EquitableEducation.ca

~~~~~~ Learning a better world ~~~~ with Greg Macdougall

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Here’s me explaining what EquitableEducation.ca is about  (Note: the email list is presently offline)

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The first global ruling class institutional summit meetings post-9/11 were rescheduled to Ottawa from Washington DC and India, roughly two months after the 9/11 attacks. The G20, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank met here November 16th-18th (‘N16-18’).

 

The meetings were in the context of what had been a swelling global justice movement, that had a major success with the Battle of Seattle in November 1999 that shut down the World Trade Organization meetings. In Canada there had been the April 2001 Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit in Quebec City, where the state put up a massive fence, walling off 34 blocks of the city against some 35,000-50,000 protestors, and going very heavy on the repression outside the fence.

But post-9/11, the security state was starting to be even more heavily imposed on the basis of the ‘terror threat,’ and especially in the immediate aftermath, there was a major dampening on many forms of dissent (the major convergence planned for the streets of Washington at the end of September, to opposed the planned IMF/World Bank meetings, had been called off by the main protest organizers). This led to a smaller but inspired resistance movement converging on Ottawa, to fight back against global capitalist rule as well as the further criminalization of its opposition, and against war (the invasion of Afghanistan had just started).

The archive here is mostly via The Internet Archive‘s Wayback Machine, and based on content from Indymedia – the Independent Media Center (IMC) – a global activist open-publishing network that had launched at the Seattle protests and by November 2001, two years later, grown to something like  150 or more autonomous ‘locals’ or regional websites. The Ontario IMC website hosted the coverage of these protests; soon after, an Ottawa IMC would be started.

A local independent journalist was questioned and had his house searched by police after hosting an Indymedia meeting there, in advance of the protests. Another journalist volunteering with Indymedia was arrested during the protests, one of some 50 arrests over the weekend.

Those stories along with many more, are included in the day-by-day recap archived at this link.

That recap doesn’t include all coverage posted – for that, ________________________.

An adhoc recording of some of the Indymedia special radio broadcast over local airwaves on local campus/community radio station CHUO 89.1FM, that was hosted by Nevine Sedki (______) and featured guests ______ , is available as a (length) mp3 file, and embedded here

Six print editions were published: three in the lead-up to the protests, and three during the protests (one covering each of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). I was the producer and main editor, but the content was gathered from the posts being published on the IMC website. Blind Spot was the name of the bi-monthly community paper we were publishing in Kitchener-Waterloo; Raw News was the name we gave to ‘special event’ types of publication – these existed alongside a number of other print publications

Click on the embedded links for the PDFs, or view the first page of each issue in the image gallery below:

Photo with (L-R) family members of Koray Celik, Anthony Aust, & Gladys Tolley, & members of A7G

A short-notice Vigil for Victims of Police Killings was organized by Bridget Tolley / Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS) , for Ottawa at Parliament Hill on October 22, 2021, in parallel with the annual (since 2010) Montreal Justice for Victims of Police Killings event, and the USA National Day of Protest (since 1996) organized by the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

Family members of Anthony Aust (killed last October during a ‘no-knock’ raid by the Ottawa Police) and Koray Celik (killed in March 2017 by Montreal Police after his parents phoned 911 to get him help) spoke at the event along with Tolley, whose mother Gladys Tolley was killed when hit by a Kitigan Zibi Police car 20 years ago, in October 2001. Members of Assembly for Seven Generations accompanied with song.

The following audio is not top-quality technically, but it is at least audible – thus, provided here for anyone who wasn’t able to attend and is interested in hearing what was said. If anyone would like to help with transcribing, or with improving the audio technical quality, please contact me.


Bridget Tolley (only a partial segment of the speech):


Norah Aust, mother of Anthony Aust


Cesur Celik, father of Koray Celik (audio quality improves around the 5min mark)


Bridget Tolley, as MC wrapping up the event



PREVIOUS, RELATED MEDIA:

The Oblates administered over a third of all federal Indian Residential Schools, including ones where unmarked graves were located earlier this year and where local Algonquin children were taken. Their historic headquarters is being refurbished for a new community centre and elementary school, amidst a larger residential redevelopment of the lands, situated by the Rideau River.

This is an opportunity to include commemorative aspects in the building and on the grounds, related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call To Action #79. Although this isn’t a residential school site, it is an important site related to residential schools.

Read more about this story in an editorial – linked here* – I wrote in the October 2021 issue of The Mainstreeter, the community newspaper for Old Ottawa East. *There is also a 1-page PDF for printing.



As an addition to the piece linked above, I’m posting some relevant links below, that weren’t able to be included in the print version but provide additional, valuable context and visuals – but they don’t all make sense without having read the editorial first.

There is background information on the Oblates site and the new development, on the commemoration of residential schools, and on how to get involved in advocating for some suitable commemorations at this site.

Oblates site / new Greystone Village development:

  • Community grassroots initiative to help coordinate and support the creation, facilitation, and advocacy for Indigenous-led visions of commemoration at the Oblates site – Contact via: algonquinakimedia [@] riseup.net

  • For those not familiar with the location, another element to potentially inform the form(s) of commemoration installations is that, just this year, at least fifteen nests were laid by mother snapping turtles along the riverside corridor as well as in the adjacent upstream Brantwood Park (see baby turtle nest video)
    It is as Robin Wall Kimmerer – founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment – asks in a different situation: “Why did they [the turtles] come to us, to do their most important thing, not hidden, not covert, but as if demanding to be the center of attention?”

