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New guidance on COVID booster jabs and new job numbers: In The News for Dec. 3

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 Dec. 3 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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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 Dec. 3 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is set to release new guidance this morning on the use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters as public health faces down the threat of the Omicron variant. 

The new variant came to light late last week, and has sparked tougher border measures around the world as the World Health Organization warns the high number of mutations could signal that it is more transmissible than previous strains. 

The government issued an urgent request to the advisory committee for new directives on the eligibility criteria for boosters to protect Canadians against the new version of the virus.

"We know that Canadians are asking increasingly about whether they should … receive boosters, and that question is obviously of greater importance now with the new variant," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a press conference Tuesday.

"We are explicitly asking NACI to come up quickly with a revised view on where and how and to whom these boosters should be administered."

It was at the same press conference that ministers announced a series of strict new testing and isolation measures for travellers coming into Canada as part of an effort to make sure no one unwittingly imports a case of the new variant to Canada. The government has also barred foreign nationals who recently transited through 10 African countries from entering.

Still, cases of Omicron have already cropped up across the country. Though most involve recent travel, one case, reported in Alberta, involved household transmission.

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Also this ...

An expert on the psychological and social impacts of disasters on families is encouraging people affected by devastating floods in British Columbia to take care of their mental health while focusing on rebuilding.

Caroline McDonald-Harker, a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, has studied the impacts of extensive flooding in southern Alberta in 2013 and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

The research found that major disasters not only wreak havoc on infrastructure, but they also have long-term psychosocial impacts, said McDonald-Harker, who is also the director of the Centre for Community Disaster Research at the university.

"Over half of the hundreds of families that I interviewed as part of my research who experienced the 2013 flood and the 2016 wildfires here in Alberta, were still suffering with some long-term effects, even three-plus years after the disaster."

Those effects could include anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder, McDonald-Harker said in an interview. Signs that someone may be having trouble coping could include changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, she added.

Struggling to cope is expected in the shorter term, she noted.

"It's normal to feel overwhelmed, it's normal to perhaps be more emotional, it's normal to be afraid, and to be scared," she said. 

"However, it's important that people allow themselves to go through these emotions, that they don't suppress them."

Record-setting rainfall caused widespread flooding and landslides throughout southwestern B.C. last month, forcing thousands from their homes, inundating a prime agricultural area and wiping out critical transportation infrastructure.

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And this ... 

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is scheduled to say this morning how the country's labour market fared last month.

The unemployment rate fell for the fifth straight month to a pandemic-era low of 6.7 per cent in October after the economy added 31,000 jobs that month.

RBC economists Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan expect the unemployment rate to fall again to 6.6 per cent on the back of an increase in 40,000 jobs in November.

The duo point to likely gains in the close-contact service sector where employment is still below pre-pandemic levels but businesses are trying to staff up to meet increased demand.

The most recent figures from Statistics Canada show there were more than one million job openings at the start of September.

The mix of labour market conditions is also why the federal Liberals ended a pandemic benefit for the unemployed, hoping that it prods more out-of-work Canadians to take available jobs.

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

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden set out to turn the tables on the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday with a 10-point winter offensive against the Omicron variant that further complicates flying from Canada to the United States on the eve of the holiday travel season.

As early as Monday, Canadians and all other foreign visitors who travel to the U.S. by air will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than one day before their departure.

Biden is slashing the testing window — currently three days for fully vaccinated travellers — as part of a suite of public health measures aimed at slowing and limiting the spread of a highly mutated variant about which there are more questions than answers.

"All inbound international travellers must test within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality," Biden said as he outlined the plan at the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Bethesda, just north of D.C.

"This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of protection and scientists continue to study the Omicron variant."

The plan also extends into March a rule requiring domestic and international passengers by air, rail and public transportation to wear a face mask, including inside airports, train stations and bus terminals.

The White House is also ramping up access and outreach to encourage eligible U.S. residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot, accelerating research into vaccinating kids under the age of five, expanding access to at-home tests and donating 200 million more vaccine doses around the world within the next 100 days.

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Also this ...

OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mi. — The superintendent of a Michigan school district says no discipline was necessary for a teen who was summoned to the office a few hours before four students were fatally shot. 

Tim Throne also acknowledged that Ethan Crumbley’s parents were at Oxford High School on Tuesday, the day of the shooting. 

Throne didn’t disclose the reason, saying he can’t answer those questions now. Throne released a 12-minute video Thursday. 

Crumbley is charged with murder, terrorism and other crimes. 

He’s accused of firing a gun at other students.   

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

BEIJING — China and the United States are tussling over President Joe Biden's upcoming democracy summit, which the ruling Communist Party sees as a challenge to its authoritarian ways. 

A senior Chinese official told the foreign media in Beijing on Thursday that the summit divides countries and points fingers at others. 

The White House pushed back, saying the purpose of next week’s summit is to stand up for democracy around the world. 

Chinese officials have highlighted failings in American democracy and say their system works in the interest of its people. 

The Communist Party plans to issue a report Saturday titled “China: Democracy that Works.” 

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Also this ...

CAMEROON — The head of a U.N. team investigating atrocities in Iraq says Islamic State extremists committed crimes against humanity and war crimes at a prison in Mosul in June 2014 where at least 1,000 predominantly Shiite Muslim prisoners were systematically killed. 

Christian Ritscher told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that evidence collected from mass graves containing the remains of victims of executions carried out at Badush Central Prison and from survivors shows detailed preparations of the attack by senior Islamic State members followed by an assault. 

He said prisoners who were captured were separated based on religion.

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On this day in 1967 ...

A team of surgeons in Cape Town, South Africa, headed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, performed the first successful human heart transplant. Louis Washkansky, a 53-year-old grocer, lived 18 days with the heart of a 25-year-old woman killed in an auto accident.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — The half-century long career of renowned Saulteaux and Anishinaabe artist Robert Houle is the focus of a new major retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario titled "Red is Beautiful."

The exhibition, named after one of Houle's earliest pieces, features more than 100 works including monumental paintings, intimate drawings and large-scale installations as well as personal and archival photos. 

Putting together the show has been two years in the making but a dream of Houle's for longer. The artist, who is 74, wanted to do a retrospective before he turns 75 next year. His work has been part of two other major shows but this is the largest exhibit to date.

"It's kind of frightening. Makes me realize how old I am," Houle said with a chuckle during a phone call.

"You still get (goosebumps) and anxiety no matter how many professionals are helping you put up your paintings, your installations, your objects. It's still very nerve-racking."

The retrospective opens today in Toronto. 

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ICYMI ...

TORONTO — A mature-period painting by Emily Carr and a Canadiana canvas by Paul Kane each fetched more than $3 million at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House fall sale.

Carr's 1931 seaside forest scene "Cordova Drift" hammered down for nearly $3.4 million, above a presale estimate of between $2 million and $3 million.

The B.C. painter's 1912 oil-on-board "Maude Island Totem" sold for $841,250, while her circa 1935 forest landscape "Music in the Trees" drew $301,250.

Kane's circa 1855 canvas "Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo" went for more than $3.2 million, in line with Heffel's presale estimate of between $2.5 million and $3.5 million for the rare and historically significant work.

A total of 80 works were on offer at Heffel's digital fall sale, which was streamed from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Wednesday evening. Buyers placed bids online, by phone or in absentia.

Heffel says the lineup netted a total of $21 million. All estimates include auction house fees on top of the hammer price.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021

The Canadian Press