Smitty’s pancake days charity for children with disabilities raises over $5000 this year – Kingston

Smitty’s Family Restaurant & Lounge hosted their 23rd annual Pancake Days in February, where a short stacks of pancakes were made available for $9.99, and all proceeds were donated to the Easter Seal Kids.

The restaurant announced in a statement Monday that their Pancake Days have raised a total of $5,083.53, which is over a thousand dollars more than last year’s charity.

“I know it’s a difficult time right now for people trying to raise money for good causes, the need is ongoing for these families,” says Smitty’s owner, Randy Loucks.

Loucks and his family donated $1,000 personally this year as well.

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Easter Seals amps up online fundraising as equipment requests climb

Pancake Days ran from Tuesday, Feb. 16 until Sunday, Feb. 28, with the very first day starting during a snowstorm.

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“It is what it is,” said Loucks of the weather to Global News that day, still prepared to serve pancakes for a good cause.

Easter Seals Ontario provides programs and services to children and youth with physical disabilities across the province, with the goal of helping them to achieve independence through integration.

The charity owns and runs two fully accessible summer camps where youth can enjoy a 10-day program away from home to take part in activities like its indoor climbing wall, sailing and kayaking. The Easter Seals also provide funding for accessible equipment of up to $3,000 per year, per child to help with purchases like wheelchairs and ramps.

The management and staff at Smitty’s ended their statement by thanking the residents of Kingston in helping them achieve this goal.

The restaurant has raised a total of $86,000 during the past 23 years of hosting Pancake Days.

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Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

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Town hall planned for Manitobans with disabilities to discuss effect of COVID-19 restrictions – Winnipeg

Although many Manitobans have been excited about the recent loosening of some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by the province, some people feel they’ve been left behind when it comes to reopening plans.

The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD) will be putting on a digital town hall Tuesday night, where people can raise their concerns about how they’ve been affected by the changes.

Carlos Sosa, a support worker and member of Inclusion Winnipeg and Inclusion Canada, will be co-moderating the town hall, and told 680 CJOB many of the issues facing Manitobans with disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and access to resources.

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“The people I work with, many of whom live in poverty, have had limited options even before the pandemic,” he said.

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“(They’re) not able to access the internet to reserve books or to access the mental health supports, which are all online right now.

“Obviously, the issues of access to space is so critical. Libraries are critical. They provide programming, they allow people to meet, and with that being closed right now, your options are very limited to participate in the community.”

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Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities – Jan 2, 2021

Sosa said he understands that the pandemic has made it difficult — if not impossible — for those types of in-person programs to be active at the moment, but the situation is a good example of why more funding is needed for people with disabilities in their daily lives.

“This really echoes the need for increased social assistance rates so people with disabilities could afford computers and the internet so they could participate in events like this,” he said.

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“The gaps that exist in the first place are due to the systemic inequalities of poverty — and also added to it, the society. Physical barriers and also systemic biases, and I see that on a daily basis.

“Many people with disabilities are in poverty through no part of their own and in society we need to do a better job of including people in our communities.”

The town hall, co-moderated by Sosa and MLPD chair Whitney Hodgins, takes place online Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech

Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech – Oct 7, 2020

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Alberta researchers want to improve transitional system for people with disabilities

Dr. Chester Ho, professor at the University of Alberta, says for years, patients with spinal cord injuries have been ringing the alarm about not having the same kind of access to disability care as those living in urban areas.

“We hear time after time from our patients that after they leave Glenrose or Foothills, they feel like they are falling off a cliff because although they got excellent services at these two regional centres… once they leave, it’s a whole different story,” explained Ho, who works in the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Ho, his assistant professor Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez and his team are looking for ways to make that transition period smoother for outpatients by exploring a model of transitional care that works like a hub and spokes system, akin to Alberta’s system of major and minor airports.

Edmonton and Calgary will primarily act as hubs, providing spinal cord injury specialty services and information to patients on managing their conditions.

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Whereas, health-care providers in communities outside of the two cities will be the spokes, providing ongoing care and support for outpatients in the community.

Ho says health-care providers in smaller communities that don’t regularly deal with spinal cord injuries often don’t have the experience or resources to manage the chronic issues that stem from the condition.

The four-year project was awarded a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s new Transitions in Care initiative. Several other entities have contributed funding for the project, totalling around $1 million.

Marty Rehman is one of Ho’s patients. Rehman, a Red Deer resident, sustained a spinal cord injury after falling and was left paralyzed from the neck down.

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He spent nearly a year at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary before moving back home.

During his recovery process, he experienced some major roadblocks.

“There’s really no applicable therapy or equipment in the Red Deer Hospital,” Rehman said.

“They don’t really have anything as an outpatient for the physiotherapy. There’s nothing there that will help me improve.”

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But then Ho stepped in to find a resolution to help Rehman get the adequate rehabilitation care he needed.

“He got me hooked up with the therapist in Lacombe., Alta. It’s about a 50-kilometre drive from here,” he added.

Rehman has since met others in the same situation, who’ve had to commute from out of town in to receive care, further highlighting the need for more rehabilitation programs and equipment across the province.

Rehman says he received excellent care in Lacombe and is now able to have some movement in his arms, which has allowed him to operate a wheelchair with a joystick instead of having to use a chin-controlled wheelchair.

Ho’s study is expected to be completed by 2023.

Currently, both Lethbridge and Slave Lake are participants in the pilot project, however, the team is hoping to eventually expand the number of spokes to cover the entire province.

