Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine plan to focus on age, neighbourhood and health conditions in April

The Ontario government says there will be a focus on seniors aged 60 and older, those in other congregate settings, hot spot regions and those who cannot work from home in an updated vaccine rollout plan on Friday.

According to the documents, the vaccine rollout firstly targets death prevention, followed by prevention of illness, hospitalization and ICU admission, and transmission reduction.

The province is currently wrapping up Phase 1, in which those living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, as well as staff and front-line workers were targeted. Over 820,000 doses have been administered and over 269,000 Ontarians have been fully immunized with two shots.

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Officials noted that the plan does not factor in the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot and additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which was announced on Friday.

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Health officials said timelines are amendable and may change based on vaccine supply.  There are currently four vaccines approved in Canada: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The first three require two shots several weeks apart while Johnson & Johnson only requires one.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine rollout said with the approval of the new vaccines, the hope will be that everyone who wishes to be vaccinated will have at least their first dose by the end of June, or potentially by the first day of summer on June 20.

Phase 2 of Ontario’s three-phase rollout plan will see shots administered based on risk factors including age, neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home.

Read more:
Toronto, Peel Region moving to grey lockdown restrictions under Ontario’s COVID-19 framework

This strategy focuses on the 2.5 million Ontarians between the ages of 60 and 79 years old.

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Residents over the age of 80 will be vaccinated first in March, followed by those over 75 years old, over 70 years old, over 65 years old and over 60 years old with the target end date to be done by the beginning of June.

The Phase 2 sequencing provided by the Ontario government.

Ontario government

Health Conditions and Congregate Settings

This strategy focuses on the 2.9 million Ontarians living with health conditions and the 0.2 million Ontarians living in congregate settings. This group will begin to be vaccinated in April.

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Ontarians living with the following health conditions will be vaccinated in Phase 2:

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Highest-risk (442,000)

  • organ transplant recipients
  • hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • people with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised
  • haematological malignancy diagnosed <1 year
  • kidney diseases eGFR<30

High-risk (292,000)

  • Obesity (BMI>40)
  • Other treatments causing immunosuppression
  • intellectual or developmental disabilities

At-risk (2.2 million)

  • immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders
  • stroke/cerebrovascular disease
  • dementia
  • diabetes
  • liver disease
  • all other cancers
  • respiratory diseases
  • spleen problems
  • heart disease
  • hypertension with end organ damage
  • diagnosis of mental disorder
  • substance use disorders
  • thalassemia
  • pregnancy
  • immunocompromising health conditions
  • other disabilities requiring direct support care in the community.

At-risk staff, essential caregivers and residents in congregate settings will be vaccinated in this category.

  • supportive housing
  • developmental services/intervenor and supported independent living
  • emergency homeless shelters
  • other homeless populations not in shelters
  • mental health and addictions congregate settings
  • homes for special care
  • violence against woman shelters and anti-human trafficking residents
  • children’s residential facilities
  • youth justice facilities
  • indigenous healing and wellness
  • provincial and demonstration schools
  • on-farm temporary foreign workers
  • bail beds and indigenous bail beds
  • adult correctional facilities

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Coronavirus: Toronto still waiting on vaccine supply boost from province

This strategy focuses on the 900,000 Ontarians living in targeted hot spot regions, who have high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission. These hot spot regions will still focus on older age groups first. The vaccination process will begin in April and is expected to be completed by the end of May.

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The following 13 public health units will receive up to 920,000 additional vaccine doses to target “historic and ongoing hot spots,” according to the documents.

  • Durham
  • Halton
  • Hamilton
  • Niagara
  • Ottawa
  • Peel
  • Simcoe Muskoka
  • Waterloo
  • Wellington Dufferin Guelph
  • Windsor Guelph
  • Windsor Essex
  • York
  • Toronto
  • South West

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COVID-19 vaccination booking sites busy in Ontario regions offering shots to oldest seniors

This strategy focuses on the almost 2.5 million Ontarians who cannot work from home amid the pandemic. These residents are broken into two groups and those who fall under this category will be vaccinated at the end of Phase 2 expected to be around June.