  • “the original Algonquin name for the Rideau River [is] “Pasapkedjiwanong,” which means, “the river that passes between the rocks.””
    – Stephen McGregor, author of “Since Time Immemorial: Our Story. The Story of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg”, via bytown.net


Indian Residential School commemoration:

A presentation from Greg Macdougall to the City of Ottawa committees meeting deliberating on the new Official Plan, October 14 2021. The following text is an elaborated version — also including reference links* — of the written submission sent in advance to the committees. But it was too long to fit into the spoken five-minute slot, so for the conciser presentation delivered to the city councilors, see this twitter thread.

*: The references  are in two parts: embedded links in the text, that go to screenshots of the relevant section of the source material; and, at the bottom of this post, a list of links to the full source materials.

—-

To begin, as others have also noted, it is good to recognize that Ottawa – despite the city name – is part of unceded
Algonquin Anishinabeg territory.

And to recognize what that means in terms of the historic and contemporary colonialism involved.

It’s good to look back, to inform the present deliberations.

I’ll focus specifically on a very relevant circumstance from 2014: the city’s decision on the Zibi boondoggle (PS: it wasn’t named Zibi at that point).

The city committee ignored the vast majority of public input, input that was opposed to the rezoning.

Then the mayor and council ignored the written request from the then-chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Gilbert W. Whiteduck, who asked them to postpone the final vote in favour of meeting to discuss the issue first.

He said to me in an interview at the time, that there was “tremendous” work needed to educate people about their Algonquin land title and rights and inclusion.

That’s along the lines of what the present Kitigan Zibi chief, Dylan Whiteduck, was saying earlier this week on CBC Ottawa radio. This despite the 7 years that have passed, which have included the TRC’s report, the MMIWG inquiry’s report, and most recently the new Canadian National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

After the 2014 decision, parallel to the current situation, it was the Algonquin of Pikwakanagan and the ‘Algonquins of Ontario’ that signed benefit agreements with the developer, and it was the nine status Algonquin communities based in Quebec that opposed it, getting an Assembly of First Nations resolution to back their opposition, a resolution that asked all levels of government to overturn the Zibi decision (but that was also ignored)

In that case, the development was on a sacred site, for where the esteemed Algonquin elder William Commanda had led a broadly-supported vision for Asinabka, a vision that was usurped by the Zibi development’s high rise condos in place of the replanted “trees… that [with the falls, would] constitute wild space in the heart of the country… send[ing] a  symbolic message of reconciliation with Mother Earth around the globe.”

In this case of Tewin, my understanding is that the land location is not considered as significant, but that the principles of land title, rights, and consultation equally apply.

My understanding is also that again, those principles are being ignored by city council and the mayor.
(What year are we in now? – rhetorical question)

Going forward, all the other ‘reconciliation’ activities that the city engages in, will carry this element of disregard and disrespect of Algonquin rights and leadership, if this is how the city’s elected representatives choose to behave on such a major decision.

There is a lot to say about the Tewin proposal, including the site’s suitability, urban sprawl, the climate crisis, infrastructure, taxpayer costs, etc…

But I think it is important that I mention:

1) As of 2018, the city now has a formal Reconciliation Action Plan, which tasks the city’s Aboriginal Working Committee to “address emerging issues“.

There was no mention of its role in the city’s deliberations on the Tewin proposal this past spring.

I think it is important that someone from the city clarifies in what ways this was or wasn’t applied on this Tewin issue.

Also important is that all councilors review the principles upon which the city’s Reconciliation Action Plan is based, in regards to the current decision and process.

2) While it is clear that the city has chosen to not consult the leadership of all but one of the status Algonquin communities, it’s less publicly known that when the Eastern Ontario land claim process came to a vote a few years ago, the majority of Pikwakanagan voters were against the draft agreement, the one under which the Tewin lands were obtained.

It was only because they were outnumbered by the non-status ‘Algonquins of Ontario’ members – who are only obtaining legal benefits of being Indigenous by participating in this land claims process to cede Algonquin land title and rights – that the draft land claim agreement was approved.

I don’t think it is appropriate for the city to ‘pass the buck’ on this issue by saying that it is good simply because the federal and provincial governments approve of this land claim process that disregards the land title and rights in Ontario of all but one of the status Algonquin communities.

Chief Gilbert W. Whiteduck, also stated in the 2014 interview his “profound disappointment” at the city’s decision to ignore the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, and also how,

“The city holds all First Nations – Anishinabe in this case – and all the citizens of Ottawa due diligence and to demonstrate and show its leadership in regards to the relationship it speaks about in regards to our community in particular, and the Algonquin community of Ontario: Pikwakanagan. So not only in words; now I mean, they can’t only consider us and invite us to do an opening and then the rest doesn’t matter.”

I ask now of the city’s representatives, how long will it take for the city’s representatives to actually meaningfully listen to the host Algonquin Nation for what it is, a whole Nation?

—-

ADDENDUM:

A section (11.4) of the draft Official Plan has a proposed amendment (new subsection) to address consultation with Indigenous communities.

