By Cassandra Szklarski
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ Some private schools afraid they’d be blamed if a student gets COVID-19 are considering waivers to absolve them, but experts say that wouldn’t stop a parent from suing or a school from racking up legal bills.
Toronto lawyer John Schuman says he’s provided “a couple of clients” with contracts that essentially have parents accept full responsibility if their child contracts COVID-19 in a school setting.
He says private schools could be targeted if they fail to enforce provincial and public health rules around COVID-19 and even if they do follow the rules, they could still be vulnerable.
“What schools are also worried about is that they’re going to do everything and they’re going to be careful and they’re going to sanitize stuff (but) some kid’s going to walk in and before even getting screened, sneeze on a bunch of kids and spread COVID-19,” says Schuman, senior partner at Devry Smith Frank LLP.
“And then they’re going to get sued even if they’ve done everything they could possibly do to stop the virus.”
Eric Roher of the Toronto law firm BLG says COVID-19 waivers are not common but that he has been asked to provide them to some alternative and independent schools.
Nevertheless, he doubts that a parent could be held to a promise not to sue if an outbreak occurs.
“There’s a real issue about whether _ even if the waivers are signed _ they’re enforceable,” says Roher.
“What I would prefer to be honest with you, is that we spell out what the safety and learning protocols will be and have parents confirm that they’ve read and understood them. I think that’s a safer approach.”
That also seems to be more common, he adds, describing the number of schools seeking extreme legal safeguards as “very few.”
The problem with waivers is that they can be hard to enforce, especially if they’re suddenly foisted on parents who’ve already paid tuition and confirmed enrolment.
“Parents have to have time to consider them and make sure they understand them, and perhaps consult a lawyer,” says Schuman, a specialist in child and family law.
“Where there’s less of that freedom, or (if) parents aren’t really free to fully understand what’s going on and to walk away if they need to, waivers become less enforceable.”
High schools aren’t alone in this request.
Incoming students at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., were asked to sign a waiver before they could attend class, but that was contested by 350 students, staff, alumni and local residents who signed a protest letter.
The province’s minister of advanced education has since assured students the waiver would be changed.
The original waiver required students give up potential legal claims of “negligence, breach of contract, or breach of any statutory or other duty of care,” even if the university fails to take reasonable steps to safeguard them from COVID-19 risks.
Schuman suspects pressure from insurance companies has spurred some schools to take extraordinary steps.
“(If) two kids in Grade 5 in the back corner take off their mask while they’re talking to each other and whispering, (a teacher) can be seen to be negligent because they haven’t enforced the expected protocols,” he says.
“Generally, private schools operate on fairly thin margins so all the extra costs of sanitizing is going to stretch their finances a bit and (if they also) have an insurance company who’s going to tell them, ‘We’re going to raise your rates if you don’t take some precautions, you don’t have a waiver,’ (then) they need to have the waiver signed.”
The pandemic has already seen several proposed lawsuits target long-term care facilities, where a disproportionate number of Canada’s deaths have occurred.
A COVID-19 school waiver would raise red flags for educational consultant Karen Wolff.
She hasn’t heard of the phenomenon in her work advising families how to choose the right school but says if such contracts are on the way, she’d expect to see them in the coming days and weeks when virtual open houses and introductory sessions begin.
“I would call my lawyer, and I would have a conversation and just sort of say, ‘How enforceable is this? What are the ramifications if I choose not to (sign)? And do I have a choice?” says Wolff, who has one child in private school and another in public school.
Wolff is less concerned with signing a code of conduct that outlines expected precautions.
“Schools and parents need to be partners they need to be partners in everything including protecting the health and welfare and safety of their students,” says Wolff, of Wolff Educational Services.
The Ontario government made it clear earlier this month that private schools are subject to the same reopening guidelines imposed on public schools, says Roher. Nevertheless, he says his office encouraged its private school clients to exceed those measures.
Evidence of less infection risk outdoors is spurring many private schools to boost outdoor programming and excursions activities that are also requiring more waivers this school year, says Sarah Craig of the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario, which represents 45 schools.
But she notes off-campus waivers were required pre-pandemic, too.
And of course, COVID-specific waivers aren’t really new _ many camps and sports activities began issuing them over the summer, says insurance broker Brooke Hunter, president of Hunters International Insurance.