The researchers’ plan is to build capacity in spoke communities and constant communication between the hubs and spokes wherein patients with spinal cord injuries will experience a more consistent level of care, along with fewer complications in their lives.

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The Claresholm & District Transportation Society is a non-profit that has been helping bridge the gap for nearly two decades by helping provide rides to seniors and those with disabilities to their medical appointments.

“We’ve had [a situation]… where they had to discharge somebody and they did it at eight o’clock at night,” said Howard Paulsen, chair of the Claresholm & District Transportation Society.

“They were calling up our transportation service because they had no other way of getting home, so we will pick them up and bring them back home.”

He added that their drivers are qualified professionals who often go out of their way to offer clients personal safety and comfort.

Paulsen says with doctor appointments being daunting enough, those using their services have expressed gratitude for the drivers being there for them in support.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Waiting list ‘abyss’ in N.S. for care and housing of people with disabilities: doctor

A Nova Scotia family doctor says people with intellectual disabilities can develop illnesses ranging from diabetes to stroke when forced to live in unsuitable housing without expert help.

Dr. Karen McNeil told a legislature committee today many families feel like they’re experiencing “an abyss” because their loved ones languish on a 1,698-person waiting list, either to begin receiving care or in hope of being transferred to a more suitable living arrangement.

McNeil is a founding member of the Dalhousie family medicine adult developmental disability clinic in Halifax, where since 2010 she has supported primary care doctors who care for adults with intellectual disabilities

She told the committee that larger, so-called “congregate care” facilities that house about 525 of the 4,979 adults receiving care are unsuitable and that it’s well established they should be living in smaller, community homes.

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N.S. pledges homes for people with disabilities but advocate calls pace ‘glacial’

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McNeil says that’s particularly true during a pandemic when sharing bedrooms and bathrooms “is a recipe for disaster.”

The doctor says she sees people who are frustrated by living amid too much noise or who lack specialized care, leading to undiagnosed needs.

“When people with intellectual and development disabilities are forced to live in unhealthy situations, they try to communicate, and this is difficult when you have few words or no words,” McNeil told the Department of Community Services legislature committee.

“Sometimes they communicate very loudly, sometimes they get physical, sometimes they beat on themselves, sometimes out of desperation they beat on others.”

“I feel that they are telling us their environment is not suitable and in some cases it is oppressive,” she added.

The physician says family doctors often prescribe psychotropic medication because the province hasn’t created multidisciplinary teams of doctors who can probe the root causes of frustration. “There’s no reason we can’t create these teams,” she said. “And by not having this we are using more drugs. What do those drugs do? They create side effects such as diabetes and put them at risk of heart attack and stroke.”

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Facing eviction during COVID-19

Facing eviction during COVID-19

McNeil is part of the advocacy organization, Community Homes Action Group, which is urging the province to move more swiftly toward transferring people out of their congregate facilities – referred to as adult residential centres or regional rehabilitation centres – to small options homes where up to four people live with caregivers.

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Joyce d’Entremont, the chief executive of Mountains and Meadows Care Group, noted that a plan to shift 27 residents from Harbourside adult residential facility in Yarmouth to community homes – the first in the provincewide plan to phase out the institutions – has shown the process must take place at the pace that families and residents are comfortable with.

The Harbourside move, d’Entremont said, is happening over 12 to 18 months.

The hearing heard that Nova Scotia is the last jurisdiction in Canada to undertake the closure of institutions, after a moratorium on the construction of small options facilities occurred through the 1990s, as other provinces forged ahead with smaller residences.

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Maria Medioli, executive director of the disability support program, told the committee the advantage of being last is that the province has learned about the downside of shifting people into the community without adequate support.

“We have to set people up for success,” she said. “Some of these people have lived in an institution their whole lives. They’ve been told when to eat, when to sleep and who they have to live with. So to move to a community can be scary.”

The government has said in earlier news releases that it has budgeted $7.4 million in 2020-21 to create 50 new community placements, with plans to expand this transition “over the next several years.”

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Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Community Services, noted during today’s hearing that the department’s budget for the disabilities support program has grown $70 million in five years, to $389 million annually, with $75.5 million going toward the large congregate facilities.

She noted in her presentation that the province “remains fully committed to phasing out” the large facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

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Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports

Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports – Dec 30, 2020

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Edmonton pharmacist fined for accessing health info after collision, using it against other person – Edmonton

An Edmonton-based pharmacist was fined for inappropriately accessing the health information of a person they were involved in a collision with.

A news release from Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner said pharmacist Stanislaus Soosai accessed the health information of a person he was in an automobile collision with.

The OIPC said he then attempted to persuade the individual from submitting an insurance claim for the collision.

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The person submitted a complaint in April 2018 to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), which opened an investigation into Soosai’s actions.

Upon conclusion of its investigation, the OIPC referred findings to the specialized prosecutions branch of Alberta Justice, and charges were laid in July 2019.

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Read more:
Former AHS clerk fined for improperly accessing health records 21 times ‘out of curiosity’

Soosai received a $5,000 fine, plus a $1,000 victim fine surcharge, on Friday, Jan. 15 for using health information in contravention of the Health Information Act (HIA).

It is an offence under HIA to knowingly use health information in contravention of the Act (section 107(2)(a)).

There have been 18 convictions since 2001 for offences under Health Information Act.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ontario reports 4,301 new coronavirus cases over past 2 days

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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