I think it is important to consider both:

1) What it means to include such an amendment, when in the process of deciding upon the Official Plan the city council ignores the requests for consultation from most of the Algonquin Nation communities, and break the council’s promise from earlier this year to actually consult them?

2) How the proposed wording of the new subsection currently doesn’t actually include the words “consult” or “consultation” at all – instead it is ; an educated guess is that the reason for this, is likely to avoid any future legal responsibilities of commitments to consult?



** LIST OF REFERENCE LINKS **

Ottawa City Council approves rezoning of sacred Algonquin site near Parliament – Development of islands seen as “offence to the spirit of the land” (2014)
Has count of the overwhelming proportion of public input the City received in opposition to the later-to-be-named-Zibi development rezoning.

Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Chief intervenes in Ottawa City rezoning proposal for Chaudiere Islands (2014)
Has the letter sent from then-chief of Kitigan Zibi, Gilbert W. Whiteduck, sent to the City asking for formal dialogue before any decision on the rezoning for the later-to-be-named-Zibi development.

Chaudière Islands rezoning, Ottawa – Article, plus audio interviews with Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck and Windmill Development Group’s Rodney Wilts (2014)
Has audio of then-chief of Kitigan Zibi on the need for education on Algonquin land title and rights (at 6:45) and on the city’s responsibility for due diligence on such matters, not only words and ceremonial inclusion (at 2:05).

Algonquins of Ontario not the biggest landowner at Tewin (2021)
Has audio and text quotes from current Kitigan Zibi chief Dylan Whiteduck.

AFN resolution no. 49/2015: Protection of Algonquin Sacred Waterfalls Area: Akikodjiwan Kichi Zibi (Chaudiere Falls, Ottawa River (2015)
Support for the position of the nine Quebec-based Algonquin communities opposing the Zibi development and demanding the protection in perpetuity of the sacred site under Algonquin stewardship.

William Commanda’s Remarks Upon Receipt of The Key to They City of Ottawa – June 21, 2016
Has a description and meaning of the vision for Asinabka at Chaudière Falls.

Reconciliation Action Plan – City of Ottawa / Aboriginal Working Committee (2018)
Has a description of the plan, including AWC role to “work together with the community to address emerging issues”.

Aboriginal Working Committee (2018)
Has list of “key principles and values to guide us on this journey” from the City’s general manager of Community and Social Services, and AWC co-chair.

Algonquins of Pikwakanagan reject AOO modern treaty (2016)
Has results from vote on the draft agreement-in-principle of the Eastern Ontario land claim, a.k.a. on whether to proceed with the process under the existing terms.

October 14 meeting Document 3 – Resolution of Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Comments (2021)
Has the proposed new subsection in section 11.4 of the Official Plan to address consultation with Indigenous communities (is item #31 in the document).



This is my presentation to the special OCDSB meeting Aug. 24, 2021 about the upcoming school year and COVID-related safety and prevention measures.

Background notes, supporting evidence, references, images, and links are below the presentation text.

REMARKS TO TRUSTEES – DRAFT

I appreciate the opportunity to address this meeting. I’m a former OCDSB student and teacher, and have also volunteered for class visits on media literacy, Indigenous solidarity, and sexual health education. My degree in mathematics affords a literacy of much of the COVID research.


1) Last school year, I was concerned and angered with many high-profile local health professionals’ statement in news media and on social media about how safe schools were.

In June, I published a mathematical analysis of Ottawa Public Health’s report on COVID in schools, illustrating that there were likely many more cases in schools, and much more in-school transmission, than OPH reported.

It is too long to get into here, but a large problem was a lack of robust testing to identify cases.

Research suggests that regular systematic ‘screening’ testing is most helpful.  Economic limitations may mean that systematic environmental testing – of air and surfaces – is the most viable option.

Identifying a greater proportion of cases, early, is an important strategy to figure out and implement.


2) I’ve provided a graphic based on the work of some COVID researchers, that depicts a full complement of school safety and prevention measures to implement  I hope that everyone in the board in a position to implement any of these measures, are made aware of them.


3) One particular measure I’d like to specifically address is ventilation. ‘Opening windows’ is almost treated as an afterthought in the provincial guidelines; however there is research suggesting it can be almost twice as effective as the air filtration systems. I hope this will be prioritized as much as possible.


4) And on mandatory vaccinations.

I think it is somewhat authoritarian to be forcing vaccinations on people.

There has been misleading public messaging – last week, Dr. Etches was in the news about how unvaccinated people are 20x as likely to get infected as fully-vaccinated.

But research posted by the US CDC suggests approximately 75% vaccine effectiveness against Delta infection, not Dr. Etches’ 95% (20x) but  4x.

And fully vaccinated people who get infected, are almost as infectious to others as unvaccinated people are.

Yesterday [August 23], the organizer of Sunday’s ‘#SafetyPalooza’ was on CBC radio promoting mandatory vaccinations: “What are [unvaccinated kids] to do if they go into a school and they have a teacher who’s not vaccinated, or if they get on a school bus and that school bus driver isn’t vaccinated?”

To me that sounds like talk about ‘the Big Bad Wolf’ or  bogeyman, and ignores the much larger risk of transmission from the other students, as well as the risky activities permitted in the provincial school guidelines.

