As convoy claims unity, some truckers experience fear and loathing on the yellow vest road


PEMBROKE, ONT.—Before Nigel Pryke joined the convoy to Ottawa, he thought he was driving for unity.

Part of a southern Saskatchewan group of truckers that fell in with the convoy on Friday, he’s a member of a cross-country cavalcade calling Canadians from east to west to demonstrate at Parliament Hill on Tuesday. Representing his employer from the driver’s seat of a company truck participating in the procession, he’s technically on the job.

Nigel Pryke of Carnduff, Sask., cleans his truck during a stop in White River, Ont., during the United We Roll Convoy to Ottawa on Sunday.
Nigel Pryke of Carnduff, Sask., cleans his truck during a stop in White River, Ont., during the United We Roll Convoy to Ottawa on Sunday.  (Codie McLachlan/Star Edmonton)

The point of the protest, organizers say, is to show support for the country’s oil and gas industry by opposing the carbon tax and legislation thought to harm the sector, among other things.

And there’s the hitch.

Rallies held in towns and cities on the route have seen supporters — along with convoy vehicles, drivers and passengers — sporting signs and slogans calling for more than just support of the energy sector.

“I like the whole idea of the unity, Canadianness,” Pryke said Sunday afternoon while travelling down a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between White River and Wawa, Ont. “But when I see hats that say ‘Make Canada Great Again,’ … well, that’s Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not Canadian,” he added.

“They’re basically running the show,” Pryke said of the convoy’s significant yellow vest contingent. ‘There’s so much of this out-and-out hatred for Trudeau that it’s getting in the way of everything.”

Two days before, Pryke recalled, he was enjoying himself with the Saskatchewan company climbing up to Virden, Man., a rally point on the route, where the smaller group was scheduled to join forces with the main train.

“I’m chatting to these people and then the guys from the convoy arrive,” he said. “I had no idea that the yellow vests were even involved. The whole feeling changed all of a sudden.”

Glen Carritt, a town councillor from Innisfail, Alta., and a convoy co-ordinator, speaks Sunday at a rally in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa, where a demonstration is to be held Tuesday.
Glen Carritt, a town councillor from Innisfail, Alta., and a convoy co-ordinator, speaks Sunday at a rally in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa, where a demonstration is to be held Tuesday.  (Codie McLachlan/Star Edmonton)

In mid-January, Glen Carritt, a councillor for the town of Innisfail, Alta., and lead co-ordinator of the convoy, changed the name of the event from the Yellow Vest (Official) Convoy to Ottawa to the United We Roll Convoy for Canada.

The event’s values, he explained Sunday following a rally in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., haven’t changed. The mission is to protest carbon pricing, and bills C-69 and C-48, which would change approval processes for energy projects and ban oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s northern coast. Needless to say, the convoy also packs a heavy pro-pipeline punch.

But another, more controversial, complaint that sets this convoy apart is its stance against the United Nations migration compact.

Since appearing in Canada by way of France, the yellow vest movement has been accused of taking an anti-immigrant position against the compact — an intergovernmental agreement to regulate migration in light of factors that have led to its growth, such as climate change.

Despite the fact that the agreement is not legally binding, members of the movement, including those participating in the convoy, claim it weakens Canadian borders and threatens the country’s sovereignty and security, touting as much in their signs and statements.

“We’re worried about more criminals coming into the country,” Carritt said.

Shortly before he rebranded the event, a coalition of oil and gas advocates tried to organize a similar convoy — one focused specifically on the industry, while rejecting any association to the yellow vest movement. But they cancelled it, claiming it was “no longer viable” due to “unexpected challenges associated with the event.”

Citing a “lack of professionalism” in the online forum used to promote and support the convoy under the yellow vest name, Carritt said the rebrand was born from an interest to open up the event to more people.

Denis Findlay holds a sign proclaiming "Trudeau for Prison" in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa Sunday.
Denis Findlay holds a sign proclaiming « Trudeau for Prison » in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa Sunday.  (Codie McLachlan/Star Edmonton)

“It felt like the name may be holding us back,” he explained. “This allowed everybody, including yellow vests, to be involved in this movement.

The website for the convoy notes that anyone is allowed to join. But that invitation has also opened the door to anyone willing to make the trip.

At the Sault Ste. Marie rally on Sunday night, a crowd, including a small child, chanted “Trudeau sucks.” One man wore a yellow vest with the words “flush the turd 2019” written on the back. Like the varied sea of horns that announce every convoy departure, the complaints from the crowd were as varied, and almost as loud.

Carritt acknowledged that the open invite could convolute the convoy’s message, and said he doesn’t support the negativity found at rallies like the one in Sault Ste. Marie. But he said he has no control over how people choose to express themselves in the movement.

The messages from the sidelines have also been diffuse, with those standing along the highway waving everything from the sort of signs found at rallies, to Canadian flags, yellow vests, hockey jerseys and posters of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

From his vantage point, Pryke said he recognizes that the yellow vests are inextricably linked to this demonstration (both in the convoy and alongside it), but he’s trying to find the silver lining for a trip that took an unexpected turn early on.

