Small outdoor gatherings in backyards or parks will be permitted in Quebec as of this Friday, May 22nd. They can have no more than ten people who come from a maximum of three households

Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault, sitting in for Premier François Legault at the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing, made the announcement and stressed that we were not at the stage where parties and indoor gatherings could start up again. While she understands that, in some cases, guests may go indoors to use the washroom or change a baby, she urged people to not move indoors as a group when it gets late and colder, instead people should head home.

Guilbault also said that people who don’t live together need to maintain two meter distance from each other at these gatherings and urged people to wear masks when not at home as much as possible. This change may be reversed if a new outbreak happens and is Quebec-wide.

Home healthcare providers province-wide will also be able to resume operations as of June 1. Same for personal care businesses such as hair salons everywhere in Quebec outside of the Greater Montreal Area and Joliette.

Guilbault said that a re-opening date for personal care businesses in Montreal and Joliette will follow. Non-essential retail businesses not located in shopping malls or with a private street entrance will be allowed to re-open in the Greater Montreal Area this coming Monday, May 25.

Watch the full press conference with Guilbault and National Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda

Montreal will be temporarily converting 327 kilometers of city streets into what the city is calling the Safe Active Transportation Circuit. These will last throughout the summer and possibly into the fall, depending on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment efforts.

At a press conference this morning alongside Éric Alan Caldwell, the Executive Committee member in charge of mobility, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante spoke of a bike ride she took down Christophe-Colomb Avenue with her kids. Despite few cars on the street, cyclists and pedestrians were all crammed together trying to respect social distancing guidelines.

According to Plante, this plan will increase the space available to pedestrians and cyclists and allow them to travel while respecting the two meter rule. It will link parks, residential streets and commercial arteries and encourage people to shop and enjoy nature locally as much as possible.

Plante noted that businesses will benefit because there will be more place outside for people to line up two meters apart as pedestrians and cyclists pass by. She also said that this plan will allow for more terrasse space for restaurant and bar patrons to spread out if and when the provincial government allows those type of businesses to re-open.

When a reporter asked Plante if pulling back some of the regulations that limit drinking alcohol outside, the Mayor said that while alcohol regulations aren’t under municipal jurisdiction, it’s always good to think outside the box.

Caldwell stressed that the city took into account bus and truck delivery routes when planning this circuit. While admitting it will limit car travel with less space available to vehicles, both he and the mayor pointed out that there are fewer cars on the road already due to the pandemic.

Here’s the video the city released:

Quebec Premier François Legault is in Montreal today. Speaking alongside Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Quebec’s National Director for Public Health Horacio Arruda, Public Health Regional Director Mylène Drouin and Transport Minister François Bonnardel, he announced that Montreal-area schools won’t re-open until the fall.

Primary schools across Quebec, excluding the Greater Montreal Area, re-opened on Monday, with Montreal expected to follow on May 25th provided COVID-19 numbers were dropping on par with World Health Organization criteria for deconfinement. With over 20 000 people infected, they aren’t and Montreal has become Canada’s epicenter for the virus, so it will be late August and September before any schools re-open here.

Pushing re-opening back a few weeks only to close them when the school year ends mid-June would have made no sense according to Legault. Daycares that don’t run on the same school year may re-open June 1, provided Coronavirus containment conditions are met.

Non-essential retail businesses not located in malls or in malls with a separate street entrance in Montreal could possibly re-open on May 25th as planned. That date may, of course, be pushed back.

When they do re-open, though, there will inevitably be more people using public transit. Legault announced that Quebec will assist Montreal in providing masks for commuters, which Plante welcomed.

The Premier and his colleagues have been recommending people wear face coverings whenever they leave their home for a few days now, and in particular when they ride public transit. While they won’t rule out making masks mandatory on transit at some point in the future, we’re not there yet.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic due to the Corona virus aka COVID-19. Montreal is not only the epicenter of the outbreak in Quebec, but in all of Canada.

In a move that Montrealers have been begging for since Quebec Premier François Legault announced his harebrained idea of reopening the province on May 11, he has agreed to delay reopening schools and businesses in Montreal until May 25, 2020, and only if the situation here has improved. The decision was made in consultation with Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s National Director of Public Health.

