COVID-19 'Pandemic'

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Illinois businessman convicted of price-gouging N95 masks early in pandemic
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Jul 02, 2023 • 1 minute read

CHICAGO — A Illinois businessman has been convicted of price-gouging in connection with the sale of N95 masks during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Krikor Topouzian, 62, of Winnetka, was convicted Thursday in federal court in Chicago following a bench trial, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He could face up to a year in prison when he’s sentenced Oct. 10.


Topouzian owned a health supply company in Skokie, Illinois, according to prosecutors. He purchased about 80,000 N95 masks in March and April of 2020 for about $5 per mask and then sold them for about $20 per mask, prosecutors said. He boasted about making as much as $80,000 per day and $1 million in a matter of weeks, prosecutors said.

The masks has been labeled “scarce materials” during the pandemic as part of the Defense Production Act.

Topouzian’s attorneys, listed in online court records as Thomas More Leinenweber and Matthew John McQuaid, didn’t immediately respond to an email Sunday seeking comment on the case.
 
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Florida family accused of selling bleach as COVID-19 cure goes on trial
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Jul 17, 2023 • 1 minute read
The Genesis II Church of Healing placed consumers at risk “by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products”
The Genesis II Church of Healing placed consumers at risk “by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products,” the FDA. said. PHOTO BY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
MIAMI — A Florida family accused of selling a toxic industrial bleach as a fake COVID-19 cure through their online church is on trial this week in Miami.


Mark Grenon, 65, and his sons, 37-year-old Jonathan, 35-year-old Joseph and 29-year-old Jordan, are all charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and deliver misbranded drugs, according to court records.


The Grenons are representing themselves but declined to make opening statements as the trial began Monday, the Miami Herald reported. They have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors called the Grenons “con men” and “snake-oil salesmen” and said the Bradenton family’s Genesis II Church of Health and Healing sold $1 million worth of their so-called Miracle Mineral Solution. In videos, it was pitched as a purported cure for 95% of known diseases, including COVID-19, Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis, prosecutors said.


What the Grenons were selling was actually chlorine dioxide, officials said. When ingested, the solution becomes a bleach that is typically used for such things as treating textiles, industrial water, pulp and paper, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Authorities said it is the same as drinking bleach and can be fatal.

A Miami federal judge ordered the church to stop selling the substance in 2020, but that was ignored.

Jonathan and Jordan Grenon were arrested in Bradenton, just south of the Tampa Bay area. Mark and Joseph Grenon fled to Colombia, where they were arrested and extradited back to the U.S.
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Senator’s convoy rant breached ethics code, watchdog says apology not sufficient
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Dylan Robertson
Published Jul 18, 2023 • 4 minute read

OTTAWA — The Senate ethics watchdog has found Conservative Sen. Michael MacDonald violated the code of conduct with a colourful rant during the “Freedom Convoy” protest last year, and a refusal to comply with an investigation into his actions.


The Nova Scotia senator was caught on video in February 2022 castigating downtown Ottawa residents who complained about the weeks-long demonstrations against COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions and the Liberal government.


In the video, MacDonald described the residents as overpaid and underworked.

“It’s everybody’s f—ing city, this is the capital of the country. It’s not your goddamned city just because you have a six-figure salary and you work 20 hours a week. You haven’t worked a full week in two years. It’s sickening,” MacDonald says in the recording.

In the video, MacDonald refers to his wife as “a Karen” — a derogatory term for a self-entitled woman — for opposing the protests. Despite police ordering protesters to clear the scene, MacDonald adds that “I don’t want them to leave.”


MacDonald apologized for his remarks in the Senate last February. He told media and Senate ethics officer Pierre Legault he had been drinking that evening. In the recording, MacDonald is heard asking that he not be recorded, and the videographer falsely claims he is not on tape.

The watchdog has ruled MacDonald breached six sections of the code that governs senators, leaving a “significant impact” on the institution.