The first group contains 730, 000 people:

  • elementary/secondary school staff
  • workers responding to critical events (police, fire, compliance, funeral, special constables)
  • childcare and licensed foster care workers
  • food manufacturing workers
  • agriculture and farm workers

The second group contains 1.4 million people:

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  • high-risk and critical retail workers (grocery and pharmacies)
  • remaining manufacturing labourers
  • social workers
  • courts and justice system workers
  • lower-risk retail workers
  • transportation, warehousing and distribution
  • energy, telecom, water and wastewater management
  • financial services
  • waste management
  • mining, oil and gas workers

Over 400,000 essential caregivers will be vaccinated at the same time (at the end of Phase 2), with the focus being on those who take care of residents living with the highest-risk conditions including organ transplants recipients and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients.

Ontario will be launching its online vaccination booking system and call centre on March 15. Certain public health units have launched their own system including in Peel Region and Guelph.

Click to play video 'Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout'

Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Ontario government said it is also working with all 34 public health units in the province to create mass immunization clinics. According to the document, “it is expected that approximately 80 per cent of total provincial vaccine allocations will be administered through mass immunization clinics during Phase 2 and 3.”

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Vaccinations will also be made available through certain pharmacies and family health centres.

“It is expected that the majority of the first shipment of AstraZeneca in March and in Phase 2 will be supported by the addition of retail pharmacies and primary care,” the documents read.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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

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People with disabilities request priority for COVID-19 vaccine in N.B.

The New Brunswick Coalition of Person with Disabilities is calling on the province to prioritize people with disabilities in its vaccine rollout schedule.

The group’s vice-president, Murielle Pitre, said people with disabilities often have other health conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus which should be taking into consideration in the province’s vaccine plan.

“I think that we should figure somewhere on the schedule and the reality is that we are just not,” said Pitre.

Read more:
Coronavirus — Parents of Quebecers with developmental challenges call for vaccine priority

She said the coalition supports the decision to have health-care and senior-care workers and seniors at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. But she says people with disabilities should be included among the vulnerable population.

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“Many people with disabilities have lung issues. For example, I have scoliosis and my lungs don’t function at 100 per cent.”

Mike Parker of Moncton was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers from a heart and lung condition, which he said leave him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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“In my case, it is a heart and lung disorder, which scares the heck out of me and that is why I don’t go out that much,” he said.

He said that as a person with a disability, he feels overlooked in the province’s vaccine rollout plans.

“Us the disabled, we are not even mentioned, so it is upsetting,” he said.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims'

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

People with disabilities are also not specifically listed in Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout plans.

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Pitre said many people with disabilities have been housebound for months, which is impacting their mental health.

“Many people have been isolating since last year, I mean, since the beginning of the pandemic because they are afraid to go out,” she said.

Pitre said has spoken to her local MLA several times on the matter but hasn’t heard back yet.

“We are waiting on a response,” she said.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, Shawn Berry, said in an email to Global News that long-term care workers and residents and health-care workers are the priority and the province “will be providing more details in the coming weeks about the next groups in its vaccination roll out plans.”

Meanwhile, Parker said his shot cannot come soon enough.

“I am afraid that if I get (COVID-19) chances are I can’t say if I would survive or not. It is 50/50 with me,” he said.


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

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Coronavirus: Ontario patients to be ranked for life-saving care should ICUs become full

Hospitals in Ontario have received a much-anticipated document that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.

According to the document, titled “Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge” and prepared by the province’s critical care COVID-19 command centre – patients will be scored by doctors on a “short-term mortality risk assessment.”

“Aim to prioritize those patients who are most likely to survive their critical illness,” the document notes.

“Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources,” the document reads.

It lists three levels of critical care triage:

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“Level 1 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 80 per cent,” the document notes.

“Level 2 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality (greater than) 50 per cent.”

At Level 3 triage, patients with predicted mortality of 30 per cent – or a 70 per cent chance of surviving beyond a year – will not receive critical care. At this stage, patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest will be deprioritized for critical care, as their predicted mortality is greater than 30 per cent.