Parents in Montreal can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as reopening too early would only lead to a resurgence of the disease that would overwhelm hospitals already overworked and rapidly reaching capacity. David McLeod told this reporter that if elementary schools did reopen in Montreal on May 19 as planned he and his wife would not be sending their son:

“If we did it would be a prison we would be sending him to, not a school. It is a place for people to park their kids.”

Wendy, a mother with diabetes, had also decided to keep her son at home, declaring that he is not a guinea pig for the government. She worries that her son would pass the virus on to her with fatal results.

Parents were not the only ones worried. Educators in Montreal, who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity, were deeply concerned about the health, sanitation, and logistical nightmare of reopening the schools and daycares.

“It takes the whole summer for administration to organize class kits and teacher schedules. It’s not as simple as putting a teacher in a room with 8-15 kids,” said an elementary school teacher. “The school buses usually have 60-80 kids and now they’ll be only 12 kids on one bus…will there be enough busses for everyone?”

She expressed concern that keeping a two meter distance from students would make it harder for teachers to help them, adding that the problem would be worse for kids with ADHD.

A Montreal high school teacher expressed concern that Legault’s plan lacked clarity. She countered the Premier’s claim of reopening the schools for students’ mental health by pointing out that kids have more freedom of movement if they stay home. She also says it’s still not clear whether teaching high school has to be face-to-face or if content can just be posted for students to look at at their own speed.

“Lucy” a daycare educator, told me her loved ones were terrified of her going back to work. The stress of staying clean and safe scares her too, comparing a return to work to “going to war with no gun”.

“Mary”, another daycare educator thinks even reopening Montreal on May 25th is ridiculous.

“You know there’s been an outbreak in a daycare, right?” she said, referring to the recent COVID-19 outbreak at a daycare in Montreal North. “We will be wearing visors at my daycare. Can you imagine a child coming in after months and meeting a monster with a blue face and visors? I don’t see how this will not be damaging to the child,” she said.

As a member of the immune-compromised in one of the hardest hit boroughs in Montreal I have my own worries about what reopening schools will mean for my personal safety. I live within walking distance of two elementary schools, one high school, and one school for students with special needs.

My chronic medical conditions put me on the “Most Likely to Die from COVID-19” list, thus making leaving my home incredibly unsafe until the virus is contained. Reopening the schools would make it more likely that I could fall victim to the pandemic, and with hospitals overcrowded, there’s no guarantee I’d get the help I need.

Even former Montreal Canadien Georges Laraque sees the absurdity of the Quebec government’s initial decision, and though he himself has COVID-19, he was live streaming about his experience in our health care system from his hospital room.

Some parents are calling the change of heart a lot more sensible. Others think Legault’s initial plan of reopening Montreal was a business-oriented decision that showed the lack common sense people have come to expect from his government.

Whatever the reason, Montreal can at least be thankful that common sense has prevailed and that active resistance works. We just have to be loud enough.

Schools and non-essential retail businesses across Quebec are re-opening today, except those in the Greater Montreal Area. While schools in the 514, 438 and 450 area codes are on track to re-open in two weeks, Montreal-area businesses will not re-open on May 11th as planned, but May 18th.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced during the government’s regular COVID-19 briefing today that he was pushing back re-opening Montreal because Montreal-area hospitals were getting crowded. He noted that there are still beds available in Quebec’s largest city and coronavirus epicenter, but not enough to re-open in a week.

This decision comes amid a rise in virus transmission in Montreal Nord. Legault said that there is not enough leeway in Montreal to deconfine as planned as there is in other regions of Quebec.

He also updated his original two world view. Now, Legault says there are three Quebecs: inside seniors’ residences, Montreal and everywhere else.

Re-opening the manufacturing and construction sectors are happening as planned, even in the Greater Montreal Area.

