Harm reduction group to challenge Quebec curfew in court, saying safe injection site users at risk

A Montreal harm reduction group is launching a legal challenge of the province’s COVID-19 curfew on Tuesday, saying the health measure violates the rights of safe injection site users.

According to ​​Sibel Ataogul, a lawyer with Melançon Marceau Grenier Cohen, the curfew already includes an exception for intravenous drug users who frequent safe injection sites.

However, she says many users are afraid to inform police where they are headed if stopped after 9:30 p.m.

“It doesn’t seem to work to give an exemption paper to these people because they are very reticent, obviously, to give it to police. Because it can actually put them at risk for search and seizure and being arrested for possession of narcotics,” said Ataogul.

Giving this exemption paper to police is essentially an admission of possession of illegal drugs, Ataogul explained.

“So they stay at home and they don’t have clean needles, they don’t have clean equipment, they don’t have access to the nurses,” she said. “It raises the number of overdoses.”

Sibel Ataogul is a lawyer representing the association of drug users in court. (CBC)

Ataogul was hired by the Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD) which she describes as being an organization for and by intravenous drug users.

On Tuesday, Ataogul will be asking for an emergency injunction to stop the curfew being enforced in three cities while the Superior court considers their request to have the measure declared invalid.

The three affected cities are Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau.

Ataogul said that her clients are not opposed to health measures, they simply want the freedom to access safe injection sites without fear of being stopped by police.

“Intravenous drug users don’t just use drugs between the hours of ​5 a.m. to 8 or 9:30 p.m. — this is about addiction, so it’s not something that you can just control,” she said.

She argues that the current system violates the rights of intravenous drug users and is not proven to be worthwhile in terms of its positive effect on transmission of the virus.

“The benefits that the population would get from a curfew are not proportional to the harm it causes these communities,” said Ataogul.

Need is urgent

Chantal Montmorency, general co-ordinator of the association launching the challenge, told CBC that drug users are afraid to get caught by authorities and prefer to risk overdose at home.

“It’s a trauma to have to talk to the police and we can’t trust them,” she said.

Chantal Montmorency is the general co-ordinator of the Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues. (CBC)

Montmorency added that for many addicts, the need is “urgent” and they can’t delay until the curfew lifts for fear of going into withdrawal.

She said at safe injection sites, staff are there to administer lifesaving medication in the event of overdoses. By staying home, drug users are taking their chances.

“People are afraid to die. They call us and they tell us, ‘What can I do? I’m afraid that my mom will find me tomorrow,'” said Montmorency. “The curfew is a real danger for people who use drugs.”

‘Unprecedented’ overdoses

David Palardy, an intervention worker at Cactus Montreal Safe Injection Site, told CBC that he is aware of problems users have had trying to access centres like his under the curfew.

“Sometimes people will get arrested and the [exemption] paper is not enough,” he said. “We have people who have been arrested multiple times in the same night. They get fined even though they have permission to be around.”

David Palardy is an intervention worker at Cactus Montreal Safe Injection Site. (Sharon Yonan Renold/CBC)

Palardy said he’s seen a decline in users coming in after curfew, combined with an increase in overdose cases.

He said when the centre opened as a safe injection site four years ago, they dealt with overdose cases maybe once a week. These days, it’s a daily occurrence. 

“We’ve had so many overdoses, specifically I’d say in the last few weeks, it’s unprecedented,” said Palardy.

He believes this is another unintended result of the curfew. Palardy explained that fewer dealers are operating in public after 9:30 p.m. and so users are buying contaminated product from people they don’t know.

“[At night] there’s less and less dealers around and the ones that are here, are usually the ones that have the worst batches of all,” said Palardy. “The drugs got worse with the pandemic.”

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Canadian teams ‘jealous’ of clubs that can take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Copp is envious.

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie, meanwhile, described the situation as “awesome” for the teams in question.

And Toronto Maple goalie Jack Campbell is simply glad to see life shifting back to normal — just not for NHL players in Canada.

The league eased some of its tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for clubs that have been fully vaccinated. But because of the decidedly slower rollout to get shots in arms north of the border, Canadian franchises won’t be enjoying the same freedoms as some of their U.S.-based counterparts any time soon.

“Very jealous,” said Copp, who was born and raised in Michigan. “If you look at my social media, Instagram and Twitter, I see my family and my friends living a normal life right now. Very jealous of that.

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“Happy for the guys in the States that are playing hockey to be able to live their lives as much as possible.”

READ MORE: NHL could adjust playoffs over COVID-19 travel restrictions in Canada, Bettman says 

Barrie said even though teams in Canada are still bound by the same directives they’ve been adhering to since training camp — daily testing, physical distancing and limited contact with teammates outside the rink — that were beefed up further amid a rash of coronavirus outbreaks in February, the league’s move is a good sign.

“There’s a lot of teams down there that are vaccinated,” he said. “We’ve been in these protocols for a long time, so if it’s safe and everyone’s able to do it, then absolutely it’s an exciting time to be able to get back out there and support some businesses and try to get this thing back on track.”

