Red-pilling the Pink Pill: Why gendered vitamins have different priorities

Men are sold multivitamins as energy pills that strengthen their muscles and help them work better, while women are sold multivitamins as metabolism boosting weight-loss aids that improve their hair and make them look better.

In the long-running annual series Oh, The Humanities! National Post reporters survey academic scholarship at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which has gone entirely virtual this year, hosted at the University of Alberta from May 27 to June 4. Over the coming days, Canadian academics will share their insights on such diverse topics as the origins of English names for sushi rolls and what’s behind the rise in student cheating during the pandemic.

To illustrate her research on gendered multivitamins, to be presented next week at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Sydney Forde of Penn State University, compared the packaging of two versions of the same vitamin by the same manufacturer, one meant for men, the other for women.

“All men deserve a supplement that can keep up with their daily active lifestyle,” said the men’s version, in an obvious blue colour scheme.

“Ladies, this one’s for you!” said the other, in pink.

“There’s a lot of those,” Forde said. “The narrative changes quite a bit.”

Her research on the multivitamin offerings of a major Canadian drugstore chain revealed more than the obvious colour scheme that is uniformly blue or pink.

It showed that the gender split in multivitamins gets down to the level of what marketers tell people the vitamins will actually do.

The upshot, according to numbers she will present to a panel on “visual cultures of advertising” for the Canadian Communication Association, is that men are sold multivitamins as energy pills that strengthen their muscles and help them work better, while women are sold multivitamins as metabolism boosting weight loss aids that improve their hair and make them look better. Same stuff, different pitch.

With Brittany Melton of Brock University, Forde catalogued 25 multivitamin products, 10 for men and 15 for women, and coded the information provided both on the packaging and the product description provided online by the manufacturer.

In an interview, they said they excluded the fine print, and that vitamins made for a special way to measure gender stereotypes in advertising because they exist in a “grey area” of regulation, not quite drugs, but not simply personal care products.

This segment of the retail market is “really interesting, because it has legitimacy of being in pharmacy section, but little regulation of what goes into the messaging.”

Muscle function, for example, was touted on 50% of men’s vitamins, but just 20% of women’s. Metabolism was touted on 60% of women’s vitamins, but 40% of men’s.

“Thus, while masculine characteristics were presented through building and improving muscle, feminine characteristics were instead aligned with metabolism – the chemical process of breaking down food that is often positively affiliated with weight loss.” according to a written summary of their research.

Melton describes this as a difference of emphasis, which presents men as “professional” and women as “decorative.” Men’s vitamins claim to improve eye function, muscle performance, cognitive function, and the immune system, while women’s claim to improve hair, nails, and skin.

“They’re just very restraining gender roles,” Melton said, recalling one pink package decorated with an image of a woman with lustrous flowing hair. Even the vitamins themselves were pink.

Melton said these stark differences are interesting because women are also concerned about, for example, cognitive and eye function.

“Those are all genderless issues, yet they were predominantly marketed towards men, in order to make room, we argue, for this decorative performance of women,” Forde said.

The flip side is that men also worry about their hair, and yet this is similarly sidelined in the marketing pitch.

Women’s vitamins do often mention bone health, but only as the exception to the general trend focused on beauty. For example, 33% of women’s vitamins mentioned hair, which no men’s vitamins mentioned at all, and 67% mentioned skin, compared to 30% of men’s, according to the research.

Energy was mentioned at comparable rates, but women’s vitamins placed greater emphasis on energy as a question of metabolism related to weight loss.

“We found that “masculine” products are more likely to be marketed through benefits promising muscle function and prioritizing active professionalism and physical health, while “feminine” products are more likely to promise improvements to physical appearance and prioritize a decorative, passive role,” they wrote.

Forde said she did not see any intentional malice in the differences, but noted that this research is in line with the broader trend in retail known as the “pink tax,” in which women’s products are sold at elevated prices over men’s. This is a theme of their future research.

She said the gender difference reflects an assumption that it is “easier for consumers to make sense of things when they are divided by oversimplified categories of gender appeal.”

It is mundane, Melton said, but it shows “how we are told by marketing to exist in the world.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Health Canada agrees to extend shelf-life of AstraZeneca as variant from India ups COVID threat

A health official draws a dose of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.

Will Health Canada’s decision to grant an extension to the best-before date on thousands of AstraZeneca  COVID-19 vaccine doses further spook public confidence in the troubled shots, or is there nothing really magical about drug expiry dates?

The drug regulator offered few details Saturday when it announced it was granting a one-month extension to the shelf life of two lots of AstraZeneca’s vaccines totalling about 49,000 doses. Any injections formerly set to expire Monday could now be used until July 1, the agency said.

In a three-paragraph statement Saturday, Health Canada said a submission from AstraZeneca “demonstrated that the quality, safety and efficacy of the two lots would be maintained for an extra month,” for a total of seven months, from the originally approved six months — an extension that would allow the provinces and territories to use up existing inventory “and provide Canadians access to much needed doses of the vaccine,” the agency said.

In early May, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, then head of the national vaccine rollout, said there were 250,000 AstraZeneca doses left in the country, with most of them expiring at the end of June.

Some critics said granting an extension two days before an expiry date inspires little trust. “Doses just a couple days away from the manufacturer’s expiry magically got an extra month of life,” University of Ottawa professor of law Amir Attaran said on social media, noting that the

World Health Organization, in a May 17 statement

, recommended that any COVID-19 vaccine that has passed its expiry date should not be administered. “Expiry dates do not affect the safety of the vaccine,” the agency noted, “rather are related to the potency or amount of protection the vaccine gives.”

