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Good morning,

Canada has been unable to get a national picture of the country’s immunity to COVID-19, despite promises from Ottawa that it would conduct mass blood tests to find out how common the antibodies are.

Epidemiologists have been frustrated by the lack of movement, insisting that keeping tabs on the prevalence of these antibodies can improve public-health orders, inform vaccination plans and measure how close the country is to herd immunity.

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Since the task force was announced, there have been few updates on how many Canadians are estimated to be immune from the virus, even though scientists and researchers tapped by the federal government to collect this data insist their research is continuing.

Read more:

Pfizer asks Health Canada to boost number of vaccine doses extracted from each vial

Canada-China vaccine collaboration began to fall apart days after Ottawa announced clinical trials

European Union aims to tighten its control of vaccine shipments

Editorial: With new COVID-19 variants arriving, it’s time for Ottawa to clamp down on travel

Personal support worker Johanne Lamesse reacts in anticipation to the needle as she receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 15, 2020.

POOL/Reuters

This is the daily Morning Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for Morning Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters on our newsletter signup page.

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Indigenous corrections officers launch lawsuit alleging systemic racism

A proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal government alleges Correctional Service Canada enabled systemic racism among its racialized staff. The suit was launched on behalf of two Indigenous officers who work for the prison agency.

The officers say they were subjected to racist insults, their careers suffered because of systemic issues and that racialized staff were treated like inmates by management. This is the second proposed class-action regarding systemic racism against CSC this month.

Read more:

Saskatchewan woman left shaken after arrest by RCMP

Prosecutors rule out charges in RCMP shooting of Rodney Levi

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The big thaw: What Arctic communities on vanishing permafrost are doing to find safer ground to build on

The escarpment along the western edge of Fort McPherson, a small hamlet of 700 in the Northwest Territories, cracks and sloughs away amid some of the warmest years on record. The community’s senior administrative officer, Bill Buckle, says residents worry a health centre and church are at risk of damage or collapse, along with the RCMP detachment and Northern Store.

In Tsiigehtchic, a hamlet of fewer than 200 about 60 kilometres to the east, two iconic churches rise above the confluence of the Mackenzie and Arctic Red Rivers, plus an adjacent cemetery. An assessment conducted a decade ago found that all of that site, known as Church Hill, is at risk of being lost to landslides – a fate that, year by inexorable year, is slowly being realized.

Further south, in the oil town of Norman Wells, Mayor Frank Pope worries about his community’s main road, which runs the length of the community and carries heavy traffic. Part of it is built atop a rapidly eroding riverbank. “We’re going to have to go through a major rebuilding – or maybe even rerouting – program in the next five years,” he says.

Scenes such as these are cropping up across the Northern regions because permafrost – the foundation of ice on which much of the Arctic rests – is thawing at an accelerating rate. Communities in the northern Mackenzie delta are experiencing these problems earlier than most, partly because the region is warming even faster than elsewhere in the Arctic.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Report calls for powerful new federal body to regulate social media: A report by the Public Policy Forum’s Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression is calling for the creation of a powerful new government regulator to oversee social media companies such as Facebook and Google and to require them to have strong content-moderation practices and comply with a new legal duty to act responsibly.

Ethiopia’s peace laureate sees a reversal of fortune as war and atrocities grow worse: In 2019, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for a peace deal with Eritrea and was being lauded by Western leaders for democratic reforms in his country. Now, Abiy is facing blame for a shocking list of alleged atrocities by his military and its allies in the Tigray region.

BlackRock’s shift to ‘net-zero’ investments is accelerating, CEO Larry Fink says: BlackRock Inc. is calling for leaders of companies in its massive portfolio to disclose how their businesses will fare in a “net-zero” carbon economy as the world’s largest fund manager accelerates its push to align investments with the fight against climate change.

Hard-hit companies get another loan option to help them stay afloat: Businesses will be able to tap into a new low-interest, Ottawa-backed loan starting Monday, though some owners and industry leaders warn that extra debt could do more harm than good as Canada looks toward post-vaccination economic recovery.


MORNING MARKETS

European stocks start lower: Europe’s share indexes opened lower on Wednesday, while investors focused on the U.S Federal Reserve meeting and U.S. tech giants’ earnings. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 slid 0.27 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 were off 0.49 per cent and 0.25 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei ended up 0.31 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.32 per cent. New York futures were mixed. The Canadian dollar was trading at 78.61 US cents.


WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Konrad Yakabuski: “For the Trudeau government, which has boasted about making STEM innovation a cornerstone of its postpandemic economic strategy, a new negotiated bargain with Big Pharma would yield a better outcome than relying on the heavy hand of drug price regulation alone.”

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Daniel Panneton: “To survive the loss of the survivors while adapting to the post-truth era and resurgent far-right political activity, Holocaust education must undergo a transition. By blending the emotional and interpersonal power of survivor memory with a purposeful, civic-minded approach that grapples with the threat to democracy that fascism presents, we just might be able to keep the survivors’ torch lit and the path forward illuminated.”


TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

Cartoon

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail


MOMENT IN TIME: JAN. 27, 1945

Auschwitz is liberated

The name has become synonymous with pure evil, inconceivable inhumanity, hell on Earth. But on Jan. 27, 1945, when Soviet troops encountered a massive concentration camp complex west of Krakow, in occupied Poland, they knew none of this. Auschwitz-Birkenau was a death factory, the Nazis’ largest. More than 1.1 million people were murdered there; the majority in gas chambers upon arrival. Many others died later – by gas, starvation, illness or execution. They were mostly Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs, homosexuals and others. As the Red Army approached in mid-January, the Nazis killed thousands of inmates, then evacuated nearly 60,000 from the camp, among them Elie Wiesel. “Faster, you swine!,” the future Nobel Peace Prize winner recalled the SS yelling in his book Night, as the prisoners death-marched in the icy wind to the unknown. When the Soviets arrived, they found only about 7,000 people behind the barbed wire. “We saw emaciated, tortured, impoverished people,” Soviet liberator Ivan Martynushkin recalled in 2010. Primo Levi, in Survival in Auschwitz, described his friend Charles – a French schoolteacher, also ill with scarlet fever – removing his beret in deference. “I regretted not having a beret,” Levi wrote. Marsha Lederman

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