Naturopaths still making ‘unacceptable’ number of dubious claims face minimum $500 fines

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B.C.’s naturopathic college is promising immediate action against practitioners who make false claims and spread anti-vaccination disinformation after finding an « unacceptable » number of violations of its policies.

The regulator says it’s giving every naturopath in the province until Monday to make sure all public materials comply with college advertising policy and other  bylaws. After that, everyone who is found to be in violation will be referred immediately to the college’s inquiry committee for investigation and discipline.

« At minimum, it is expected that the inquiry committee will seek fines of $500 per infraction in addition to other sanctions, » the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. says in a notice posted on its website.

Naturopaths who continue to break the rules are putting self-regulation of their profession at risk, according to the college.

The enforcement drive follows CBC reporting last year on three naturopaths who have offered a homeopathic treatment for autistic children called CEASE therapy — « complete elimination of autism spectrum expression. »

In response, the college banned the treatment in May, saying the name alone implied « inaccurate » and « unverifiable » claims. College registrar Howard Greenstein also asked all B.C. naturopaths to immediately review their websites and social media for violations of advertising policies and rules for discussing immunization.

‘College staff continue to find advertising infractions’

Since then, the college says many naturopaths have complied and brought themselves in line with provincial law.

« Unfortunately — and with unacceptable frequency — college staff continue to find advertising infractions, » the college says in its enforcement notice.

Those violations include advertising services that naturopaths are not certified to provide, false claims about the effects of treatment and claims of specialization. College policy also forbids naturopaths from including patient testimonials on their websites and advising against immunization without a sound, documented medical rationale specific to the patient.

College policy forbids naturopaths from spreading anti-vaccination materials. ( Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The college says it’s up to each naturopath to review all its marketing and social media and ignorance is not an acceptable excuse from breaking the rules.

« These registrants are placing self-regulation, a privilege that gives naturopathic physicians direct involvement in how the profession is regulated, at risk, » the notice says.

« When naturopathic services are misrepresented and/or professional and ethical standards are disregarded, strong regulatory sanctions are required, if the profession is to maintain self-regulation. »

The enforcement drive follows similar action from the B.C. College of Chiropractors, which began a crackdown on misleading claims late last year.

Fifty chiropractors in this province refused to remove unproven claims from their advertising and websites about treating everything from autism to cancer and were referred to the college’s inquiry committee for investigation and possible discipline.

Meanwhile, one of the naturopaths who was under investigation for providing CEASE therapy has surrendered her registration. Victoria’s Anke Zimmermann gave up her licence in November, pledging to continue working as a homeopath and advising parents against vaccination.

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Number of extremists returning to Canada remains stable despite Daesh losses in Iraq and Syria

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OTTAWA—Canada has not seen an increase in the number of people returning to the country after joining a terrorist outfit abroad, despite worries that Daesh’s losses in Iraq and Syria would send more “extremist travellers” back to their home countries.

Public safety department officials told reporters Tuesday that the number of people “with a nexus to Canada” participating in terrorist groups abroad remained stable at 190.

Members of the Iraqi federal police forces celebrate in the old city of Mosul on July 10, 2017 after the government's announcement of the "liberation" of the embattled city from Islamic State group fighters. Federal officials in Canada say that the number of people “with a nexus to Canada” participating in terrorist groups abroad remained stable at 190.
Members of the Iraqi federal police forces celebrate in the old city of Mosul on July 10, 2017 after the government’s announcement of the « liberation » of the embattled city from Islamic State group fighters. Federal officials in Canada say that the number of people “with a nexus to Canada” participating in terrorist groups abroad remained stable at 190.  (FADEL SENNA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Approximately 60 have returned to Canada, but officials said only a small subset of those returnees were active in Iraq, Syria or Turkey where Daesh is most active.

“Though Daesh territorial holdings in the Syria-Iraq conflict zone continue to decline, Canada has not seen a related influx in the number of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs) who have returned to Canada, nor does it expect to,” a government report on terrorist threats to Canada, released Tuesday, read.

“If there is sufficient evidence, the Government of Canada will pursue charges and prosecute them to the full extent of the law … If there is insufficient evidence for a charge, the (RCMP) and its law enforcement, security and intelligence partners will continue their investigation while other tools are leveraged to manage and contain the threat.”

Senior government officials, speaking on the condition they not be named, told reporters that there are well-known challenges in collecting enough evidence to prosecute the returnees, such as collecting evidence in a war zone. Just 12 people have been charged with leaving Canada to join a terrorist group since that became a criminal offence in 2013.

Read more:

Yazidi refugee woman urges Canadian government to help navigate new world

Opinion | Rosie DiManno: Why Canada must repatriate the children of jihadist nationals

‘I felt imprisoned in this country’: Canadian Daesh recruits kept in touch with family, friends, new report finds

And not all of those 60 are presumed to be hardened fighters — some may have assisted terrorist groups in other ways, such as with financing or propaganda efforts.

