Illegals Update – October 2, 1999


“Hey, I tol’ you, is jus’ de tickle.”

Canada’s prime minister does not appear to suffer from ulcers, although he is clearly a carrier. Whenever a domestic crisis threatens to tear him away from age and station inappropriate leisure activities (snow boarding, Sumo wrestling, basketball) our PM can:

  • a.) do nothing
  • b.) take a trip
  • c.) deny: crisis? what crisis?
  • d.) belittle concern/concept/cost
  • e.) indulge in a few boorish jokes
  • f.) reprimand Canadians (keywords: uninformed, generosity, diversity)
  • g.) establish scapegoat (nb. there’s always the military)
  • h.) hands on approach – throttle protestor personally
  • i.) issue statement so unintelligible as to revert to a.)

TB: a highly infectious airborne disease that can be caught simply by standing too close to an active TB carrier who happens to be coughing.


PM tries to laugh off tuberculosis cases

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Jean Chretien made light yesterday of reports of tuberculosis infections from Kosovo refugees, saying he played basketball with them and didn’t catch anything.

He suggested reports of tuberculosis from Royal Aviation flight attendants, who ferried Kosovo refugees to Canada, and volunteers who helped with the refugees at Canadian Forces Base Borden are “exaggerated.”

“We should not exaggerate these things. I am not . . . a scientist. It’s a scientific problem. The doctors will look into that,” he said. “I met with them (the Kosovo refugees) and I played basketball with them and I MADE TWO BASKETS.”


Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan admitted the refugees -WEREN’T- tested for tuberculosis or any infectious disease UNTIL THEY ARRIVED IN CANADA.” (London Free Press September 29, 1999)


That’s odd. On April 19, 1999, BEFORE the evacuation of Kosovo refugees began, the then-minister of immigration assured us:

“Three steps will have to be undertaken –BEFOREA PERSON COMES TO CANADA. An interview will be held as soon as the application is completed and submitted to the visa officer. IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE HEALTH OF CANADIANS, A BASIC MEDICAL EXAMINATION, INCLUDING A CHEST X-RAY, WILL BE UNDERTAKEN. Finally, a basic security check will be undertaken which will focus on possible involvement in terrorist activities or war crimes.”

(Overview, fast-track processing of Kosovo refugees, May 3, 1999)


Is there a doctor in the house, or just Chretien the comedian?

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Jean Chretien, his waning but still-admired athleticism now clearly surpassed by his increasing off-court flippancy, has once again stepped over the foul line. But he seems not to hear the whistle. Unless medical science has failed us, there’s no doubt tuberculosis is a serious respiratory disease which impedes breathing, and so it is therefore HIGHLY UNLIKELY THE HANDFUL OF KOSOVAR REFUGEES WHO PLAYED SCRUB BASKETBALL WITH THE PRIME MINISTER AT CFB BORDEN LAST MAY WERE AMONG THE AFFLICTED. None hacked, none wheezed and no one collapsed from lack of oxygen as a result of knobby tubers blossoming inside the lungs.

The only one who collapsed was Chretien himself. He made two baskets, then fell on his face to the asphalt (snap, snap), and the photo-op was suddenly over.

The blame, he assured us, belonged to his shoes. That said, one has to wonder who he will blame for his latest gaffe, meaning his cavalier dismissal of six Royal Airlines flight attendants and the Red Cross volunteer who may have contracted tuberculosis from their contact with some of the 5,000 ethnic Albanian refugees transported to Canada.

Health concerns? What health concerns?

“I met with (the refugees) and I played basketball with them. I made two baskets right off and I should have stopped right there,” said Chretien. “But you know, I am a competitive type of person.” Ah, yes, a reminder yet again that it was the shoes, not his athletic ability, that were responsible for all those front-page clips of him kissing the pavement.

Make two shots in a row, do they call you Michael Jordan? No, but … well, you know the joke. If the frivolity had stopped there, perhaps Chretien could have escaped without a foul call.

But he went on to say he would not be personally tested for the disease, dismissing the question with, “You know, we should not exaggerate these things.”

It is reminiscent, is it not, of his reaction to the pepper-spraying of students in Vancouver who were protesting at the 1997 APEC conference? Pepper spray? “I don’t know what it is,” said Chretien. “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.” The man’s another Uncle Milty.