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At this level, clinicians may abandon the short-term mortality predictions in favour of randomization, which the document notes is to be used “as a last resort” and should be conducted by an administrator, not by bedside clinicians.

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The protocol, dated Jan. 13, says there are three steps on the road to critical care triage:

Step 1 says hospitals should build surge capacity.

In Step 2 , “if demand still exceeds capacity, the hospital will adjust the type of care being provided to focus on key critical care interventions,” which include basic modes of ventilation.

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Step 3 is the initiation of critical care triage. Once that process kicks in, “all requests for ICU admission are managed by an administrator on call who supports the bedside clinicians.”

At the moment, there are 416 patients with COVID-19 in ICUs in Ontario, which has a total of 1,800 total ICU beds.

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Modelling released by the province last week show that about 700 ICU beds will be used by COVID-19 patients by the first week February.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the head of the critical care COVID-19 command centre and director of critical care at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the triage protocol contains information and tools that are a standard way for physicians to conduct an assessment for a patient upon arrival at an emergency department.

“They were shared with the critical care community as background only and to ensure a common approach across the sector, so physicians and other health professional staff can learn how to quickly operationalize an emergency standard of care for admission to critical care, if ever needed,” he said.

Baker said an emergency standard of care is not in place, but will be enacted if needed.

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He said there is an “extensive, sophisticated, provincewide effort” to transfer patients out of hospitals that are at capacity.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said the hospital is running at 105 per cent capacity, but has cancelled surgeries in order to keep some spots open in the ICU.

“I sincerely hope we never need to use this because it is terrible for patients, terrible for their families, causes moral distress for health-care workers, and it’s something that we should do everything possible to avoid having to implement,” Warner said.

David Lepofsky, the chairman of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the triage guidelines are discriminatory.

He pointed to the clinical frailty scale, a prognostic tool doctors use in cases of progressive illnesses to assess a patient’s general deterioration over time.

“This is disability-based discrimination and that’s against the law in the Constitution,” Lepofsky said.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Medical staff need guidance on life or death triage decision as Ontario ICUs fill up: experts

TORONTO — As intensive care units in Ontario hospitals continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients, the province has yet to finalize a plan on who should get life-saving care when health resources are limited.

The latest COVID-19 projections show the province’s ICUs could reach “gridlock” by mid-to-late February.

At that point, health-care workers will have to decide who gets an ICU bed and who doesn’t – a practice known as critical care triage. It’s a heart-wrenching decision doctors in a number of countries with hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients have had to make.

Read more:
Ontario hospitals told to prepare for out-of-region patients amid rising coronavirus cases

“It’s really concerning to not know what the plan is and transparency around that would go a long way towards everyone’s ability to prepare and everyone’s mental well-being,” said Dr. Samantha Hill, the president of the Ontario Medical Association, which represents more than 40,000 physicians.

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The province has stumbled in its efforts to get the critical care triage ethical framework out to doctors.

Ontario Health sent out a critical care triage protocol on March 28, 2020, but retracted it several months later after an outcry from human rights organizations.

“The first protocol was horrifically discriminatory against patients with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, the chairman of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

One problem with that proposal was the use of a “clinical frailty scale,” or CFS, Lepofsky said.

Click to play video 'Kingston prepares for out-of-region COVID-19 patients'

Kingston prepares for out-of-region COVID-19 patients

Kingston prepares for out-of-region COVID-19 patients

The scale is also part of a proposed framework sent to the government by the Bioethics Table, which advises the province on the health system’s response to COVID-19.

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The document – titled “Critical Care Triage during Major Surge in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Proposed Framework for Ontario” – lays out how a patient would qualify or be excluded from critical care and was sent to the province in September.

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The clinical frailty scale is used as a prognostic tool for progressive illnesses that assesses a patient’s general deterioration over time, the Bioethics Table notes in the document, which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

However, the proposal acknowledges that the CFS “would seem to conflate disability with frailty and hence would contribute to over-triaging of persons with disabilities.”

It further notes that the CFS “illustrates how clinical evidence and experience are not sufficient alone to establish the justifiable use of a clinical tool and calls attention to the embedding of social norms within clinical tools and in their application in practice.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has also expressed concern about the recommendation that patients be evaluated for their survival potential over the next 12 months.