Despite the fact that yellow vests are “very much part of the mesh of the convoy,” Pryke said he finds comfort in the support he’s seen from the sidelines, almost every step of the way.

Supporters cheer on truckers along the Trans-Canada Highway during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa on Saturday.
Supporters cheer on truckers along the Trans-Canada Highway during the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa on Saturday.  (Codie McLachlan/Star Edmonton)

“I don’t think the yellow vest message is the message of a lot of these people standing on the highway,” he said between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie, a stretch of road that drivers on the radio repeatedly flag as treacherous.

Near Batchawana Bay, 50 kilometres out from the Sault, supporters launched a stream of fireworks for the drivers.

Tugging on the leather braided strap on his left, Pryke honked his horn in gratitude, like he does for every other show of encouragement seen along the way.

“I’m riding this wave,” he said. “All of this good feeling I’m getting from these people standing beside the roads.”

Hamdi Issawi is an Edmonton-based reporter covering the environment and energy. Follow him on Twitter: @hamdiissawi


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Toronto human trafficking arrests shine spotlight on popular classifieds site. Sex worker advocates fear another crackdown


After a series of human trafficking arrests involving the same online classifieds site, a Toronto sex worker says she worries a crackdown on internet sex ads could make her more vulnerable.

Toronto police have charged eight GTA residents with dozens of charges in four separate cases this year involving the website In one, police say a 17-year-old schoolgirl was taken to a series of GTA motels by a man with a gun and forced to sell her body to strangers.

The latest bust was announced last week, after police say a man physically assaulted a 28-year-old woman several times, including one attack that left her with broken ribs.

In all four cases, alleged pimps forced women to place sex ads on and took all of their earnings.

In one, an alleged pimp even threatened a sex worker’s pet, police said.

“I can tell you stories that will fill your head,” Perry said.

But the Toronto sex worker, whom the Star is not naming because she fears for her safety, said she worries a sweeping crackdown against human trafficking on the internet could push independent adult sex workers underground.

The 30-year-old sex worker, whose real name is known by the Star, is a member of Butterfly, an Asian and migrant sex workers support network. She said she has been a sex worker in Toronto for two years.

She said sex workers use the internet to vet their potential clients and even ask for references.

“They can screen,” she said. “They can increase their safety.”

Toronto police declined to comment on The Star attempted to contact the website by email and at a toll-free phone number listed on the site’s contacts page, but received no response.’s terms of use ask users to immediately report suspected human trafficking to police and say the site will cooperate with law enforcement “to the fullest extent possible.”

There’s a major difference between sex trafficking, in which girls and women are coerced into prostitution, and the sex trade where adult women make independent decisions, said Karen Campbell of the Toronto-based Canadian Women’s Foundation.

The 2018 shutdown of the site, once a popular host for sex workers’ ads, was distressing for many, Campbell said in an interview.

“It pushed a lot of people back onto the streets,” she said.

Cracking down on online sex ads also won’t help undocumented women who are reluctant to go to police, she said.

“If they were to go to police, they would end up detained and deported,” she said.

Read more: shutdown puts sex workers’ livelihoods, safety at risk, GTA advocacy group says

Beaten. Branded. Bought. Sold: A Star investigation into the dark underbelly of sex trafficking in Ontario

Sex trafficking case turns on whether websites can be held liable for content created by users

Perry said the average Toronto sex worker when he was on the job entered the sex trade at age 14.

There seemed no end to men wanting to prey upon them, Perry said.

“We had a mandate to rescue these kids, get them help and go after the pimps,” Perry said. “Every time we arrested a pimp, there were two or three to take his place.”

Perry said fewer sex workers could be seen on the streets after pagers became popular a few decades ago, a change he said made it tough for police to monitor their safety.

“A lot of the girls that used to work the streets were suddenly carrying pagers,” Perry said. “At least when they were on the street we knew them.”

When sex work was more visible on downtown streets, it was easier for social workers to try to help women and for police to keep an eye on their customers, Perry said.

“They may be in a more vulnerable position now because they have no interaction with police,” Perry said. “Prostitutes don’t generally walk into a police station and report intimidation.”

Some Toronto sex workers were local residents while others came from abroad, smuggled into the city on the hopes of getting a job, Perry said.

There was some organized crime involvement, often connected with bikers and strip clubs, he said.

Perry said he fears pimps now use websites to fly under the police radar and exploit women. Some websites are out of the country, presenting jurisdictional challenges for police.

“We’re almost giving a license for pimps to be anonymous and control women,” Perry said., which bills itself as “Canada’s classified site,” automatically redirects to the address — using the internet country code of the Cocos Islands, a tiny Australian territory. The contact page refers to Unicorn House Ltd., a company based in Budapest, Hungary.