“I am very pro-vaccine and swallow expired pills sometimes. But biological drugs are different,” said Attaran, who has a PhD in immunology. “If you are going to be vaccinated, I recommend you ask to see the expiry date on the vial, and don’t accept anything offered after it.”

Health Canada, in a statement to the

Post,

said its authorization of an extended expiry date isn’t in conflict with the WHO’s position.

“Health Canada agrees with the World Health Organization that expired vaccine should not be used and any expired doses should be disposed of safely,” the department said.

However, “the shelf-life of vaccines may be extended if scientific evidence is provided to regulatory authorities to approve such extension. It is not unusual for the shelf-life of vaccines, or other drug products, to be extended based on updated scientific data, especially in scenarios where there is a high medical need.”

The shelf-life extension applies only to the two specific lots, the department added, “and does not apply to other lots of the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Last week, Ontario un-paused its temporary halt of AstraZeneca, and announced it would start giving out seconds doses to those who received their first shots in March, in a bid to use up the province’s stockpile before it expires. (Most provinces paused the use of the vaccine for first doses earlier this month over the risk of rare, but potentially fatal, blood clots.)

The shots were further held up during a quality assurance check that left only a few days for pharmacists to scramble to administer them.

To some, the federal messaging, or rather, lack of it, just further muddied the waters.

“If this is an evidence-based decision (and I’m assuming it is) then the key will be to frame the explanation in a way that is transparent and retains confidence,” Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said in an email to the

National Post

Sunday.

Conflicting messaging is less-than-ideal, he said — “as we saw with early AZ recommendations.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch said that, as far as he could tell, Health Canada and AstraZeneca looked at a representative sample of the lots that were about to expire and stability data from a sample of those vaccines, and deemed it acceptable and safe to extend the expiration date by a month.

“That sounds reasonable to me,” said Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force. “If I was going to instill confidence in the process I would communicate as much as I possibly could — ‘this is what we did, this is how we did it, this is how we came to the conclusion, this is why we feel the vaccine is totally safe for use up until a month past their original expiration date.’ ”

This isn’t milk or yogurt, others added. “Vaccine lots are coded, with a ‘changeable’ expiry date because they keep and quality test lot samples for stability,” University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger said on Twitter.

“Summary: not a worry,” Saxinger said.

In an interview, Saxinger said the World Health Organization’s position appears to say “don’t try to game the system by hanging on to post-expired vaccines, because that could lead to problems, especially in countries where there’s really short supply and maybe corruption and a lot more chaos.”

On the other hand, “if the extended stability data is available before the expiry date, you can update it. So, I actually think that’s fine. It’s not like something magical happens at midnight tomorrow,” she said.

The doses set to expire were small, relatively speaking (Ontario received a shipment of 254,500 AstraZeneca doses the week of May 17). But the extended shelf life comes as pressure mounts to accelerate second doses of COVID vaccines amid the growing threat of variants. Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table is warning Ontario Premier Doug Ford that the variant that first emerged in India, known as B.1.617, presents

“a significant unknown.”

It now accounts for about 150 to 200 new cases daily in Ontario, or 10 to 15 per cent of new confirmed infections in the province, with the bulk dominant in Peel, followed by “highly burdened” areas of Toronto, meaning areas with a higher burden of essential workers, lower socioeconomic status and crowded living conditions, said Dr. Peter Jüni, the table’s scientific director.

The group is now conducting modelling to determine how much could be gained in controlling the variant’s spread by moving fast with second vaccine doses in those areas. “What we want is for those regions that are now challenged with this new variant, we want full protection there so we can minimize the selective effect of partial vaccination,” Jüni said.

In the meantime, people “should stay put where they are” and not travel between public health units, he said.

The variant, confirmed in most provinces, is believed 50 per cent more transmissible than the variant first identified in England, which was 50 per cent more transmissible than the early variants originally found in Wuhan, China. “This is basically upping the game,” Jüni said.

“We need to address this and not repeat the mistakes that were made in February — meaning, carefully monitor B.1.617 and, unlike February, react early if we see signals that it is getting out of control.”

A

study published last week

by Public Health England found that two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 per cent effective against B.1.617, while two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech gave 88 per cent protection against symptomatic disease.

However, both vaccines were only 33.5 per cent effective against the variant after one dose.

Additional reporting by The Canadian Press.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

We could face another pandemic if origins of COVID-19 not fully uncovered, expert warns

Members from the of Telangana State wearing protective gear spray disinfectant on a street against the spread of the COVID-19 in Hyderabad, India, on April 19, 2021.

The world needs the cooperation of the Chinese government to trace the origins of COVID-19 and prevent future pandemic threats, two leading U.S. disease experts said Sunday.

Information to support the theory that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, has increased, said Scott Gottlieb, a commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in the Trump administration who now sits on the board of Pfizer Inc.

China hasn’t provided evidence to disprove that theory, while the search for signs that the virus emerged from wildlife hasn’t yielded results, Gottlieb said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

Biden renews virus origin probe that’s so far come up empty

Not knowing how the pandemic started puts the world at risk of future outbreaks, Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said in a separate TV appearance.

“There’s going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we fully understand the origins of COVID-19,” Hotez said on NBC’s “Meet the press.”

Almost a year and half after the new pathogen was first detected spreading in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, the precise origins of the virus remain obscure. Scientists have hypothesized that it most likely spread from wild animals to humans. The idea that the virus may have accidentally escaped from a research lab, long promoted by some Republicans, has gotten renewed attention from the Biden administration.