“I think I’ve signed something like nine waivers so that my nine-year-old can play soccer,” says Hunter.
But it was relatively easy for a parent to walk away from camp if they balked at a waiver, she acknowledges. School is another matter.
Hunter expects to see an overall increase in the use of waivers. She suggests parents who are thinking about forming a learning pod with another family consider the possibility that they, too, could face legal action if things go sideways.
“Unless you’re incorporating your pandemic pod, you’re attracting personal liability,” she warns.
Several jurisdictions in the United States have taken steps to protect businesses, non-profits and government agencies from legal action, as long as they follow health standards and don’t exhibit gross negligence.
British Columbia introduced a broad ministerial order back in April that similarly protected many essential services, later adding emergency protections for child-care operators and amateur sport organizations. In June, it introduced legislation that would allow those provisions to be formalized “as appropriate” after the provincial state of emergency ends.
Hunter would like to see broad protections offered in Ontario.
“Can we agree that it’s ridiculous to hold each other liable whether it’s organizations or individuals for COVID-19 transmissions?” she says.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on Aug. 17, 2020.
The excerpted article was written by JAMES SNELL | Winnipeg Sun
Winnipeg-based engineering startup MicroTraffic has launched a grant funding program in partnership with Aviva Canada insurance to help Canadian cities improve road safety.
MicroTraffic uses artificial intelligence technology and existing traffic cameras to automatically detect and trace vehicle speeds, pedestrians, and bicycles to identify near misses. If the system detects that near misses are unusually high for a particular road or pedestrian crossing, municipalities can use data to change signal timing, add signs, or even reconfigure the layout of an intersection.
Craig Milligan, CEO and co-founder of MicroTraffic, said on Monday that providing traffic analysts information based on serious near-misses means the company can tell them where and how the next fatalities are likely to happen.
“This really is a game-changer for cities, so we’re encouraging all municipalities and provincial road authority departments to apply so we can work with them to make their local roads safer,” he explained.
Milligan said the Aviva partnership could mean great things for company expansion, adding the program allows cities to try the technology on a risk-reduced basis.
“We have a 22 person team of artificial intelligence scientists, data scientists and road safety engineers,” he said. “Every startup dreams of going public (on a stock exchange) but we have a lot of work to do to build the company right now.”
The company said in a news release that almost eight in 10 road fatalities happen where no fatalities had occurred previously, adding only historical crash data that involves a fatality — not near misses — is currently being used to change road infrastructure in many cities.
To date, 40 governmental departments and agencies in North America — including in the Greater Toronto Area, Los Angeles, Austin, Detroit, New Jersey, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton have programmed over $200 million of road safety improvements using MicroTraffic’s diagnostic technology.
The grant program, which is financed by Aviva, is open to traffic safety and road management agencies until Sept. 8. Applicants must be from cities with 100,000 or more people in order to be eligible for the program. Up to five cities — 10 intersections per city — will be selected.
Grant decisions will be based on the needs of each city and their commitment to road safety and collaboration.
Selected agencies are expected to pay 25% of the costs up to maximum of $12,500.
By Lee Berthiaume
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA _ Federal authorities were scrambling for answers over the weekend after revealing that hackers used thousands of stolen usernames and passwords to fraudulently obtain government services _ with the extent of the damage still unclear.
More than 9,000 hijacked accounts that Canadians use to apply for and access federal services have been cancelled after being compromised in what the Treasury Board of Canada described as “credential stuffing” attacks.
“These attacks, which used passwords and usernames collected from previous hacks of accounts worldwide, took advantage of the fact that many people reuse passwords and usernames across multiple accounts,” the federal department said in a statement.
The hacked accounts were tied to GCKey, which is used by around 30 federal departments and allows Canadians to access various services such as employment insurance, veterans’ benefits and immigration applications.
One-third of those accounts successfully accessed services before all of the affected accounts were shut down, said the Treasury Board, which is responsible for managing the federal civil service as well as the public purse.
Officials are now trying to determine how many of those services were fraudulent.
The GCKey attack included thousands of Canada Revenue Agency accounts, through which Canadians can access their income-tax records and other personal information as well as apply for financial support related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 5,500 CRA accounts were targeted through the GCKey attack and an earlier “credential stuffing” scheme, the Treasury Board said.
“Access to all affected accounts has been disabled to maintain the safety and security of taxpayers’ information and the Agency is contacting all affected individuals and will work with them to restore access to their CRA MyAccount,” the department said.