It should be known by the rabble, however, that wherever the prime minister goes, so too goes his personal doctor.

And when it’s overseas, so too goes a stockpile of the PM’s own blood, just in case.

To think, even for a moment, that he would not be tested for TB is ludicrous – even if he’s had all his inoculations. It only makes sense. After all, despite his foibles and fouls, he is the prime minister of Canada.

And he must be protected. Even from himself.

If his doctor doesn’t insist, or his aides, then Canada can rest assured that his hole-in-one bride, Aline, this week’s hostess with the mostest, will use her 5-iron, if necessary, to hustle him to the nearest infectious disease laboratory.

It does not take someone with a potful of frequent-flyer points to appreciate that being trapped at 35,000 feet in a winged tube while repeatedly breathing in (and letting out) the recycled emissions and varied expulsions of a few hundred strangers for hours on end is not likely good for anyone’s overall health.

Mix some TB bacteria into that airborne soup and, well, is there a doctor in the house, or should we all go straight to the nearest sanitorium? All of which brings us to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan who, while surely aware of the appalling conditions in Kosovo, now admits none of the refugees was tested for TB before their flights to safety on Royal Airlines.

Were these attendants therefore hung out to dry through negligence or errors of omission? Royal Airlines officials say they received no warning from the feds of any disease potential in their Kosovo mission, accusations which Caplan has denied.

Ergo, what we have is a they-said/she-said sawoff.

Down the street from the PM’s office, however, Aline Chretien continues today to host the so-called First Wives Club of the Americas, with women’s health issues as one of only two items on the agenda.

Robyn Walters

Perhaps she might have Elinor Caplan invite a couple of infected Royal Airlines flight attendants to the conference. Or Robyn Walters, the 38-year-old Red Cross volunteer from the Toronto area who alleges she came down with TB at CFB Borden and is now considering suing the government for failing to warn her.

It might make for the only truly interesting session. (Mark Bonokoski, Toronto Sun September 30, 1999)


Throughout the Kosovo airlift, the Red Cross emphasized the need for strictly financial (don’t bother us with food or clothing) contributions. At the same time the prime minister urged (the rest of us) to “open up our homes”. That the identical cast performed so badly in Canada’s tainted blood scandal is surely just an unfortunate coincidence. If we can believe the numbers, only THREE Kosovars have the active form of tuberculosis. If so, it’s a powerful testimony to the insidious nature of the disease – that so few have managed to infect so many. The World Health Organization estimates that a person with active tuberculosis will infect between 10 – 15 persons in the course of a year. That ought to give us pause when we think of the two other smuggling ships that managed to dump their cargo undetected. Immigration Canada’s third assurance; a security check on “possible involvement in terrorist activities or war crimes,” similarly dissolved when Ms. Robillard revised her opinion of KLA membership: and by bureaucratic decree, last week’s ‘terrorist’ was this week’s ‘freedom fighter’. But right now, the sputum’s hit the fan, and the apologists are in full cry …


One of the first reactions to the plight of the infected flight attendants came from Immigration Minister, Elinor Caplan: “she said that TB is a ‘disease of the world’ and suggested that there was a chance the flight attendants caught it in Canada.”

(Globe and Mail, September 29, 1999)

Uh, yeah. With these policies, that’s pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take comfort Canada. Our brand new immigration minister says, “government officials did everything by the book.” Just as they did with the invasion of the cargo people? In other words, given extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances – count on us to respond like brain-dead, bean-counting automatons? Wake up Ms. Caplan. Do you really imagine that organized crime plays by the same – OR ANY – set of rules? They RELY UPON slow witted slothfulness.

Hey! What if this TB thing is just a case of mass hysteria? Michael Valpy wonders whether all these people’s bodies are just “fooling” them? “once people test positive, they always test positive. … But the body can forget it has TB bacteria, which is why someone can test negative one day and then test positive two weeks later (as perhaps with the flight attendant who tested negative before a flight but positive afterward). The first test stimulates the body to remember, which the second test picks up.”

(Globe and Mail, Thursday, September 30, 1999)

Uh, okay. After all, anything (but the obvious) is possible.



