Canadian embassy closed as violent protests in Haiti trap Quebec tourists

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Canada’s embassy in Haiti remains closed amid violent street protests that have trapped dozens of Canadians in the Caribbean country.

The closure of the embassy Wednesday came a day after Global Affairs Canada updated its travel advisory to advise against all non-essential travel to Haiti.

READ MORE: Quebecers trapped in Haiti as violent protests continue

“We will continue to evaluate the security situation over the coming days to determine what steps are necessary to ensure that our diplomats and their families are safe,” Global Affairs said in a statement.

WATCH BELOW: Haitians claim gang members dressed as police carried out massacre







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It said it has people on the ground to provide assistance to Canadian citizens in Haiti as needed.

A group of tourists from Quebec are stuck in a Haiti hotel, unable to make it to the Port-au-Prince airport because of violent street protests.

READ MORE: Men in police garb massacred civilians in Haiti

The only highway linking the all-inclusive Royal Decameron Indigo Beach resort to the airport is considered extremely dangerous, and people are staying off it. The hotel on the Caribbean country’s Côte des Arcadins is about 75 kilometres north of the capital.

Air Transat, which sold package tours to the resort, says its flights between Montreal and Haiti are continuing, but it has been unable to provide safe ground transport from the resort to the airport.

WATCH BELOW: Protesters urge feds to declare moratorium on Haiti deportations






Marie-Christine Remy, said her mother, Terry Watson, and her mother’s partner, Sylvain Limoges, were supposed to fly home last Sunday but could not make it to the airport.

They were switched to a flight Wednesday but again could not get out.

READ MORE: Canadians told to ‘shelter in safe place’ as violent protests erupt in Haiti, travel warning issued

“It’s really troubling,” Remy said from Sherbrooke, Que.

“I called the Canadian government and they told me that it was best to stay at the hotel, which is safer. It is the highways that are particularly dangerous.”

Some tourists have told Quebec media helicopter transport is available to the airport but at a very high cost.

READ MORE: Montreal protesters urge Ottawa to halt Haiti deportations after travel advisory issued

Protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise have claimed several lives over the past week.

Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government’s failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti.

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‘We’re holding up a floodgate’: B.C. fights off superbugs brought home by medical tourists

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The risks involved in medical tourism aren’t just personal. Having surgery abroad could also mean bringing back a drug-resistant superbug and putting people in this country at risk, B.C. officials warn.

That alert comes after the recent discovery that two patients at New Westminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital had been colonized with the multidrug-resistant yeast Candida auris. Though neither patient is infected with the bug, the two join just a handful of cases that have been identified in B.C. since 2017.

Dr. Linda Hoang, medical co-director for the Provincial Infection Control Network (PICNet), said most of these cases have come from travellers who have had treatment overseas, including medical tourists.

It means patients need to do serious research on the facilities they’re considering for surgeries or other treatments abroad, including looking for objective information about the presence of any drug-resistant microorganisms.

« It’s not only a problem in India or Southeast Asia. It is endemic in parts of the U.S. and parts of Europe, » Hoang told CBC News.

« It [antibiotic-resistant superbugs] is a global problem, and the only way to to be aware of them is to make sure that health-care professionals are informed and our residents are informed when they’re seeking health care outside of British Columbia. »

It’s a sobering reminder for those who travel abroad for medical treatments, whether it’s to skip the surgery wait list in B.C., access therapies that aren’t approved in Canada or save money on cosmetic therapy. Some of the top destinations for medical tourists from around the world include India, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Turkey, according to the Medical Tourism Association.

But facilities in other countries can sometimes take a more haphazard approach to prescribing antibiotics, and overuse can trigger the evolution of resistance to these crucial drugs.

India a major source of bug

The two colonized patients at Royal Columbian were isolated after the bug was discovered, and the hospital has been aggressively cleaning all areas they had visited, using UV light for disinfection, according to Fraser Health.

C. auris was first identified in Japan in 2009, but it has popped up since then in countries around the world.

It acts much like any other yeast species, causing infections in wounds, the bloodstream and the ears, but the real problem is how to treat it.

« The only real reason why we’re concerned or interested in monitoring Candida auris is because of that potential resistance profile, making it difficult to treat with the anti-fungal agent that we have, » Hoang said.

The biggest risk of infection right now seems to come from Indian facilities, Hoang said.

A microscopic image, at left, shows Candida auris cells. At right is a culture of the yeast in a petri dish. (The Journal of Infection in Developing Countries)

The bug was confirmed for the first time in B.C. in July 2017 in a patient who’d been treated in India. As it turned out, that traveller also came back with infections from multiple other drug-resistant organisms.