In a surprise statement on Wednesday, President Joe Biden called for a renewed investigation into the virus’s emergence. U.S. intelligence agencies had conflicting assessments of whether it was more likely the virus crossed the species barrier from a natural reservoir or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Biden said.

He ordered the agencies to “redouble their efforts” and report to him again in 90 days.

China accuses US of hyping theory virus escaped from lab

Debate over the virus’s origin was fueled anew by a Wall Street Journal report on May 23 that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care for “symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness.”

Scientists should be allowed to conduct a long-term investigation in China and take blood samples from humans and animals, Hotez said. The U.S. should pressure China, including with the threat of sanctions, to allow for an inquiry.

“We need a team of scientists, epidemiologists, virologists, bat ecologists in Hubei province for a six-month, year-long period,” Hotez said.

Chinese officials have disputed the Wuhan lab theory. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday dismissed Biden’s inquiry as an attempt to engage in “stigmatization, political manipulation and blame-shifting.”

A World Health Organization report released in March didn’t fully uncover the virus’s origin but called a lab leak unlikely. The global health body called for more investigation at that time.

“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement when the March report was released.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Doug Ford loses ground in Ontario's third wave, but opposition popularity is down too: poll

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has seen a 20-point swing to the negative in just a couple of months.

The pandemic’s third wave in Ontario has been politically damaging to Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford, according to a new poll, but opposition parties have failed to capitalize on his pandemic slump.

The numbers suggest that, in the metaphorical horse race toward next June’s election, Ford maintains the lead as Ontario moves toward reopening and recovery.

Ford’s personal fortunes have slipped along with his party’s over the last two months, as his government was seen to hesitate before its most significant decisions, for example opening restaurants then abruptly closing them, and leaving schools open for a single day after an Easter weekend that was near the peak of a spike in new infections.

The result, according to the poll, is a steep drop in positive impressions and a mirror image spike in negative ones.

Back in March, 2021, before Ontario’s third wave took off, nearly two thirds of Ontarians thought Ford personally was doing at least a “somewhat good” job managing the pandemic, and just one third thought he was doing a bad job.

But now, when asked to consider Ontario’s management of the pandemic in terms of access to hospital care and emergency services, Ford’s personal numbers have tanked. The total of “somewhat good” and “very good” is beneath half at 44%. The total of “somewhat bad” or “very bad” is over half at 53%.

This 20-point swing in just a couple of months “has dragged down the government in terms of its political fortunes in the province,” said Andrew Enns, executive vice-president of Leger, which conducted the poll May 21 to 23.

“This pandemic is tricky, and it’s thrown almost all governments across the country for a loop. (Ford) has had a really hard April and I’d say he’s stabilized now into May but he’s got work to do to rebuild some of that capability perspective,” he said.

Ford won a majority in 2018 with a little over 40% of the vote. Back in March 2021, even with the grief of the lockdowns and a vaccination roll out that had yet to begin, he was still within striking distance of that benchmark, with voting intentions for his PC party at 38%

But now that has slipped to 34%, which for the PCs is “obviously not ideal” as Enns put it.

Voting intentions for the Liberal Party are at 26%, 25% for NDP, and 9% for Greens.

A lot of that shift is in impressions of the leaders. Ford’s personal “favourable” numbers were at 50% back in March. “For a guy that’s been on TV day in day out, rarely on good news, it’s quite extraordinary,” Enns said.

Now, that number has dropped to 38%. The other leaders have also seen their personal favourable impressions drop to a lesser degree since March. Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath is now at 36%, Liberal leader Steven Del Duca at 19%, and Green leader Mike Schreiner at 18%.

“Because Ford chose early on to be spokesperson, it’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out as we move into that post-pandemic and recovery,” Enns said.

He said there is likely frustration in the other parties that they haven’t seen a commensurate surge against the flagging PC numbers. The NDP is in opposition with a seasoned leader, but has seen its intended vote share drop slightly since March.

“I think that’s troubling for them… Pandemic politics is tough for opposition,” Enns said, especially now that the narrative is likely to shift toward reopening.

The Liberals have gained slightly but still trail the NDP. Enns said other data suggests the Liberal vote is softer than the others, and Del Duca has the lowest overall awareness of the three major leaders

The poll was conducted online between May 21 and 23, with responses from 1,001 adults who live in Ontario, weighted for age, gender and region according to the 2016 census. Because they were not randomly selected, a true margin of error cannot be calculated, but a randomized poll with a similar number of respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Why so many children died at Indian Residential Schools

Historical photo of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, once the largest facility in the Canadian Indian Residential School system. Already known to have been the site of 51 student deaths, recent radar surveys have found evidence of 215 unmarked graves.

This week saw

the discovery

of something outside Kamloops, B.C., rarely seen in North America, much less in any corner of the developed world: Unmarked and previously forgotten graves, all belonging to children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

In a

Thursday statement

, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said that a preliminary survey using ground penetrating radar had found evidence of 215 graves. Opened in 1893, Kamloops Indian Residential School had once been the largest residential school in Canada. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

has officially confirmed 51 deaths at the school

, but the radar survey points to a mass of previously unrecorded fatalities.

Casimir called the discovery an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” adding that her nation is now working with the Royal B.C. Museum to seek out records of the 215.

 A 1931 photo of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

As a child, Chief Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Band attended Kamloops Indian Residential School stud.

He told CTV this week

that when schoolmates disappeared, they were simply never spoken of again. “I just remember that they were here one day and they were gone the next,” he said.

One of the most painful tasks of Canada’s seven-year Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an attempt to quantify the sheer number of Indigenous children who died at an Indian Residential School.

