Governments across Canada withholding COVID-19 data to regulate public reaction to pandemic, says access-to-information advocate

VANCOUVER—Governments across Canada have been withholding COVID-19 data in an exercise of “paternalistic” information-hoarding likely meant to regulate public reaction to the pandemic, says an access-to-information advocate.Sean Holman, an access to information expert and journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said uproar in British Columbia Friday over revelations the provincial government was only releasing a fraction of its COVID-19 data to the public is just one example of such secrecy.“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Holman, who stressed B.C. is particularly notorious for withholding information. “But it really emphasizes the need for governments across Canada to provide more information to the general public about what’s going on during this public health disaster.”The B.C. government was quickly on the defensive Friday morning after a Vancouver Sun report showed how little of the data the province has collected is being released to the public. The paper had been leaked two reports from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, both over 45 pages long.They detailed COVID-19 data from the last week of April and showed how much of the information, such as local-level case counts and information related to age groups, is being withheld from the B.C. public. Meanwhile, similar data has been released publicly by other provinces such as Ontario.Information in Ontario about where cases are and how they are being transmitted is often released at both the provincial and local level, but other challenges exist, such as getting information about where the province is sending vaccine doses and how many.Last year, advocates complained of governments in Canada withholding information about how many ventilators the country had and where a new shipment of masks was manufactured, among other unanswered questions. “Canadians, as a whole, should be outraged that fellow Canadians are being infantilized in this way,” Holman said. Withholding information, such as in what neighbourhoods or work environments outbreaks are occurring, limits the ability of people to protect themselves, he said.It also assumes the public isn’t mature or responsible enough to use information responsibly.Friday afternoon B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and her deputy Dr. Réka Gustafson took questions from the media about the leak and why data was being withheld. Henry defended the approach to releasing information and described the reports leaked to media as “working copies” of data.“The vast majority of what’s in those is released in various forms on a weekly basis,” she said.But the B.C. press corps didn’t seem satisfied with the explanation. Reporters took issue with Henry’s assertion the information is available and peppered the two doctors with questions about why it isn’t accessible as other provinces make it easy to access.One journalist said he’d been trying for two weeks to get an answer to a question about whether case counts for community health service areas are gathered each week.Infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the faculty of information at the University of Toronto, Colin Furness, said more transparency is generally better when educating the public about infectious diseases.Furness said if people understand the reasons why health officials are taking their decisions, they are more likely comply with regulations meant to protect them. It can also help people protect themselves.“You can tell people what to do and they’ll understand what you’re saying, but if you tell them why, they understand what you mean,” Furness said. “It’s a very big difference.” Using privacy unjustly as a shield and being opaque can lead to a lack of trust in officials, he said. Concerns about stigmatizing neighbourhoods or causing panic should be addressed through education. But, he added, you can’t simply dump data for the public to pick through and it needs to be put into context, so it make sense to people. Back in Calgary, Holman said governments know having information means they have a certain amount of control of the situation, giving them an advantage in public relations.“If they have more information than the public then they can be more certain and have more control over the reactions of the public,” he said. “That’s what’s going on.”Jeremy Nuttall is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports

Governments across Canada withholding COVID-19 data to regulate public reaction to pandemic, says access-to-information advocate

VANCOUVER—Governments across Canada have been withholding COVID-19 data in an exercise of “paternalistic” information-hoarding likely meant to regulate public reaction to the pandemic, says an access-to-information advocate.

Sean Holman, an access to information expert and journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said uproar in British Columbia Friday over revelations the provincial government was only releasing a fraction of its COVID-19 data to the public is just one example of such secrecy.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Holman, who stressed B.C. is particularly notorious for withholding information. “But it really emphasizes the need for governments across Canada to provide more information to the general public about what’s going on during this public health disaster.”

The B.C. government was quickly on the defensive Friday morning after a Vancouver Sun report showed how little of the data the province has collected is being released to the public. The paper had been leaked two reports from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, both over 45 pages long.

They detailed COVID-19 data from the last week of April and showed how much of the information, such as local-level case counts and information related to age groups, is being withheld from the B.C. public. Meanwhile, similar data has been released publicly by other provinces such as Ontario.

Information in Ontario about where cases are and how they are being transmitted is often released at both the provincial and local level, but other challenges exist, such as getting information about where the province is sending vaccine doses and how many.

Last year, advocates complained of governments in Canada withholding information about how many ventilators the country had and where a new shipment of masks was manufactured, among other unanswered questions.

“Canadians, as a whole, should be outraged that fellow Canadians are being infantilized in this way,” Holman said.

Withholding information, such as in what neighbourhoods or work environments outbreaks are occurring, limits the ability of people to protect themselves, he said.

It also assumes the public isn’t mature or responsible enough to use information responsibly.