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Under the Bioethics Table’s proposed protocol, patients would be evaluated and assigned into colour-coded categories based on the predicted percentage of short-term mortality risk over the next year.

There would then be three levels of triage depending on demand and availability of beds.

In Level 1 triage, patients who have greater than 20 per cent chance of surviving 12 months should be prioritized. In Level 2, patients with greater than 50 per cent chance of survival in a year should be prioritized and, in Level 3, patients who have a greater than 70 per cent chance of survival should be prioritized.

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Ena Chadha, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, said the 12-month time period is troubling.

“A doctor can make a decision in the short term: is this person going to survive next week, the next two weeks,” she said.

“But when you start looking at one year…you are going to be infused with discriminatory ideas about the person’s disability and age. Our stakeholders would like to see a much shorter time frame.”

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Both Lepofsky and Chadha, along with the Bioethics Table, said there must also be due process — an appeal process — so that life or death decisions aren’t made by one person.

Another major concern for both Lepofsky and Chadha is the province’s lack of transparency on such an important issue.

“This process is very opaque as to who are the decision-makers, what is the process and where are we at right now?” Chadha said.

“This is distressing for our community stakeholders. They are very worried that their dignity and life is at stake and that when it comes to making decisions about a very horrible death, the health-care decision-makers may not understand the value of their life.”

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The Ministry of Health said the Bioethics Table will continue to talk to various stakeholders.

“These conversations are ongoing to ensure that the proposed framework reflects the best available evidence and advice,” said spokesman David Jensen, noting that nothing has been approved by the ministry.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Ontario dental association calls for early access to COVID-19 vaccine for dentists, staff

The Ontario Dental Association says it wants the provincial government to include dentists and dental staff in the first rounds of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“Dentists have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic by keeping people with dental problems out of emergency rooms,” the ODA said.

The dental group said due to the nature of their work, dentists are at direct risk of contracting the coronavirus and should be on the priority list of health-care professionals to be vaccinated early.

The association said it sent a letter to the province’s health minister on Dec. 4, 2020 requesting they be part of early vaccinations.

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“The ODA understands the immense stress the province is under as they navigate through this pandemic but dentists are a key part of the healthcare system and provide specialty care that improves the health and well-being of millions of Ontarians every year,” said ODA president Dr. Lesli Hapak. “We need early access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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The Ontario government has released its COVID-19 vaccination program, which includes vaccinating Ontarians in three phases.

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Phase 1 includes front-line health-care workers, First Nations and the most vulnerable populations, such as those in long-term care. The province is expecting to have administered roughly two million doses by the end of March.

Phase 2 is an extension of the first phase when more vaccine doses become available. Phase 3 is when every Ontarian who wants to be immunized can receive a vaccine.

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

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‘People are being shown no mercy’: Online evictions raise alarm in Ontario

Tenant after tenant addressed the virtual meeting, describing how COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on their lives and finances over the last year.

A Toronto mother said she struggled to keep up with bills after losing work in the restaurant industry. A Hamilton man behind on rent payments said he was staying in touch with his landlord about his financial situation after being laid off.

“It’s COVID, people struggle,” he appealed to Landlord and Tenant Board member John Mazzilli during the Dec. 18 block of hearings — all of which involved non-payment of rent.

Similar scenes playing out over the last several weeks have raised concern among Ontario advocates who say the pickup of evictions in the pandemic’s second wave coincides with a shift to online-only hearings that stack the deck against tenants.

Read more:
Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising coronavirus case counts

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“These people are being shown no mercy,” Kenn Hale with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario said in a recent interview. “They’re expected to pay and pay now or get out.”

Hale, director of advocacy and legal services at ACTO, said it’s “absurd” to evict people during a health crisis that has left many unable to pay rent due to lost income.

“It’s bad enough in normal times for people to lose their homes and to be treated unfairly an administrative proceeding. But it can be life or death in the kind of situation we’re in now,” Hale said in a recent interview.