“Senators are expected to represent Canadians, not denigrate, mock and demean them, while encouraging illegal activities at a time when a state of emergency had been declared,” Legault wrote in a report released Tuesday.

He said the senator’s request to not be filmed showed “an intentional failure to exercise dignified reserve and restraint.”


Legault has ruled that MacDonald’s comments broke rules that senators “uphold the highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of Senator” and “refrain from acting in a way that could reflect adversely on the position of Senator or the institution of the Senate.”

The investigation began when nine of MacDonald’s peers submitted complaints. The senator acknowledged that he’d fallen short, welcoming Legault’s guidance on how to rectify the situation.

The watchdog asked MacDonald to undertake three actions, two of which he followed: an apology in the chamber that would also be posted on social media.

The third proposed action was to have MacDonald note to his colleagues that his conduct could merit a censure, which is a formal expression of the Senate’s disapproval of something.


The report quotes MacDonald as rejecting that measure, writing that “there was nothing significant about ‘(his) conduct,”‘ as he did not break any laws, act aggressively or misuse Senate resources. “This is definitely not an ethical issue,” MacDonald is quoted as having written.

His lawyer claimed that the request violated the special rights held by senators and MPs, known as parliamentary privilege, as well as the independence of the Senate. In a letter to the ethics office, the lawyer called it “an insidiously coercive example of compelled speech.”

Legault, MacDonald and his lawyer exchanged a series of letters for more than a year, with the senator rejecting to answer a list of detailed questions he deemed to be irrelevant and matters of “partisan debate” that raised “highly controversial public policy matters.”


The senator was particularly upset at the watchdog asking whom he had dined with before he made his comments. Legault said that information may have been relevant to determining who had witnessed the exchange with the person who filmed the remarks, and whether the senator was conducting parliamentary duties at the time.

MacDonald eventually sought to have a Senate committee take up the issue, which the office said would undermine the investigation process, which is supposed to be kept confidential and free of political interference.

“His lack of co-operation was a flagrant disregard for the process outlined under the code and that has been duly adopted by the Senate, Legault wrote.

He said MacDonald should have shown “true remorse” for his comments by telling his peers they could issue a censure.


Legault found MacDonald further undermined the code’s requirement to act “with dignity, honour and integrity” while undertaking parliamentary duties, because of his repeated refusal to comply with the investigation. For that reason, the officer is now recommending “sanctions of penalties by the Senate” against MacDonald.

“His conduct in this respect was so egregious that there are no measures that would remedy the harm that his actions have caused to the office of senator and the institution of the Senate,” the ethics officer wrote.

“This is the first time a senator has not only refused to respect and comply with the inquiry process under the Code but has also argued for and attempted to follow a process that he himself has designed for his own inquiry.”

The Senate’s conflict-of-interest committee will receive the report and may arrange hearings on the matter, although the Senate is adjourned until Sept. 19.

In an email sent Tuesday, MacDonald said he would discuss the report with that committee. “Out of respect for the process, I won’t be commenting further at this time.”

MacDonald has been a senator since he was appointed on the advice of former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2009.
 
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4 members of a Florida family convicted of selling bleach as COVID-19 cure
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Jul 19, 2023 • 1 minute read

MIAMI — Four members of a Florida family were convicted Wednesday of selling a toxic industrial bleach as a fake COVID-19 cure through their online church.


A federal jury in Miami found Mark Grenon, 65, and his sons, 37-year-old Jonathan, 35-year-old Joseph and 29-year-old Jordan, guilty of conspiring to defraud the United States and deliver misbranded drugs, according to court records. That charge carries up to five years in prison. Their sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 6.


The Grenons represented themselves but declined to speak during the two-day trial, the Miami Herald reported. After the jury delivered its verdict, Joseph Grenon said they would be appealing.