Friday afternoon B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and her deputy Dr. Réka Gustafson took questions from the media about the leak and why data was being withheld.

Henry defended the approach to releasing information and described the reports leaked to media as “working copies” of data.

“The vast majority of what’s in those is released in various forms on a weekly basis,” she said.

But the B.C. press corps didn’t seem satisfied with the explanation. Reporters took issue with Henry’s assertion the information is available and peppered the two doctors with questions about why it isn’t accessible as other provinces make it easy to access.

One journalist said he’d been trying for two weeks to get an answer to a question about whether case counts for community health service areas are gathered each week.

Infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the faculty of information at the University of Toronto, Colin Furness, said more transparency is generally better when educating the public about infectious diseases.

Furness said if people understand the reasons why health officials are taking their decisions, they are more likely comply with regulations meant to protect them. It can also help people protect themselves.

“You can tell people what to do and they’ll understand what you’re saying, but if you tell them why, they understand what you mean,” Furness said. “It’s a very big difference.”

Using privacy unjustly as a shield and being opaque can lead to a lack of trust in officials, he said. Concerns about stigmatizing neighbourhoods or causing panic should be addressed through education.

But, he added, you can’t simply dump data for the public to pick through and it needs to be put into context, so it make sense to people.

Back in Calgary, Holman said governments know having information means they have a certain amount of control of the situation, giving them an advantage in public relations.

“If they have more information than the public then they can be more certain and have more control over the reactions of the public,” he said. “That’s what’s going on.”

Jeremy Nuttall is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Mississauga woman pleaded for her attacker to stop before she was shot and left for dead, court hears

While on a 9-1-1 call for help, Alicia Lewandowski was heard pleading for her attacker to stop minutes before she was found shot and lying face down in the parking lot of her mother’s Mississauga townhouse complex, a Peel police officer testified Friday.Lewandowski was “in distress, out of breath and crying,” Const. Todd Chapman told a Brampton court of the information he was provided by the dispatcher as he raced to the address at Rathburn Road and Dixie Road.“The female was saying, ‘what are you doing, stop it,” Chapman said. “She even stated that she had been shot in the head.“She said she didn’t know if she was dead or alive,” Chapman recalls of the information he was given before arriving at the scene where Lewandowski was left to die. “She said she’s bleeding from the head and she said that her boyfriend was Joseph Chang and that the police are looking for him.”Before the call ended, Lewandowski told the dispatcher that “he’s trying to hide his gun,” Chapman recalls.Chapman’s account of the emergency call that came in around 5:02 a.m. on March 5, 2018, came Friday, day five of the first-degree murder trial of Joseph Chang, who’s accused of the shooting death of his then girlfriend, Lewandowski, 25.Chapman, who was sitting in his cruiser at the time, called for backup and made his way to the scene, arriving about six minutes after the call came in.Const. Adam Callan was among the first Peel officers to arrive at the housing complex, to find Lewandowski’s motionless body next to shards of broken glass and a cellphone in the parking lot adjacent to the Rathburn Road East house where she lived with her mother, Mira Lewandowski. “We rolled her over, to check on further medical status and her condition,” Chapman said. “We determined that she wasn’t breathing.”The officers quickly started CPR to revive Lewandowski, whose hair and head was bloodied. Moments later, the victim’s frantic mother rushed to the scene, asking officers if her daughter was shot, but police refused to let her near. Chapman later told Mira that her daughter had died.The trial, conducted via Zoom video conference before Ontario Superior Court Justice Jennifer Woollcombe, also heard how on March 3, just days before the shooting, firefighters had gone to Chang’s 23rd-floor midtown Toronto condo to respond to calls of flooding in the unit.Once inside the Balliol Street apartment, fire crews found a chaotic scene, with drugs and drug paraphernalia “all over the place,” as well as dozens of hypodermic needles floating in the pool of water gushing from a broken sprinkler head, Toronto firefighter Martin Suchma said.Even more bizarre to Suchma was that Chang, who was inside the chaotic unit, was scarcely responding to the crews commands to exit it.“He sort of just carried about his business,” Suchma said. “Effectively, saw that we were there, but kind of ignored us.”A seemingly confused and scarcely responsive Chang, who noted that he needed his keys, shuffled around the apartment before eventually following orders to leave.In his cross-examination of Suchma, Chang’s defence lawyer Randall Barrs honed in on his client’s seamingly bizarre state at the time. The trial has already heard testimony from neighbours at Lewandowski’s complex, who recall hearing four loud bangs the morning she was shot, followed by a woman screaming out and a dark vehicle leaving the scene.Lewandowski, a Humber College student, who was studying esthetics and spa management, was shot at least three times, including once to the chest and once to the head, when she called police.Video captured a dark-coloured vehicle entering the complex at 4:58 a.m., before exiting four minutes later.Lewandowski was pronounced dead at the scene. Police found three live rounds on the pavement of the parking lot.Her boyfriend, Chang, then 39, was arrested in Toronto about 14 hours later and charged with first-degree murder.He has pleaded not guilty.Alicia’s mother, Mira Lewandowski has told the court that Chang and her daughter had a “volatile” relationship and she tried unsuccessfully to keep her daughter away from the accused, and that, by 2017, she had become increasingly concerned after it became clear that the couple were drug addicts.Court has seen photographs of a black 2010 Infiniti G37S car, a handgun and two magazines seized by police.Investigators found several items in the car, including a purse and a wallet containing several items, including a health card belonging to the victim, and bail documents belonging to the accused.Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Mississauga woman pleaded for her attacker to stop before she was shot and left for dead, court hears

