Pandemic causes blood shortage, Nova Scotia leaders debate : In The News for July 29

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of July 29 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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A return to a somewhat normal summer as COVID-19 restrictions are eased is putting a strain on Canada's blood supply.

Several provinces have started lifting restrictions — most notably Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan — and demand is increasing as a result.

Tracy Smith from Canadian Blood Services says people are resuming activities and hospitals are trying to catch up on backlogged surgeries.

She says the blood agency has extended hours at some donation centres and mobile clinics in anticipation of an increased need.

But many pandemic safety precautions remain in place, including a limit on the number of donors allowed inside at one time.

Demand for blood products tailed off dramatically 16 months ago as a result of less travel and the cancellation of all but the most critical surgeries.

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Also this ...

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin was forced to defend his party's record on health care during the first leaders debate of a provincial election campaign.

During the 90-minute contest Wednesday evening, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston and NDP Leader Gary Burrill went after Rankin for failing to deal with a chronic physician shortage that has left nearly 70,000 people without a family doctor.

Rankin shot back at Houston's $553 million spending plan mainly aimed at improving health care, arguing that the Tory leader wants to add to the deficit at a time when the province needs targeted spending to better emerge economically from the pandemic.

Rankin later told reporters that he believed the debate went well calling it a "good exchange of ideas."

Houston said he thought the debate was an opportunity for voters to compare the three potential premiers "side-by-side" and added that he was simply relaying concerns he's been hearing from voters in his criticism of the health system.

Burrill said he thought the debate made clear that voters have two paths to choose from — contraction through cuts or expansion in areas of need such as long term care and child care.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

New guidance from the federal government set off a cascade of mask rules across the nation as cities, states, schools and businesses raced to bring back mandates.

Others pushed back against the guidelines at a time when Americans are exhausted and confused over constantly shifting pandemic measures.

Nevada and Kansas City, Mo., were among the locations that moved swiftly to re-impose indoor mask mandates Wednesday, a day after the announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Governors in Pennsylvania and South Carolina joined others who said they would not revert back to stricter mask mandates.

The federal recommendations quickly plunged Americans into another emotionally charged debate over the face coverings meant to curb easy transmission of the deadly coronavirus.

In Florida, a Broward County School Board meeting devolved into a screaming match between irate parents and board members on Tuesday.

In suburban Atlanta, Jamie Reinhold said she would pull her kids from school if the district stuck to the CDC’s guidance, which the 52-year-old believes takes the country "backward" and damages confidence in the vaccines.

"If you believe in the masks, go ahead, but don’t try to tell me what to do for my child’s health and safety and immune system," she said. "It’s my child. It’s my choice."

And in New Orleans, Lisa Beaudean said she was not convinced mask mandates would inspire the unvaccinated — who account for most new infections — to take the virus seriously and get inoculated.

"I’m very frustrated," the St. Louis woman said as she strolled the French Quarter without a mask. "For the last 18 months, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, and there are no repercussions for those who haven’t done what they’re supposed to do."

Elsewhere, Ford Motor Co. said it would reinstate mask protocols for all employees and visitors at its Missouri and Florida facilities. Google also postponed a planned Sept. 1 return to the office for most of its more than 130,000 employees until mid-October, following a similar move by Apple.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

The United States is ramping up pressure on Poland to reverse course on new legislation that would prevent Jewish and other claims for restitution for property seized during the Holocaust and the communist era.

The U.S. says Poland is the only country in Europe to have backslid over the past year on commitments to return seized property or provide compensation for Holocaust victims and their families.

The proposed law has been denounced by Israel, Jewish groups and the U.S. It may be enacted just weeks after Thursday's one-year anniversary of a congressionally mandated report tracking European progress in adjudicating Holocaust claims.

The issue is one of several points of friction that have arisen or gotten worse between Washington and Warsaw since the Biden administration has been in office. Others include differences over the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline and a proposed restrictive media law.

If adopted, the law would prevent property ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years, which would mean that pending proceedings involving communist-era property confiscations would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish and other property that are subject to contested previous determinations.

Poland says it's a response to fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process, leading to evictions or giving real estate to property dealers. Authorities insist restitution claims will still be possible through courts, regardless of the claimants' nationality or place of residence.

But those explanations have been rejected by both the U.S. and Israel, which has said adoption of the law would cause grave damage to Polish-Israeli relations.

"We are disappointed that the Polish government and the opposition seems too often to purposely conflate property restitution or compensation with (Second World War) reparations," said Cherrie Daniels, the U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues. "We would like to see the Polish government, at a minimum, amend the legislation so that claimants with pending claims can continue to pursue them through the existing administrative process."

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On this day in 1988 ...

External Affairs Minister Joe Clark announced that all people travelling on South African passports and seeking entry into Canada to participate in sports would be denied visas. The ban was lifted a few years later after South Africa abolished apartheid.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — An adaptation of Catherine Hernandez’s award-winning novel "Scarborough" is among the Canadian additions to the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Organizers have announced the Contemporary World Cinema and Discovery program lineups, as well as more galas and special presentations, including Oscar-winner Jane Campion's much-anticipated drama "The Power of the Dog."

Discovery's lineup of emerging filmmakers includes the world premiere of "Wildhood" from two-spirit L'nu writer-director Bretten Hannam, in which the Mi'kmawprotagonist discovers his sexuality and connects with his heritage while fleeing his toxic father with his half-brother. Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Michael Greyeyes and newcomer Avery Winters-Anthony are among the stars in the east-coast story, filmed in English and Mi'kmaw.

"Scarborough," directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, will debut in Discovery with a look at three children who become friends in a low-income neighbourhood of the titular Toronto suburb. Hernandez’s 2017 debut novel on which the film is based made the short list for several prizes, including the Trillium Book Award.

Campion's Netflix-bound "The Power of the Dog" will screen at TIFF after premiering at the Venice International Film Festival. The adaptation of Thomas Savage's novel stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a Montana ranch owner and Kirsten Dunst as a widow who marries his brother. It's the first feature film in nearly 12 years from the New Zealand writer-director, who won an Oscar in 1994 for her screenplay for "The Piano."

This year's digital-and in-person festival will also have a new series, TIFF Rewind, featuring memorable films from past festivals and digital talks with talent. Films in the series will stream on Crave while the chats will unfold on TIFF's social media channels.

Confirmed TIFF Rewind films and guests include Antoine Fuqua on "Training Day" and Patricia Cardoso and America Ferrera on HBO's "Real Women Have Curves."

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ICYMI ...

Families alleging that an Ottawa fertility doctor used his own sperm as well as that of the wrong donors in performing artificial inseminations are poised to share millions in compensation after a proposed settlement was reached in the case.

The proposed settlement of more than $13 million was announced Wednesday as an Ontario court certified the lawsuit against Dr. Norman Barwin as a class action.

The lawsuit was launched in 2016 by Davina, Daniel and Rebecca Dixon after a DNA test revealed Rebecca was Barwin's biological daughter.

It has since grown to include scores of other plaintiffs, including former patients and the children conceived through the treatments they received.

Among them are people who allege they do not know whose sperm was used for conception, when that of either a spouse or selected donor was meant to be used, or whose sperm was provided for a particular purpose but allegedly used to conceive for another patient.

Court documents say that while Barwin has agreed to the settlement, he continues to deny the allegations and any liability.

The settlement is set to be reviewed by the court on Nov. 1. If it is approved, anyone not yet included in the class action will have 120 days to come forward.

Part of the settlement fund is earmarked for the operation of a DNA database meant to help find matches among former patients who left semen with Barwin and children who don't know the identity of their biological father, court documents say.

Though some have successfully found half-siblings or sperm donors through commercial DNA websites, the database aims to provide a private and controlled mechanism for doing so, they read.

"These individuals and/or their parental guardians are concerned that they have half-siblings whom they do not know. They are also concerned about the risk of consanguinity (related by blood) if they unknowingly were to meet and form a romantic relationship with a half-sibling,'' the documents say.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued Barwin had a duty of care to his patients and to the children he helped them conceive to ensure he used the sperm selected for artificial insemination.

Barwin gave up his medical licence years ago, and it was revoked by Ontario's medical regulator in 2019. As part of his penalty, Barwin _ who pleaded no contest to misconduct allegations _ was ordered to pay a fine of more than $10,000.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021

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