Watch below: Some Global News videos about COVID-19’s impact on the NHL.

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The relaxing of NHL protocols announced Saturday takes effect once 85 per cent or more of a team’s travelling party has been fully vaccinated. The changes include loosened restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining, testing frequency, mask-wearing and quarantine requirements.

“It’s nice to see them doing some normal things,” said Campbell, who’s also from Michigan. “Whatever we’re able to do, we’re fortunate to have a great group. We have a lot of fun. We’ve done things the right way all season, but we still have fun in the right circumstances.

“Just fortunate to be healthy.”

READ MORE: Reports of shortened quarantine for NHL players ‘a slapshot in the face’: advocates 

All members of the Leafs were eligible to be vaccinated starting Sunday because the team’s practice facility is located in one of Ontario’s designated COVID-19 hot spots. The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, are expected to begin getting their shots Thursday after Quebec lowered age restrictions.

“There’s more and more shots readily available,” Toronto forward Jason Spezza added.

“It shows signs of us healing as a community and getting closer to a return to normalcy.”

But only teams that have had a second dose will be deemed fully vaccinated in the eyes of the NHL, so players in Canada, where daily life remains far from normal due to wide-ranging restrictions, are still a long way from meeting for meals at restaurants or hanging out inside each other’s houses.

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But despite the protocols remaining the same in the Canadian-based North Division — a one-time-only circuit created because of pandemic-related border restrictions — Montreal winger Paul Byron doesn’t take issue with U.S. teams having more freedoms with the playoffs just over the horizon.

“The rules are different, the government rules are different,” said Byron, the Canadiens’ NHL Players’ Association representative. “Life is just different for us. I don’t think it’s an unfair advantage or anything like that, it just is what it is.

“You’ve got to make the most of it.”

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice added it would be pointless for players and coaches in the U.S. to continue with protocols like masking for no reason.

“In a perfect world we’d all be on the same circumstances,” he said.

Under the NHL’s new regulations, fully vaccinated individuals can dine outdoors or inside — in a private area with masked servers — visit a teammate or coach’s hotel room, play golf and have other social gatherings without masking or distancing requirements. Team staff also won’t have to quarantine for potential exposure or be subject to testing on off days.

Roughly one-third of Americans have been fully vaccinated compared to about three per cent in Canada.

“It’s the way the world is right now,” Oilers bench boss Dave Tippett said. “A lot of parts of the U.S. are wide open, and Canada is still closed down. You just have to deal with where you’re at.

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“Hopefully as the (age) regulations of who gets vaccinated in Canada continues to go down… teams can catch up on that, but time will tell.”

The NHL was the last of the major four North American pro sports leagues to announce relaxed virus protocols for teams based on individual vaccination levels.

“I’m happy for the teams down south,” Copp said. “It’s been tough.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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2 injured, 1 critically, after multi-vehicle crash at Toronto-Vaughan border – Toronto

Officials say two people have been injured, one critically, after a two-vehicle crash at the Toronto-Vaughan border on Monday.

Emergency crews were called to the crash at Weston Road and Steeles Avenue at 5:50 p.m.

Toronto police tweeted that firefighters rescued a trapped motorist and paramedics took the victim to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

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Toronto paramedics told Global News they treated two patients in total, both of whom were taken to a trauma centre. One of the victims was reported to be in serious condition and the other in critical.

There is no word on what caused the crash.

Images from the scene show several damaged vehicles, one of which was flipped over on its side.

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The intersection was closed following the incident.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Richmond Hill couple fights with insurance company to repair damage to vehicle that was stolen – Toronto

Your car was stolen off your driveway. You want it returned — but be careful what you wish for.

If the car was in pristine condition, it could come back damaged and you might find yourself in a fight with the insurance company for physical and mechanical repairs.

“I was scared, I called the police,” said Beata Belokopyov of Richmond Hill.

She and her husband, Alex, lease a two-door 2019 Audi S5. During the last year, they haven’t driven it much because Alex works from home as a mechanical engineer.

Read more:
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“We are asking them to fix our vehicle to its pre-stolen condition,” he told Global News in an interview.

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But the process isn’t what they expected.

Originally, when the car was taken, police advised the couple the vehicle was likely “in a container” somewhere and probably wouldn’t be found.

The couple’s insurance company advised them to start looking for a replacement vehicle, which they did.

Fourteen days after the theft, and on the day they were about to sign an agreement to get a new Audi, the couple received what might have been good news: police had found the vehicle. They informed the insurance representative.

They were told not to sign for a new vehicle because they’d have to accept the stolen Audi back.

Click to play video: 'Ontario man takes car to Nissan dealership for repair, app shows it was taken for 90-km trip'

Ontario man takes car to Nissan dealership for repair, app shows it was taken for 90-km trip

Ontario man takes car to Nissan dealership for repair, app shows it was taken for 90-km trip

Since then, the Belokopytovs have been in a fight with TD Insurance, attempting to get all the repairs their Audi dealership is recommending. They say it has been difficult and stressful.