Prosecutors called the Grenons “con men” and “snake-oil salesmen” and said the Bradenton family’s Genesis II Church of Health and Healing sold $1 million worth of their so-called Miracle Mineral Solution. In videos, it was pitched as a cure for 95% of known diseases, including COVID-19, Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis, prosecutors said.


What the Grenons were selling was actually chlorine dioxide, officials said. When ingested, the solution becomes a bleach that is typically used for such things as treating textiles, industrial water, pulp and paper, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Authorities said it is the same as drinking bleach and can be fatal.

A Miami federal judge ordered the church to stop selling the substance in 2020, but that was ignored.

Jonathan and Jordan Grenon were arrested in Bradenton, just south of the Tampa Bay area. Mark and Joseph Grenon fled to Colombia, where they were arrested and extradited back to the U.S.

Besides the fraud convictions, Jonathan and Jordan Grenon were also convicted of violating federal court orders requiring them to stop selling Miracle Mineral Solution in 2020. U.S. authorities agreed to drop those same contempt charges against Mark and Joseph Grenon as a condition of their extradition from Colombia.
 

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My old activist pal Bobby Kennedy, Jr.'s lost to madness
Some of the things that he has said aren't just wrong, they are intrinsically evil

Author of the article:Warren Kinsella
Published Jul 20, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 3 minute read

A few years back, this writer was part of an effort to sue the tobacco companies. I had promised my dad — on his deathbed, as lung cancer claimed him — that I would do that.


So there I was, at Pace University in New York State, talking to Bobby Kennedy, Jr. A group of us — some experienced American and Canadian litigators, mainly — had formed a partnership to take on Big Tobacco. And Bobby, as we called him, would be one of our leaders. He hated big tobacco like we did.


He was all Kennedy, back then: Squared jaw, undeniably handsome, fit, literally glowing charisma. He was the centre of every room he walked into.

We were waiting for someone to arrive, Bobby and I, and I was fiddling around with my little camcorder, and I asked him to say he’d vote Liberal if he was Canadian. Bobby looked into the camera and laughed and said, “Vote Liberal.” It’s still on YouTube somewhere.


Something bad happened after that, around 2012. I had a harder time reaching him on the phone, and his assistant intimated that something was wrong. I suspected it had something to do with the news, which was everywhere – namely, his wife, who he had decided to divorce, was found hanging in their barn.


We started to hear the stories. They started quietly, but — to some of us — they were shocking nonetheless. Bobby stopped speaking out against Big Tobacco and big polluters, and he started speaking out about vaccines. Vaccines?

His downward descent into dark conspiracy theories and outright lies has been well documented. He’s a Kennedy, after all, and now he’s even a presidential candidate. Some polls show that 20% of Democrats prefer him over President Joe Biden.



Some of the things that he has said aren’t just wrong, they are intrinsically evil. Such as that anti-depressants are to blame for school shootings. That chemicals in the water can make children transgender. That AIDS may not be caused by HIV.


A few days ago, he went even further. A few days ago, he was revealed to have said that COVID had been engineered to be “ethnically targeted” so the Jews (and Chinese) would get it far less. They’d been “spared,” he said.

All of this madness has resulted in him being routinely condemned by the Democratic establishment, of course, but also by members of his own family. His anti-Semitic blood libel, in particular, obliged his own sister, Kerry Kennedy, to say his words were “deplorable and untruthful.” His brother, Joseph Kennedy, said he was “morally and factually wrong.”

I’d like to say that what happened to Bobby Kennedy Jr. is simply attributable to finding his wife at the end of a rope in their barn. That would be a simple explanation. But, if you work in politics long enough, you inevitably lose a friend or two in the way that we lost Bobby. Something that is small becomes bigger, and then a fixation, and then the fixation takes over their life. And then they’re gone.


It happens. Senior Liberal cabinet minister Paul Hellyer believed in UFOs. Donald Trump said you could inject yourself with bleach and maybe kill the COVID virus. Hunter Biden’s laptop, Obama’s “real” birthplace, Jeffrey Epstein, who really killed JFK, and so on. There’s always been conspiracy nuts and lunatics buzzing around politics. Most of the time, we just swap them away like flies.