To post an ad, users are charged a cost ranging from free to more than €2.50 ($3.75 Canadian) — the site bills in euros — depending on region and category.

As of Wednesday, a personals ad for a female escort in the GTA costs the poster €2.65. That same ad in Hamilton costs €1.79; an ad for a male escort in Ottawa is free.

The personals section contains dozens of recently posted ads for male and female escorts across the GTA. Many of the site’s other classifieds categories — including for vehicles, housing and jobs — appear little used.

The site’s landing page boasts it has more than 150,000 registered users and millions of total ads. appears to have become more popular since was shut down by the FBI last year; before, classifieds site Craigslist was one of the most popular sites for advertising sexual services.

A study of sex ads on Craigslist released this year by researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, supports the Toronto sex worker’s comments that the internet can make the sex trade safer.

The study suggests that the old Craigslist “erotic services” ads made sex work safer by helping sex workers screen out the most dangerous clients.

The internet allowed women to do background checks of clients, even seeking references, the Baylor team found. It also “may have caused outdoor street-based prostitution to transition to the safer, indoor channel,” researchers found.

Scott Cunningham, one of the study’s authors, said in an interview he suspects is absorbing a market once filled by

“The market is probably adjusting in Canada,” he said.

Cunningham said he wasn’t surprised the Toronto woman said internet ads make her feel safer and freer of pimps.

“Sex workers have been saying this for years,” he said.

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at


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Ford government autism program overhaul met with outrage by some parents who fear kids will lose out


Parents of children with autism will be given the power to choose what services they want — but there will be a total family budget of $140,000 and high-earners will no longer be eligible.

In an announcement Wednesday in Toronto, Lisa MacLeod, the minister of children, community and social services, also said the government is doubling funding for diagnostic hubs and planning to clear the 23,000-child wait-list within the next 18 months.

Waiting for a diagnosis — which currently can take more than two years — can “throw a family into crisis,” said MacLeod.

“This is the best approach and the most fair approach to make sure every single child” is well-served,” she added.

The amount of funding will depend on the length of time a child will be in the program, and support will be targeted to lower- and middle-income families. Families with annual incomes above $250,000 will no longer be eligible for funding, MacLeod said.

“It ignores the fact that there are some kids on the severe end of the spectrum requiring tons of support and time and those on the mild end” who don’t, said Kirby-McIntosh.

“I’m diabetic and so is my husband, but it doesn’t make sense to give us the same amount of insulin.”

She said she’s “terrified” about means testing. Just because families are making more than $250,000 “doesn’t mean they have $80,000 lying around in the couch cushions.”

She said she was “devastated” by the direction the government is headed.

In her announcement, MacLeod said the government is doubling funding for five diagnostic hubs to $5.5 million a year for the next two years to address the diagnosis waiting list of 2,400 children, who currently wait on average for 31 weeks.

“Today, almost three out of every four children who require autism supports continue to be stranded on wait-lists, due to the cynicism and incompetence of the previous government,” MacLeod told reporters at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, one of diagnostic hubs.

“The parents of these children have told me they are feeling abandoned. We cannot, in good conscience, continue treating these parents and children like lower-class citizens, so we are introducing reforms to provide them with the fairness and equality they deserve.”

Parents of children with autism launched protests against the previous Liberal government in the spring of 2016 when it announced that kids over age 5 would be cut off from funding for intensive therapy.

The Liberals ultimately backed down and installed a new minister — Michael Coteau — to roll out a new program, which proved to be much more popular with parents.

Coteau announced more funding, a quicker start date, no age cut-offs, and a direct funding option to allow parents to either receive funding to pay for private therapy or use government-funded services.

Wednesday’s changes announced by the Progressive Conservative government include establishing a new agency to help families register for the program, assess their funding eligibility, distribute the money and help them choose which services to purchase.

Clinical supervisors will have to meet program qualifications by April 1, 2021 and the government will be publishing a list of verified service providers.

With files from The Canadian Press

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy


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As Apple feels the pinch of China’s stumbling economy, experts fear Canada is next


While Apple’s stunning announcement this week shook financial markets, its cause could shake the Canadian economy.

As one of the world’s biggest tech companies announced Wednesday it was lowering its profit estimates, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested a slowing Chinese economy — resulting in lower iPhone sales — was largely to blame.

Trader Mark Muller works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. Stocks went into a steep slide Thursday after Apple sent a shudder through Wall Street with word that iPhone sales in China are falling.
Trader Mark Muller works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. Stocks went into a steep slide Thursday after Apple sent a shudder through Wall Street with word that iPhone sales in China are falling.  (Richard Drew / The Associated Press)

Stock markets around the world dropped Thursday on the news, with the TSX S&P Composite Index falling 134 points to close at 14,212. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped by roughly 3 per cent, wiping out billions of dollars of shareholder value. (The Dow fell 660 points to close at 22,686, and the Nasdaq fell 202 points to close at 6,463. Apple shares plunged almost 10 per cent, their worst drop since 2013, falling $15.73 (U.S.) to close at $142.19.