The commission ultimately determined that at least 3,200 children died while a student at a Residential School; one in every 50 students enrolled during the program’s nearly 120-year existence. That’s a death rate

comparable

to the number of Canadian POWs who died in the custody of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The result is that many of Canada’s most notorious residential schools sit amid sprawling cemeteries of unmarked children’s graves.

The Battleford Industrial School in Saskatchewan has 72 graves that lay forgotten until rediscovered by archaeology students in the 1970s. In 2001, heavy rains outside High River, Alta., exposed the coffins of 34 children who had died at nearby Dunbow Residential School. In 2019, archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar found the crudely dug graves of as many as 15 children surrounding the former site of Saskatchewan’s Muskowekwan Residential School.

 A cemetery north of the former Brandon Indian Residential School. Eleven children are known to be buried here.

More than 2,800 names

are logged on a memorial register maintained by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Justice Murray Sinclair, has said the true number of deaths

could be as high as 6,000

.

But a true figure will never be known for the simple fact that death records – if they were kept at all – were often lacking even basic personal information. “In many cases, school principals simply reported on the number of children who had died in a school, with few or no supporting details,” reads the

final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

.

 A memorial erected in 2001 to commemorate the previously forgotten graves of children who died at the Dunbow Industrial School in Alberta.

One third of children who died at a residential school did not have their names recorded by school administrators. One quarter were marked as deceased without even their gender being noted. Among the 2,800 names on the official memorial register are children known to recorded history only as “Alice,” “Mckay” or “Elsie.”

Bodies of children were not returned to families, and parents rarely learned the circumstances of a child’s death. Often, the only death notification would be to send the child’s name to the Indian Agent at his or her home community.

 Residential school students at a cemetery in Northern Quebec in November 3, 1946.

“It’s staggering to think that families would not have known what happened to a child that was sent off to the residential schools,” Ontario Chief Coroner Andrew McCallum

said in 2012

as his office began an inquest into unrecorded residential school deaths.

In 1938, after one mother near Cornwall, Ont., learned of her son’s death at residential school due to meningitis, she was denied a request to return his body home for burial. “It is not the practice of the Department to send bodies of Indians by rail excepting under very exceptional circumstances,” read a response from the Department of Indian Affairs, adding that it was “an expenditure which the Department does not feel warranted in authorizing.”

The main killer was disease, particularly tuberculosis. Given their cramped conditions and negligent health practices, residential schools were hotbeds for the spread of TB.

The deadliest years for Indian Residential Schools were from the 1870s to the 1920s. In the first six years after its 1884 opening, for instance, the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School saw the deaths of more than 40 per cent of its students. Sacred Heart Residential School in Southern Alberta had an annual student death rate of one in 20.

 Graphic showing the death rate at Canadian Indian Residential Schools. Right up until the 1950s, the schools were seeing a rate of fatalities well beyond anything seen among the non-Indigenous community.

But despite occasional efforts at reform, even as late as the 1940s the death rates within residential schools were up to five times higher than among Canadian children as a whole.

The deadly reputations of residential schools were well-known to officials at the time. Kuper Island Residential School, located near Chemainus, B.C., saw the deaths of nearly one third of its student population in the years following its opening in 1889. “The Indians are inclined to boycott this school on account of so many deaths,” wrote a school inspector in 1922.

 Kuper Island Residential School. The school would come to be nicknamed “Alcatraz” for its remote location and appalling conditions. At least 121 are known to have died there, including two sisters who drowned while attempting to escape.

Exacerbating the death rate was the absence of even the most rudimentary medical care. Survivors described classmates becoming increasingly listless with TB until they were quietly removed by authorities.

James Gladstone, who would later become the first Status Indian appointed to the Senate of Canada, in his memoirs described a fellow student who died after school administrators failed to find him medical care for stepping on a nail. “I looked after Joe for two days until he died. I was the only one he would listen to during his delirium,” wrote Gladstone.

Accidents were the next big killer. Firetrap construction and the non-existence of basic safety standards frequently hit residential schools with mass-casualty incidents that, in any other context, would have been national news. A 1927 fire at Saskatchewan’s Beauval Indian Residential School killed 19 students. Only three years after that, 12 students died in a fire at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Manitoba.

 From a Calgary Herald report of the 1927 fire at Beauval Indian Residential School.

Despite this, “for much of their history, Canadian residential schools operated beyond the reach of fire regulations,” wrote the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But probably the most resonant of residential school deaths was the number of children who froze or drowned while attempting to run away. Several dozen children would die this way, with schools routinely making no attempt to find them and failing to report their disappearances for days.

One particularly notorious incident occurred on New Year’s Day, 1937, when a group of four boys ranging in age from 7 to 9 ran away from Fraser Lake Indian Residential School intending to reunite with their families at the Naldeh reserve seven miles away.

The school didn’t bother to assemble a search party until the boys had been missing for more than 24 hours. When they did, they found all four frozen to death less than a mile from home.

• Email: thopper@postmedia.com | Twitter: TristinHopper

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Quebecers and the rest of Canada deeply divided on Quebec's proposal to modify Constitution: poll

Quebec Premier François Legault raises his glass to Quebecers during a happy hour drink with his wife Isabelle Brais on a patio in Montreal on Friday, May 28, 2021, when patios were allowed to reopen across the province.

OTTAWA – A large majority of Quebecers support the right of provinces to unilaterally amend parts of the Constitution, whereas a similar majority of Canadians outside Quebec reject the proposal, according to a new poll that illustrates the deep divide in the country about Premier François Legault’s recent proposal.

