Vaccine mandate for B.C. health care workers to take effect Tuesday

Premier John Horgan says he’s hopeful that a small number of B.C. health-care workers who are still resistant to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will get the information they need to make the choice for vaccination.

The deadline for all health-care workers in the province to be fully vaccinated is Tuesday.

Horgan says the majority of health-care workers are immunized and often perplexed about why others wouldn’t follow the science behind vaccination and the advice of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

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The vaccine mandate will apply to everyone who works in health-care settings, including students, doctors, contractors and volunteers.

Those who don’t have their first dose by the deadline can’t work unless they have a recognized medical exemption.

Workers who get their first shot before Nov. 15 can resume working seven days after the first dose, but they must wear personal protective equipment and take other precautions until they have their second dose, which must be no more than 35 days after the initial dose.

Staff at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities needed to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12.

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British Columbia is reporting 1,618 new cases of COVID-19, 20 deaths and five new health-care facility outbreaks over the last three days.

It says in a news release that 84.4 per cent of eligible people aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Canada changes online criteria for Afghan refugee program; only those who fled eligible

WATCH: Afghan interpreter and family trapped in Ukraine, hoping for asylum in Canada

The Canadian government has quietly changed the criteria on its website for a special program for vulnerable Afghan refugees so that only those who have already managed to escape to other countries are eligible.

The online criteria for the “special humanitarian program” used to include Afghans “who are in Afghanistan or outside of Afghanistan,” but it was changed this month to apply only to those “outside of Afghanistan.”

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The program is one of two set up to help bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada and is intended for vulnerable groups including women leaders, persecuted religious or ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and journalists.

The online criteria for the other program, which is aimed at interpreters and others who helped Canada during its military mission as well as embassy staff, still allows those inside Afghanistan to apply.

When the government first announced the special humanitarian program in August, it said it would apply to those outside Afghanistan, but it ultimately included those stuck inside the war-torn country in its online criteria.

The government said Monday that the change to the website was a “communications rather than a policy change.”

Alex Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said Canada would continue to do its utmost to help vulnerable Afghans inside and outside the country.

Since the Taliban seized Kabul and took control in August, it has been increasingly difficult to get people out.

Canada ended its airlift mission from Kabul near the end of August as the U.S. was completing its own withdrawal from the country. Thousands of people with permission to travel to Canada were left behind _ including Canadian citizens.

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‘Really hopeless’: Canada-bound Afghan family stuck in Ukraine after fleeing Kabul

Groups working with Afghans trying to flee the country said the change to the criteria for the humanitarian program on Canada’s official website would sow confusion and desperation among Afghans hoping to come to Canada.

The website is the source of authoritative information on who is eligible and saying only those outside the country now qualify _ when until mid-October it said those in Afghanistan qualified _ could drive Afghans to resort to people smugglers, they warned.

Stephen Watt of Northern Lights Canada, a refugee organization, said the government’s plan to bring 40,000 Afghans to Canada has been wrapped in secrecy ever since it was announced.

“There is still no clear way to apply to the program, or to discover who it is accepting or how it is operating,” he said. “This is a life and death question for many of the people we are talking to within Afghanistan.

“Our government needs to come clean about its plans for these very vulnerable people who it promised to help in the heat of the election, and provide a clear path for providing that help. This isn’t a time for empty promises and secret processes.”

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Wendy Noury Long, director of the Afghan Interpreters Association, said she feared that the change, made in mid October, would drive desperate Afghans to go to extreme lengths to get out of the country so they qualify.

“People will be thinking how do I get out? Do I contact human smugglers? Countries are actively deporting people back to Afghanistan,” she said.

“This is a policy change. This is the explanation of whether you qualify. You are taking a huge risk to try to get out to another country and you might find yourself deported back to Afghanistan.”

The humanitarian program Canada set up to help Afghans at risk has strict eligibility criteria. To qualify Afghans must also be a woman leader, a human rights advocate, a member of a persecuted religious or ethic minority, in the LGBTQ community, or a journalist or someone who has helped Canadian journalists. As of mid October, they must be located outside Afghanistan.