But the damage could extend far beyond falling share prices if Cook’s assertion is correct — that the Chinese economy is stumbling. Demand for Canadian commodities, including oil, lumber and soybeans, will be most directly hit, economists and trade experts agree. But there could be a much larger indirect effect, given China’s outsized impact on the global economy: China’s $12 trillion economy doesn’t need to slow down much to wreak havoc elsewhere.

“Even a small percentage in China is still a big number,” said Andreas Schott, assistant professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University. “We will feel pain. There’s no doubt about it.”

While there have been signs for almost a year that the Chinese economy is slowing down, it’s been exacerbated by a trade war between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, Schott argued. U.S. President Donald Trump’s ongoing public battle over trade with China is already hitting Canadian companies.

“The Trump administration is killing us. We are collateral damage,” said Schott. “The problem now compared to nine months ago when we first started hearing about a slowdown is that the tension has really risen.”

It’s not just direct Canadian exports to China that are hurting, said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Art Woo. Woo estimated roughly 4 per cent of Canadian exports end up in China.

“A slowdown in China could hurt U.S. growth, and that’s where the vast majority of our exports go. It would have a knock-on effect,” said Woo, adding roughly 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S.

While the Chinese economy has already slowed down from the eye-popping double-digit growth rates seen a decade ago, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, Woo explained.

“When you’re completely changing your economy, and people are moving into the cities, and the economy is modernizing, you’re going to see a lot of productivity growth. That’s when you get an economy growing at 10, 11, 12 per cent a year. So a slowdown is to be expected. But the question is, does it go further than that?” said Woo, whose forecast calls for the Chinese economy to grow by 6.2 per cent in 2019, down from the 6.9 per cent growth seen in 2017, and what was likely a 6.5 per cent growth rate in 2018.

In some sectors, the pinch from China is already starting to be felt.

Since November, the price for softwood pulp — used to make products such as toilet paper, tissues and paper towels — has already plunged from $900 per ton, to $710, largely because of lower Chinese demand, according to industry watcher Kevin Mason.

“The price has fallen more quickly and deeper than anyone expected,” said Mason, managing director of B.C.-based Era Forest Products Research. That drop has come as Chinese companies run through existing supplies of pulp before, presumably, jumping back into the market, Mason said.

If those prices fall much more, though, Canadian jobs could be at risk.

“If it starts to hit the mid-500s, we could see companies start to take some production offline, to help try and drive the price back up,” said Mason, who estimated Canada ships almost $2.5 billion worth of pulp to China each year.

“China consumes almost a third of the world’s pulp, and Canada’s its biggest supplier.”

While a slowing economy hurts Chinese spending, there’s another factor when consumers there choose what to buy, Schott said: National pride. And with that, the trade war prompted by Trump isn’t helping obviously American products such as iPhones.

“If they can buy a phone that’s just as good, but is half the price and doesn’t support Voldemort, they will … The anger is very real.”

Josh Rubin is a Toronto-based business reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @starbeer


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Cattle and dairy farmers fear new food guide could hurt their industries


Canada is set to release a replacement for its decade-old food guide next year, and it looks like the document will likely be in line with writer Michael Pollan’s commonly-cited dietary prescription « Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. »

But the rumoured minimization of meats and dairy has some food producers concerned the updated guide could cause a blow to their industries and negative health effects to boot.

Tom Kootstra, the chairman of Alberta Milk, is accusing Health Canada of unfairly targeting animal-based proteins and prioritizing vegetarian options for what he describes as « ideological reasons. »

« Initially they were reluctant to hear from industry … because of the perceived bias that these groups would bring to the conversation. But I think they need to realize we all come in with our biases and the obligation of Health Canada is to consider the science, » Kootstra told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Accusations of influence

Health Canada has faced accusations of being influenced by industry groups when compiling Canada’s Food Guide.

One edition of the guide published in the 1990s saw the recommended number of meat and dairy servings increased after industry complaints.

The country’s first-ever food guide was about more than just promoting nutrition — it was created during the Second World War, and included rules that discouraged people from eating foods needed for wartime export.

Later versions promoted the agriculture industry, and some details in the current guide have been criticized by medical professionals, like the suggestion that fruit juice is an acceptable serving of fruit or vegetables. 

Debate over protein sources

The updated document’s new guiding principle, established through consultations with the public and health officials but no one-on-one meetings with industry stakeholders, states that Health Canada recommends: « Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein. »

Plant-based proteins contain different forms of dietary iron than meats (non-heme versus heme) and the two forms are absorbed into the body differently.

While there are ways to get adequate sources of iron from just plants, one rancher worries Canadians could be confused by the new rules.

« We don’t want people to be misled thinking they’re getting the equivalent amount of nutrients as they would, » said Tom Lynch-Staunton, a rancher and the government relations manager with Alberta Beef Producers.