Quebec will be re-opening some parts of its economy during the month of May. The province, at this point, will not be relaxing social distancing rules imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic overall and will impose new regulations on businesses when the re-open.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced the plan in general at the government’s daily press briefing before passing it over to Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade with the details. So far there are three sectors re-opening:

  • Retail Stores: Retail businesses that are not located inside a shopping mall or businesses inside a mall but with a separate entrance will be allowed to open on May 4th across Quebec with the exception of the Greater Montreal Area and on May 11th in Montreal and its surroundings. Stores will remain closed on Sundays until May 31st.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing businesses across Quebec can open May 11th. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees working per day can re-open with full staff. Those with over 50 daily employees can open with 50 employees plus half the remaining staff. On May 25th, manufacturing businesses can open with full staff regardless of the size of the staff.
  • Construction: Construction businesses across Quebec can re-open May 11th.

Legault repeated remarks he made yesterday when talking about re-opening some schools as a justification for re-opening parts of the economy with COVID deaths and hospitalizations still on the rise. While situation is still dire in seniors’ residences, the population overall, excluding that sector, has been flattening the curve.

No word yet on when sit-down restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses where social distancing could prove difficult may re-open. The government did say that they will be making other announcements at later dates.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced that Quebec will be re-opening primary schools and childcare services across the province but excluding the Greater Montreal Area on May 11th and then in Montreal and the 450 area codes on May 19th. High schools and post-secondary education institutions will only re-open for in-person classes in the fall as most currently offer online courses.

In his daily press briefing on Quebec’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Legault stressed that attendance will be optional and urged children with health issues or children of parents with health issues to stay home. He also noted that this plan will only go into effect if Quebec’s Coronavirus numbers continue on their current trajectory.

In the past 24 hours, Quebec reported 23 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 84 new deaths and five fewer people in intensive care. Legault noted that most of the increase is happening in seniors’ residences, which is the focus of the province’s fight against the pandemic.

Legault said that it’s like we’re living in “two fifferent worlds” when comparing long-term care facilities to the rest of Quebec society. This is how the government is justifying opening up parts of society a bit.

Legault said that re-opening schools is for societal reasons as well as to prevent kids with learning disabilities from being away from their teachers for too long. The premier stressed that “heard immunity” wasn’t a principal reason behind the move.

Tomorrow Quebec will announce its timetable for re-opening businesses.

American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.

In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.

I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.

It’s in the Cards

All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.

These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.

In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.

Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.

It’s Really Quite Simple

With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.

When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.

When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.

It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.

What’s Covered and What’s Not

In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.

We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.

In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.

Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.

A Different Mindset

That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.

If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.

Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.

When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.

Featured image of a Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles 2017 by Molly Adams via Flickr Creative Commons

After years of pleading, debating and waiting, the Quebec Ministry of Health officially released the funds to open three supervised injection sites (SIS), as well as one mobile unit in Montreal. Two such sites are already in function in Vancouver, but it will be a first for Quebec.

Quebec will release $12 million over three years to three community centres in Montreal: Spectre de rue, CACTUS and Dopamine. One part of the money will help the centres prepare the locations and fulfill all the requirements to be granted an exemption from the law on drugs by the federal government.

The other part will be used for the launching and running of the sites’ operations. One mobile unit will also be providing services in a few boroughs. No official date is set for the opening of the facilities, but Le Devoir mentioned that it could be as soon as March 2017.

The project is far from new. In fact, six years have already passed since the Director of Public Health started pushing for the opening of SIS in Montreal. In June 2015, Mayor Coderre had announced his plan to go forward with the facilities, with or without Ottawa’s approval.

At the time, the provincial government decided to lend a hand. According to Lucie Charlebois, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Healthy Living, “we are now at the final step” of the process.

She told Radio-Canada that the work on installations and the hiring of medical staff was already on track. “That means we’re advancing quickly.” She commented that she discussed the matter with her federal counterpart, Jane Philpott: “she is very receptive towards it, but we have to fit certain criteria, that is clear.” Charlebois stated that she believes that getting the federal approval will be a formality.

Sandhia Vadlamudy, the director of CACTUS, told FTB by phone that this formality requires a lot of paperwork, but no problematic modifications.