But the report said it’s “conceivable” that all 60 would have the capacity for the kind of “low-sophistication” terrorism attacks typically used against civilians, like van attacks or knife attacks.

Despite that, the public safety department said the terrorism “threat level” remains at “medium,” meaning an attack could occur. It’s remained at medium since the October 2014 attacks at Saint-Jean sur Richelieu and Parliament Hill.

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The government still considers people radicalized by Islamist groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda to be the “principal terrorist threat” to Canadians. But for the second year in a row, the report also flags far-right extremism as a concern.

“The April 2018 van attack in Toronto is a reminder that violent acts driven by extremists’ views are not exclusively linked to any particular religious, political or cultural ideology,” the report reads.

While attacks related to Shia groups and Sikh extremism remain “extremely limited” in Canada, the report adds, a number of Canadians are active supporters of those groups.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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Number of ‘anchor babies’ born in Canada far greater than official estimates, study shows

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The number of so-called “anchor babies” — children born to non-residents for the purpose of gaining citizenship — is at least five times higher than Canadian officials had estimated, new research suggests.

Birth tourism in Canada, where women late in pregnancy fly in to deliver their babies here, is controversial because the newborns are automatically Canadian citizens and enjoy full citizenship rights such as free education and lower university fees, even though their foreign parents aren’t taxpayers.

The Richmond Hospital in British Columbia had the highest volume of babies born to non-resident mothers. Of the top 10 hospitals where such births were recorded, six are in the GTA.
The Richmond Hospital in British Columbia had the highest volume of babies born to non-resident mothers. Of the top 10 hospitals where such births were recorded, six are in the GTA.  (DREAMSTIME)

Statistics Canada has, since 2013, counted 1,561 babies — about 312 annually — born here to mothers, whose place of residence was listed outside Canada, based on figures from provincial birth registries.

However, a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy released Thursday suggests the number of “anchor babies” born here every year is likely in the 1,500 to 2,000 range.

The study mined the Canadian Institute for Health Information discharge database, and according to researcher Andrew Griffith, the figures — based on hospital financial data that codes services provided to non-residents under “other country resident self-pay” — give a clearer picture of the extent of the problem.

The data shows the number of births to non-resident mothers (including all provinces but Quebec, which refused to release the data) skyrocketed to 3,628 last year from just 1,354 in 2010, said the report by the Montreal-based think tank. It showed the Richmond Hospital in British Columbia with the highest volume of babies born to non-resident mothers.

Of the top 10 hospitals where such births were recorded, six are in the GTA.

The numbers are not perfect because they don’t break down how many of the births were to mothers with temporary status in Canada, which include Canadian expatriates returning to give birth, corporate transferees or international students who didn’t come here to specifically to have children. But Griffith says a conservative estimate is that 40 to 50 per cent of the non-resident mothers were birth tourists.

“How the (delivery) services are paid for is a more representative and realistic measure than the provincial registries,” said Griffith, a retired director general with Immigration Canada, adding part of the discrepancy can be attributed to birth tourists using their temporary Canadian address on birth registration forms and hence not being counted as non-residents.

“The concern has always been these people are exploiting the loophole in the law to obtain citizenship for their children when they are not entitled to that. There’s also the financial liability and responsibility on Canadian taxpayers for the child’s benefits.”

Currently, immigration officials cannot refuse a visitor visa application on the basis of the applicant’s intent to give birth in Canada, though they can assess if the person has enough money to visit Canada, if they will abide by the visa’s departure date and if they have a criminal record and should be barred from entry.

In 2012, the then-Conservative federal government, under Stephen Harper, had considered a crackdown on birth tourism but discarded the idea because the relatively small number of incidents — based on an estimate of 500 cases a year — did not justify the anticipated costs of enforcement.

However, with immigration and refugees expected to become a wedge issue in next year’s federal election, the Conservatives voted this summer at the party’s convention to end the birthright citizenship policy that gives citizenship to babies born in Canada even if their parents aren’t citizens or don’t have legal status in Canada. The motion is non-binding but could be part of their campaign platform next year.

Andrew Griffith, a retired director general with the immigration department, said birth tourism, while not a huge problem, should be monitored closely.
Andrew Griffith, a retired director general with the immigration department, said birth tourism, while not a huge problem, should be monitored closely.  (Supplied)

Griffith said any policy decision must be based on evidence and that’s what prompted him to seek out the most reliable data on the issue of birth tourism.

“Is it a widespread problem or is it just a phenomenon at the Richmond Hospital?” asked Griffith, referring to the B.C. hospital cited by the media as the epicentre of birth tourism. “We need data for informed decisions.”

He said birth tourism, currently accounting for roughly 0.5 per cent of the total annual live births in Canada, is not a huge problem but should be monitored closely.