But then, sometimes, you get someone you used to know and admire who actually loses their mind. Someone like Bobby Kennedy.

In closing: I’ve still got a photo Bobby gave me. It’s of a younger him, sitting on his dad’s shoulder. They’re both saluting, and there is no mistaking who they are. On it, Bobby wrote: “Warren! See you on the barricades.”

I may well be on a barricade, somewhere, again, one day. Maybe.

But I sure as hell won’t be standing beside Bobby Kennedy Jr.
 

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Quarantine hotel costs hit $339 million and counting, report says
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Jul 25, 2023 • 1 minute read

Canadian taxpayers have shelled out $338.7 million so far on quarantine hotels expenses.


That works out to more than $17,000 for every traveller who isolated at a hotel for 72 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.


Meals, security, traveller support and transportation were also provided to people who were quarantined.

“A total of 22,188 travellers were quarantined or isolated at designated quarantine facilities between March 22, 2020 and September 30, 2022,” said a Department of Health briefing note dated June 19.

The final cost is still unknown as “accounting continues given the program was recently cancelled,” the briefing said.

The Quarantine Act policy was ended by the federal government last October, which required cross-border travellers arriving in Canada without proof they were COVID-free to stay at one of 38 designated hotels for three days.


“Upon the elimination of the border measures on October 1, 2022 the Public Health Agency was managing 17 designated quarantine facilities and had access to rooms in one provincial site with a total room capacity of 1,465 rooms for travellers in 14 cities across Canada.”

The cost of quarantine hotels in 2021 were $225.6 million, according to budget documents by the Public Health Agency.
 

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Low Earth Orbit
Quarantine hotel costs hit $339 million and counting, report says
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Jul 25, 2023 • 1 minute read

Canadian taxpayers have shelled out $338.7 million so far on quarantine hotels expenses.


That works out to more than $17,000 for every traveller who isolated at a hotel for 72 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.


Meals, security, traveller support and transportation were also provided to people who were quarantined.

“A total of 22,188 travellers were quarantined or isolated at designated quarantine facilities between March 22, 2020 and September 30, 2022,” said a Department of Health briefing note dated June 19.

The final cost is still unknown as “accounting continues given the program was recently cancelled,” the briefing said.

The Quarantine Act policy was ended by the federal government last October, which required cross-border travellers arriving in Canada without proof they were COVID-free to stay at one of 38 designated hotels for three days.


“Upon the elimination of the border measures on October 1, 2022 the Public Health Agency was managing 17 designated quarantine facilities and had access to rooms in one provincial site with a total room capacity of 1,465 rooms for travellers in 14 cities across Canada.”

The cost of quarantine hotels in 2021 were $225.6 million, according to budget documents by the Public Health Agency.
Did it prevent any deaths? Out of 22188 how many devolped covid within 72hrs?
 

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Health Canada doesn't discount COVID-19 lab leak theory: Report
Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Jul 26, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 1 minute read

Health Canada is not discounting the theory that COVID-19 emerged from a laboratory in China.


The coronavirus may have started in a “laboratory incident” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but without access to further information about its origins the exact cause is unknown, the department said in a briefing, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.


“To address the lab hypothesis it is important to have access to all data and consider scientific best practice,” said a June 19 departmental briefing note titled Origin Of The COVID-19 Pandemic. “The precise origin of COVID-19 remains unknown.”

According to Chinese officials, the virus was passed by infected mammals to humans at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

“Plausible options include a domestic animal, a wild animal or a domesticated wild animal,” said the briefing.


This is the first time Canada’s health department has acknowledged other possibilities on the origins of the virus.

“There are currently four hypotheses regarding the pathway of emergence including direct zoonotic transmission or a spillover event, introduction through an intermediate host followed by zoonotic transmission or spillover, introduction through the food chain or introduction through a laboratory incident,” said the note.