 I note some unions have been speaking of protecting their members’ rights against such enforced vaccinations. I don’t think ‘majority-rule’ or popular opinion is the best way to decide such issues, nor is automatically de-legitimization of differing positions.

I very much recommend that no decision be made until the deciders are able to at least communicate an understanding of the major concerns around vaccine mandates – including people’s rights, longer-term thinking around antibodies, boosters, and variants, and other issues that I’m not an expert on.


I have posted the text draft of this presentation – along with supporting references and resources – at my website, EquitableEducation.ca


BACKGROUND NOTES, REFERENCES, EVIDENCE


COVID spread in schools: Ottawa Public Health conclusions differ from data
My in-depth analysis of OPH report on COVID in schools, published in June.
The four main areas:

  • No systemic attempt to find asymptomatic cases – and youth are recognized to have higher asymptomatic rates than other ages;
  • Lack of knowledge on how effective the procedure to identify school outbreaks actually was;
  • A change in testing guidelines one month into the school year skewed the case counts – and were it not for Ottawa’s unique wastewater levels measurements, we wouldn’t know how much of a skew this was;
  • On top of all the above, OPH simply made the assumption that all school cases not traceable to another infected person, must have been contracted somewhere other than in school.

A highlight = the three graphs that illustrate how at the start of October, the amount of testing dropped in half, and the number of measured school outbreaks that had been rising since the start of the school year, went down … while the actual COVID rate locally (measured in the wastewater levels) shot up – and afterwards, the the two levels still roughly paralleled each other, but with way more distance between them. (You need to see it).



Importance of “rapid universal monitoring”
(systematic testing)

COVID-19 in schools: Mitigating classroom clusters in the context of variable transmission
Research article, 8 July 2021, by Paul Tupper and Caroline Colijn (PLOS Computational Biology)

Research excerpt: “Among the measures we modeled, only rapid universal monitoring (for example by regular, onsite, pooled testing) accomplished this prevention.”


Systematic Environmental Testing (of air and surfaces)

Covid virus spread can be combatted through environmental testing. Why aren’t we doing it?
“Environmental sampling is an unbiased and unambiguous approach to locating where the disease is spreading.” by Dr. Cyrus E. Kuschner, Zarina Brune, and Dr. Lance Becker | NBC, 4 Feb 2021


Recommendations for safer school re-opening (image and research paper):


Reopening schools without strict COVID-19 mitigation measures risks accelerating the pandemic
6 March 2021 | OSFpreprints | AUTHORS: Deepti Gurdasani, Nisreen Alwan, Trisha Greenhalgh, Zoë Hyde, Luke Johnson, Paul Roderick, Susan Michie, Martin McKee, Kimberly A. Prather, Sarah Rasmussen, Stephen Reicher, Hisham Ziauddeen
(Link to tweet of image)


Window ventilation can be more effective than the filters (read paper for details)

SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission in schools: the effectiveness of different interventions
20 August  2021 | medRxiv | AUTHORS: Jennifer Villers, Andre Henriques, Serafina Calarco, Markus Rognlien, Nicolas Mounet, James Devine, Gabriella Azzopardi, Philip Elson, Marco Andreini, Nicola Tarocco, Claudia Vassella, Olivia Keiser


False impressions about COVID infection, spread, and vaccination

Dr Etches last week says 20x as likely to get infection if unvaccinated…
but CDC collection of published research on Delta / vaccination effectiveness suggests 75% (aka 4x):

CBC audio for “#SafetyPalooza” coming soon… ((Unvaccinated are the bogeyman?))


Being fully vaccinated can = false sense of security

I went to a party with 14 other vaccinated people; 11 of us got COVID
By Allan Massie | The Baltimore Sun, 3 Aug. 2021
The experience and recommendations from an epidemiologist and biomedical researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.


This stuff isn’t all clear cut or simple – are people telling you it is?



.., will add the rest when I have the opportunity, aiming for by mid-Wednesday …

 

[a work in progress]

What to do if you read a Public Health COVID report in detail, and learn that what is being presented to the public isn’t what the actual numbers indicate?

What I did, was take my concerns to the Board of Health public meeting. While the 5 minutes they allocated wasn’t enough to cover the details, there wasn’t even any expression of concern about the introductory explanation of the situation I presented to them

This post will cover the details of what is in the special report by Ottawa Public Health on COVID in schools, how they don’t fit with a lot of the conclusions.

A quick summary of the analysis contained in this post – there are four aspects of the OPH data analysis to indicate the 15% of school cases they attribute to in-school spread, is a significant undercount:

  • No systemic attempt to find asymptomatic cases – and youth are recognized to have higher asymptomatic rates than other ages;
  • Lack of knowledge on how effective the procedure to identify school outbreaks actually was;
  • A change in testing guidelines one month into the school year skewed the case counts – and were it not for Ottawa’s unique wastewater levels measurements, we wouldn’t know how much of a skew this was;
  • On top of all the above, OPH simply made the assumption that all school cases not traceable to another infected person, must have been contracted somewhere other than in school.

I also explore comments made by the local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, downplaying the significance of airborne transmission.

Disclaimer: In their published report, OPH does include disclaimers to somewhat cover three of the four points above . However, these disclaimers disappear from most of the simplified public messaging and media reports, and regardless, I think they understate the scope of the distortion.