Those who fit these criteria need to register for refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency or the government where they live and wait to be referred under the program. They can also be identified as eligible by a private sponsor.

Around 3,700 Canadians and Afghan refugees, including former interpreters, were airlifted out by Canada before the end of August.

Approximately 1,700 interpreters and other Afghans with papers to come to Canada are currently in safehouses in Kabul. Some safehouses, being run by an NGO and funded by veterans and private donations, face closure within weeks because of lack of funding.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced on Friday that Canada will resettle up to 322 more Afghans who helped NATO countries.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan health advisors ask for more COVID-19 restrictions -- again

WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Moe says it's not 'fair' to impose more COVID-19 restrictions with high vaccination uptake

Twenty-one medical health officers — doctors charged with advising government leaders on how to keep people safe — wrote to Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman last week pleading for more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It was their second attempt. They previously wrote a letter in August.

“The Medical Health Officers of Saskatchewan (MHOs) would like to express our continued and growing concern about the current state of COVID-19 in our province and the lack of effectiveness of the current public health measures,” it says.

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“Without further action, it is highly likely that we will face even higher rates of hospitalization in coming weeks and risk health system collapse, as well as many more preventable deaths.”

The doctors specify they are not asking for a full lockdown or school closures.

In the letter, dated Oct. 21, they ask Merriman to impose gathering restrictions on private indoor gatherings, specifying the province should prohibit unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people from gathering beyond their own household for 28 days.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Medical health officers warned the health care system could collapse if the Saskatchewan government does not impose more restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

They also write that the government should limit capacity in venues, like those used for weddings and funerals, to 25 per cent if they only require mandatory masks and not proof of vaccination.

The letter says these restrictions should not apply if the venues do require proof of vaccination.

The MHOs write the province should require proof of vaccination in more venues overall and that more locations should not accept proof of a negative test.

The doctors state schools must be made safer in order to keep them open.

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They also ask the government to state clearly the seriousness of the situation and encourage Saskatchewan residents to reduce the number of people with whom they’re meeting.

“We understand that returning to these restrictions is not what our population wants, or what our leaders want to contemplate, but with the health system in crisis, the alternatives are much worse.”

Global News reached out to Merriman’s office, as well as the health ministry and the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, which operates the province’s COVID-19 emergency operations centre.

None were immediately available for a response.

The province has not imposed new health guidelines since the letter was sent. On Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe said he would not do so.

The letter was sent after Moe announced the province would transfer ICU patients to Ontario.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Lake Country BC community rallies together for safer trails

WATCH: Lake Country community comes together to build safer trails

Two trails in the Lake Country neighbourhood of Carr’s Landing have gotten a makeover.

The neighbourhood came together to ensure that the trails could be more user-friendly for people of all ages and abilities, in all weather conditions.

“It used to be really, really steep and now I have rheumatoid arthritis and I can move down there quite easily now so that’s been a real improvement,” said Marie Molloy, District of Lake Country Access & Age-friendly Committee chairperson.

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Molloy joined forces with The District of Lake Country, community group Walk Around Lake Country (W.A.L.C.) and the Carr’s Landing Community and Recreation Association to secure funds for the project.

It includes upgrades to the Maki Road to Coral Beach Road Trail and the Coral Beach North Trail to level out steep slopes and install the handrail. The whole project including the price of material and labour cost approximately $12,000.

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“In 2019, Carr’s Landing Community and Recreation Association put together a survey and to improve these trails, two of these trails here in Coral Beach were identified as a high priority,” said Molloy.

The extra safety measures now put in place mean that more people can enjoy the trails, safely.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Regina tent city, 'Camp Marjorie,' meets with social services minister

Organizers at “Camp Marjorie” voiced their concerns to the Saskatchewan Minister of Social Services on how to help those utilizing the camp and to rethink the current Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS).

Shylo Stevenson says it’s a start but action speaks louder than words.