Evictions were suspended until late summer and the Landlord and Tenant Board is now working through a backlog of cases that observers say predated the pandemic, and has grown this year as more people lose income.

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Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses

Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses – Nov 23, 2020

Tribunals Ontario doesn’t keep track of evictions, but according to ACTO, the board heard more than 7,000 cases in November. Ninety-six per cent of those were filed by a landlord against a tenant, the ACTO said. As of Dec. 14, 4,597 hearings were scheduled for the month.

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Hale said the shift to an online-only hearing model has made it harder for tenants to present their circumstances or access legal advice, including through ACTO’s duty counsel program.

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Lawyers must now introduce themselves to tenants in the virtual session, in front of all other participants, and both need to exit the meeting to speak privately.

Hale said such introductions don’t always run smoothly, with lawyers are entering “chaotic” hearing situations where they struggle to make themselves heard.

There’s also concern about changes under Bill 184, which became law in the summer. It allows landlords to offer repayment agreements without appearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board, so some tenants are signing on to potentially unreasonable repayment terms without fully understanding their rights, Hale said.

Click to play video 'Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases'

Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases

Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases – Dec 15, 2020

A group of Ontario legal clinics, including ACTO, wrote to Tribunals Ontario in October with proposed guidelines for adjudicators considering evictions cases during the pandemic — including the public health risk and pressures on people’s finances.

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Hale said the group had not received a response as of mid-December.

The Progressive Conservative government has not yet acted on an Opposition motion supporting a freeze on evictions that passed unanimously this month, days before the legislative assembly adjourned until February.

NDP MPP Suze Morrison, who introduced the motion, said the online hearing format isn’t accessible for people with visual impairments or those who don’t have stable internet access, among other challenges.

“I’m deeply concerned that there are human rights violations happening here,” Morrison said by phone.

Read more:
Tenants call on landlords and province to step up, offer rent relief programs

A statement from Ford’s office this month said the government “is continuing to explore ways to further support Ontarians during this difficult time.”

Tribunals Ontario, meanwhile, said it’s pursuing “a digital-first strategy to meet the diverse needs of Ontarians and enhance the quality of our dispute resolution services.”

It said requests for in-person hearings would be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure people are accommodated under the Human Rights Code. As of mid-December, Tribunals Ontario had not confirmed if any in-person hearings had been approved.

Sam Nithiananthan, an organizer with People’s Defence Toronto, said the online hearings have been a “double-edged sword” in the evictions process, as allies can now tune in and support their neighbours.

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Nithiananthan said the crisis has exposed longstanding issues renters face in the city, and it’s motivated tenants to organize in larger numbers than he’d seen before.

“What has been shifting is tenants are now standing up,” he said.

Read more:
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Tenant organizer Bryan Doherty with Keep Your Rent Toronto said his group and others have called for rent relief that goes beyond a moratorium on evictions, arguing that simply pausing evictions would leave cases to pile up.

“We knew that a moratorium at the beginning of the COVID crisis would actually just produce an eviction blitz midway through the crisis, which is what we’re seeing now,” he said by phone in a mid-December interview.

Rents have long been unaffordable in Ontario’s largest city and Doherty said “COVID kind of threw gasoline on that fire.”

He said pressure needs to be applied to landlords and governments to address the housing crisis affecting working-class tenants during the pandemic and beyond.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same. The question is whether or not it will be worse or slightly better,” he said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Canadians with disabilities struggling financially due to coronavirus pandemic: survey – National

More than half of Canadians with disabilities who participated in a crowdsourced survey are struggling to make ends meet because of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, a new report suggests.

Statistics Canada published findings on Thursday gathered from approximately 13,000 Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities who voluntarily filled out an online questionnaire between June 3 and July 23.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say


Unlike most of the agency’s studies, the survey wasn’t randomly sampled and therefore isn’t statistically representative of the Canadian population.

The responses indicate the pandemic has affected the ability of 61 per cent of participants age 15 to 64 to fulfil at least one financial obligation or essential need, including housing payments, basic utilities and prescription medication.

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Forty-four per cent of respondents reported concerns about paying for groceries, while 40 per cent were worried about the costs of personal protective equipment.

COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

Nearly one-third of participants said their overall household income has declined since lockdown began. More than half of this group reported losses greater than $1,000 a month.

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Of those who were employed prior to the pandemic, 36 per cent said they were laid off or saw their hours cut.

Almost half of participants said they’ve relied solely on non-employment income in the months since the outbreak hit. The most common sources were disability assistance and pandemic-related income supports such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said the survey only begins to “scratch the surface” of the potential long-term financial repercussions of the pandemic for people with disabilities.

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He noted that the survey found young people were more likely to likely to have seen employment changes than other age groups, possibly permanently severing their ties to the workforce.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo

“There’s some concern that people with disabilities may be some of the last rehired,” Prince said.

A 2017 study by Statistics Canada found that people with disabilities were more likely to live below the poverty line, and those who are employed tend to earn less than their counterparts without disabilities.

The authors of Thursday’s report raised concerns that financial losses linked to the pandemic could put many people with disabilities in an even more vulnerable position.

Earlier this week, the parliamentary budget office reported that Ottawa is spending $792 million on a one-time payment of up to $600 to help 1.67 million people with disabilities.

COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate

Kyle Vose, agency co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, noted that many Canadians with disabilities don’t qualify for the payment, and for those that do, the sum is a pittance compared to the extra costs linked to COVID-19.

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“We’re people with disabilities, so we’re used to not getting anything,” Vose said. “We’re just hoping for something.”

Before the pandemic, Vose said, lots of people on the Ontario Disability Support Program were barely scraping by.

Now, Vose said, many are “falling through the cracks” as the prices of essentials such as food, medication and transportation have gone up, and services to support low-income people have been cut back.

Most Canadians are struggling during the pandemic, he said, but for people with disabilities, those burdens are often compounded by accessibility issues that can make meeting basic needs more difficult, and often, more expensive.

“There’s got to be some sort of understanding here, and there doesn’t seem to ever be that understanding.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Students with disability face more obstacles amid coronavirus: advocates 

Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

READ MORE: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

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Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out

Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure —  and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

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Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

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READ MORE: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo amid coronavirus 

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge

TORONTO — Ontario has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after a legal challenge was filed by a group of human rights organizations.

Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario were all parties to the lawsuit.

The groups argued that allowing police to access personal health records violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

Read more:
Rights groups fight sharing of COVID-19 status with Ontario police forces in court

A statement from the CCLA says that the lawsuit against the province has been dropped with the news that the government has ended police access to the database.

The human rights organizations say they are now calling on local police services to destroy the personal health information that has already been accessed.

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They also ask that local police conduct audits to ensure the data access to date complied with policy and legal requirements.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Civil liberties group concerned as Ontario cops get IDs of those who test positive

In early April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that allowed police to obtain the names, addresses and dates of birth of Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The human rights organizations said they wrote to the government expressing concerns about the utility and legality of sharing sensitive personal health information.

When they didn’t hear back, the groups said they filed an urgent court application challenging Ontario’s decision to release this information to police because they argued it breached provincial health privacy protections and violated individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Quebec reserves 30,000 computers, tablets for students amid coronavirus pandemic – Montreal

The Quebec government announced Wednesday it has established an emergency reserve of 30,000 technological devices in what it describes as an exceptional measure to ensure students have access to tablets and computers.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he wants to support the education system to ensure access to computer equipment for all students in the province.

The initiative will cost $18.9 million. The goal is to ensure students will have access to quality distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The devices will be primarily intended for students who do not have access to computers or Grade 9 and 10 students who are alternating physically being in class and at-home learning during the coronavirus crisis.

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READ MORE: Quebec premier ‘confident’ about revised coronavirus measures as school start looms

The province is also prioritizing students with disabilities, learning difficulties and those who are considered to be at risk for the devices.

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Roberge said that the plan follows an $150-million investment made available to school service centres in June to provide schools with tablets and laptops.

The school network has acquired approximately 200,000 devices in preparation for the start of the school year to date. Orders will continue over the next few weeks.

COVID-19: Swift reaction to Quebec’s back to school plan

COVID-19: Swift reaction to Quebec’s back to school plan

With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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