In total, 62 per cent of Quebecers agreed that provinces are allowed to use  section 45 of the Constitution to amend parts that apply only specifically to itself, whereas 64 per cent of Canadians outside the province disagree, according to the Léger poll.

There is a similarly stark divide between Quebec and other provinces (colloquially referred to as the Rest of Canada) about if the Constitution should recognize Quebec as nation, with 67 per cent of Quebecers agreeing against only 15 % in the rest of the country.

The poll surveyed 1,623 adult Canadians via a web panel for the Quebec Community Groups Network and the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) from May 21 to May 23, 2021.

It was conducted after Legault introduced Bill 96, a sweeping language law reform that includes adding two new subsections to Section 90 of the Constitution proclaiming Quebec a “nation” and “affirm that the only official language of Québec is French.”

The proposal has received the approval of all major federal parties, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already said the province’s move is “perfectly legitimate”, insofar as it does not affect the rights of the Quebec’s English-speaking minority.

For Jack Jedwab, head of the ACS, the major gap between opinions in Quebec and the rest of the country on Legault’s proposal came as no surprise and illustrates how confusing the issue has been for all Canadians, particularly when it comes to defining the idea of a Quebecois nation.

“There is a lot of confusion and when there’s confusion, people are not inclined to say yes easily unless there’s greater clarity,” Jedwab said in an interview. “People aren’t necessarily rejecting anything, they’re just wanting greater explanation of what the meaning is of these constitutional changes.”

Jedwab says even the Quebec government’s own website admits that there is “no common definition of a nation, people, or distinct society” and that each of those concepts still “must be clearly defined, in terms of both their scope and legal consequences.”

When he announced his bill earlier this month, Legault argued that his government’s intent is to solve a 50-year Constitutional gridlock by proposing a new way of recognizing the Quebec nation (which the federal government already did in 2006) and the importance of French without the painstaking process of formally reopening the Constitution.

He argued that the unilateral change is legal because it only modifies “Quebec’s constitution” and that the proposed additions only impact the province.

Experts across the country have argued about the legality of Quebec’s proposal as well as the potential consequences, which could range from purely symbolic to potentially very legally impactful.

But in an interview with Le Devoir last week, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette bluntly admitted he hoped that recognising the Quebecois nation in the constitution would push judges to recognize the province’s specificity on certain issues, such as language rights or immigration.

“It is possible that the Quebec government, the Quebec nation, could use these provisions to assert its specificity in the Canadian environment; its ‘distinct social values’,” he told the Montreal daily.

The unknown consequences of Quebec’s unilateral constitutional amendments are driving fears across Canada of the province’s proposal, Jedwab says. He thinks the solution is for more thorough political analysis before any major provincial or federal party signs off on Legault’s proposal.

In an analysis published in Public Policy on Friday, Erin Crandall, an associate professor of politics at Acadia University, argued that Legault’s proposal should be subject to a “full parliamentary study” of Section 45 of the Constitution.

“While the Constitution of Canada should not be so difficult to amend that it is frozen in amber, it is critical that we proceed with careful, public consideration of what amending procedure is required here. Anything less would service politics to the detriment of the Canadian Constitution,” she wrote.

Experts and critics throughout Canada have accused the federal government and all other party leaders of pandering to Quebec as a potential election looms. And any hesitancy to question Legault’s motives could lead to long-term harm to the country, they argue.

“These early reactions by elected officials underline the already well-known fact that constitutional amendment is an inherently political process. The risk, of course, is that short-term political ambitions, like the Liberal Party’s performance in Quebec in a not-so-distant federal election, may have long-term, potentially negative consequences for constitutional amendment in Canada,” Crandall wrote.

• Email: cnardi@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Who among Canada's essential workers has been vaccinated? No one seems to know

People at the Bill Durnan Arena COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Saturday, May 22, 2021.

In Ontario, roughly 40 per cent of teachers have received their COVID-19 vaccination — a good sign as the province begins to reopen, and students look to head back to the classroom, but a troubling sign considering that some two-thirds of Ontario’s overall population has gotten at least one injection.

Beyond this tidbit into the rate of vaccination of teachers in Ontario, across other sectors and jurisdiction of the essential-worker economy, it’s less than clear just how well-protected those workers are from severe illness, because it’s not known whether or not they’re vaccinated.

That data about teachers are included in a letter sent this week by Premier Doug Ford, seeking advice on school reopenings, and expressing concern with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the variant that originates in India.

“What makes all this new information concerning is that … only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario,” Ford’s letter says.

Yet, even in Ontario, where the premier specifically said what the rate is, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation was unable to confirm what percentage of teachers have been vaccinated, demonstrating just how difficult this information is to come by.

“We don’t have any idea how many teachers have ben vaccinated at this point,” wrote Scott Perkin, with the federation.

The reason why this information is unclear is relatively simple: it’s a privacy issue for unions and employers and provinces don’t necessarily track by occupation when people are booking vaccination appointments.

Still, it’s of concern for some who want to know if their nurse is vaccinated, or their parents’ long-term care worker, or if the police officer leaning in their window to give a speeding ticket has been protected from spreading the virus.

The National Post sought to find out the rates of vaccination among essential workers in four categories in four provinces, and asked for data on police, teachers, nurses and long-term-care workers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The Post asked for this information directly from governments, and asked unions — for nurses and teachers — and police departments and long-term care associations for any statistics they had on vaccination rates.

In every single case that responded, the Post was told this information either wasn’t kept or wouldn’t be shared, often citing privacy or medical confidentiality.

“We do not break down vaccine stats by occupation,” wrote Tom McMillan, a spokesman for Alberta Health, in an email. “We report by age online.”