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“I think it was more of a damage control meeting. But glad we got to sit at the table and voice our concerns,” said Stevenson, Regina Needle Recovery and Community Support Communications Officer. “We’re over 1,000 hours of volunteer running Camp Marjorie so we need somebody else to step up and take the lead from us and learn what we learned in moving forward.”

Camp Marjorie, formerly known as Regina’s Tent City located at Pepsi Park, is housing people who are affected by homelessness after SIS came into effect. Camp Marjorie, at last count, had 61 tents and over 100 people.

Camp organizers have been requesting a meeting with Social Services Minister Lori Carr for a while now and received notification on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, that a meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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“We got a commitment today that they’re sitting with the City of Regina looking at an indoor space,” said Stevenson.

Carr said the meeting with Stevenson went well and they discussed possible steps of going forward with the goal of not having anyone sleep outside. Carr said they are working with community-based organizations and City of Regina to find a space for those affected by the SIS program.

“We’re working on what that will look like moving forward, what kind of indoor space we can find for them,” said Carr. “We’re just working through the logistics and hopefully we have a solution sooner than later.”

Stevenson said they will be meeting again in the future to further discuss solutions.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Blood Tribe members taking chief and council, feds to court over settlement concerns

WATCH ABOVE: Three members of the Blood Tribe are unhappy with chief and council, filing a judicial review into a vote that saw the approval of $150 million in cattle settlement money. As Eloise Therien explains, they're worried about how the ratification vote was conducted, and who's in control of the community's dollars.

Three members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have filed a judicial review against their chief and council, as well as the attorney general of Canada over a $150-million cattle settlement reached in September.

According to the Blood Tribe, the settlement stemmed from a dispute over the government’s failure to adhere to cattle agreements outlined in Treaty 7 in 1877.

According to a news release issued Monday, Roger Prairie Chicken, Eugene Fox and Lori Scout are concerned over who has control over the money, and say they believe the settlement agreement appears to be in contravention of the law.

The trio took the legal action earlier this month with the assistance of the Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC).

“We’ve been running in this kind of a system for probably the last 30 years and no one has ever stepped up because they’re afraid,” Scout said.

“Blood Tribe members have been in the dark for too long. It’s time to create a process that increases our economic leverage while respecting our aboriginal and treaty rights.”

The group says it believes the Blood Tribe’s chief and council failed to properly consult tribe members before September’s ratification vote and did not provide enough clear information on what the money would be used for.

“The settlement agreement itself was never produced to the membership, rather it was just a summary of what’s in the agreement,” explained Rob Louie, the president of the BMAAAC.

“We say that’s not good enough.”

“I would really like to see the federal government step in and say: ‘Hey, this election was invalid,'” Scout added.

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At the forefront of their concerns is alleged financial negligence.

Fox said some members still haven’t received their $2,000 payout from a similar settlement in 2019.

“The people need to know where their money is,” he said.

The group wants tribe members to have a more direct say in where the money is allocated, pointing to what they call the ‘dismal state of housing’ on the Blood Tribe, and claiming they have been systematically impoverished and misled by their leaders.

“It’s simply about accountability, transparency and having them report to us,” Prairie Chicken said.

“It’s the people’s money, not chief and council’s money.”

Global News reached out to the Blood Tribe for response but was told that nobody was available for comment at the time of publication.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Lachine Hospital to drastically cut ER hours, officials blame 'critical' staff shortages

The Lachine Hospital, part of Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre, will be drastically reducing the hours of its ER as of Nov. 7.

A spokesperson for the MUHC said on Monday evening that while the hospital has been dealing with a labour shortage for several years, the situation has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital is now facing a “critical shortage of nurses and respiratory therapists,” according to MUHC Communications Manager Gilda Salomone.

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Under the new hours, the emergency room will remain open seven days a week, but only from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ambulances will be temporarily redirected.

Salomone said all its services at the CHSLD Camille-Lefebvre long-term care home will be maintained, not only in terms of capacity, but also support for patients who are chronically ventilated.

