A Niagara-area dog first in Canada to test positive for COVID-19

Researchers have identified the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Canadian dog — but it doesn’t mean pet owners should panic.

The dog belongs to a Niagara Region household where four out of six members tested positive for the coronavirus. The family’s canine companion had no symptoms and a low viral load, suggesting that dogs remain at relatively low risk of becoming gravely ill or passing on COVID to others, experts said.

Scott Weese, a veterinary internal medicine specialist and director of the University of Guelph’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses, is part of the team that identified the Niagara case. While the discovery is interesting from a research point of view, he said it doesn’t change existing advice: If pet owners are self-isolating, they should do their best to limit their pets’ contact with others, too.

“This pandemic is clearly driven almost exclusively by people,” said Weese. “Ultimately, we want to keep this purely a human disease because it’s easier to contain.”

Understanding the relationship between animal and human health during the pandemic is part of that containment effort — even if pets are believed to have “a very minor” role in transmission, he said.

“We want to try to prove they’re not a problem, as opposed to hope is not a problem,” Weese said.

The research comes with logistical challenges: Weese and his fellow faculty member rely on leads from social media, vets and public health workers about families that may have an exposed pet. Then, they must negotiate a tight testing timeline.

“A person has to get infected, and then they got to go to a testing centre and ask to get the results. Then they have to contact us and we have to get into the household. And if we don’t do that within a week, we’re probably going to get negative regardless.”

That, said Weese, is why it’s unsurprising that only one canine case has been confirmed, even though he’s tested around 45 animals since the start of the pandemic.

“I think a lot of the times we’ve gone in and sampled, we probably had animals that are positive but we’ve missed them,” he said.

In an advisory issued last week, the province’s Office of the Chief Veterinarian said people with COVID symptoms should try to “exercise the same infection control precautions” with their pets as they would people, including keeping animals indoors and limiting their contact with anyone other than their main caretaker.

“What I don’t want to see is someone’s cat getting infected, and then their cat infecting wildlife like raccoons, and then that’s just another potential source we have to think about,” said Weese.

Outside the pet realm, there is evidence that mink are particularly susceptible to the virus; more than a million of the animals have been killed in the Netherlands and Spain as a precaution after outbreaks on farms.

“It’s just a reminder of what we’ve been saying since January, which is that we need to figure out what the issues are,” said Weese. “It’s good that the main livestock issue is mink — we don’t have a significant concern with pigs or cattle or chickens.”

Despite initial concern that the virus may linger in animals’ coats, Weese said that is no longer believed to be a “significant source of infection.” Contact with infected animals’ noses, mouths and feces is more likely to spread the illness — although animals are believed to only be infectious for a short period of time.

While dogs seem quite resistant to the virus, Weese said cats seem more likely to show symptoms — although as in humans, the degree of severity varies.



While vets are encouraged to contact the provincial Office of the Chief Veterinarian if they suspect a pet has been exposed to the virus, the province doesn’t recommend testing animals unless it is part of a study, or you own a mink farm.

As for the Niagara household, Weese said, both its human and canine residents are doing fine.

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The Great Rethink: Why Canada needs to return to its ‘honest broker’ role in world affairs

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“That’s a very valid starting point,” said Eric Helleiner, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario who wrote a history of the Bretton Woods talks. “The Canadian officials played an important role of trying to bridge the competing American and British plans.”

Canada’s negotiating team featured Louis Rasminsky, a future Bank of Canada governor, who held his own against Britain’s John Maynard Keynes, the world’s most famous economist, and Harry Dexter White, the domineering head of the U.S. delegation.

Rasminsky was talented, but he also benefited from a clear vision of how his country wanted to operate in the world. Canada had some selfish goals: its export earnings were primarily in sterling, while the bills for its imports were invoiced in U.S. dollars, so it had a lot riding on the system of fixed-exchange rates that the IMF would oversee.