« Let’s say you’re eating lentils versus a piece of beef … we know the iron in the lentils will be harder to absorb and you won’t be getting essential nutrients like Vitamin B12, which only comes from animal foods. » 

Some ranchers may be concerned but an industry group representing plant-food producers is praising the new focus on environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

« We applaud Health Canada for heeding the growing body of evidence demonstrating that diets rich in plant-based foods are better for human and environmental health, » said Pamela Tourigny, executive director of the Plant Foods Council, in a release.

Health Canada plans to release the revised guide in two phases. In early 2019, part one will contain general healthy-eating recommendations for health professionals and policy makers and later in 2019, part two will consist of healthy eating patterns with recommended amounts and types of foods for the general public.


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Durham General Motors dealerships fear Oshawa plant closure – Durham


Some of the General Motors assembly line workers in Oshawa have been there for years. Many of them buy and drive the very cars they make.

But now that the Oshawa plant will close next year, GM dealerships may lose those loyal customers and upend their bottom line.

“If GM pulls out of Oshawa, I doubt you’ll see another person on that shop floor buy another GM vehicle,” said Cory Weir, GM assembly line worker.

Cory Weir works on the GM line and currently drives a 2012 Chevy Impala that was built in Oshawa — a car he could have had a hand in building.

“There’s about a 50 per cent chance that I built part of this car,” said Weir. “If I didn’t, I certainly know the guy who did.”

GM closure top of mind for new Durham regional chair John Henry

But he probably won’t buy GM again.

“If your neighbor or your cousin said, ‘Hey, I bought this great GM car built here in Oshawa,’ that’s the best marketing tool that there is,” said Weir. “Certainly my family members that have watched me go through this with my family here, they’ll never purchase GM,”

Political Science assistant professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Scott Aquanno believes last weeks GM bombshell has caused loyalty to waiver.

“The idea of buying a GM because you’re supporting your local community and identifying GM as part of the local community, that gets lost in part because of a decision like this,” said Scott Aquanno.

General Motors runs through Scott Westley’s blood too.

“My parents both worked for General Motors for 40 years and their dad’s worked for GM,” said Scott Westley, Gus Brown Buick GMC general manager.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh meets with GM employees in Oshawa

Westley worked on the line in the summers while going to university and is now the general manager at Gus Brown Buick GMC, one of 10 GM dealerships in Durham region.

“We’re concerned, we’re trying to remain optimistic. When you hear people say ‘I’m never buying GM again,’ that is upsetting,” said Westley.

As for Weir and his colleagues, they’re preparing for the harsh reality of turning their backs on a company that has turned its back on them.

“It’s definitely going to feel strange next time I purchase a vehicle knowing that I didn’t touch it,” said Weir.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Trudeau warns about politicians using social media to promote fear, polarization – National


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says politicians need to learn how to enhance citizen engagement through the use of social media in the face of leaders using those platforms to undermine democracy.

He made the comment Monday morning while speaking at a conference in Paris.

COMMENTARY: Social media played a huge role in electing Justin Trudeau

Without mentioning anyone by name, he suggested there are politicians who are trying to use technology to foster polarization in the electorate.

Trudeau said it is easier to push someone into being angry through a well-timed tweet than to pull them into a positive dialogue about issues.

The discussion at the Paris event was driven by U.S. President Donald Trump, who regularly uses Twitter to fire up his legions of followers and vent at his critics.

WATCH: #ThanksCanada — Americans pay tribute to Canada amid Trump attacks on Trudeau

Trudeau has been a target of Trump’s irate tweeting, particularly after the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Que., over the prime minister’s comments on trade negotiations.

When asked directly to comment about Trump’s Twitter usage, Trudeau suggested Trump is just being Trump, adding that it’s important people are authentic on Twitter, and the American president is certainly that.

The comments came the day after Trudeau and other world leaders issued dire warnings about leaders calling themselves nationalists and the problems they pose for maintaining the world order built in the aftermath of the world wars.

Again, no names were mentioned, but the warnings seemed clearly aimed at Trump who has repeatedly professed his “American” nationalism.

Why Trudeau has become Trump’s newest Twitter target

Trudeau also took time at the conference to tout his government’s progress on digitizing the way it delivers services.

The prime minister has made the use of technology and data a priority in providing government programs to Canadians through digital channels alongside better, more up to date information to feed federal decisions.

In September, the federal government launched its new “digital standards” to help public servants navigate their way towards what the Liberals call an “effective digital government.”

But there have been hiccups along the way.

WATCH: Trudeau photobombs a beach wedding shirtless in B.C. goes viral

A pilot project from Statistics Canada to scoop up anonymized and randomized banking transactions on 500,000 Canadians has faced steep criticism from opposition parties in the House of Commons.

And internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press paint a clearer picture of detailed work underway to overcome the challenges the civil service faces in meeting the Liberals’ digital goals.

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act suggest challenges in how to handle vast amounts of disparate data, the funding needed to acquire or generate data to fill gaps, and “legal and cultural impediments to sharing and accessing data.”