Last year, CACTUS distributed 610 000 clean syringes in an effort to prevent transmission of infection, which is around 65% of distributed materials on the island, including those distributed in CLSCs and drugstores. With their supervised injection site finally going forward, they will be able to “add one more tool to prevent infections and overdoses.”

Some have argued that the government would do better to focus on treating drug addiction or even on cracking down on drug crime instead of improving the conditions of drug use. Vadlamudy doesn’t think that promoting abstinence and prohibition is sufficient.

“This approach is more based on pragmatism; which is to say drugs exist and people take them.”

She argued that SIS are beneficial for more than just drug users, highlighting that, within four years of operation,  SIS start saving money for the healthcare system by preventing overdoses and health deterioration in users.

It will also help reduce the number of intoxicated people and of used needles left on the streets “and thus improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.”

Slowly breaking the taboo

According to the Director of Public Health, there are 4000 regular users of injectable drugs in Montreal. People who use injectable drugs are 59 times more like to be infected with HIV. An average of 70 people die of drug overdoses every year in Montreal.

In the eyes of many, SIS remain a marginal, controversial option for desperate cases, when they are not a silly progressive scheme. But their growing popularity around the world and the expanding stack of evidence in their favour are now hard to ignore.

The first North American facility, Insite, opened in Vancouver 13 years ago.  In 2008, federal health minister Tony Clement called it “a failure of public policy, indeed of ethical judgment.” Just last spring, Toronto’s Police Association expressed firm opposition to the idea of opening SIS in their city.

“Insite is not a model we want to see replicated,” association president Mike McCormack said, fearing that SIS would attract crime and loitering and thinks that government money would be better spent on treatment options.

Insite handles 600 injections daily. Not one person has died of an overdose within its walls. According to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, there was a 35% decrease in overdose deaths in the area of forty blocks around the site. BC’s HIV and Hepatitis C infection rate went from the highest of the country to one of the lowest. More than thirty peer-reviewed papers were published about Insite’s beneficial impact.

Supervised rooms for drug consumption started popping up as a response to AIDS epidemics and the spike in overdoses in the eighties and nineties. There are now about 90 of them around the world.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction recently published a study in which they found overall that those sites increased safe and hygienic drug use and reduced risky behaviours. They also found that, contrary to Toronto’s Police Association’s concerns, there was no evidence that those sites increased drug related crime and violence in their vicinity.

*Featured image by Todd Huffman, WikiMedia Commons

Psymposia and the CSSDP are presenting Psychedelic Stories & 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day. It’s actually a two day gathering, which seeks to engender awareness about the medicinal properties of the Psilocybin Mushroom. By providing a space for sharing stories and for exploring and discussing new research on psychedelics the organizers hope to give a balanced view of what Psilocybin Mushrooms offer in terms of spirituality and healing. The itinerary looks fresh, educational and gully at the same time. I spoke with Gonzo Nieto, one of the curators of the event.

 

J: Tell me briefly about your curatorial aesthetic and what you hope to accomplish with the event…

G: With the event, we’re hoping to bring attention to the medicinal and spiritual effects and the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as to address and push back against the stigma that surrounds the mushroom and its use.

 

J: And as far as aesthetic is concerned?

G: Our lineup for the 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day is curated not only to educate about psilocybin mushrooms, but also to reflect the underlying message and meaning of the experience itself. The mushroom carries a message of wholeness, of movement toward our full human potential, so alongside presentations on psilocybin research we have a breathwork session, a yoga class, and a presentation on dream hacking.

 

W3rd, right!?! This event is gonna bang hard, I even heard Hamilton Morris from VICE might show up. The space is dope. The panels and talks are both academic and shamanistic. The vendors are talented af and, well, I’ll be there. Na’mean. Come through, get your photo taken, learn something. Hit me up, I’ll be outside during “Terrence McKenna Happy Hour” for sure…

Everyone knows the best parts of Spring are those sexy little flowing dresses that all the pretty girls wear. All that skin getting light shed on it for the first time in months. Long smooth legs glistening in the golden sun. Perfect arms, bulging cleavage, and sexy exposed shoulders causing car accidents.