In my five minute delegation (presentation) to the City of Ottawa Board of Health meeting April 19, I spoke first to the need for prioritizing vaccines to essential workers, and then about workplace safety in general and the at-the-time-upcoming April 28 Day of Mourning for work-related deaths and injuries.

* See the footnote section of this piece for more details and links from the meeting itself.

My analysis is from the OPH report published in February – Special Focus: COVID-19 in Schools – that covered the first three months of the 2020-2021 school year, i.e. September through November, 2020. There is ongoing school and community data posted on the OPH website, but it doesn’t contain some of the contextual details and comprehensive perspective compiled into the report.

The report stated that 85% of COVID cases in schools (inclusive of both students and staff) were contracted outside of school environments.

Its specific numbers were:

  • 888 tested-positive COVID cases were identified in school attendees;
  • 11,376 school attendees had to stop attending school and self-isolate for two weeks because of in-school contact with a positive case (it was unclear how many had to do this multiple times); and,
  • 134 school attendees who tested positive for COVID were identified as having contracted the case from someone else in their school.

Even if my analysis that follows, is again not picked up on by public officials or media, I do hope some people will take note. Particularly because of its relevance, I hope some teachers and students will take an interest, and that maybe it can even form the basis for a math lesson!?!

* I formerly taught math at some schools in both the OCDSB and OCCSB, mostly intern or occasional teacher positions, and through personal tutoring. I have learned the value of pedagogy that includes personally meaningful content!

Here are the four main sections examining the data:

DATA PROBLEM – Asymptomatic cases?

Almost all data on COVID is based on the results of testing results – and the OPH school report is not an exception.

But not everyone who has COVID gets tested, so those cases aren’t included in any data.

Specifically of relevance to the schools situation, ‘asymptomatic’ people – who have COVID but don’t have symptoms – often don’t get tested and don’t know they are infected. And a lot of evidence indicates children and youth have higher proportion of asymptomatic infection than the general population.

This would mean the counts that OPH has of COVID cases in schools is an undercount. The question to ask then is, how much of an undercount?

No systematic testing of children (or anyone) in Ottawa has been undertaken at any point, to identify all the cases that would otherwise be undetected. (The rotating ‘rapid testing’ clinics on weekends targeted to specific school-related populations, that began at the end of January, are a very different thing than systematic testing.)

OPH’s data on cases in schools, is almost* all people who went and got tested on their own initiative, and received a positive test result.
*: The semi-exceptions, explained in the next section, were amongst the high-risk school contact cohort of anyone learned to have tested positive.

OPH’s report does include a disclaimer, “Considering the high rate of asymptomatic infection, particularly among young people[6], it is possible that only a portion of cases in schools were diagnosed.” and then goes on to indicate that “Approximately one quarter of source cases [of outbreaks] … were asymptomatic.”

Their [6] footnote is to an Ontario Public Health report, that found children to be asymptomatic approximately twice as often as adults (26.1% vs 13.0%) and slightly more than seniors (26.1% vs 19.7%). But again, even this data was non-random – it is only amongst those who got tested and were positive, and the Ontario Public Health report alluded to their own data bias, stating “Children are more likely to have mild or asymptomatic infection than adults and may therefore not have presented for care/testing[2]“.

The only way to achieve an accurate measurement of how many children with COVID are asymptomatic, is to do randomized or systemic testing – but similar to the Ontario report data, most of the research cited on asymptomatic rates is based on results of existing COVID testing, that is, of people who ‘self-select’ to be tested because they have criteria or reasons to decide to get tested.

Sidenote: this concept is explained well in the article”We Can’t Get a Handle on the Coronavirus Pandemic Without Random Testing” by Emily Oster:

Most people agree that random or universal testing is the best approach. But it’s also very hard to execute. Identifying a random sample of people and testing them is much, much more challenging than testing what we’d call a “convenience sample”—people whom it is easy to find and access. …

Given how hard this is, you might be tempted to think: Well, some data is better than no data. I’ll do something easier—maybe set up a mobile testing site and encourage people to come—and at least I’ll learn *something*.

This thinking is really problematic. Put simply: If we do not understand the biases in our sampling, the resulting data is garbage. …

The term ‘bias’ is a ‘value-neutral’ description more than a perjorative, when used in statistical language.

I’m not sure what a legitimate measurement is of what percent of children and youth with COVID are asymptomatic, but I think it is higher than the 26.1% that Ottawa Public Health cites. One research article, using statistical models rather than random testing, estimated it might be up to 79%.

The difference between a 26% of cases being asymptomatic (which is around 1 in 4, or 1 asymptomatic for every 3 symptomatic) versus 79% (which is roughly 8 in 10, or 4 asymptomatic for every 1 symptomatic) is 12-fold; which is to say, *IF* the 80% is correct versus the ~ 25% that were identified, that would mean the existing count of 888 would actually be higher than 13000 cases!
(STUDENT NOTE – See if you can figure out the calculation to get 13000: where was the OPH data to indicate how many cases of the 888 were asymptomatic?)

That is a hypothetical number, but illustrates the potential magnitude of distortion .

Measuring outbreaks in Ottawa schools

Given there has been no systematic testing, OPH’s process for identifying or measuring outbreaks is important to understand. It is the only way they identify any cases beyond the ones that got tested on their own initiative, just like anyone else who goes to the testing clinics in the city.