Louis Raminsky. Photo by Postmedia News files

But, ultimately, Canada wanted an economic order that was as open as possible, as the former British colony realized that American hegemony would be akin to swapping one master for another. Forty-four countries were involved in the talks, but Canada was one of only four that produced counter-proposals to the ones that Keynes and White put on the table.

It was an attempt to both find middle ground and indirectly influence White by swaying public opinion in the U.S., where Canada was seen as a neutral participant, rather than an antagonist.

“The Canadians got very involved in the negotiations,” Helleiner said. “They worried that Canada would be forced to choose between focusing on either the sterling bloc or the U.S. dollar area. That was not an attractive choice, since Canada had important economic ties to both.”

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Canada and its manufacturing sector face harm if PPE documents are released, says industry group

Releasing confidential documents detailing the federal government’s business deals with suppliers of personal protective equipment and testing devices could hurt Canadian manufacturers and sully Canada’s global business reputation, a major industry association says.

Dennis Darby is president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, a 150-year-old organization that represents some 2,500 businesses. He has written to the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP asking them to push back against a Conservative motion requesting those documents.

“We urge you to resist calls for disclosing any proprietary and confidential business information shared in private with the government of Canada and we commit ourselves to working with you to ensure that this does not happen,” Darby wrote.

The letter refers to Conservative MP Michelle Rempel-Garner’s motion calling on the federal government to release “all memoranda, emails, documents, notes and other records” detailing federal government’s purchasing of all testing-related equipment, from swabs to devices, and all personal protective equipment.

The motion also calls for detailed information about vaccines and asks the federal government’s Vaccine Task Force for information about its contacts with the federal government and its vaccine distribution and monitoring strategy.

“If these disclosures are too broad, it will negatively impact business operations for manufacturers in Canada and around the globe,” Darby wrote. “Furthermore, we worry that the reputations of many manufacturers, who stepped up to produce and sell personal protective equipment (PPE), testing devices, or other goods, will be unfairly tarnished.”

Darby said that the expense involved in retooling factories to produce masks, face shields, gowns and other items increased the cost of those products, even though the manufacturers sold them to the government at cost.

“Without doubt, those sudden ramp-up costs are significantly higher than a manufacturer who had been producing those same products for years,” Darby said in the letter. “We do not think their intentions should be called into question.”

The motion will go to a vote on Monday. Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez’s office confirmed Thursday it won’t be considered a confidence vote — meaning it won’t trigger a general election if it passes.

The parties are debating how much time the government should have to gather the relevant documents after the Liberals said the motion’s 15-day timeline was unrealistic.

Negotiations ongoing

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, made a similar plea on Twitter this week, saying that the Conservative motion is threatening the “biggest industrial mobilization of Canadian industry in its history.” 

Volpe said that if manufacturers find their work being politicized, the companies that dropped everything to be a part of the effort to make PPE could abandon the work and tell the federal government to shop for PPE in China.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Thursday that the federal government is in the middle of negotiating contracts and disclosing sensitive business information could threaten those deals.

“If we go ahead and release information, that will undermine our supplier relationships,” she told guest host David Cochrane. “I am very concerned with releasing documents, vaccine contracts, PPE contracts … because we will undermine those relationships.” 

The co-chairs of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force also expressed their concern in a letter sent Thursday to the leaders of all five federal political parties.

Joanne Langley and Mark Lievonen said that in order to provide advice to cabinet, they have entered into non-disclosure agreements with companies from Canada and around the world.

The task force has offered MPs from all parties a briefing, providing those MPs are also “subject to the same confidentiality arrangements” that bind the task force.

“Without this guarantee of commercial confidentiality, it would not have been possible for us to meaningfully engage with these firms nor to obtain the data needed to make evidence-based, informed recommendations,” the letter from the task force co-chairs said. 

It’s not clear what the final motion will look like come Monday; as it stands now, it includes a provision that appears to allow for some information to be withheld.

The motion says the documents can be “vetted for matters of personal privacy information and national security … the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with contractual or other negotiations between the Government of Canada and a third party.” 

