Canada Who decided Ontario schools should stay closed? Government won't say, but doctors call on Ford to reconsider
As Pope defies calls for apology, residential school statement not ‘enough’: minister
The Catholic Pope has for years defied calls from both the Canadian government and the public to apologize for the central role his church played in Canada's residential schools.It is not "enough" for Pope Francis to express his sorrow following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
There is a simple question that the Ontario government won't answer about its decision to keep schools closed while opening patios and non-essential retail stores: Whose idea was it?
Normally, the government says it makes decisions on COVID-19 restrictions based on recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. When Premier Doug Ford announced in April that schools would close, for instance, he said the decision was made in consultation with the top doctor. Williams attended that press conference and took questions.
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But when Ford announced that schools would stay shut for the remainder of the year, Williams wasn't there. And about a week earlier, when the doctor was asked about schools potentially re-opening,was for schools to open before businesses.
"As for the decision, when that's going to be, that really is … a decision that has to be made up at the cabinet level," he told reporters.
When CBC News emailed spokespeople for Education Minister Stephen Lecce and the Ministry of Health, which handles media questions for Williams, asking if the decision was based on the doctor's advice, no one responded.
While it's unclear who made the call, it is certain the decision has been controversial — with even top experts divided — and will mean students in Ontario, who had already been out of school for longer than any other students in the country by mid-May, will miss even more class time.
TRC requested $1.5M to find mass graves at residential schools. The feds denied the money in 2009
In 2009, the TRC asked the federal government to help fund investigating the location of gravesites where residential students are believed to be buried. The request was denied.More than 10 years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), asked the federal government to help fund a series of projects that would identify burial site locations of children at Canadian residential schools.
Doctors ask Ford to reconsider
On Wednesday, a letterwas sent to the Ontario government calling for a review of the information that informed the decision to keep schools closed, as well as guarantees that students registered for summer school will be able to attend in person and that all students will be able to attend in-person classes in September.
The doctors said thatfor advice on what to do about schools on May 27, most supported reopening schools.
"You have chosen to ignore the answers you received and instead you have taken a stance in support of industry," the letter said.
"We have seen your government reconsider earlier decisions in their pandemic response plan. It is not too late to take a stance in support of Ontario's children and youth and set into motion their recovery process."
Other public health experts said they felt differently, like Peel Region's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh. In a TV interview, he said he understood the premier's decision because of the increasing number of cases being attributed to the delta variant, also known as B.1.617, that was first identified in India.
The Kamloops graves put Truth and Reconciliation back in the spotlight, but will it stay there?
OTTAWA – In a minority House of Commons, legislation generally moves slowly, but sometimes events, usually tragedies, force swift action. Canada declared war on Germany 10 days after the invasion of Poland. Damaging railway or airline strikes have been legislated to an end in hours, and when the pandemic began, MPs decided overnight on a plan to shutter the Commons. This week, the tragedy spurring action was not a fresh scar, but an old wound in the form of 215 small and unmarked graves at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. — deaths that pierced Canadians’ image of what this country is.
Even Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the group of public health experts who publish modelling and make recommendations to the government, did not reach a consensus.
The science table's, which was co-signed by other organizatons including SickKids and Children's Mental Health Ontario, was that schools should have reopened in regions where Dr. Williams and local authorities believed it was safe. But member David Fisman recused himself from that recommendation and that he agreed with Ford.
"That was the first time that David Fisman and I disagreed on an issue," Dr. Peter Jüni, the table's scientific director, told CBC News in an interview.
"This is not basically black or white. I can completely understand where David is coming from."
Jüni said the polarization between people who believe schools are either evidently safe or evidently unsafe "didn't help the situation and essentially didn't help our children."
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Schools are a risk, he said, but an overwhelming majority on the science table believed the risks could be mitigated. They also believed the benefits for children, mentally and socially, outweighed that risk.
On Monday, the table published a, which found that there's been a decrease in reporting of suspected abuse and neglect of children because school staff are the most likely group to report those concerns. The group also highlighted on Twitter that COVID-19-related school closures have lasted longer in Ontario than in any other province or territory, at 20 weeks total by mid-May.
Schools open in B.C.
In British Columbia, schools have been open since September.
B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said her government saw that the closures in 2020 caused increased stress, loneliness, isolation and mental health problems for students and made it a priority to avoid that this year.
"Experience had shown that it was really important to keep schools open," she told CBC News in an interview.
The government did a trial opening for a few weeks last June. It also created a steering committee that included public health experts from B.C.'s Centre for Disease Control, unions that represent teachers and other education workers,parents' and principals' associations, First Nations and Métis groups and the workplace safety agency. That committee has met once or twice a week since last summer to develop safety plans for schools, Whiteside said.
Discovery of 215 Indigenous graves had 'profound emotional impact' on Canadians, survey finds
The discovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has had a “profound emotional impact” on Canadians, a new survey suggests. Of the 1,513 people surveyed by Maru Public Opinion in early June, the majority said the discovery had changed how they view Indigenous people. Seventy-three per cent also found that it had affected them emotionally. “Whatever has happened here has triggered a response, particularly among young people and women in this country,” said John Wright, executive vice president of Maru Public Opinion. “This is something people can relate to, but are horrified to understand.
"It really was an effort of ... all of us against COVID," the minister said.
"We've put our trust in our public health officials to lead a science-based, evidence-based approach and … that I think has been a key part of our success so far."
'There's no comparison,' says Ford
When Ford made his announcement on the extended school closures, he was asked why Ontario couldn't open schools like other provinces did.
"There's no comparison.… We're 15 million people," he said.
The premier noted that the next-largest province is Quebec, which has just under 8.5 million people. That province closed and then reopened some schools on a region-by-region basis throughout the spring.
Ford also falsely stated that the science table's modelling showed that opening schools would lead to "thousands and thousands" of new cases.
Modellingsaid school openings would be associated with a six to 11 per cent bump in new cases. At the time of Ford's announcement, Ontario's seven-day average of new daily cases was 978.
"Yes, there was a small increase in the number of cases when we modelled that, but we would talk about something perhaps like 50 more cases per day," Jüni said, "We would be able to control that."
Terry Glavin: Canadians have known about unmarked residential school graves for years. They just kept forgetting .
It’s a gut-wrenching and dreadful way to begin the month of June, which was designated Indigenous History Month by Justin Trudeau’s government in 2017, from the Aboriginal History Month declared by Stephen Harper’s government in 2009, which arose from the June 21 Aboriginal History Day declared by Jean Chrétien in 1996, deriving from a proposal from the Assembly of First Nations’ forerunner, the National Indian Brotherhood, in 1982. The first The first headlines appeared last week in a local news report in British Columbia’s southern interior, then quickly spread across Canada, and then around the world: “Mass grave of Indigenous children discovered in Kamloops.