Provincial governments in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia didn’t respond to the Post’s requests for information.

— — — — —

In several cities across the country, police unions have been bullish in demanding that police officers get early access to vaccines. But, Victoria City Police Union director Matt Waterman said “we don’t feel comfortable sharing if or how many of our members are vaccinated.”

The response was similar in Vancouver; the Post heard back from Const. Tania Visintin, a spokesperson with the Vancouver Police Department, who said this constitutes a privacy issue, and they don’t keep vaccination information.

“Those choosing or not choosing to get vaccinated do not have to disclose their wishes,” Visintin wrote in an email.

In both Calgary and Edmonton, police spokespeople said they don’t track medical information — including vaccination information — about employees.

“However we know that both sworn and civilian employees are generally supportive based on discussions our Occupational Health and Safety group has been having across the Service,”  said Cheryl Sheppard with the Edmonton Police Service.

The Ontario Provincial Police union said they had no information on vaccination, as did the union representing officers of the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec’s provincial police. It referred the Post to the force itself, which in turn said they didn’t have that information but may be able to release it in coming weeks.

— — — — —

Long-term-care homes have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bulk of the deaths from the virus have been the elderly. But, a survey of associations and unions representing long-term care workers show that even in this high-risk environment, there is little information available.

Heather Aggus, a spokesperson for the Alberta Continuing Care Association, said they didn’t have “accurate information” about long-term care workers and vaccination.

“Some members report numbers but since it’s self reported, we don’t have a definitive answer unfortunately,” Aggus said.

The office of the Minister of Long Term Care in Ontario said 89 per cent of LTC staff have received a first dose as of today, and 53 per cent of staff received a second dose earlier in the month.

In British Columbia, the Ministry of Health notes 41,309 staff have received the first dose and 27,489 are fully vaccinated, and the Hospital Employees’ Union — which represents many care home workers — said those working in assisted living and long-term care facilities have been vaccinated. The government, though, did not provide statistics on the overall number of working in these fields, making a percentage difficult.

— — — — —

In Ontario, the government has given a number of vaccinated teachers: 41 per cent. But, the province didn’t respond to a further request for information, and the teachers’ union was unable to say anything further.

This is similar elsewhere in the country, too.

Lauren Hutchison, with the BC Teachers’ Federation, said “We don’t have access to personal medical records of members, so there’s no way for us to know, unfortunately.”

The Alberta Teachers Association did not respond to a request for comment.

In Quebec, Sébastien Joly, executive director of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, said they also don’t have numbers, but “from the feedback received through our local unions we could say that the majority must have been vaccinated by now…”

— — — — —

Even when it comes to those who are on the literal front lines, this information is hard to come by.

Sheree Bond, with the Ontario Nurses Association, said they don’t have the information — but nurses have been asking when they will get their second doses.

“I know they’re anxious to be protected, but we do not have any statistics available to us,” Bond said.

In British Columbia, the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of British Columbia also had no information, nor did the BC Nurses’ Union. (But, the aforementioned CBC story suggests many have been vaccinated.)

And, the United Nurses of Alberta told the Post “we don’t have information about how many nurses have been vaccinated at this point.”

In Quebec, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, which represents nurses and other health-care providers, also didn’t have information about vaccination rates, and suggested contacting the health ministry.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Who among Canada's essential workers has been vaccinated? No one seems to know

People at the Bill Durnan Arena COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Saturday, May 22, 2021.

In Ontario, roughly 40 per cent of teachers have received their COVID-19 vaccination — a good sign as the province begins to reopen, and students look to head back to the classroom, but a troubling sign considering that some two-thirds of Ontario’s overall population has gotten at least one injection.

Beyond this tidbit into the rate of vaccination of teachers in Ontario, across other sectors and jurisdiction of the essential-worker economy, it’s less than clear just how well-protected those workers are from severe illness, because it’s not known whether or not they’re vaccinated.

That data about teachers are included in a letter sent this week by Premier Doug Ford, seeking advice on school reopenings, and expressing concern with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the variant that originates in India.

“What makes all this new information concerning is that … only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario,” Ford’s letter says.

Yet, even in Ontario, where the premier specifically said what the rate is, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation was unable to confirm what percentage of teachers have been vaccinated, demonstrating just how difficult this information is to come by.

“We don’t have any idea how many teachers have ben vaccinated at this point,” wrote Scott Perkin, with the federation.

The reason why this information is unclear is relatively simple: it’s a privacy issue for unions and employers and provinces don’t necessarily track by occupation when people are booking vaccination appointments.

Still, it’s of concern for some who want to know if their nurse is vaccinated, or their parents’ long-term care worker, or if the police officer leaning in their window to give a speeding ticket has been protected from spreading the virus.

The National Post sought to find out the rates of vaccination among essential workers in four categories in four provinces, and asked for data on police, teachers, nurses and long-term-care workers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The Post asked for this information directly from governments, and asked unions — for nurses and teachers — and police departments and long-term care associations for any statistics they had on vaccination rates.

In every single case that responded, the Post was told this information either wasn’t kept or wouldn’t be shared, often citing privacy or medical confidentiality.

“We do not break down vaccine stats by occupation,” wrote Tom McMillan, a spokesman for Alberta Health, in an email. “We report by age online.”

Provincial governments in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia didn’t respond to the Post’s requests for information.

— — — — —

In several cities across the country, police unions have been bullish in demanding that police officers get early access to vaccines. But, Victoria City Police Union director Matt Waterman said “we don’t feel comfortable sharing if or how many of our members are vaccinated.”

