Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vancouver police raised the alarm of a disturbing increase in hate-related incidents targetting people of Chinese descent.
The force held multiple news conferences as they received dozens of reports of verbal altercations and even assaults. The incidents included a convenience store assault of a 92-year-old East Asian man with dementia in March that made international headlines.
Now, the force has set up a dedicated team of six officers to deal with dozens of incidents that are now under investigation.
Inspector Dale Weidman, the incident commander of the new team, says such units are generally assembled to deal with specific issues, but this is the first he can recall for hate crimes.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and there have been reports in cities across Canada of hatred directed at people of East Asian descent.
The force has received 155 hate-associated reports this year, up from 69 for the same time in 2019. Last year, seven incidents were aimed at people of Asian background; the number this year is 66.
Police are recommending that the Crown lay charges such as threatening, assault and mischief in 16 files. An additional 19 cases are being actively investigated.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West:
B.C.‘S COVID-19 INFECTION RATE: Less than 1 per cent of British Columbians were infected with COVID-19 during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study by researchers at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. The study findings highlight the effectiveness of the province’s measures to combat the pandemic, and underscore that most B.C. residents remain susceptible to infection. It also suggests the province’s true infection rate is about eight times the rate based on reported cases, providing a glimpse of how much virus was in the community and potentially spreading undetected as public-health strategies were put in place. This research is the first in Canada to report infection rates based on seroprevalence, which is a measure of the presence in blood samples of antibodies produced to resist the virus.
ALBERTA BRING-YOUR-OWN-LIQUOR LAW: Alberta is expanding its longstanding bring-your-own-wine rules in restaurants to include all forms of alcohol. Under recent changes to liquor regulations, restaurants can invite diners to bring spirits and beer in addition to wine. Those businesses can charge a corkage fee, as they do now for wine.
FOSTER-CARE SETTLEMENT: British Columbia is settling a multimillion-dollar class action brought by victims of a social worker who spent more than a decade stealing thousands of dollars in government assistance from 102 foster children under his care, the majority of whom were Indigenous. Documents filed Tuesday in provincial Supreme Court propose an agreement to be approved by a judge later this month that would offer between $25,000 and $250,000 to former youth in care harmed by Robert Riley Saunders. The social worker, who had faked his degree to get hired, handled their cases in Kelowna from 2001 until he was fired in 2018.
MANITOBA RULING ACKNOWLEDGES SYSTEMIC ISSUES: A Manitoba judge sentencing a young man for beating his own mother to death has denounced systemic issues the judge says leave Indigenous people at risk. Anthony McKay was sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of his mother, Shirley McKay. He faces two years behind bars, after receiving credit for time already served, and will be subject to three years of supervised probation after that. “As a human, Mrs. McKay deserved better. And, like anyone born in this bountiful country, her son, her killer, deserved a better start, a better chance, in life,” Justice Chris Martin wrote. The judge said the killing on the Berens River First Nation, about 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg, was a “calamity of almost 150 years of government policy, actions and inactions affecting the Indigenous community.”
SASKATCHEWAN’S COVID-19 SPREAD: Saskatchewan has recorded its highest daily total of COVID-19 cases, and the minister for rural health is urging residents in the southwest and west-central regions to hunker down to help limit spread. Warren Kaeding says the outbreak encompasses Hutterite colonies and a number of rural municipalities, including Maple Creek and Biggar, as well as the city of Swift Current. Forty-two new cases of the infection were reported Thursday.
B.C. SETS MONTHLY OVERDOSE DEATH RECORD: June’s illicit drug overdose death toll set yet another B.C. record, surpassing May’s tally by four. “Extreme” fentanyl concentrations were detected in 15 per cent of deaths from April to June, compared with 8 per cent from January, 2019, to March, 2020, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service on Thursday. At least 5,731 people have died since 2016, the year British Columbia declared a public-health emergency because of overdose deaths. Four years later, as the crisis continues unabated, those on the front lines say it has become difficult to maintain hope. Efforts to effect change must compete for energy with years of grief and trauma. Meanwhile in Alberta, the provincial government has ended its funding agreement with a supervised drug consumption site in Lethbridge after an audit showed financial irregularities. Officials said in a news release that the independent accounting firm Deloitte did a grant expenditure audit on ARCHES, a non-profit agency overseeing the site. The Deloitte report, released Thursday by the government, found $1.6-million that was unaccounted for.
CANCER SCREENING IN ALBERTA: Referrals for diagnostic imaging were halved in March and April and roughly 10,000 scheduled scans had been deferred by the end of May, according to a report from Alberta Health Services’ COVID-19 scientific-advisory group. Alberta will face a surge in demand for diagnostic services over the summer as the COVID-19 crisis lulls, the report predicted, and AHS could save money and lives by prioritizing suspected cancer cases. The drop in diagnostic imaging coincided with a skid in the number of new cancer cases registered in Alberta during the early months of the pandemic, and the former may help explain the latter. More than half of Canadian cancer patients, caregivers, and people waiting confirmation of a cancer diagnoses had appointments, treatments or tests called off or deferred because of COVID-19 protocols, according to the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network.
Gary Mason on the doctor dispute in Alberta: “The war that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his Health Minister Tyler Shandro have declared on the province’s doctors has taken the ethos of belt-tightening to another level. We don’t know what the end result will be, but it has the potential to alter the relationship between the medical profession and the province for years to come.”