B.C. doesn’t track whether infected people travelled abroad as medical tourists or simply required medical treatment because of an emergency during their voyages.

But patients who have had medical treatment outside B.C. for any reason are a major source of these superbugs, she said.

They include so-called CPOs — carbapenemase-producing organisms like Klebsiella, E. coli and Pseudomonas that have become resistant to broad-spectrum antibiotics, which Hoang describes as the « last resort » for treatment.

In 2017-2018, PICNet recorded more CPO cases than ever before, and more than half of them were from people who had accessed health care overseas, Hoang said.

‘There’s only so much we can do’

The key for anyone who chooses to have surgery abroad —​ and anyone who needs medical attention while travelling —​ is to let your B.C. doctor know when you return. That way, the doctor can check you for any drug-resistant bugs you may have picked up and give you the appropriate medication if you get sick.

Being open with that information protects everyone around you.

« If you require health care in British Columbia, you are running the risk of spreading that into our facilities. And that’s not a good thing for your neighbouring patients, who might be very sick and vulnerable, » Hoang said.

She said B.C. is aggressively monitoring returning travellers for drug-resistant superbugs, but the real key to stopping their spread will be eliminating the excessive use of antibiotics that allows these micro-organisms to evolve resistance.

« We’re basically holding up a floodgate, and unless the problems are addressed in these countries where antibiotics are used with minimal regulation and control, there’s only so much we can do, » Hoang said.

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‘It’s very exciting’: First rail tourists in 560 days depart for Churchill, Man.

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For the first time in 18 months, tourists are riding the rails to Churchill, Man. 

When Douglas Belcher heard the train was returning, he decided to buy a ticket and take the two-day ride. 

« I’m sure happy that the people of Churchill have got a land link, because it’s very important, and I’m really annoyed that it didn’t happen sooner, » he said. 

He will be on the first passenger train to pull into town since May 2017, when service on the 400-kilometre Hudson Bay Railway was suspended after severe flooding washed it out in 20 different places. The suspension severed Churchill’s only land link out of town, causing the cost of living to rise steeply.

It was also hard on the town’s tourism industry, and local businesses had a hard time staying open with higher costs and fewer customers. Some had to lay off staff

Churchill, Man., is located about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. (Google Maps)

« I’m glad things worked out, and hopefully they’ll stay on their feet and keep the land link open, » Belcher said.

Belcher says he’s brought books and a camera for the two-day trip, followed by two nights in the community before the train heads back south. 

Walking up and down is a nice thing about train travel

He’s excited to check out the train, eat in the dining car and stare out the window. He has a senior rail pass, so he thinks he might travel back again after this trip.

Douglas Belcher decided to buy a ticket to visit the northern community as soon as he heard the train was back in service. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

« Probably walk up and down a little bit, just for curiosity — that’s the nice thing about a train, you can do that. It’s not a Greyhound bus, » said the former railway worker. 

The train was scheduled to depart Winnipeg at 12:05 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. It actually left around 1 p.m., before travelling roughly 1,000 kilometres north with scheduled arrival in Churchill at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, according to Via’s website.

It will be 560 days between the May 23, 2017 washout and the train’s arrival. 

The train was scheduled to depart Winnipeg at 12:05 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, though it left late. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

About a dozen people bought tickets to take the train to Churchill from Winnipeg Sunday, though more will likely board the train at different stops along the way, said Michael Woelcke, general  manager of regional services for Via Rail.

Churchill is a huge part of Via Rail’s tourism business in Manitoba, so the company is very excited to be able to provide rail service to the northern community again, he said. 

« People really like to go up there, and not being able to deliver that service was frustrating, » he said. 

Ron Grapentine, a retired rail worker, has been regular visitor to Churchill since he retired in 1992. He said he was very excited to be able to take the train there again. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

Ron Grapentine says he’s been a regular visitor to Churchill since he retired as a rail worker in 1992. 

Catching up with friends along the way

« I’ve been going there every year for so many years — and I have friends … [it’s] very exciting, for me, » he said. « The old friends you meet as you go — we’ll stop at The Pas, Man., and Thompson … on to Gillam, and then into Churchill. So it’s quite a train ride, that’s for sure. »

He says he’ll be staying with one of those old friends there for two days before heading home. « He says he’s got Arctic char he’s going to cook for me, » he said. 

Grapentine says he’s knows it’s been a difficult year and a half for Churchill, especially when beloved bakery Gypsy’s burned down. A friend of his ran a jewelry store that’s also closed while the train has been out, he said. 

Now that the train is returning, he’s optimistic that Churchill’s fortunes will take a turn for the better. 

With files from Erin Brohman

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