Later today, the prime minister will travel to Singapore for a summit organized by a 10-nation bloc that will put his government’s trade diversification plans on display.

Trudeau is on a 10-day trip across Europe and Asia that began Friday with a gathering of world leaders in France to mark a century since the end of the First World War.


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Fear the flu shot? How ‘avoidance behaviour’ can impact public health


Getting a flu shot each year is something that’s easy to avoid — you’re too busy, don’t often get sick or generally don’t go out of your way to receive a jab in the arm.

But for some, that avoidance is for a reason they might not want to readily admit: They are afraid of needles.

While a fear of needles may be most typically associated with children getting their pre-kindergarten immunizations — children in Canada receive about a dozen vaccinations before the age of six — a recent study shows that 25 per cent of adults are afraid of needles too.

And for seven per cent of adults, it is their main reason for avoiding the annual flu shot.

With the flu season upon us, doctors are urging Canadians to get their shots, to protect against an illness that causes 3,500 deaths in the country each year.

But only a little over one-third of Canadian adults got the vaccination during the 2016-2017 flu season.

Anna Taddio is a clinical pharmacist and expert in children’s pain who is currently researching how to reduce fear of needles in youth. (Chris Sorensen/University of Toronto)

« Most adults who are afraid [of needles] stay under the radar, » said Anna Taddio, a clinical pharmacist and senior associate scientist at Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital. « They don’t talk about it, but their avoidance behaviour has an impact on their health care. »

It can also have some potentially huge consequences on public health.

Avoidance of vaccines can lead to greater transmission of illnesses or pathogens in the community, the postponing of blood tests can lead to diagnosis delays, people may dodge dental work until a crisis happens, or they may refuse to donate blood — all due to a fear of needles.

Fear often linked to childhood

At first glance, 48-year-old Dennis Gillis doesn’t seem like someone who would have a needle phobia. But the engineer, longtime runner and father of three has lived since childhood with a fear of needles, which is formally known as trypanophobia.

« Something [traumatic] happened when I was four or five years old, and needles have been a source of huge anxiety since, » said Gillis. « I even used to pass out. »  

That fear has made the Halifax man avoid flu shots for decades, and his blood work requisitions have been collecting dust.

According to Taddio, a traumatic experience between the ages of four and eight is « the typical scenario behind a fear of needles. »

Children in Canada receive about a dozen vaccinations before the age of six. For many, the fear of needles links back to a traumatic experience in childhood. (AFP/Getty Images)

Taddio, an expert in children’s pain, is currently leading an interdisciplinary team studying pain management during vaccination. She recently received a $1 million grant to support her ongoing research into how to reduce fear of needles in youth.

Much of the research on the memory of pain and trauma explores how fears can develop in childhood, and get reinforced in adulthood through behaviours like avoidance.

« What avoidance does, in the long term, is to fuel the fear and makes it worse. Most adults with needle fear can link it to a bad childhood experience, » said Dr. Melanie Noel, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary whose research is focused on children’s anxiety and memories of pain.

« Research shows that when you are scared of something, like needles, it will increase the pain you feel. The pain becomes worse in your memory than it was during the procedure. »

But if that pain is managed properly, she said « you are more likely to buffer the negative memories, and create less scary memories. »

The importance of pain-management tools

Although almost all scientific literature about the prevention and management of needle phobia involves children, Noel says there is no reason to think that topical creams and anxiety-control methods, such as relaxation, meditation and distraction, couldn’t help adults too. The research has simply not been done yet.

Many barriers stand in the way of convincing people of the importance of managing needle-related pain and anxiety, Noel said.

« The societal view is that it is just a little poke, suck it up. There is an expectation that adults should just deal with it, » she said. « But most did not acquire any tools when they were kids, so now that they have control and agency, they avoid needles. »

« I have been accused of creating a generation of wimps, » said Dr. Christine Chambers, a clinical psychologist and professor at Dalhousie University, who has done extensive work in the field of pediatric pain, including around needles specifically.

Using props, like a pinwheel, during a needle procedure can both distract a child and teach them breathing techniques to cope with pain or anxiety. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Chambers was the driving force behind the « It Doesn’t Have to Hurt » campaign, which launched in 2013 with a goal of improving pain management for children.

Chambers is currently collecting data on coping strategies used by adults during needle procedures to fill what she says is a gap in the research.

« There is a difference between managing pain and fear, » she said, noting that already-available solutions often aren’t used.

« Once a person develops pathological anxiety, pain management strategies will stop working. There are treatments for needle phobia, too, but few people realize it can be treated. »

While some patients fear the pain, others fear the needle itself, says Taddio, who suggests that the phobia should be addressed head on.

« The best way to approach someone is to ask: ‘What exactly are you afraid of?' » she said. « To treat people with dignity, offer them some control over the procedure, and make the whole experience more pleasant to gain their trust back. »

Techniques to try

Noel suggests health-care providers can do three things — before, during and after  an injection — to help with needle anxiety.