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For example, they say the interior of the vehicle reeks from marijuana smoked inside. They’ve been told a cleaning company will be able to remove the odour. Based on their research, they’re not convinced that’s possible.

Audi has recommended replacing the seats, but the insurance company has refused.

The vehicle was driven about 1,000 km after being stolen. Alex says the brakes, serviced immediately prior to the theft, need repairs. The insurance company declined.

“All they’re looking to do is increase profitability on the back of the client,” said Chris Borson, who owns Castle Auto Collision and Mechanical Service in Toronto.

Click to play video: 'Modifying your car could void your insurance'

Modifying your car could void your insurance

Modifying your car could void your insurance – Apr 30, 2021

Borson has frequently sparred with auto insurance companies that insist on spending less to restore a client’s vehicle after a collision. Borson has even taken insurance companies to small claims courts to get paid.

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In a statement, a TD spokesperson said the insurance company has every intention of fulfilling its legal responsibilities.

“In all claims, a thorough assessment of repairs costs are made. The customer’s insurance policy ensures that the recovered vehicle is fully returned to its pre-theft collision,” said Paolo Pasquini, a corporate and public affairs representative for TD.

“We are honouring this obligation and using only genuine Audi parts. We look forward to starting repairs and delivering an incredible experience for our customer,” Pasquini wrote in an email.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Toronto-area LTC residents died of ‘dehydration and malnourishment,’ new military documents reveal

In addition to deaths from COVID-19, residents at two long-term care homes in the Toronto area died of dehydration and neglect during outbreaks last spring, newly-obtained Canadian military documents reveal.

“Twenty-six residents died due to dehydration prior to the arrival of the CAF team due to the lack of staff to care for them. They died when all they [needed] was ‘water and a wipe down,’” one report noted about Downsview Long-Term Care Centre in North York.

Another report stated “there had been resident deaths due to dehydration and malnourishment” at Hawthorne Place Care Centre, also in North York.

The documents obtained by Global News provide details never before heard about the state of these two long-term care centres prior to the Armed Forces arriving to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Read more:
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“We have been very good at capturing COVID-19 deaths, but one of the things we have not yet fully captured were the deaths that occurred because of confinement syndrome,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, Geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

At Downsview Long Term Care Centre, 65 people, including a personal support worker, died of COVID-19. At the peak of the outbreak, more than 100 employees were infected with the virus.

Global News went inside Downsview in March and met with the executive director, who said, “there would be times when we’d come in and we’d find out there were two nurses on a unit that would traditionally have eight staff at a time.”

Read more:
Families, experts say Ontario long-term care report shows pandemic lessons can’t be ignored

Robert Scott said staffing was a major issue during the COVID-19 outbreak, and even before that.

“The biggest issue to me would be the staffing crisis,” he said, “anybody who tells you they’re shocked by this has not been paying attention over the last 15 or 20 years.”

Scott is a trained registered nurse who said he has worked in the long-term care sector for nearly two decades.

“To hear in the news .. that we personally failed these people, it’s hard to take,” he said, adding “When you know the back end of it and what we were going through, he system failed us, the system failed the residents who died, the system failed the residents and employees who got infected.”

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Read more:
Ontario ‘completely ignored and bulldozed’ problems in long-term care: former inspector

At Hawthorne Place Care Centre, 51 residents died of COVID-19. The military report says “there was feces and vomit on floors and on the walls” and “two of the residents had dried feces under their fingernails for a prolonged period of time.”

“We know that people died because of so-called confinement syndrome, which the Long-Term Care Commission actually makes reference to, where residents died of this global lack of care and stimulation and attentiveness to the needs,” said Stall.

“We saw people died of the fundamental lack of food, water and care, but also there were many residents who died over weeks to months from the decline of lack of care and from not being able to have access to their caregiver and family,” he added.

Global News reached out to the management company of each of the two long-term care homes referenced in the new military reports.

Read more:
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“Every death certificate issued in Ontario must include a cause of death and be signed by the attending physician. None of the death certificates issued for Hawthorne Place residents cite neglect, dehydration or malnutrition as a cause of death. There have been no investigations into any deaths at Hawthorne Place,” said Nicola Major, of Responsive Group, which manages Hawthorne, in a statement.

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James Balcom, of GEM Health Care Group, which owns Downsview, said in a statement, “Based on the experience of our staff at Downsview, checking and double-checking our own facility records and our reporting to and co-operation with the Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC), the information … regarding 26 deaths at Downsview Long Term Care Centre due to dehydration is false.”

Advocate for long-term care residents Vivian Stamatopoulos is calling for an investigation by police into these new documents suggesting neglect.

Read more:
‘A lot of suffering’: Frontline health-care workers describe the moments before death by COVID-19

“I would hope Toronto Police Services is going to immediately open up an investigation and really look at criminal charges because there is no question what we are seeing here is neglect,” she said.

“This is failing to provide the basic necessities of life,” she added. “I want to see accountability certainly at the management level and at the home owner level because there should have been more staffing, there should have been more supports to provide the necessities of life.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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