Yet at least one victim says she has yet to hear anything from the government after someone hacked into her CRA account earlier this month and successfully applied for the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit for COVID-19.
Leah Baverstock, a law clerk in Kitchener, Ont., says she first realized her account had been compromised and contacted the revenue agency herself when she received several emails from CRA on Aug. 7 saying she had successfully applied for the CERB.
“The lady I spoke to at CRA, she’s said: ‘This is a one-off,”’ said Baverstock, who has continued to work through the pandemic and did not apply for the support payments.
“And she told me a senior officer would be calling me within 24 hours because my account was completely locked down. And I still haven’t heard from anybody.”
Baverstock expressed frustration at the lack of contact, adding she still does not know how the hackers accessed her account. She has since contacted her bank and other financial institutions to stop the hackers from using her information to commit more fraud.
“I am quite concerned,” she said. “Somebody could be leaving under my name. Who knows. It’s scary. It’s really scary.”
The Treasury Board did not reveal how many of the CRA accounts were compromised or the cost of the suspected fraud, but said federal officials as well as the RCMP and federal privacy commissioner were conducting separate investigations.
And while the CRA says victims will get letters explaining how to confirm their identities to regain access to their accounts, it did not say how those receiving the Canada Child Benefit, CERB and other services will be affected by their accounts being suspended.
The government warned Canadians to use unique passwords for all online accounts and to monitor them for suspicious activity.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says more than 13,000 Canadians have been victims of fraud totalling $51 million this year. There have been 1,729 victims of COVID-19 fraud worth $5.55 million.
Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken
Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, largely rejecting an ICBC application to have future care benefits from a tort judgment significantly reduced.
In today’s case (Luck v. Shack) the Plaintiff was in a collision and was awarded damages for prolonged injuries including $85,000 for future care costs. The Defendant argued that much of the services covered by this award can be accessed through ICBC no-fault benefits and asked that the award be reduced by $65,000. The Court noted ‘concern‘ about ICBC’s affidavit evidence leaving some uncertainty as to whether discretionary no fault benefits would be paid or denied in the future. In only allowing $3,540 in deductions Madam Justice MacDonald provided the following reasons:
 To answer whether I should deduct the amounts, I must turn to the sworn evidence of the ICBC claims specialist. As stated in Norris at para. 35: “The Court will not presume that the future conduct of ICBC will be other than honourable.” However, Riley J. in Sangha stated that this Court must independently assess the affidavit evidence from the ICBC specialist. Even where an affidavit “irrevocably, unequivocally, and unconditionally” agrees to reimburse the plaintiff for the future benefits, I must analyze this commitment to ensure it is in compliance with the Act and Regulation: Schmitt; Sangha. In Sangha, this Court did not accept the ICBC specialist’s evidence that ICBC would “irrevocably, unequivocally, and unconditionally” pay for certain benefits in the future.
 Ms. Uppal deposed that ICBC accepts this Court’s Judgment regarding Ms. Luck’s treatment needs following the motor vehicle accident. Ms. Uppal deposed that ICBC will “irrevocably, unequivocally, and unconditionally agree to pay, under Part 7” the cost of the future care amounts specified in the Judgment, “up to the amounts allowed pursuant to section 88(1.2) and schedule 3.1 of the Regulation”.
 Despite the above statement, I have concerns with the affidavit evidence because Ms. Uppal does not waive the need for continued medical certification in the Regulation. For example, mandatory and discretionary benefits are limited to the amounts set out in Schedule 3.1 of the Regulation. Ms. Uppal refers to this limitation in paragraph 15 of her affidavit:
- I am authorized on behalf of ICBC to advise that ICBC will irrevocably, unequivocally, and unconditionally agree to pay, under Part 7, for the following itemsup to the amounts allowed pursuant to section 88(1.2) and schedule 3.1 of theRegulation, as incurred and submitted to ICBC by the Plaintiff for reimbursement, up to the amounts indicated in the table below… [Emphasis added.]
 Further, Ms. Uppal did not address the s. 88(1.01) treatments, over and above the number of mandatory pre-authorized treatments, that are provided more than 12 weeks after the date of the accident. Ms. Uppal did not refer to waiving the need for continued medical certification. The affidavits relied upon in Sangha and Wark both waived the need for future medical certification and referred to s. 88(1.01).