That vetting, the motion says, should be done by the law clerk and parliamentary counsel within seven days of delivery of the documents.

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Beijing erupts at Canada after parliamentary committee says China’s Uighur policy amounts to ‘genocide’

China’s foreign ministry is lashing out at Canada after a House of Commons subcommittee concluded that the state’s mistreatment of Uighurs living in Xinjiang province amounts to a policy of genocide.

The committee’s report, tabled Wednesday, says that China’s persecution of this Muslim minority — through mass detentions in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — is a clear violation of human rights and is meant to “eradicate Uighur culture and religion.”

The committee said that it agrees with the experts who say China’s campaign against the Uighurs meets the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said today that this “so-called genocide” is “a rumour and a farce fabricated by some anti-Chinese forces to slander China.”

“Its groundless statement is full of lies and disinformation,” he said of the committee’s report, warning parliamentarians to “avoid doing any further damage to China-Canada relations.

“This is blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and reflects those Canadian individuals’ ignorance and prejudice. China firmly deplores and rejects that.”

The subcommittee on international human rights, chaired by Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, heard from witnesses who survived the concentration camps China has built to suppress Muslims living in this oil-rich northwestern province.

Committee witnesses described “deplorable” conditions where they were psychologically, physically and sexually abused and subjected to forced assimilation and indoctrination into the dominant Chinese culture.

Asked about the camps, Zhao insisted they are “vocational training and education centres” where religious “extremists” were educated in the “national common spoken and written language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and de-radicalization.”

“The aim is to eliminate the root cause of terrorism and extremism,” he said.

In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fence surround a detention facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo)

The Commons committee also concluded that Chinese communist officials have forcibly sterilized Uighur women and girls and pushed abortions and intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) on hundreds of thousands in a systematic attempt “to persecute and possibly eradicate Uighurs.”

Uighurs make up less than one per cent of the population in a country where Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese people — the Han — constitute the overwhelming majority.

While the Turkic-speaking Uighurs are just a small ethnic subset, Chinese government documents obtained by the committee show that approximately 80 per cent of all new IUD placements in China took place in Xinjiang.

Birth rates continue to plummet across the region, falling nearly 24 per cent last year alone — compared to a drop of just 4.2 per cent nationwide — according to statistics compiled by the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation. The population control measures are backed by mass detention, both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.

Witnesses also told committee members about a “poverty reduction” measure implemented by Beijing that forced Uighurs into camps to perform slave labour, making products that were to be sold in Canada and other western nations. 

A recent report titled “Uighurs for sale” by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that thousands of Muslims have been used as forced labour in factories that supply companies like BMW, Nike and Huawei, among others.

The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uighur and other ethnic minority citizens from Xinjiang to factories across the country.

Under constant state surveillance through closed-circuit television cameras and mobile tracking devices, Uighur survivors have said they lived in constant fear.

They told committee members that Uighur expatriates are subjected to harassment and intimidation by the Chinese regime — even in Canada.

“The subcommittee unequivocally condemns the persecution of Uighur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang by the government of China,” the committee’s report reads. “The subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide.”

The committee said these control tactics are designed to suppress the Uighurs because they “desire more autonomy or independence from China,” and the communists consider them a “threat” to economic development and prosperity.

Uighurs living in Turkey participate in a protest against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government of Muslim Uighurs in the far-western Xinjiang province. (AP Photo)

The committee is recommending the federal government condemn China’s abuse of Uighurs, work with allies to secure unfettered access to Xinjiang for international observers to prevent further abuse, recognize that China’s actions constitute genocide and impose sanctions on implicated officials through Canada’s so-called Magnitsky law.

That law allows the government to impose sanctions and freeze assets owned by foreign nationals and prohibit financial transactions by known human rights abusers.

The law is informally named after Russian tax adviser Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and died in a Moscow prison after documenting fraud in Russia.