“Using this as a starting point, if we see any further increase or a trend line, then we need to take another fresh look at it,” he said.

The study offers three options for policy-makers to tackle the problem if birth tourism gets out of control:

  • Amend immigration laws to make it an offence if a female visitor fails to disclose the purpose of her visit to give birth or declare her pregnancy to officials. The child’s citizenship would then be deemed fraudulently obtained due to misrepresentation by the mother.
  • Follow Australia’s move by adopting a “qualified” birthright approach specifying a person born in Canada would only be a Canadian citizen if the parent is either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and the child lives in the country for 10 years after birth.
  • Introduce regulations prohibiting rooming houses and consultant and support services for birth tourists, substantially increasing the financial deposits required by hospitals from non-residents and ordering the provinces to require proof of payment prior to issuing birth certificates for children of non-resident mothers.

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Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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Number of injured from Irving refinery explosion higher than initial reports

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The number of workers injured in the explosion and fire at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Monday is higher than the four initially reported.

Family doctor Mike Simon says he treated five workers that day alone, including two who were thrown by the blast.

He expected to see at least six more injured by the explosion or fallout by the end of the day Wednesday.

And there could be many more with psychological scars, Simon said.

« It’s almost like you’re being in a war zone, right? Because suddenly, the explosion, a lot of guys are running for their life.

« It’s extremely scary ’cause you’re in a situation, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Big bang, the force knocking you over, you know, blowing your … hard hat off your head, blowing your desk around, throwing you off a chair. You know, it’s significant. So these are real-life events. »

Irving Oil and Saint John Emergency Measures Organization officials have said four workers were treated at the Saint John Regional Hospital for minor injuries after the 10:15 a.m. blast that sent flames shooting an estimated 30 metres high and left a plume of black smoke billowing over the city’s east side for hours.

The Horizon Health Network has said the hospital treated five people for non-life-threatening injuries that day, but declined to elaborate, citing patient confidentiality.

The flames and plume of black smoke towered over the stacks at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John Monday morning. (Submitted by Doug McLean)

Officials have not provided any updates on injured workers since Tuesday, but WorksafeNB’s assistant director of investigations suggested Wednesday « the number seems to be growing. »

Eric Brideau, who visiting the site Tuesday and met with employees, said he could not confirm the total number of workers injured.

The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, but officials believe it stemmed from a malfunction in the unit that removes sulphur from diesel.

Brideau described the investigation as « technical and complex. » He expects it will take two to three months to complete.

The Irving Oil refinery is the largest in Canada. It employs about 1,400 people and is capable of producing more than 320,000 barrels per day at the sprawling site, which covers more than 300 hectares.

Close to 3,000 people were working at the time of the holiday Thanksgiving explosion because of a massive turnaround maintenance project that’s underway. About 100 of them were the normal operations crew, while the rest were contracted tradespeople from across New Brunswick and other provinces.

Variety of injuries

Simon, who’s the go-to doctor for some of the contractor companies, says they called him about an hour after the fiery explosion, asking him to open his office in the city’s north end for incoming patients.

« There was a fellow [who] hurt his ear because the blast sort of hit him on the side. There was a guy who was blown off a ladder and twisted his ankle.

« There was a guy, who again, was blown off his desk, and fell into a railing and he had some contusions, injuries on his arm.

« Another guy, a little bit of inhalation injury because of the smoke and the dust and stuff from the explosion, he was very close to the blast. And he hurt his shoulder as well. Mostly musculoskeletal things like that. »

Boilermaker Terry MacEachern was rattled by Monday’s blast at Irving Oil facility, but is ready to return to the job. 1:31

Simon said treating less serious injuries at his office helped free up the emergency room to deal with anything more serious that came up and saved the workers from facing long waits.

The Saint John Regional Hospital went into « code orange » after the explosion was reported, meaning it was prepared for a possible mass casualties influx.

« They plan for these events well in advance » and run mock drills, said Simon, who has worked in the emergency room over the years.

There are protocols about calling in extra doctors and nurses, if necessary, as well as administrative and janitorial staff, and surgical specialists would be on-call, he said.

It takes a while for that shock to sort of percolate through somebody.– Mike Simon, family doctor

Trauma rooms would be prepped, patients discharged to clear beds, and medications readily available.

« So you’re going to get the best care available in the 21st century. »

Simon said it could take a few days for workers to even realize they’re injured after such a traumatic incident.

« It happens so quick. And it’s shock effect. And so it takes a while for that shock to sort of percolate through somebody. »

As their experience sinks in, some might find they’re having nightmares or struggling with worries, he said, calling it « normal human nature. »

« You get hit in the arm, you get a contusion or a cut, that’s the way the arm heals. You get a shock value like this, it takes a while for your brain to bounce back too. » 

He encourages the affected workers to seek counselling or at least find someone they can talk to as they work their way through any issues.

With files from Rachel Cave

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