In April 2020, then-Health Minister Hadju told reporters it was ridiculous to speculate that the virus leaked out of a lab.



A reporter asked if China can be trusted to provide accurate information.

“Your question is feeding into the conspiracy theories that many people have been perpetuating on the internet,” replied Hajdu. “It’s important to remember there is no way to beat a global pandemic if we’re not willing to work together as a globe.”

According to Health Canada, more than 53,000 people died of COVID-19.

 

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Federal government struggling to get rid of millions of extra COVID-19 rapid tests
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Laura Osman
Published Jul 29, 2023 • 3 minute read

OTTAWA — The federal government is sitting on a stockpile of 39 million extra rapid tests for COVID-19 and is struggling to get rid of them without chucking them in the trash, an internal Health Canada memo shows.


As the Omicron variant of the virus began to tear across Canada at the end of 2021, the government rapidly bought up rapid antigen tests, distributing most of them to the provinces so people could swab themselves for the virus at home.


Now that far fewer people are subjecting themselves to the brain-tickling sensation of a COVID-19 test outside of hospitals and other health-care settings, the government appears to have more than it knows what to do with.

“Acknowledging the volumes of tests in play and the challenge of divesting such quantity over a time-bound period, it is expected that disposal of expired tests would be required,” staff wrote to Health Canada’s deputy minister in a memo signed March 25.

The memo was obtained through federal access-to-information laws.


Rapid tests were considered both important and valuable in early 2022, as regular test capacity was reserved only for certain cases in most provinces. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada has spent roughly $5 billion on rapid tests.

Even after the initial rise in Omicron infections settled down, the government continued to accumulate tests in case the country was hit with another large wave of infections.

That wave never came, and as public health restrictions were gradually lifted, the government found itself with a stockpile of some 93 million tests as of March 21.

By July 25, the store of tests was still sitting at over 90 million, Health Canada said in a statement.

Provinces and territories now have enough supply of their own to give eight tests to each Canadian. The federal health department plans to keep up to 55 million in reserve to prepare for the next emergency, which leaves 39 million extra as of the end of March.


Staff suggested several means of off-loading the tests, but each comes with its own challenges. The largest obstacle is their short shelf life — they usually only last one or two years.

“In practice, offering tests with less than eight to 12 months of shelf life may present challenges,” the memo says, though the specific reasons for that are redacted.

So far no tests have been binned, though the department says 2.1 million tests are either damaged, expired or considered “non-compliant” and can’t be distributed.

Another 38,722 are expected to perish in August and September, the memo shows. Most tests will expire in 2024.

The department recommended shipping the tests abroad to countries that need them, or even potentially paying the manufacturers to take the tests back.


To date, neither of those things has happened.

In a written statement, Health Canada said some tests are being donated to non-profits, public institutions and charities through GCDonate, a part of the government’s online surplus site.

They’re are also being shared among government departments for employee testing programs.

“The Government of Canada has also been actively engaging with the World Health Organization, the Canadian Red Cross, other non-governmental organizations and private foundations to better understand global demand and explore the feasibility of international donation opportunities,” the department said in the statement.

“Financially and environmentally sound disposal will be considered only when all deployment and divestment options have been exhausted, and tests are ineligible for distribution.”

In the memo, staff said they plan to come up for a plan to start disposing of unused tests for the deputy minister’s approval.
 

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Federal lab confirms deer-to-human COVID transmission in Ontario: Report
Believed to be Canada’s first known case of this type of transmission

Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Aug 03, 2023 • 1 minute read

One “rare” case of COVID-19 transmission from a deer to a human has happened in Ontario, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.


A federal lab confirmed Canada’s first known case of this type of transmission, said a March 23 government memo, which only said that it happened in an undisclosed location in Ontario.



“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is aware of one person from Ontario who was infected in the fall of 2021 with a COVID-19 virus that is genetically similar to the virus found in the same region,” said the memo.