OPH defined an outbreak as two or more cases amongst a group of students/teacher(s) in close contact.
(I assume this ‘group’ can generally be interpreted as a classroom, since the report said the average size of a close-contact group was 20 people.)

Finding an outbreak starts when one person in a school has a positive test result – which again, is only if when they have a reason to think they need to be tested and then they also follow through with that and get tested.

Then, the others at the school in their close-contact / high-risk group (on average, 20 people) are asked to quarantine at home and get tested.

However, getting tested was only a recommendation – and OPH did not keep track of how many of the people in each close-contact group actually did get tested, they only know how many positive test results there were.

Note that the city of Montreal’s policy to encourage testing for student case close contacts, was that households could stop quarantining as soon as their child got a negative test for a possible infection via school contact; whereas OPH’s policy as articulated in the report, was that the child needed to quarantine for two weeks regardless of test result (and, it was only early the next year that Ontario started to require other household members to also quarantine when a child was).

If on average, 10 of the 20 went and got tested, a lot less outbreaks would be discovered than if 18 of the 20 did. But this is a big unknown.

Also to note is OPH’s definition – as stated in the report – of, “A high-risk contact in the school is someone who was in close contact, usually within 2 metres for longer than 15 minutes, without adequate personal protective equipment.” I note this criteria because, to me this definition ignores the science about airborne transmission (see ‘airborne’ section further down), and thus many of the potential exposures may not have even been identified as high-risk and then recommended for quarantine and testing.

OPH reported having identified 55 outbreaks in school, with a total of 63 suspected ‘source cases’. This sounds like there were eight – or possibly up to 12 – cases where the original case wasn’t the first case identified. This could be interpreted to say something like 14% – 22% of outbreak source cases weren’t caught initially.
*Eight, since there are that many more suspected source cases than outbreaks (63 minus 55); or up to 12, since there were 12 identified outbreaks where all suspected source case(s) was/were asymptomatic.

That may all sound a bit complicated. If so, stick with the central idea: that is, they only found outbreaks if at least one infected person decided to get themselves tested with no special prompting* from the school, and then someone in their contact group also got tested and was positive. And all measurement of in-school spread was based on that process.
(*: Though one could consider the recommended daily symptom screening as a basis to encourage testing)

The total measured count of cases resulting from outbreaks was 134, out of the total 888 known cases in all the school populations, which calculates to 15%.

OPH reports this as the full amount of transmission that took place within schools, while I would put forward that it is much more accurate to say that at least this per cent of the identified cases were spread in schools. (See section 4 for more on this point).

Outbreaks went down because … of a change in testing guidelines?

Now to add on to the understanding of how outbreaks are discovered, and how there may be outbreaks that don’t get discovered…

From the OPH report, here is the timeline graph of the number of discovered outbreaks – note the trend over time.

The trend over time – a steady rise in outbreaks from the start of the school year until the beginning of October, when the number drops in half and then doesn’t ever get as high again – is noteworthy because something changed at the end of September/ start of October.

The report described it like this:

… provincial testing guidelines for school attendance changed in late September such that children with only one non-specific symptom (e.g., sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, nausea, fatigue) could return to school after 24 hours if their symptoms were improving and were not required to be tested prior to return.

This is similar to the asymptomatic infections issue – but, in this case, in Ottawa we are in a unique situation that provides us data to see a sense of how much data distortion it caused (wait for it…)

This next graph isn’t the unique part, but it contributes to it. It is also from the OPH report: the total number of tests per week for ages under 20, to see how many less tests the new guidelines resulted in. It also contains an orange line representing what per cent of tests were positive.

The number of youth tests peaked the week of September 22, with 9572 tests performed, and two weeks later had dropped to less than half that number, at 4381 tests, and decreased more after that.

The unique-to-Ottawa part is that there is daily wastewater monitoring of COVID levels. The graph’s orange line below indicates a more accurate measurement of how many people had COVID, that the number of positive tests did (the light blue part of the same graph).

The peak of identified outbreaks in schools, occurred just before the actual amount of the virus locally approximately doubled (taking into account the lag between the wastewater levels – that measures real-time volume of active virus – and the number of positive tests).

The overall, all-ages number of measured positive tests locally – the blue measurement on the graph – also peaked around then.

Then there was a large break from that point forward with the wastewater-levels measure – look at the ‘gap’, the amount of white space – between the two measurements.

Both the measured school outbreaks, and overall number of local positive tests, did afterwards continue to roughly parallel the wastewater measurements, but at a much reduced scale. This evidence demonstrates how many fewer positive test results were coming from the changed testing guidelines than before (and to note, ‘before’ wasn’t necessarily identifying 100% of people with COVID either).

The logical interpretation of this means that, after the change in testing guidelines, a greater percentage of the ‘actual’ outbreaks in schools were not being detected – not that the number of school outbreaks declined while COVID spread soared in the community. Only the measured number of outbreaks declined.

The unique ability to use the monitoring of wastewater COVID levels allows us to have some numerical measure of this discrepancy, rather than – as in the other sections here – only having an understanding of reasons that the case counts are lower than the actual levels, but not being able to confirm it.

You can see how this ‘drop’ or ‘peak’ in outbreaks was reported, unqualified, by some of the local news media.