The response was similar in Vancouver; the Post heard back from Const. Tania Visintin, a spokesperson with the Vancouver Police Department, who said this constitutes a privacy issue, and they don’t keep vaccination information.

“Those choosing or not choosing to get vaccinated do not have to disclose their wishes,” Visintin wrote in an email.

In both Calgary and Edmonton, police spokespeople said they don’t track medical information — including vaccination information — about employees.

“However we know that both sworn and civilian employees are generally supportive based on discussions our Occupational Health and Safety group has been having across the Service,”  said Cheryl Sheppard with the Edmonton Police Service.

The Ontario Provincial Police union said they had no information on vaccination, as did the union representing officers of the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec’s provincial police. It referred the Post to the force itself, which in turn said they didn’t have that information but may be able to release it in coming weeks.

— — — — —

Long-term-care homes have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bulk of the deaths from the virus have been the elderly. But, a survey of associations and unions representing long-term care workers show that even in this high-risk environment, there is little information available.

Heather Aggus, a spokesperson for the Alberta Continuing Care Association, said they didn’t have “accurate information” about long-term care workers and vaccination.

“Some members report numbers but since it’s self reported, we don’t have a definitive answer unfortunately,” Aggus said.

Marie Fitzpatrick, with the Ontario Long Term Care Association, said they “do not have the data you seek,” and suggested contacting the provincial government, which did not respond.

While in British Columbia, the Hospital Employees’ Union — which represents many care home workers — has no specific information, it sent the Post a CBC story, that notes 142,000 health-care workers, and those working in assisted living and long-term care facilities have been vaccinated. The government, though, did not provide statistics on the overall number of working in these fields, making a percentage difficult.

— — — — —

In Ontario, the government has given a number of vaccinated teachers: 41 per cent. But, the province didn’t respond to a further request for information, and the teachers’ union was unable to say anything further.

This is similar elsewhere in the country, too.

Lauren Hutchison, with the BC Teachers’ Federation, said “We don’t have access to personal medical records of members, so there’s no way for us to know, unfortunately.”

The Alberta Teachers Association did not respond to a request for comment.

In Quebec, Sébastien Joly, executive director of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, said they also don’t have numbers, but “from the feedback received through our local unions we could say that the majority must have been vaccinated by now…”

— — — — —

Even when it comes to those who are on the literal front lines, this information is hard to come by.

Sheree Bond, with the Ontario Nurses Association, said they don’t have the information — but nurses have been asking when they will get their second doses.

“I know they’re anxious to be protected, but we do not have any statistics available to us,” Bond said.

In British Columbia, the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of British Columbia also had no information, nor did the BC Nurses’ Union. (But, the aforementioned CBC story suggests many have been vaccinated.)

And, the United Nurses of Alberta told the Post “we don’t have information about how many nurses have been vaccinated at this point.”

In Quebec, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, which represents nurses and other health-care providers, also didn’t have information about vaccination rates, and suggested contacting the health ministry.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Federal health minister won't say when mandatory hotel quarantine rule may be lifted

A traveller arrives for a mandatory hotel quarantine near Toronto’s Pearson Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, February 22, 2021.

OTTAWA – Health Minister Patty Hajdu wouldn’t say Friday when her government will decide on recommendations from an expert panel to discontinue the mandatory hotel quarantine imposed on travellers coming to Canada.

The government’s own expert advisory panel reported Thursday that the hotel quarantine is not needed, is expensive and is inconsistent with the incubation period of the virus.

The program requires returning international travellers to quarantine for up to three days, while they await the results of a post-arrival COVID-19 test, staying in one of several approved hotels in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

In addition to costing as much as $3,000, there have been reports of assaults of quarantined travellers and some have caught COVID-19 while staying in the hotels. Some returning travellers have simply walked away from the requirement and accepted fines.

Other returning travellers have flown to U.S. airports and walked across the land border to avoid the quarantine requirement.

The panel recommended that the program be scrapped and that home-based quarantines be reduced to seven days. It also recommended that fully vaccinated travellers, with two doses of a vaccine, not have to quarantine at all and face only one COVID-19 test when they arrive. The panel said that people with one dose of the vaccine should be tested on their arrival and allowed to leave home-based quarantine as soon as they test negative.

Hajdu was asked repeatedly when the government would respond, but failed to give an answer. She said the government needs time to study the recommendations and consult with provinces before it decides to change the travel screening system.

“We want to make sure that we continue to protect Canadians from the importation of the virus, no matter what measures are at the border,” she said.

She defended the original decision to implement the quarantine saying the government wanted to ensure cases were caught before people had travelled across the country.

“We wanted to be able to have the results of those PCR tests before they continued on in another airplane to their smaller communities,” she said. “Those measures were put into place after a lot of conversations with provinces and territories who wanted stronger measures.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been critical of the government’s existing travel measures and encouraged stricter measures at the border. Ford has called for a reduction in the number of international flights, mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving at the land border and PCR testing for domestic flights. Responding to the report Friday, Ford said it is clear the system is not working.

“I’ve been demanding a federal strategy to protect our borders for months now. So far, we’ve seen zero response from the prime minister, and it’s unacceptable,” he said to reporters.

Hajdu said part of the reason for her delay is to consult with provinces to ensure they are comfortable with a plan to ease travel restrictions.

“It’s really important that we have those conversations with the provinces and territories, so that we gauge their comfort, so that we understand their own domestic capacity and their perspectives on the report.”

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada has to be careful because while things are improving there is still work to do controlling the virus at home.