“After reviewing the available data, the National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, has confirmed that the human case is most likely a rare example of deer-to-human transmission. There is no sign of additional human infections from the human case.”

Back on March 2, Dalhousie University said a research team “discovered what could be the first link between a case of COVID-19 in deer and humans,” but it was not peer reviewed.

The agency said wild white-tailed deer were known to be infected with COVID through a big-game registration station in southern Quebec.

Other cases were found in wild deer populations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
 

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Nose-picking health workers more likely to catch COVID: Study
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published Aug 04, 2023 • 1 minute read

If you happen to pick your nose, here’s another reason why you should stop.


A new study found that nose-pickers have a greater chance of catching COVID-19.


The study, published in PLOS One, looked at infection rates of the coronavirus in 219 health-care workers at an Amsterdam hospital between March and October 2020.



Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam found that COVID infections were more common among those who picked their noses, compared to those who didn’t.

About 17.3% of the pickers tested positive compared to 5.9% of workers who did not pick.

“We, therefore, recommend health-care facilities to create more awareness, e.g. by educational sessions or implementing recommendations against nose-picking in infection prevention guidelines,” the authors said in the study.


Habits such as nose-picking and nail-biting in environments with high levels of a circulating virus or viruses expedite the viral transfer to the nasal or oral mucosa (or the inside of the mouth, including lips and cheeks) and transfer germs to the mucosa inside the nose, the researchers found.

The majority (85%) of participants admitted they unconsciously picked their nose with more men and younger people doing the picking.

The study found that doctors were the highest among medical staffers who reported picking their noses followed by support staff, then nurses.

The researchers said that they did not find a link between contracting SARS-CoV-2 with nail-biting or those who grew a beard or wore glasses.

The study authors also pointed out that nose-picking has not previously been reported as a risk factor for contracting COVID.

“Our findings highlight the importance of the nasal cavity as a main transit port for SARS-CoV-2,” the study noted.

“Nose-picking may facilitate viral entry by directly introducing virus particles present on the hands to the nose, thus facilitating infection.”
 

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Feds say chasing down CERB cheats would be 'undue burden'
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Aug 22, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read
Recovering $2 billion from job-quitting CERB cheats would be an “undue burden” for investigators, says a federal memo.
CERB cheques.
Recovering $2 billion from job-quitting cheats who stole from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program would be an “undue burden” for investigators, says a federal memo.


More than 190,000 claimants quit work to take a “CERB vacation,” according to Blacklock’s Reporter.


“Due to the subjective nature of the criteria, the difficulty of proving eligibility after the fact and undue burden that investigation would create, Service Canada will apply a risk managed approach to these cases,” the Department of Employment wrote in a February 7 briefing memo.

Figures show 190,254 people quit their jobs to claim $2,000 monthly pandemic relief cheques.

Payments to quitters totalled $1.6 billion, said the briefing note.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act was passed in 2020 to save jobless taxpayers from eviction.

“We have had numerous reports from clients and friends where former employees prefer to be on a CERB vacation rather than returning to work,” Kim Moody, CEO of Moodys Tax Law LLP of Calgary, testified at 2020 hearings of the Commons human resources committee. “We are seeing and experiencing this, especially with part-time employees.”


The Department of Employment said it tightened criteria and promised to recover undeserved payments.

“There will be the possibility for the government after the fact, if there is some suspicion an application has been made mistakenly or with intent to defraud the government, we can go back and ask the individual to explain how they were eligible,” Elisha Ram, associate assistant deputy minister, testified at 2020 committee hearings.

Parliament budgeted $24 billion for the program.

Final costs totalled $81.6 billion and auditors haven’t fully accounted for the discrepancy.

According to the memo, $6.1 million was paid in benefits to 1,522 prisoners, $3.3 million to 704 claimants who did not live in Canada, and $2.2 million to a total 434 children under age 15.

All were ineligible to receive the payments.