It is also important to note how there may have been a compounding / combining effect for the changed testing on the measurement of outbreaks.
(Compounding, as in ‘compound interest’ type of effect; or, combining, as in the mathematical field ‘combinatorics’).

Not only would less outbreaks be discovered because the originating ‘source’ case didn’t get tested in the first place, and thus the group they were part of, didn’t get notice to quarantine and get tested – but in the groups that did have an initial positive test case, triggering the recommendation to quarantine and get tested, it is a likely assumption that a smaller percentage of those groups would go and get tested because of the stricter testing criteria, and thus less likely that a second case, and outbreak, would be discovered.

The simple math example is if you have two things that are both half of what they were, and multiply them together, you get a quarter of the original result. So the number of detected outbreaks may have decreased in greater proportion than the number of detected individual cases decreased, and thus the count of ‘in-school spread’ cases would be a reduced percentage of the count of total school cases.

I think it is a likely assumption, that a smaller proportion of close contacts would decide to get tested under the new testing guidelines, but we don’t know for sure.

An assumption that I think is less likely, is the fourth aspect of the report’s data that I think is a problem.

Can you report assumptions as conclustions?

All of the above analysis is about problems in measurement, that likely contributed to getting lower-than-actual numbers of spread in schools.

Now though, we look at a problem with taking the data that was collected – even if it was an undercount – and saying it means something different than what it says. This is the misinterpretation of data.

The numbers they did have, measured 15% of identified cases in schools that were traceable to another identified (source) case(s) in schools.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all the rest (85%) weren’t from spread in schools – but that was the simplified message put out by the report and reported as fact by the media / in headlines.

The report didn’t provide tracing information for all the remaining 85% of identified cases. But it did provide it for some of them: the group of 63 cases that were suspected as ‘source’ cases for the known outbreaks.

(This is what is termed a ‘sample’ in statistical language. It is approximately 1/12 the size of the overall 85%. There isn’t any info provided to say whether this sample is representative of , or has different characteristics –  a ‘bias’ – from the overall.)

Here is the relevant excerpt:

Of the 63 cases, they were able to get information about 49 of them, and found 29 to be traceable to a case outside of schools.

29 out of of 49 is just over 60%, and 29 of 63 is slightly under 50%.

If we directly extrapolate from this to the full 85% that weren’t identified as in school-spread, it would be 40% or so traced to a source outside of schools, over 40% with no known origin, and 15% traced to in school spread.

More recent information reported by CBC (April 18, 2021) on overall (not only school) case tracing, stated:

According to OPH, between March 22 and April 5, only 23 per cent of cases were linked to a close contact, while 11 per cent had no known link, and 58 per cent had no information available. Fewer than eight per cent of cases were linked to travel or an outbreak.

That has a higher percentage of cases with ‘no information available’ (58%) than in the report on schools (63-49 = 14, or 21%) – remember that cases were spiking in early April and OPH tweeted midway through that period they could no longer keep up with contact tracing.

But of the cases with known risk factors, that weren’t from outbreaks or travel, the March 22 – April 5 general numbers (a different ‘sample’) had 23% with a link to close contact versus 11% with no known link, which for the cases with known info, is approximately a 2:1 ratio, or more specifically, 68% vs 32%. This compares fairly closely to the schools report ‘sample’ that, of the cases with known info, had 29 (61%) with a link to an infected close contact versus 20 (38%) with no known link to an identified case.

So that gives some confidence that those percentage numbers in the school sample aren’t too distorted for whatever reason.

And, if we ‘extrapolate’ (roughly apply this percentage to the overall 85% of school cases not traced to another in-school case), we get somewhere around 250 school cases with an unknown source of infection, versus 500 that were linked to a known outside-of-school case.

The OPH report doesn’t provide any reasoning for the assumption they made, but they took that whole group of identified school cases that had unidentified sources of infection, and said – for the purposes of their conclusion – that they all must have got infected outside of schools.

If we use the extrapolation numbers, that changes the conclusion from 500 community spread vs 134 school spread (and 250 unknown infection source), to 750 community spread vs 134 school spread. Which is to say, the reported conclusion of 85% vs 15% based on the assumption, becomes 57% vs 15%, with 23% unknown source, when only reporting what is known.

Those were the four points I’d looked at before speaking to the Board of Health at their April 19 meeting. And I only spoke to two of the four, in a rushed manner, in the short opportunity I had.

But at the meeting, another member of the public – a representative of child care workers – mentioned something that was then followed up on by the board chair asking Dr. Etches to clarify her/OPH’s position on ‘airborne spread.’

What she said, that it was her / OPH’s position that while airborne transmission was a risk, it was primarily through droplets that COVID is spreading, raises another problem.

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

With the discovery of an estimated 215 children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the CBC reported a story “Remains found at Kamloops residential school ‘not an isolated incident,’ Indigenous experts and leaders warn” with the subtitle, “Calls mount for protection of former sites in case more remains discovered“.

However, the article neglected to mention the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #75, from the 2015 TRC final report, that called for that very thing.

 

Titles have since been changed: see footnote.

**PSA**

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support, including emotional and crisis referral services,
for former Residential School students
and others affected:

1-866-925-4419
(24-hour)

 

As Khelsilem tweeted the same day the CBC article was published,

On Missing Children and Burial Information, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had six Calls-to-Action which have not yet been completed. Here are the six:
[…]
75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.