“Canada needs to take immediate action and live up to the values it espouses at home and abroad,” says the report. “Canada must act now to address China’s aggression against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.”

Canada ‘deeply disturbed’ by Uighur abuse

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he is “deeply disturbed” by the troubling reports documented by the subcommittee.

He said he raised the issue of Uighur abuse with Michelle Bachelet, the UN commissioner for human rights, during a recent meeting in Switzerland.

Earlier this month, Canada and 37 allies also expressed “grave concerns” about the situation in Xinjiang at the UN, he said.

Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks a press conference in Athens, Greece. Champagne said Canada has expressed ‘grave concerns’ about Uighur abuse in China at the UN. (Petro Giannakouris/AP Photo)

Champagne said the government would back a plan to send impartial advisers into the region to document the plight of the Uighurs.

“Canada takes the allegations of genocide very seriously. We will continue … with our allies to push for these to be investigated through an international independent body,” he said.

Champagne did not address a question about whether Canada would pursue Magnitsky sanctions like those slapped on Russian and Venezuelan officials in recent years.

This parliamentary report is the latest attempt by some MPs and senators to put pressure on the government to take a tougher stand against China.

In June, more than a dozen senators — including several appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — urged the federal government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for “gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Citing China’s detention of Uighur Muslims, its crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong, its decades-long repression of Tibet and its imprisonment of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the senators described the regime in Beijing as the “biggest threat to mankind and a danger to international security.”

That letter was followed by a call from 68 MPs and senators for Canada to levy sanctions on top Chinese officials.

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Canada ranked in world’s top 10 pension systems

The pandemic has rocked government finances across the world and led to questions about the financial durability of pension funds. But a new ranking by Mercer and the CFA Institute puts the Canada Pension Plan in the top 10. There is always room for improvement, however.

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China warns Canada against granting Hong Kongers sanctuary

A top Chinese diplomat warned Canada Thursday against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters, adding that doing so could jeopardize the “health and safety” of Canadians living in the southern Chinese financial hub.

The remarks by Cong Peiwu, Beijing’s Ottawa envoy, prompted a rebuke from Canada’s foreign minister, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Cong was responding to reports that a Hong Kong couple who took part in last year’s huge and sometimes violent protests had been granted refugee status.

The landmark decision makes it likely other Hong Kongers will be given sanctuary in Canada, which has emerged as a top destination for those fleeing Beijing’s crackdown.

“We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong because it is the interference in China’s domestic affairs. And certainly, it will embolden those violent criminals,” Cong said in a video press conference.

“So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said.

When asked by reporters if that latter comment was a threat, Cong replied: “That’s your interpretation.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne described Cong’s comments as “totally unacceptable and disturbing”.

“I have instructed Global Affairs to call the ambassador in to make clear in no uncertain terms that Canada will always stand up for human rights and the rights of Canadians around the world,” he said in a statement carried by the Globe and Mail and other Canadian news outlets.

China and Canada are marking 50 years since they forged diplomatic ties — but those relations are deeply strained.

Ties plummeted following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder.

Meng was arrested on a US warrant in December 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver and is charged with bank fraud related to violations of US sanctions against Iran. 

She has been fighting extradition ever since.

Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China on spying charges soon afterwards, disappearing into Beijing’s opaque judicial system.

Western governments see the detention of the two Canadians as direct retaliation by Beijing. 

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit out at Beijing for what he said was its “coercive diplomacy” as well as the ongoing crackdowns in Hong Kong and on Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

Cong rejected Trudeau’s comments at his Thursday press conference. 

“There is no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side,” he said.

“The Hong Kong issue and the Xinjiang-related issue are not about the issue of human rights. They are purely about internal affairs of China, which brooks no interference from the outside,” he added.


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Pandemic accelerates need to consider digital currency: Bank of Canada

FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside the Bank of Canada building in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

October 14, 2020

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the public’s use of online services and that means the Bank of Canada must move more quickly to research how a central bank digital product would work, a top official said on Wednesday.

