he also plans to hold the township liable for preventing him from checking his property after the winter, as his insurance policy requires.

“We’re all just fuming,” he said. He warned that if cottagers aren’t welcome now, cottagers might not want to spend their money in the communities in the future.


“I get it: people want to get away to some form of semblance of their regular life, to put everything else behind.”

Peter Redman/Ntional Post/File

Allane Andrusko, a cottage owner in Prince Edward County, said if the municipality bans cottagers from their property it will spark a legal fight.

“I will initiate a small claims court action requesting a refund of all fixed costs for the period they told me to stay away and then ordered me to stay away. This includes taxes, insurance and hydro.”

David Kreaden, a Toronto medical doctor and cottage owner, argued it is safer to stay in his cottage.

“It is much easier to isolate in the cottage setting than it is in a high-rise in Toronto having to use the elevator multiple times a day,” he said. He disputed suggestions he might be a burden on local health care if he has COVID-19: “I daresay it would prompt a quick return to the city.”

Complaints of seasonal owners are not drawing sympathy from many permanent residents.

“We don’t need any extra pressures on our modest hospitals,” said Brian Burke, a resident of Norfolk County in southern Ontario, where the medical officer of health has issued an emergency health order banning seasonal owners from occupying their property.

“Staring at our COVID numbers the past few weeks, the thought of even something as simple as someone from out of town falling off their bicycle and breaking their arm is terrifying — we simply don’t have any room for error here.”

We’re all just fuming

Other residents use social media to try to shame out-of-towners by posting photos of tourists stocking up in local stores.

Cottage country mayors are looking to the Ontario government to bring province-wide rules before the Victoria Day weekend, several said.

Premier Doug Ford, who will be speaking with cottage country mayors this week, said he won’t bring in a ban.

“You have to give a little leniency. If you put down the hammer and say you just aren’t coming, well, people aren’t going to listen,” Ford said.

That sentiment is reflected in a memo dated May 3 from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, sent to municipal medical officers of health, obtained by National Post.

“My current recommendation is to not prohibit access to secondary residences through legal order, but to continue to provide communications that discourage their use,” it says.

Williams also advised against medical officers of health issuing broad prohibitions against access to seasonal property under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, as was done in Haldimand and Norfolk counties.

Ford said his a message to cottage country is: “Be prepared, people are coming up on May the 24th.”

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COVID-19 Canada: Political parties remain undecided on how to resume House of Commons


OTTAWA — Canada’s political parties have until 11 a.m. Eastern time to reach a deal about how best to re-open Parliament or else the House of Commons is to resume on its normal schedule, but so far no consensus has been reached.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Liberals reached a tentative agreement to sit in person once a week, but Conservatives have said that is not enough.

Most parties say the only reason to be physically present in the House of Commons is to vote on legislation. The reason they proposed one sitting per week is so those votes can happen quickly, without having to reconvene an emergency session.

Two virtual sittings of the committee of the whole per week can accommodate all other needs, said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a Monday morning news conference

Those virtual sittings would not only minimize contact, but also make sure people in regions far from Ottawa would be able to question the government.

“It’s important to hear voices from parliamentarians across this country,” Singh said.

The NDP have three MPs in Ottawa, including Singh, who say they are prepared to stay in the capital as long as necessary to reach a deal with the other parties.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused the Conservatives of holding parliament “hostage” for partisan reasons, and said he wants to get to the business of serving Canadians and the people of Quebec.

The Bloc said its priorities during the next sitting of the House is to promote the needs of seniors, and the NDP cited students who will be out of work this summer as one of their top concerns.

Both the NDP and the Bloc said they were confident a deal could be reached by the 11 a.m. deadline.

The Senate has broken until at least June 2, though several committees have plans to meet virtually and the full body can be recalled if legislation need to be passed.



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Canada takes cautious approach to unapproved COVID-19 drugs, as others prescribe wide use


A doctor guest on Fox News called it “the beginning of the end of the pandemic.” President Donald Trump said it could be a “game changer,” and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave physicians a qualified green light to use it on COVID-19 patients.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a hot item in the United States, embraced by the highest politician in the land and many in the medical community, despite minimal evidence that it helps those stricken by the novel coronavirus.

India and Brazil have similarly doubled down on using the drugs to treat the pandemic virus.

But it’s a different story in Canada, where hydroxychloroquine and other potential COVID-19 medicines are being met more with a cautious interest than unbridled enthusiasm.

Canadian researchers are actively involved in several studies of the malaria drug and others, with the federal government spending millions to support them.

But in contrast to the FDA, health organizations here have discouraged their use except as part of those clinical trials — studies designed to carefully assess the drugs’ effectiveness and possible harmful side effects.

And some experts warn that widespread use outside of studies — which typically include a control group of patients who don’t receive the drug — could make it difficult to ever determine whether they work or not.

“When people become very ill … your impulse is to try anything that might help, and that’s driven the response in some places,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta. “But as people have been wrapping their heads around the data underpinning these drugs, it’s really pretty thin on the ground.”

Dr. Salim Yusuf, a professor at Hamilton’s McMaster University and leading clinical-trials expert, is helping design a fast-tracked hydroxychloroquine study. He said he understands the urge to try unproven treatments but worries about the consequences.

It could result in harm

“One perspective is ‘We’re in a time of desperation and let’s throw anything we can at it to save people’s lives.’ I understand that,” he said. “The danger is it’s not objective. It could result in harm.”

Just as the scientific community has entered an extraordinary, expedited race to develop a vaccine for the virus causing COVID-19, it is rapidly testing whether a number of new drugs or ones used for other conditions might help the minority of patients made critically sick by the pathogen.

Health Canada alone has approved eight separate COVID-19 trials.

The malaria drug has drawn the most attention worldwide, initially because of a small French study that seemed to show that combining it with the antibiotic azithromycin had some effectiveness against the coronavirus.

Trump gave his endorsement and then it became a political issue, with opponents of the president seeming eager to see it debunked, supporters trumpeting the drugs as a miracle cure.

And on Monday, the FDA made its surprise pronouncement, saying it was worth the risk of trying an unproven remedy for seriously ill patients.

Canadian doctors, like their American counterparts, are legally allowed to prescribe approved medicines “off-label” for uses other than those specified in their licences.

But Health Canada has not followed the U.S. lead by encouraging they do so with hydroxychloroquine.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommended in a lengthy March 30 report against using any of several potential COVID-19 drugs except as part of clinical trials.

Quebec’s National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services said in a news release Thursday that treating coronavirus patients with the malaria pills should “be done within the framework of research protocols.”


University of Minnesota researchers set up an automated liquid handler as they begin a trial to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Craig Lassig/Reuters/File

And guidelines developed by University of Toronto-based critical care doctors also say experimental therapies ought to be used only as part of clinical trials, or else after consulting an infectious-disease specialist and getting the patient’s informed consent.

Saxinger said she agreed with such advice, though she said exceptions may have to be made in smaller centres where there’s no chance of a patient joining a clinical trial.

Having heard positive reports about some of the drugs, patients might balk at being part of a clinical trial, where half would not receive the medicine, said Dr. Gordon Rubenfeld, a critical-care doctor at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. But before using the treatments widely “we should find out whether these work.”

The accelerated effort to conduct those studies is remarkable, said Yusuf. Researchers would typically take two or more years first to study a drug and then set up the trial. His group’s trial involving hydroxychloroquine was launched two weeks ago and, pending Health Canada approval, aims to start enrolling patients in a week or so.

“This is unprecedented … at least in my lifetime.”

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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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