[…]

The CBC’s story*, that doesn’t feature an author byline, has no mention of the TRC, as if it didn’t happen or is of no current relevance to this situation.
[*: link to archived story, as it appeared while writing this; also see footnote at bottom]

Not mentioning the relevant TRC Calls To Action, also means there is no segue to bring up how in the past six years, the calls were ignored by government.

The one actual quote about protecting the sites of potential graves, is this:

“We need to make sure they [residential school sites] are controlled and protected so full investigations can be done,” [Mary Ellen] Turpel-Lafond [director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia] said.

The way that news media operates – ‘news’ is getting someone to say something and then quote them, but not to independently quote from a previous source document, even if that document represents years of work and input from a large collective of voices and experiences – can explain how this happened.

But observing this instance of how news media operates, provides a partial window on the function that establishment systems have in relation to the calls to action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, as well as those from the more recent (2016-2019) National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls*, the earlier (1991-1996) Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and many lesser-known government undertakings purported to ‘finally address’ these issues, in allowing the recommendations to be so easily sidelined and ignored by governments.

[*: The MMIWG inquiry’s final report stated clearly, “Legally speaking, this genocide consists of a composite wrongful act… this breach [of international law] will persist as long as genocidal acts continue to occur and destructive policies are maintained. … It is time to call it as it is: Canada’s past and current colonial policies, actions and inactions towards Indigenous Peoples is genocide. And genocide, as per law binding on Canada, demands accountability.” – bold emphases added, for the issues being discussed here]

After the initial buzz around commission/inquiry reports has left the news cycle, they are no longer deemed important or relevant by the preponderance of society’s officially-sanctioned storytellers – they are no longer ‘news’ or ‘news-worthy’.

An organization like the Yellowhead Institute can release a special report – “Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation” – documenting how, five years later, only eight of the 94 Calls To Action have been implemented, and that may become ‘news’ for a few days… but otherwise, in general, the fact that these recommendations are not being followed through on is not as important (to the news media) as the countless other stories they breathlessly report upon day after day.

Context is not a strong suit for the type of content most encouraged and practiced by those paid to do the reporting. But what more suitable situation could there be, than what is happening now – with the further exposure to public view of the actual genocidal history of the country, and the corresponding public outpouring of emotion – to actually ‘connect the dots’ and ensure material changes are enacted?

As Gabrielle Fayant tweeted,

Imagine if survivors and Indigenous folks got together and explained in detail how Canadian governments and churches could work towards repairing the damage of residential schools?

Well, they did in 2015! There are 94 Calls to Action. Only 10 were completed, others were coopted

Government departments began using the word reconciliation for everything but yet none of the policies or funding programs they created were in response to the calls to action [Emoticon: Woman facepalming]

TRC 66 “multi-year funding for youth and grassroots” turned into micro grants..

Churches and feds still withholding evidence and even taking survivors to court! Their mission statement should be: Do anything not to be held accountable.

Meanwhile Indigenous people’s continue to be highly surveilled, alarming rates of police brutality and incarceration. Data unethically collected by institutions to keep track of us.

THERE ARE MORE CHILDREN IN CUSTODY TODAY THAN AT THE PEAK OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS!

Clearly I’m upset, I’ve been upset for years.. And I see many settlers that are now upset too but I’m also like how did it take you so long? And can we get to work already???

 


 

Footnote:
The CBC article was revised since the writing of this piece. Compare the archived version (also linked above) with the current ‘live’ version. There is still nothing pertaining to the TRC or its Calls To Action. Note that I had first used the ‘Report typo or correction’ button on the article itself, and then later tweeted to CBC, asking them to mention what the TRC itself had recommended; they did correct the phrasing about the enrollment numbers at the school, that I had also suggested via the correction feedback button, but not (what I consider to be) the major issue.

Footnote 2:
It was relayed to me second-hand, that one of the interviewees featured in the article for a local CBC Ottawa article, did indeed mention to the reporter about the TRC and at least one of the relevant Calls To Action, but that wasn’t included in what was published.

Footnote 3:
The day after I published this, a front page article in the Globe & Mail focused on the same theme of calls to investigate other potential unmarked gravesites, and also did not mention any of the related TRC Calls To Action – but it did mention the TRC itself, through some quotes from the author of the TRC report, “Where are the Children Buried?”
A different Globe and Mail article reported on a message from Murray Sinclair, who was chair of the TRC, but didn’t mention the Calls To Action; a CBC article on Sinclair’s message, did say “The TRC released 94 calls to action six years ago following a lengthy investigation into residential schools. It made six recommendations regarding missing children and burial grounds” and included the details of one of those calls.

Footnote 4:
On Thursday, Sinclair spoke to a House of Commons committee, and, as reported by the Toronto Star/ Canadian Press:

Sinclair said the TRC urged the government in its calls to action numbers 71 to 75 to work with the churches and the Indigenous communities to locate burial sites and list the names of children who died.
“Nothing has been done by the government to follow that up,” he said. “We think that’s a sad commentary upon the commitment the government has or lack of commitment the government has to trying to close the story.”
He said the churches who ran residential schools have not yet shared their records of the deaths of Indigenous children with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

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