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History Professor Reflects on How Canada Day Will Be Different in the COVID-19 Era
What will Canada Day celebrations look like this year without the usual fireworks and festivities that typically mark the day? Can we look to the past for ideas on how to foster Canadian community from a distance? Prof. Matthew Hayday studies the political and cultural history of post-war Canada and has published about the history and evolution of Canada Day as well as other national and provincial holidays. Hayday says there are many ways to hold a virtual national celebration; in fact, it’s been done many times in the past. “Canada Day and its predecessor Dominion Day are meant to celebrate Canada, but we’re talking about a country that is thousands of kilometres wide, so most Canadians will only ever meet a fraction of their fellow citizens. Yet there is a rich history of ‘distanced celebrations’ that goes back decades,” he said.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government intends to release a COVID-19 notification app, which it claims will help Canadians protect themselves. There isn’t a lot of evidence or precedent to explain exactly how, so it’s worth reviewing the technology, the public health goals of COVID-19 notification applications and the predictable problems. This application is a voluntary notification system, which works like this: smartphone users with compatible devices — an estimated 30 million in Canada (although there have been device compatibility problems with similar programs recently rolled out around the world) — may download the app, which uses Bluetooth to measure the phone’s proximity to others who have downloaded the app. If a person using the app tests positive for COVID-19, that person has the option to upload their verified test results to the app, which will then send a notification to anyone it determines the user has been close to during their infectious period. The notification app itself isn’t designed to recommend a treatment, but will recommend getting tested. The government sponsors are also working on including connections to social services that offer supports to people locking down on the basis of their COVID-19 risk. In its simplest form, the app is a voluntary technology that enables people to communicate potential risk to each other, shortening the time between exposure and testing.
A new report from the UN Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) has identified actions that governments can take to move their countries closer to the goal of eliminating hunger by 2030. University of Waterloo professor Jennifer Clapp (right), an expert in food security and sustainable food systems, lead the project team responsible for the report. “We need to radically transform food systems, to realize the right to food and ensure food security and nutrition for all, especially in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Clapp. “I am honoured to have had the opportunity to oversee this important work and I look forward to continuing my involvement with HLPE as we encourage the implementation of the findings of this report.”
University Professor Ted Sargent has been named the University of Toronto’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives for a four-year term, effective July 1. Sargent, an internationally renowned nanotechnology researcher, moves into the role after serving as U of T’s inaugural vice-president, international since 2016, overseeing an expansion of the university’s global footprint. He will succeed Professor Vivek Goel at the helm of the university’s vast research enterprise after Goel indicated earlier this month that he was stepping down from the position to focus on the university’s pandemic response, as well as that of the wider community. “The research of our scholars – and the translation of this work into societal impact – is of vital importance, even more now than ever before,” Sargent said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) announced the development of the Organic Resource Hub (the Hub), an online platform that will provide reliable, comprehensive data and information about Ontario organic production and marketing. Practical, economic, and scientific knowledge about organic production systems has been collected and dispersed by various institutions for decades, but has never been centrally available, either on a provincial or national level. Organic certifying bodies cannot legally give advice or provide consultancy services. Securing the specialized services of an organic consultant can be a challenge, especially for newer operations. “Canadian organic farmers produce high quality products that meet the demands of consumers at home and abroad,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “This investment will offer organic farmers improved access to resources that will help them grow their businesses and remain competitive.”
For many workers, flexible schedules have gone from being a perk to a necessity during the pandemic, and new research from global staffing firm Robert Half suggests it's a positive trend. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of office professionals surveyed in Canada said their job allows for windowed work, or the ability to break up their day into distinct chunks of business and personal time. Of those respondents, nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) reported the arrangement leads to greater productivity. "Optimal work hours don't look the same for everyone. As one option for greater flexibility, windowed work arrangements allow companies a very tangible way to help their staff better balance professional demands alongside personal commitments," said David King, senior district president of Robert Half in Canada. "By giving employees the freedom to choose when and where they work, organizations can offer their staff greater control over their time, productivity and, ultimately, their overall happiness."
As hurricane season is now upon North America, we have many questions about the particular challenges of managing disasters during COVID-19. How do governments evacuate people safely? How will already scare PPE supplies be tested? We spoke to Professor Jason Thistlethwaite, an expert in strategies to reduce the economic impacts of extreme weather and climate change, to hear his thoughts about managing disasters alongside the pandemic. How does COVID-19 add to the difficulty of managing a natural disaster like a hurricane? COVID-19 limits our ability to evacuate by grouping people in spaces we traditionally use for shelter such as community centres, convention centres, schools and sports facilities. Similarly, many families often seek shelter with relatives in other jurisdictions which could increase the spread of COVID-19.
Skills Ontario is pleased to announce the appointment of seven new members to its board of directors. This is a significant next step to expand Skills Ontario’s leadership in skilled trades and technologies in communities across Ontario. “Skills Ontario has three decades of history, and we are focused on the future,” said Karen Creditor, Chair of Skills Ontario. “Our board of directors includes exceptional people who value education and employment in skilled trades and technology sectors. Our new directors make Skills Ontario even stronger and position us to help young people realize their full potential.” The new directors include women and men with diverse expertise and experience, and proven track-records. They will ensure that Skills Ontario benefits from perspectives across different sectors and regions. The new directors are:
As concerns rise over the well-being of people in Canada, leading mental health and substance use organizations are highlighting the value of virtual care services for managing issues related to mental health and substance use during the pandemic. When it is difficult for caregivers and clients to meet in person, technology can enable them to meet virtually. A new resource, Virtual Care for Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19, highlights the importance of seeking care and support early on, and provides information on how to access the many virtual care options available to help people in Canada, including the recently launched Wellness Together Canada portal. “Recent polling conducted for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) by Nanos Research tells us that, while the mental health of people in Canada is worsening, access to online services remains low,” said Louise Bradley, MHCC president and CEO. “We know that a big part of opening the door to care is raising awareness. So we’re reminding people that there are free, readily accessible mental health supports available, even in a time of physical distancing.”
To support the work of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has released Tourism, Culture and Heritage: An Overview of the Tourism, Culture and Heritage Economic Sectors, Related Ministry Programs and the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The FAO’s report provides economic analysis of the sectors and reviews the Province’s $1.7 billion spending plan for related programs in 2020-21. In 2019, the tourism, culture and heritage sectors generated a combined $43.7 billion in economic activity, representing 4.9 per cent of Ontario’s GDP. The tourism sector was supported by 147 million visits by tourists (Ontarians, interprovincial and international) who spent $29.4 billion in Ontario, supporting 335,000 jobs. The culture and heritage sector, which includes film and television production, publishing, broadcasting, performing arts and museums, contributed $24.0 billion to the economy and supported 282,000 jobs.
Entrepreneurs, business owners, and company leaders in every industry are living in a state of overwhelm right now. The rules of business have changed seemingly overnight, and many are struggling to adapt to the new normal of our current reality. The number of decisions business owners and leaders need to make daily is staggering. How do we communicate with customers? What do we do about projects put on hold? How do we keep our employees safe? What kind of infrastructure do we need to support our remote workers? And of course, the biggest decision of all, what steps must we take to ensure our business survives this crisis? Being a business owner or company leader requires you to be nimble and ready to react at a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t negate the fact that you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Now more than ever you need to commit to your goals and squash any fears that may be holding you or your company back.
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Human and Social Sciences and Centre for Public Safety and Well-Being have collaborated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to launch a new online undergraduate certificate program, Global Crime and Justice. Through the collaboration, Laurier is committing to use education as a tool for preventing crime and corruption around the world, as well as empowering the next generation to make a positive and sustainable impact on criminal justice and corruption prevention. The certificate program is based on modules created by the UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, which seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education. The modules were designed by more than 600 academics and experts from around the world, including Laurier.
By ruling last Friday that Uber drivers have a right to reasonable dispute resolution, the Supreme Court of Canada has defended the workers’ rights. “This decision underscores the message that a worker is a worker,” said Canadian Labour Congress President, Hassan Yussuff. “This ruling sends a clear message to employers that they can’t skirt around workers’ rights by using legalese to pretend they are ‘independent operators’ instead of employees.” The Supreme Court ruling reaffirms a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal that Uber drivers are subject to the Ontario Employment Standards Act. With this ruling, a class-action suit against Uber can proceed.
The new North American trade deal takes effect on July 1 amid heightened uncertainty about its likely impacts. The effect of the COVID-19 crisis on supply chains, the digital transformation of the economy, and the possibility of the US reimposing aluminum and steel tariffs all cloud the potential effects of the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) on the economies of the signatory countries, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. Any of these three big unknowns could alter the projected impacts of the deal in four major studies, which themselves vary in their projections. In “The Trade and Economic Impact of the CUSMA: Making Sense of the Alternative Estimates,” Dan Ciuriak (photo) reconciles inconsistent estimates in the four studies, including the official studies released by governments of Canada and the United States. In doing so, he notes that emerging developments could muddy the waters further.
In the second of its Briefing Note series on Tourism and COVID-19, UNWTO has highlighted the severe impact the pandemic could have on livelihoods in these destinations. According to the latest data from the United Nations specialized agency, tourism accounts for more than 30% of total exports in the majority of the 38 SIDS. In some countries, this proportion is as high as 90%, making them especially vulnerable to falling tourist numbers.