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The hospital will also be maintaining elective surgeries and its capacity for hospitalization in medicine and surgery.

While the contingency plan comes into effect Nov. 7, it is not known how long it will last.

“We wish to assure our staff and patients that this situation is temporary and that we are working intensively in collaboration with the MSSS (Health Ministry) to correct it as soon as possible,” Salomone said. “Patient safety is our priority.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Kelowna cyber security expert urges vigilance during uptick in cyber attacks

Cyber expert Tim Thomson has some tips for businesses for preventing major issues related to cyber crime.

As more of our lives move online, experts are warning people and businesses to be extra careful about data breaches, particularly as there is an uptick in cyber attacks with more people working from home.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month.

“We’re seeing different types of cyber attacks, especially with work from home initiatives,” said Tillman Hodgson, president of the Kelowna-based data security firm SeekingFire Consulting.

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“Even businesses that had robust security frameworks in place maybe didn’t take into account most of the workforce being at home,” he said.

Hodgson recommends keeping devices updated with the latest security patches and using unique accounts and passwords.

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A recent BC Chamber of Commerce survey found that more than 60 per cent of companies have had a cyber breach, but only three quarters reported it.

“When you think about cyber breaches, the typical impacts that you’d see are an impact to your business productions knocked out for a while and so on,” he said.

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“But there’s also a reputation impact, so there’s an incentive to try and handle things internally,” Hodgson said. “But in the long run, that actually affects everyone.”

Hodgson suggested that companies should spend about four per cent of their revenues on tackling security and privacy.

He said companies should have a closer look at how their employees are sharing data and ensure it’s safe.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'Immediate return in bookings': B.C. hospitality sector celebrates end of indoor capacity limits

As capacity limits for indoor gatherings lift in much of the province, some hospitality workers are celebrating a sharp uptick in bookings for special events.

Effective Monday, there are no longer any limits on the number of guests an indoor venue can admit, as long as everyone has proof of full vaccination. Masked mingling, but not dancing, is also allowed.

“We’re seeing an immediate return in bookings,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

“So we may have turned a corner here, and industry is really quite excited to be able to offer something closer to that traditional hospitality experience.”

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Just a few weeks ago, Guignard said people were calling hotels, restaurants and other places to cancel their holiday parties and events — losses that amounted to “thousands and thousands of dollars.”

For well over a year, 80 per cent of the hospitality sector has been “losing money or breaking even,” he added, so even with an increase in new bookings, no one is out of the woods.

“We’re trying to look at our problems head on, which are massive labour shortages (and) potential for having paid sick leave implemented at a time when we can’t afford it,” he said.

“So we’re cautiously optimistic about the future, but people are just tired of having to deal with all the challenges of COVID, just like everyone else is.”

Gathering limits of 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity remain in place where COVID-19 vaccination remains low, including some parts of the Fraser, Northern and Interior health regions.

Guignard also lamented continued restrictions on the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. in some parts of B.C.

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For Sammy J’s Grill and Bar president Michael Gardner, the lifting of capacity limits alone is “huge.”

He opened a new location in Maple Ridge over the summer and said his team has been taking it “day by day, week by week.”

“Let’s just hope that everybody keeps their head on straight, and that the passport thing continues to do its thing, and allows us to slowly keep having more of these fun things, and eventually get back to the new normal,” he said in an interview.

Phones at Sammy J’s, which has four B.C. locations, have been “ringing off the hook” with new event bookings to the point where they’ve had to turn some down, he added.

“It’s insane. We’re ecstatic to be honest,” Gardner said. “We do love doing this and we can’t wait to have some of the big groups we’ve had in the past come back again.”

Read more:
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However, not everyone the industry has seen the same increase.

Those working in banquet halls, weddings and nightclubs, for example, have told Global News that their business remains heavily impacted by the indoor mask mandate and ban on dancing.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

WATCH: Global National - Oct. 25

Watch the full broadcast of Global National with Dawna Friesen for Monday, October 25, 2021.

View more Global National videos here, or submit a photo for our Your Canada segment here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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