Unless you have skin problems, then the horror of showing some skin can be very stressful and downright traumatic. Nobody wants to be the creepy flakey guy scratching and picking at his skin on the bus.

My name is Cat and I have chronic plaque psoriasis, it is an immune system related disease that is characterized by itchy red and scaly patches and dry crusty lesions on the body. It is not contagious.

My body grows skin cells up to 10 times faster than normal and cause the inflammation and plaque spots. Mine is moderate but still covering most of my body at the moment.

It is especially bad on my elbows, knees, behind my ears, on my butt, and scalp. It also effects my joints and is especially bad in the dry winter or when I’m stressed. It’s almost impossible to wear black without being covered in a snowstorm of skin flakes. My toe nails grow in thick and flakey. Yum, that’s attractive in a pair of cute sandals.

cat art skin
Cat McCarthy’s artwork about her skin

Why me? Why can’t I have smooth skin like all the other girls? Being scaly is just awful. For psoriasis sufferers social situations can be terrifying. It’s embarrassing to go swimming or even let your legs show on a hot day. Sex is often easier in the dark, less to explain.

You become tough when dealing with this skin imperfection. It makes life a little harder, but obviously not impossible. Much like acne and other skin diseases, psoriasis is socially taboo and not fully understood by the general population.

I have suffered from this most of my life. Even when it’s not terribly inflamed it’s still always there, taunting me. My grandmother had it, I always knew it was coming for me.

I am generally very comfortable in my skin. I love my fat rolls, every squishy bit of me is beautiful. I even don’t mind my stretch marks, I’ve earned them. But the lesions are really hard to deal with, especially when they take over intimate zones.

It’s hard to explain these nasty patches attacking your inner thighs and nipples. You make sure to keep your STD test results handy. It’s also terrible when it decides to go on your eyelids and face,there is no concealing that. You feel helpless and ugly.

The drugs on the market to help either contain harsh steroids or have grueling cancer causing side effects. Alcohol and smoking make it worse, small amounts of UV light make it better. Your body can react to treatment but usually becomes immune quickly and adapts, bringing you back to square one.

Even though I am more self conscious of my skin than any other part of me, I still choose to bare it all. I am a burlesque dancer, which means baring my skin for art. The bright lights can be unforgiving but most shows happen under the red glowing bar lights that make everyone look sexy.

Besides that, I regularly pose nude for figure drawing classes. Being 100% exposed in front of a group of students is so liberating. I have noticed that not one student has ever drawn my skin imperfections into their art. After close inspection they have added in my tattoos and got my hairstyle perfect but have not dealt with the skin issue.

I always wondered if they were just being nice. I think that beauty and art is more than skin deep. Nobody is perfect but everyone is absolutely flawless. I advocate feeling sexy no matter what and being proud of every nuance your body has.

cat psoriasis and no

Dermatologists can help some but usually don’t have the answers. I have found blogs from real people have helped me more. Diet, exercise , and getting enough sleep all have a positive effect on skin problems. More fruits and veggies, and whole grains help your immune system. Stay hydrated, use sun block, moisturize with natural coconut oil, relax in sea salt bath soaks, exfoliate, and get some vitamin D in your life. Self tanning lotions and some cover up can also help conceal the patches of yuck.

As far as fashion goes it is important to avoid dark, solid colors. Multicolored or patterned clothing helps to hide flakes. Soft cotton fabrics can feel more soothing than scratchier fabrics like wool or synthetics.

Do not hide behind your clothes, keep them loose and breathable. Sunshine helps. Tight fitting clothing can irritate your skin even more. I often opt for fishnets over bare legs, they offer some coverage without being too constricting.

It’s not your fault and your life and happiness does not need to suffer due to psoriasis. Take time to relax and de-stress, this will help every aspect of your life, including your skin.

The struggle is real. Be open and honest about your psoriasis. I am not ashamed of my body or my skin. I will not hide behind long sleeves and pants in the warm weather. I am proud of myself regardless of petty judgement.

I will take my clothes off shamelessly and make sure the world knows that having a skin disease does not make you less sexy. Don’t live in fear, it’s okay, we are in this together. Show that summer skin you sexy thing.