« Offer relaxation, to give the tools [they need] to feel in control. Manage the pain, to help with the pain experienced and buffer the scary memories. And reframe the memory by asking positively focused questions, showing the control the person had [at the time] and catching exaggeration, » she said.

Slow, deep breathing, the use of guided imagery (such as visualizing a happy place), and distraction tools (like playing a game on a smartphone) are all simple techniques that can help decrease the anxiety and pain associated with a needle procedure.

Parents also can guide their children through some of those techniques, using props like pinwheels, bubbles, books and tablets.

Need techniques to overcome your fear of needles? This psychologist shows you a few options:

Dr. Lindsay Uman of the IWK Health Centre’s complex pain team shows a patient distraction and relaxation techniques. 2:42

After all, pain and trauma-free needle experiences in childhood, combined with education on coping strategies, will go a long way toward helping future generations not be afraid of getting their necessary shots later in life.

As for Gillis, he said « mindfulness meditation, counting and focusing on my breathing » is what best helps him when it comes to needles. « I can now get annual blood work and a flu shot without passing out. »

Becoming a father has also changed his priorities, he said, as he realized he had to get over his fear so he could stay healthy for his children.

« I used to wake up to people panicking around me because I had passed out — not prepared to help, calling 911, » Gillis said. « But no one ever asked me: ‘Are you afraid of needles?' »

Situations like that only fed his anxiety, he said, making it worse for the next time he faced a needle.

As with many medical issues, prevention is often the best medicine.


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Artists fear paintings lost after long-running Vancouver gallery closed


Artists across Canada are left hunting for their work after Vancouver’s Harrison Galleries quietly shut its doors in April. 

The gallery represented more than 40 artists including Bill Schwarz of Cambridge, Ontario and Drew Kielback of Langley, B.C. 

Schwarz started consigning his work through Harrison Galleries and its owner, Chris Harrison, in 2013. 

Harrison Galleries was a popular venue for artists and locals in Vancouver. (Marc Smith/Marc My Travels)

« He said all the right things. He said, ‘I’d like to see some of (the) paintings originally…because I want to see brush strokes.’ To an artist, that means the guy knows what he’s talking about, » Schwarz said in an interview at his studio. 

In March this year, after he asked for an inventory of 44 paintings he had consigned to the gallery, Schwarz says Harrison told him he was closing the gallery, because the landlord had quadrupled the rent but that he would try to open in another location.  

That didn’t happen. 

Chris Harrison took over Harrison Galleries from his father who opened it in 1958. (Marc Smith/Marc My Travels)

Lost paintings

After what Schwarz says was a lot of prompting, Harrison eventually sent back 33 paintings, but 11 are missing.

When he couldn’t get a clear answer as to where they might be, Schwarz decided to contact other artists.

« He has about 44 artists. so, at random, I picked 10 of them, sent emails to them and said this is my story. Within three hours, I had a deluge from the 10 of the eight saying exactly the same story, » he said.

Drew Keilback was one of them. 

He had met Alex Harrison, Chris’s father — who founded the gallery in 1958  —  years before and was thrilled to be able to consign his paintings there in 2010.

‘It was a big name in Vancouver,’ says B.C. artist Drew Keilback who sold his work through Harrison Galleries for eight years. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

« It was the gallery I wanted to get into and finally when I had enough paintings we went in, and Chris looked them over and accepted them and I thought, ‘oh that’s great’ … it was a big name in Vancouver, » he told CBC. 

When the gallery closed, Harrison eventually returned several paintings, but Keilback says some were damaged, and he’s still missing six paintings.

« He said they were in storage and that he would get to it, but when I phoned him back I never got another answer, » he said.

The coffee shop at Harrison Galleries. (Marc Smith/Marc My Travels)

CBC News has been unable to contact Chris Harrison  by phone or email despite several attempts. Those who know the industry say the lack of written agreements between galleries and artists is a problem.

Business of art

« Unfortunately, artists are not necessarily always thinking about things like paperwork and contracts. The scene being what it is, oftentimes, it’s more by verbal agreement, » said Annie Briard, an instructor at Emily Carr University. 

Bill Schwarz has filed reports with Waterloo Regional Police and Vancouver police in an effort to find his paintings. 

« Title never really transfers to the gallery. The gallery is really kind of an agent acting for you to sell the paintings and then retains a commission, so the paintings are always yours, » he said.

Keilback says the loss of his work is hard to take.  

« You’re pouring your heart and soul into it more or less and you’re trusting them to represent you, » he said.


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To Kill a Mockingbird ban exposes culture of fear at Peel school board


Snap quiz, teachers. Put your hands up.

Which book was just voted America’s best-loved novel?

Answer: To Kill a Mockingbird.

To be clear: The results arose from a PBS documentary series, organized around a Top 100 finalists list – chosen through a “demographically diverse’’ national poll – with 4.3 million votes cast.

Nice sideways smackdown, I’d say, of the Peel District School Board.