While on a 9-1-1 call for help, Alicia Lewandowski was heard pleading for her attacker to stop minutes before she was found shot and lying face down in the parking lot of her mother’s Mississauga townhouse complex, a Peel police officer testified Friday.

Lewandowski was “in distress, out of breath and crying,” Const. Todd Chapman told a Brampton court of the information he was provided by the dispatcher as he raced to the address at Rathburn Road and Dixie Road.

“The female was saying, ‘what are you doing, stop it,” Chapman said. “She even stated that she had been shot in the head.

“She said she didn’t know if she was dead or alive,” Chapman recalls of the information he was given before arriving at the scene where Lewandowski was left to die. “She said she’s bleeding from the head and she said that her boyfriend was Joseph Chang and that the police are looking for him.”

Before the call ended, Lewandowski told the dispatcher that “he’s trying to hide his gun,” Chapman recalls.

Chapman’s account of the emergency call that came in around 5:02 a.m. on March 5, 2018, came Friday, day five of the first-degree murder trial of Joseph Chang, who’s accused of the shooting death of his then girlfriend, Lewandowski, 25.

Chapman, who was sitting in his cruiser at the time, called for backup and made his way to the scene, arriving about six minutes after the call came in.

Const. Adam Callan was among the first Peel officers to arrive at the housing complex, to find Lewandowski’s motionless body next to shards of broken glass and a cellphone in the parking lot adjacent to the Rathburn Road East house where she lived with her mother, Mira Lewandowski.

“We rolled her over, to check on further medical status and her condition,” Chapman said. “We determined that she wasn’t breathing.”

The officers quickly started CPR to revive Lewandowski, whose hair and head was bloodied. Moments later, the victim’s frantic mother rushed to the scene, asking officers if her daughter was shot, but police refused to let her near. Chapman later told Mira that her daughter had died.

The trial, conducted via Zoom video conference before Ontario Superior Court Justice Jennifer Woollcombe, also heard how on March 3, just days before the shooting, firefighters had gone to Chang’s 23rd-floor midtown Toronto condo to respond to calls of flooding in the unit.

Once inside the Balliol Street apartment, fire crews found a chaotic scene, with drugs and drug paraphernalia “all over the place,” as well as dozens of hypodermic needles floating in the pool of water gushing from a broken sprinkler head, Toronto firefighter Martin Suchma said.

Even more bizarre to Suchma was that Chang, who was inside the chaotic unit, was scarcely responding to the crews commands to exit it.

“He sort of just carried about his business,” Suchma said. “Effectively, saw that we were there, but kind of ignored us.”

A seemingly confused and scarcely responsive Chang, who noted that he needed his keys, shuffled around the apartment before eventually following orders to leave.

In his cross-examination of Suchma, Chang’s defence lawyer Randall Barrs honed in on his client’s seamingly bizarre state at the time.

The trial has already heard testimony from neighbours at Lewandowski’s complex, who recall hearing four loud bangs the morning she was shot, followed by a woman screaming out and a dark vehicle leaving the scene.

Lewandowski, a Humber College student, who was studying esthetics and spa management, was shot at least three times, including once to the chest and once to the head, when she called police.

Video captured a dark-coloured vehicle entering the complex at 4:58 a.m., before exiting four minutes later.

Lewandowski was pronounced dead at the scene. Police found three live rounds on the pavement of the parking lot.

Her boyfriend, Chang, then 39, was arrested in Toronto about 14 hours later and charged with first-degree murder.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Alicia’s mother, Mira Lewandowski has told the court that Chang and her daughter had a “volatile” relationship and she tried unsuccessfully to keep her daughter away from the accused, and that, by 2017, she had become increasingly concerned after it became clear that the couple were drug addicts.

Court has seen photographs of a black 2010 Infiniti G37S car, a handgun and two magazines seized by police.

Investigators found several items in the car, including a purse and a wallet containing several items, including a health card belonging to the victim, and bail documents belonging to the accused.

Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Source : Toronto Star More   

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