The Bank of Canada has been exploring and building capacity for products like a central bank digital currency (CBDC), but there has been no specific time frame for launching one, Deputy Governor Tim Lane said during a panel discussion on the future of money.

“The main point, I think, is this is all looking a lot more urgent because of the speed with which technology is evolving,” said Lane.

“With COVID, we’ve seen an acceleration of the shift of activities online and that suggests if we want to be ready to develop any kind of digital central bank product, we need to move faster than we thought was going to be necessary,” he said.

A digital currency would act like cash and streamline transactions by avoiding a need to use a payment card for online purchases.

Lane has previously said that the Bank of Canada could launch a CBDC if a private cryptocurrency were to make serious inroads, creating privacy concerns.

Global central banks are putting together rules and working on their own digital currencies to address the prospect of private cryptocurrencies, like Facebook Inc’s <FB.O> planned Libra stablecoin.

Lane told the panel that a number of stakeholders need to be consulted on issuing a CBDC, including banks and financial institutions, along with technology companies.

“Certainly we’re talking to a number of companies that have products that they are developing or also are advising in these things,” he said.

On Tuesday, financial leaders of the world’s seven biggest economies said no stablecoin operation should start until it is properly regulated.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Technical glitches briefly mar first day of applications for Canada Recovery Benefit

Canadians seeking to access new financial support after missing work because of COVID-19 appeared to briefly run into technical glitches as applications opened for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) on Monday.

Applications for the new benefit, which will pay $500 per week for up to 26 weeks, can be made through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The benefit is open to those who don’t qualify for EI because they never paid into it or don’t have enough hours.

On Monday morning, some people reported having trouble applying through the Government of Canada website.

According to screenshots posted to social media, numerous people got an error message saying: “You cannot apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit as you have applied for all eligible periods.”

Another error message told applicants they do not qualify for support payments.

A message appeared for a short time Monday morning on the CRB website, saying that the CRA was “experiencing technical issues with applications for Recovery Benefits” and was “urgently working to restore this service as quickly as possible.”

A CRA spokeperson told CBC News just before 12:30 p.m. ET that the issues have now been fixed. “Taxpayers may now resume their applications. The CRA regrets the momentary impact this may have on applicants, and we appreciate their patience.”

The new benefit from the federal government comes into effect as concerns rise about increasing job losses with Ontario and Quebec imposing targeted restrictions on restaurants, bars and fitness centres to slow the spread of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus.

Other financial supports

Applications also opened last week for a new caregiver benefit, after numerous calls since the start of the pandemic for added support for parents and others who are forced to miss work to care for a dependent due to COVID-19.

Women have seen a disproportionate impact on their careers and earnings because of the pandemic because they have largely shouldered the burden of child care and home schooling.

The caregiver benefit applies to people who miss work because of school or daycare closures, and whose children who miss school or daycare because they have contracted the virus or may have been exposed.

It also applies to people forced to miss work to care for family members who need specialized care that is unavailable to them due to COVID-19.

The federal government anticipates 700,000 Canadians will apply for the caregiver benefit.

The government has also created a new sick-leave benefit that pays up to $1,000 over two weeks to people who can’t work because they contracted COVID-19 or must self-isolate because of the virus.

The multibillion-dollar suite of new benefits are taking effect following an acrimonious political battle in Parliament that ultimately saw all parties vote in favour of them but not before the airing of widespread concern that the Liberal government was rushing them through.

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

The latest:

  • Ontario reports 809 new cases, while Quebec confirms 1,097 new cases.
  • New Brunswick announce 20 new cases, 9 connected to care-home outbreak.
  • Manitoba sees 2 more deaths and 97 new cases.
  • Several European countries report record new cases.
  • Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll tops 150,000.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the spread of COVID-19 seems to be shifting toward seniors, while the hardest-hit provinces scramble to avoid a worst-case scenario for the second wave.

Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement that while the summer saw cases concentrated in the 20-to-39 age range, infections are now increasing in older populations.

Tam said reports of outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes have been rising in recent weeks but seem to be more contained than the eruption of cases that overwhelmed several facilities in April and May.

However, she warned that older Canadians are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, and any spread in care homes often has deadly consequences.

Tam’s statement comes as the Ontario and Quebec governments work to rein in surging case counts with new restrictions in regional hot spots.

WATCH | Quebec, Ontario target hardest-hit regions with new restrictions:

Ontario and Quebec are introducing measures in the regions hardest hit by COVID-19 to try to slow the spread of the pandemic. Both provinces have seen surges in case counts. 6:00

What’s happening in Canada

As of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 180,179 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 151,347 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,608.

Manitoba reported two more deaths and 97 new cases on Saturday. The one-day jump in new cases is a new high for Manitoba, coming just a day after the previous record was set.

Ontario reported 809 new cases on Saturday and seven more deaths related to COVID-19, a day after recording yet another daily record with 939 new cases and five more deaths.

Premier Doug Ford closed gyms, movie theatres and casinos and banned indoor dining, and he asked people to stay home as much as possible for at least 28 days.

WATCH | Ottawa gym owner on closures:

Ashley Mathieu, who owns two Anytime Fitness locations, is frustrated her business is being closed in the current shutdown. 0:57

Saskatchewan saw a second-consecutive day of double-digit increases in cases on Saturday, recording 34 more. This follows 22 new cases reported Friday.

In Quebec, health officials confirmed 1,097 new cases Saturday and 13 more deaths. The province exceeded reporting more than 1,000 new infections for the eighth time in nine days.

Premier François Legault asked Quebecers to make sacrifices and avoid socializing over the long weekend as 433 more people landed in hospital — up eight patients from the day before, with 67 people in intensive care, one less than the day before.

A cyclist wearing a face mask rides past a sign for a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia added three new cases Saturday, leaving the province with a total of five active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador also added three new cases Saturday for a total of nine active cases.

New Brunswick announced 20 new cases on Saturday. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said nine of these cases are related to the outbreak at the Manoir Notre-Dame in Moncton.

The Northwest Territories announced that travellers and employees will be required to wear a mask while inside the territory’s airport terminal buildings, starting next Tuesday.  

What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 36.9 million. More than one million people have died, while more than 25.7 million have recovered.

In Asia, India’s confirmed cases are nearing seven million with another 73,272 reported in the past 24 hours. India is seeing a slower pace of spread since mid-September, but health experts have warned that congregations during major festivals later this month and in November have the potential for the virus to spread.

WATCH | India struggles to control COVID-19 as cases reach 2nd highest in the world:

India has the world’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, growing by a seven-day average of 69,368. Yet despite a stigma against contracting coronavirus, few people seem to be taking precautions seriously. 2:01

In Europe, a number of countries are reporting record single-day jumps in new cases. The Czech Republic registered 8,618; neighbouring Slovakia, 1,887; Ireland, 1,012; and Portugal, 1,646.

Africa has seen more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 37,000 deaths. The majority of the cases on the continent are in South Africa, which accounts for more than 688,000 cases.

In the Americas, Brazil registered 559 additional coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 26,749 new cases, the nation’s Health Ministry said on Saturday. The South American country has now registered 5,082,637 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 150,198 total deaths

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Canada tells Turkey to stay out of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said today he told his Turkish counterpart that Ankara should “stay out” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Speaking to reporters on Friday prior to embarking on a week-long European tour to discuss the ongoing bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh and tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, Champagne said he had a “firm conversation” with Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“The message was very clear that external parties should stay out because it’s already a very complex situation,” Champagne said.

“We deplore the loss of life and we need to make sure that no one is fuelling the conflict. Quite the opposite, the international community needs to be united in calling the parties back to the negotiating table, [to] respect the ceasefire and protect civilians.”