Oh, they were in a social media huff last week, the pedants, pedagogues and polemicists, following media reveal of a four-page memo sent to teachers which slammed Harper Lee’s seminal Pulitzer Prize novel for its purported “racist text,” “white supremacist framework,” “white savior trope” – that would be small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch – and the potential harm to racialized students. Because apparently teachers in 2018 can’t be trusted to discuss the novel sensitively, within a modern context, alive to the feelings of racialized students.

One board member told me all literature should be assessed through an “anti-oppression” lens. I countered that the only lens which ought to be pointed should be clear-eyed, rather than distorting, under the guise of identity ideology.

Read more:

Peel school board urges teachers to take ‘anti-oppression lens’ to teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird chosen as America’s best-loved novel on The Great American Read

Peel isn’t paying any mind to parents or students – never mind teachers – who disagree with this premise of presumptive and privileged white bias. Into my mailbox was forwarded a memo from Peel’s director of education, Peter Joshua.

To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools, beginning this school year, if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens.

“When To Kill a Mockingbird is taught outside of this context, the novel has the potential to cause hurt and harm. As educators, we have an obligation to provide learning environments that are safe and inclusive – that honour staff and students’ identities, cultures and lived experiences, including those of the Black community. Of this, there can be no debate.”

Well actually yeah, there is debate, plenty of it, certainly about the means by which this diktat is being applied.

Note, by the way, there’s nothing in that fiat about opening young minds, fostering critical thinking, or merely appreciating the literary qualities of a novel that shone a splendid light on bigotry, inequality and injustice. These are attributes which have been widely applauded by numerous contemporary Black authors.

In practice, what the directive means – many worried Peel educators contacted me about this – is that teachers will be audited in class, will need to have their instruction plans pre-cleared by their principals, and can expect little support should a complaint be lodged.

For the purposes of this column, these teachers asked not to be identified by name or any other particulars that might expose them to professional backlash. That’s the culture of fear that has been engendered in Peel where, I’m told, only seven schools have decided to keep teaching the novel, primarily because they have principals with principles and a backbone.

“John” is a middle school teacher of two decades classroom experience who has regretfully chosen not to fight the jackboots.

“We knew something was up because they’d conducted surveys, at first anonymously, of who was teaching the book. They were trolling. Then they did another survey and many of us were concerned that our names would be put on a list. Part of the deal was that they would provide new culturally appropriate texts to replace To Kill A Mockingbird.

“In my department, we discussed among ourselves, how could we manage to teach it within the guidelines we were given. The book has so many rich teaching aspects to it. But suddenly all the focus was on the N-word and Atticus Finch as this white knight figure. Those who wanted to teach the novel were told that the classes would be monitored, there would be a formal written evaluation, and if we didn’t ‘pass’, it would go to a superintendent.

“There’s a significant amount of pressure to eradicate To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum. No one in my English department was willing to teach it under those terms. I wasn’t prepared to do it on my own. Any teacher who would purposely teach it is rolling the dice on their career. This is unprecedented. What next, The Merchant of Venice because Shylock is a Jewish moneylender without remorse. Maybe they’ll decide Shakespeare isn’t appropriate for this age. Is this the first shot across the bow to see how much pushback they get?’’

“Elizabeth” has taught the novel for a dozen years. But no more.

She attended a recent professional development day where the author of that aforementioned memo – Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services – justified her position and complained about the media’s attention.

“We were told that if we speak to the media about this, that would be quite problematic.’’

Elizabeth has no problem with the “canon” of texts being continually assessed as more contemporary authors are included and some of the classics are dropped. “But the text of To Kill a Mockingbird is so rich. It opens up class discussions to issue of class, prejudice, feminism, justice.

“I have a very diverse group of students. Not one Black student in all these years has objected to the book or said they were hurt by the language. Not one parent has ever approached me. We’ve had fabulously intellectually discussions in class.

“This memo implies that all white writers are white supremacists. That’s what we were told at the PD. I don’t like anybody calling me that. I think someone has a bee in their bonnet about To Kill a Mockingbird and they want to get it out of the schools.”

“Margaret” is new-ish to the teaching profession. She adores To Kill a Mockingbird, enjoys rediscovering it with students, seeing the novel through fresh eyes and teaching it through the prism of current sensibilities and race and inclusion.

“The book is about a specific time and place but its themes are timeless and very much relevant to the world we live in right now. If Harper Lee were to write it today, of course it would read differently. Maybe it wouldn’t be told through the eyes of a white lawyer and his tomboy daughter. But that would make it a different book. And we do teach other books with other voices. It’s not as if students are getting just one viewpoint. But the board doesn’t trust us to do our jobs properly.”

I won’t cite here the tweets and emails from righteous educators who have distilled all the ills of these toxic times into the text of a beloved novel.

But a word to the un-wise: You are what you profess to loathe – blinkered, doctrinaire, devoid of discernment and consumed with racial bigotry.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste by banning books.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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