 Importantly, Ms. Uppal testified that if there is any uncertainty as to what, if any, Part 7 benefits may be payable to the plaintiff she would look to the Act and Regulation. This statement was not qualified by any reference to her affidavit.
 The plaintiff points out that funding for a pain management clinic is not provided for as a treatment modality under Part 7 and is not provided for in Schedule 3.1. The defendants argue ICBC will fund the clinical counselling aspect of the pain management treatment. Even accepting this argument, the counselling would take place more than 12 weeks after the accident. It is therefore a discretionary benefit and suffers from the same problem articulated above.
 The defendants bear the onus to prove entitlement to ongoing benefits. Any uncertainty must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff. To prove ongoing reimbursement for benefits, the defendants’ evidence must use precise language. Ms. Uppal’s evidence was not sufficiently precise, especially when combined with her testimony. I adopt Riley J.’s comments in Sangha:
[20(a)] …Thus, while Ms. Sit says ICBC will “irrevocably, unequivocally, and unconditionally” agree to pay all of Ms. Sangha’s previously incurred expenses under as Part 7 benefits, I foresee some difficulty in Ms. Sangha obtaining reimbursement. This is not a criticism of Ms. Sit’s integrity as a duly authorized ICBC representative, but rather a recognition that an insured person may encounter resistance in obtaining benefits where there is apparent inconsistency between ICBC’s presently-stated position and the requirements set out in the Regulations. The ambiguity on this particular point must be resolved in Ms. Sangha’s favour. I would not deduct this amount.
 Based on the above reasoning, Ms. Uppal’s affidavit and testimony do not satisfy me that ICBC has waived the requirements in s. 88(1.01) of the Regulation and the need for ongoing medical certification. Uncertainty persists with respect to these discretionary benefits. I am not satisfied Ms. Uppal’s commitment, especially when viewed in light of her qualifications in oral testimony, overcomes the ongoing conditions in the Regulation.
 The deficiencies in the evidence create uncertainties regarding the future payment of benefits. Any uncertainties must be resolved in favour of Ms. Luck. I am therefore unable to deduct the full $65,000 from the Judgment to avoid double recovery.
 I will deduct an amount from the Judgment based on the benefits for which Ms. Luck can, with certainty, be reimbursed.
bc injury law, Luck v. Shack, Madam Justice MacDonald, Section 83 Insurance (Vehicle) Act
By Ross Marowits
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ Canadian hotels are the latest group to launch a class-action lawsuit resulting from COVID-19 after they were denied insurance coverage for business income lost because of the pandemic.
In a statement of claim, Lerners LLP alleged that Aviva Insurance Company of Canada was in breach of contract when it denied the hotels’ loss of business income coverage after the federal and provincial governments declared states of emergency, restricting their business due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
It is seeking $150,000,000 including loss of business income and the accountants’ fees. Each hotel has up to $500,000 of coverage.
“We are still quantifying the specific loss for the representative plaintiff and putative class members, but the losses are expected to be significant,” said a Lerners spokeswoman.
The claim said hotels paid premiums for loss of business income insurance with the expectation that Aviva would act in good faith.
However, the insurance company notified hotel customers that the coverage applies only to outbreaks that occurred “at or within the applicable area of the insured premises”.
“We know these are challenging times for everyone. And like many, the hospitality industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Aviva said in a statement.
“Unfortunately in this instance there is no coverage for provincial wide shutdown orders as a result of a worldwide pandemic. As this matter is in litigation, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment further.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Roshan Holdings Inc., which owns and operates two hotels, a Home 2 by Hilton located in Milton, Ont., and a Hampton Inn located in Peterborough, Ont.
The Ontario government declared a provincial state of emergency on March 17 to help contain the spread of the pandemic. Other provinces ordered the mandatory closure of all places of non-essential business.
“Although the hotels were not completely closed, their operations were significantly restricted,” said the claim. “The hotels could not offer food and beverage service, and all of the amenities including the pool and gym were mandated to close under the Closure Orders due to COVID-19.”
No one rented rooms as Canadians were told to stay home and international borders were closed to tourists.
The class action, which could involve hundreds of hotels, needs to be approved by a judge.
Multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed in Canada against insurance companies, airlines, a meat-packaging company, retirement homes, Correctional Service Canada and others resulting from COVID-19.