The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began Sept. 27 and marked the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a Russian-backed ceasefire in 1994.

In this image taken from a video provided by ArmNews TV, people carry out an injured man from the Holy Savior Cathedral after the church was shelled by Azerbaijan’s artillery outside Stepanakert in the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh on Oct. 8, 2020. (ArmNews TV via AP)

Armenia said it’s open to holding a ceasefire. Azerbaijan has made a potential truce conditional on the Armenian forces’ withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that the failure of international efforts to negotiate a settlement left it with no choice but to try to reclaim its lands by force.

Champagne said he asked his Turkish counterpart to use his influence to convince Azerbaijan to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions.

Champagne said Cavusoglu agreed with him “that there is no military solution to this conflict.”

But in a televised address to the nation on Friday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev dismissed such statements, saying that nearly three decades of international talks “haven’t yielded an inch of progress, we haven’t been given back an inch of the occupied lands.”

“Mediators and leaders of some international organizations have stated that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Aliyev said. “I have disagreed with the thesis, and I have been right. The conflict is now being settled by military means and political means will come next.”

Champagne said he “deplores” any suggestion that force is the best way to resolve the conflict.

Damage inside an apartment after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery during a military conflict in Stepanakert, self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. Armenian military officials reported missile strikes in the territorial capital of Stepanakert, which came under intense attacks all weekend. (Areg Balayan via Associated Press)

“We’re calling on the parties to respect the ceasefire, to protect civilians, to cease the hostilities,” Champagne said. “Conflicts are resolved around the negotiating table, not on the battlefield.”

Last week, Champagne suspended the export of sophisticated Canadian drone technology to Turkey in response to allegations that it is being used by the Azerbaijani military against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has denied transferring arms or military personnel or jihadist mercenaries to Azerbaijan, though Cavusoglu has pledged to be at Azerbaijan’s side both “on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”

Disarmament group Project Ploughshares has argued that Canadian exports of drone technology to Turkey breach not only Canadian legislation but also its international commitments under the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

“We will continue to have a very thorough investigation because Canada has one of the most robust export regimes in the world,” Champagne said. “And I intend to respect not only the letter of the law but the spirit.”

A packed itinerary

Champagne said he will travel to Greece, Austria, Belgium and Lithuania for a series of meetings with the political leadership of these countries, as well as top European Union and NATO officials.

Champagne said the first stop on his whirlwind tour of Europe will be Greece, where he will meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias.

“This is going to be a very important bilateral visit,” Champagne said. “I’m told that the last one occurred some 20 years ago.”

The two sides will be discussing the dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said.

“Canada has been engaged since the beginning, engaging with other partners through NATO in particular to try to see how we can de-escalate,” Champagne said.

Then it’s off to Vienna for a series of meetings at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), headquartered in the Austrian capital.

The OSCE plays an important role in the search for a negotiated solution to the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through its Minsk Group mechanism, Champagne said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference in Brussels Jan. 6, 2020. (Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press)

In Vienna, Champagne will also meet with his Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg. Then, Canada’s top diplomat will be flying to Brussels for a series of meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Discussions with Stoltenberg will focus on the security situation in Europe and around the world, Champagne said.

While in Brussels, Champagne will meet with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Champagne is also planning to meet Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes before moving on to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where he will hold a “mini-summit” with his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Canada has refused to recognize Alexander Lukashenko’s claim that he won Belarus’s election. (Maxim Guchek, BelTA/Pool Photo via The Associated Press)

While in Vilnius, Minister Champagne will also be meeting with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the disputed Aug. 9 presidential election in Belarus and the violent crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed a landslide win in the polls.

Canada has refused to recognize Lukashenko’s victory and his subsequent inauguration and has slapped sanctions on him, his eldest son and 12 other Belarusian officials Canada accuses of being involved in rigging the election results and ordering the violent crackdown on tens of thousands of protesters.

Champagne will leave for Europe on Sunday and return back to Canada on Saturday.

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