“When a country is still in the middle of a third wave, and we haven’t yet attained a good level of immunity from a population perspective, then it’s more difficult for us to tolerate importations,” she said.

Tam released new modelling Friday showing a continued decline in cases across the country, as vaccination rates climb, but she warned against dropping public health restrictions too quickly.

“While the forecast is very encouraging, it reaffirms that now is not the time to relax our measures. If measures are relaxed, increasing the number of community wide and personal contacts, resurgence is likely.”

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said she welcomed the advice from the expert panel. She said governments can’t stall on a plan to welcome international tourists if the industry is going to take advantage of its busiest time of year.

“What we need now is a commitment to a plan so that businesses can start to get ready to resume business

She said it’s much easier to shut down a business than to reopen one and the industry needs time to get ready. She said the industry doesn’t want to lose even more time.

“There’s a huge concern that not only will we lose another summer, but we could also lose the last quarter of the year. Travel is something that requires advanced booking.”

She said at a recent industry event, there was clear interest in Canada and people are even willing to jump through COVID-19 hoops, but they needed to know what the rules will be.

“People are eager to come back to Canada, and they just want to know how,” she said.

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Here are the Liberal bills likely to pass this spring — and others that could be doomed by an election

Some bills will pass and others won’t if a fall vote is called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, above delivering a formal apology in the Commons on May 27, 2021 for the internment of Canadians of Italian descent in the Second World War.

OTTAWA — Parliament has entered its final five-week stretch of the spring sitting, a time always characterized by a race to get bills passed before the summer break.

But the stakes are higher this year due to the strong possibility of an election, which would put a hard stop to any bills on the order paper. In particular, a fall election would likely mean major delays for Liberal legislation on firearms, decriminalizing low-level drug offences, and modernizing data privacy laws — and if another party wins power, these bills may never come back.

Other bills on regulating internet platforms, banning coerced conversion therapy and setting net-zero emission standards have a better chance of passing by summer, but are still no guarantee.

To become law, a bill must pass through committee study and multiple rounds of debate and voting in both the House of Commons and the Senate; five weeks can quickly become a time crunch. Furthermore, the minority government situation means the Liberals can’t use time allocation to cut off debate on a bill unless at least one opposition party agrees to it.

Here is a rundown of what to expect before Parliament rises near the end of June.

Bills sure to pass

The only real slam dunk on the order paper right now is Bill C-30, the Liberals’ sprawling budget implementation bill. The omnibus legislation touches on everything from student loan relief to terrorist financing activities to fixing

an election misinformation law found to be unconstitutional

.

The bill is awaiting its second reading vote in the Commons, but multiple committees have been pre-studying the legislation so they can speedily pass amendments (or not). This is top priority legislation for the government and it’s certain to pass by the end of June.

Another bill looking very likely to pass is Bill C-218, which legalizes single-game sports betting in Canada. This is technically a private member’s bill from Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, but it has the backing of the government as

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a near identical bill last fall

.

Bill C-218 is already through the Commons and at the committee stage in the Senate. Barring a surprising move, the bill should have plenty of time for a final vote by summer.

Bills with a good chance of passing

A handful of bills are almost through the Commons, so their chances of passing by the summer will depend on how fast they move through the Senate. This is difficult to predict, as the Senate is no longer divided along clear partisan lines. The Conservative caucus — the group most likely to put up organized resistance to Liberal legislation — has now dwindled to just 20 out of 105 seats (though 15 are currently vacant.)

Bill C-15, which implements the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, received its final vote in the House of Commons earlier this week, meaning the Senate should have time to pass it. However, the Conservative caucus opposes this bill and its senators

have a history of protesting similar legislation

.

The Liberals’ ban on coerced conversion therapy, Bill C-6, will likely get its final vote in the Commons soon. The bill has a broad range of support, with the Conservatives split on it. But assuming it clears the Commons shortly, it will have a good chance of passing by summer.

Three other significant bills are currently at the committee stage in the Commons, meaning they must be reported back to the full chamber and get a third reading vote before moving to the Senate.

One of them is Bill C-12, which requires the government to set national targets for reducing emissions and establishes a reporting process to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Liberals have already used time allocation on this bill once, indicating they see it as a priority to pass.

Another is Bill C-10,

a hugely controversial bill

to enable federal regulation of online platforms such as Netflix and Facebook. The Conservatives have come out strongly against this legislation, and for now it’s unclear whether the Liberals are willing to spend the political capital to try to push it through by the end of June.

The third is Bill C-19, which makes various tweaks to Canada’s elections laws — including to make a pandemic-era election safer to run. This bill has just gotten to a Commons committee, so it has a chance of passing by summer, but it’ll be tough.

Bills that would be doomed by a fall election

There are at least three substantial government bills still stuck in second reading debate, meaning they’re unlikely to start committee study in the next week or two. Forget the Senate: these bills may not even pass the Commons by summer.

One is Bill C-21,

wide-ranging firearms legislation

that allows municipalities to ban handguns, expands “red flag” laws for seizing guns, and extends sentences for people who smuggle firearms. These firearms reforms were a major part of the Liberals’ 2019 election pitch, but if they call a fall election they’ll likely have to run on the same promises again.

Also looking imperilled are

the criminal justice reforms in Bill C-22

, which reduces prosecutions for low-level drug offences and scraps mandatory minimum sentences for some drug and firearms offences. The Liberals see this bill as addressing systemic racism, but advocates may have to wait a lot longer to see it take effect.

Finally, Bill C-11, which is a major modernization of Canada’s data privacy laws, has been stalled at second reading debate since April 19 and looks unlikely to be revived in the immediate future.

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques