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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Controversy continued to swirl around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, with the European Medicines Agency saying it has not found any evidence connecting the vaccine with blood clots, but said that a panel of experts will provide a final finding on Thursday.

“At present there is no indication that vaccination caused these conditions,” EMA executive director Emer Cooke said Tuesday.

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She made her comments after more than a dozen European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca product following reports that a small number of people developed blood clots shortly after being vaccinated. Sweden and Latvia became the latest countries to stop using the vaccine on Tuesday.

Cooke didn’t say how many cases the EMA is reviewing but AstraZeneca has said that across the European Union and Britain, there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of 17 million vaccinations. The agency last week said it found no link between the blood clotting and the vaccine, with Health Canada and the World Health Organization reaching similar conclusions.

In Canada, meanwhile, The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says there is now enough “real-world evidence” to show the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot is both safe and effective for seniors. The decision reverses a recommendation made by the body two weeks ago, when the panel said AstraZeneca hadn’t included enough people over 65 in its clinical trials.

It will now be up to provincial governments to decide whether to revise guidance around use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Yesterday, The Globe and Mail’s André Picard offered what is probably the clearest guidance: “None of the vaccines is perfect. But all of them are close to 100-per-cent effective at preventing hospitalization and death. If there’s one statistic to remember as you head to the pharmacy for a shot, it’s that one.”

Also:

Opinion:

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Exiled: Syrians in Canada look back on 10 years of civil war

It was 10 years ago since the Arab Spring sparked the first push for the downfall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the country continues to be engulfed by a civil war, the reverberations of which sent 6.6 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the country’s prewar population, to seek refuge abroad.

More than 83,000 have settled in Canada since 2015, with most building networks within their new communities – thousands of kilometres away from a home they may never be able to return to.

The Globe and Mail spoke to four Syrians now living in Calgary, Toronto and Halifax about what the 10-year anniversary of the civil war means to them.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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Ontario man found guilty of first-degree murder, manslaughter in killings of two women

A Toronto-area man has been found guilty in the killing and dismemberment of two women nearly a decade apart. Adam Strong, 47, was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of Rori Hache and of manslaughter in that of Kandis Fitzpatrick. Hache, who was 18 and pregnant, disappeared in August 2017, while Fitzpatrick was last seen in 2008.

Ottawa home buyers dealing with a ‘wild’ real estate market: Soaring prices for homes are no longer a phenomenon limited to mostly Toronto and Vancouver. Prospective home buyers are having to navigate a market that has never been seen before in the capital, with a 38-per-cent supply shortage in February as compared to October, 2020. That caused sale prices of residential homes to be sold for, on average, 116 per cent of asking.

Sobeys parent Empire buys controlling stake in Longo’s, Grocery Gateway

Empire Co. Ltd. is growing its footprint in Ontario with a $357-million deal to buy 51 per cent of grocery store chain Longo’s and its e-commerce service, Grocery Gateway. The agreement adds 36 Longo’s stores in the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario to Empire’s retail portfolio. The Stellarton, N.S.-based grocer already owns banners including Sobeys, Safeway, FreshCo, Foodland and others.

Elliot Page opens up about his life and gender identity in Time magazine interview

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Canadian actor Elliot Page is opening up about his life and gender identity in a lengthy profile in Time magazine. It’s the first major interview the Oscar-nominated star has given since he came out as transgender in December. The Halifax-raised performer says he’s “really excited to act” now that he’s “fully” who he is, and wants to play a new spectrum of roles.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock index snapped a seven-day winning streak despite hitting an all-time high. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 80.74 points to 18,874.01. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 127.51 points at 32,825.95. The S&P 500 index was down 6.23 points at 3,962.71, while the Nasdaq composite was up 11.86 points at 13,471.57.

The Canadian dollar traded for 80.29 cents US compared with 80.13 cents US on Monday.

The April crude oil contract was down 59 cents at US$64.80 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 7.8 cents at US$2.56 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was up US$1.70 at US$1,730.90 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 6.9 cents at US$4.07 a pound.

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TALKING POINTS

So you want to break free of the Royal Family?

“Julie Payette’s departure as governor-general over reports of abusive behaviour and Harry and Meghan’s allegations of racism within the Royal Family prompted fresh calls for an end to Canada’s connection to the British monarchy. There’s only one problem: It’s next to impossible.” – John Ibbitson

Canada’s efficiencies defence may enable Rogers-Shaw merger

“Unlike most other jurisdictions on the planet – many of which have their own efficiencies defence for mergers – ours lets companies undertake mergers that will harm competition if a union creates efficiencies that are “greater than and offset” the harm the merger causes to competition. In other words, if a merger creates a significant amount of cost savings, it is legal under Canadian law, even if it hurts consumers.” – Robin Shaban

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LIVING BETTER

Five memoirs on overcoming adversity to help get us through these (hopefully) last COVID months

After a long winter, and with Canada entering the second year of the global pandemic, hope is in short supply. In this setting, readers’ instincts may tend toward escapist fiction.

But, there is another way: leaning in to the grief of being human and experiencing writers who’ve grappled with it. Here, Tara Henley reviews five dark-night-of-the-soul memoirs which, paradoxically, offer hope amid the suffering.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Meet Joe Buffalo: skateboarding star, residential school survivor, and now SXSW-certified film star

Courtesy of SXSW Festival

Globe and Mail film critic Barry Hertz reminds readers today of the “curious link between cinema, skateboarding and social issues.”

Hertz writes that is could be because making films and skating are centred on commitment, creativity and a progressive, bucking-the-system mentality. He backs that up by pointing to a number of excellent skateboarding-centric movies of the past few years, including Skate Kitchen, Minding the Gap, and Mid90s.

To that subgenre, Hertz adds Joe Buffalo, a new short documentary from Syrian-Canadian filmmaker Amar Chebib. It features an Indigenous skateboarding star, actor and residential school survivor, and acts as both a tribute to skating and a dark lesson on a chapter of history many Canadians remain ignorant of.

Ahead of the film’s world premiere at this week’s virtual South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, Chebib, Buffalo and producer Hayley Morin spoke to Hertz from Vancouver.

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