Dr. Claus Curdt-Christiansen, of the International Civil Aviation Organization: “IN-FLIGHT EXPOSURE to infectious tuberculosis in co-passengers has become a REALISTIC AIRLINE POSSIBILITY owing to the high prevalence of tuberculosis in some regions of the world.”

(Globe and Mail, Tuesday, September 28, 1999)

However, according to Dr. Howard Njoo, director of the tuberculosis prevention unit of Health Canada, “Quoting a World Health Organization document, Njoo told Royal [Airlines] there are no routine precautions recommended for flight crews to protect themselves againt TB. The guidelines add that “THE RISK OF TB AMONG FLIGHT ATTENDANTS IS SIMILAR TO THAT OF THE GENERAL POPULATION.”

(Canadian Press, Thursday, September 30, 1999)

We addressed this matter of thin air and TB a year and a half ago: anti-smoking hysteria has allowed stingy airline companies to save a bundle (at the expense of your health). Excellent diagram illustrates in-cabin air RE-circulation system.


Volunteer who got TB says Ottawa’s to blame

People who aided Kosovars not warned, Aurora woman says

An Aurora woman who contracted tuberculosis after volunteering with Kosovo refugees at Camp Borden blames the federal government for not warning her of the danger of infection. “Our lives should never have been put in jeopardy like this. I have four children,” Robyn Walters, 38, said yesterday.

Robyn Walters

The Canadian Red Cross assured volunteers that the federal government had screened the refugees before they left Canadian Forces Base Trenton for Borden, she said. “We had to find out the hard way,” said Walters, who volunteered about three days a week from the time the first busload of refugees arrived at the camp in April until they left at the end of July. “They should have told us. They knew about these diseases.”

Her allegations come after Royal Airlines said six of its flight attendants contracted tuberculosis ferrying Kosovo refugees to Canada. The four women and two men have been off the job with pay since early June and are being treated, the airline said yesterday. Walters said that she found out some Kosovars had TB only when she paid a hospital visit to one of the women she was helping. There a doctor pulled her aside and informed her that the woman had the disease. Walters has been feeling extreme fatigue lately, she said, so she contacted her doctor a week and a half ago. She had tested negative for TB in May, but this time she tested positive for inactive TB, meaning that she does not yet have any major symptoms. “But like my doctor says, in three months, in six months, you never know.”

Tuberculosis can be a deadly bacterial respiratory infection and, if active, is spread through the air. Though once a death sentence for many, in Canada it is rarely fatal because of effective drugs and improving living conditions. Walters said her employer, Shoppers Drug Mart, is demanding a note from her doctor saying she is not infectious before she is allowed to return to work.

She has contacted a lawyer about the possibility of launching a class-action suit against those responsible for screening the refugees. She said SHE KNOWS OF AT LEAST TWO OTHER VOLUNTEERS WHO HAVE TESTED POSITIVE FOR TB. She’s also worried about three of her four sons contracting the disease. The two youngest ones accompanied her on a visit to the home of a London, Ont., woman who is putting up Kosovo refugees, she said.


Another son accompanied Walters to Camp Borden when she volunteered, so now she is going to have her sons tested. “If my children test positive, I am going to go berserk,” Walters said. “I can handle me having it, but not my children.” Walters said she doesn’t blame the Kosovo refugees, whom she called wonderful. “But we should have been told.”

Jane Nielsen, a family-services worker with the Salvation Army in Newmarket, said two people who volunteered at Camp Borden under the umbrella of her agency, including Walters, have contracted inactive TB. ALL VOLUNTEERS WERE ASSURED BY THE CANADIAN RED CROSS – WHO CITED THE FEDERAL AUTHORITIES – THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS SCREENING ANY INFECTIOUS DISEASES at Trenton, Nielson said.

“I’m not sure that the federal government was up front with the volunteers or the workers at Base Borden about exactly how many people had TB,” Nielsen said.

Janis Macaskill, another Aurora woman who volunteered at Borden with Walters since May, said she tested positive for inactive TB in that month, but her doctor says it may have shown up because of her being given a Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine for tuberculosis when she was a schoolgirl. But Macaskill is still worried and wants to get another TB test for herself and her two teenage daughters, one of whom also volunteered at the camp.

Mary Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross, said volunteers at Borden were never given any blanket assurances that the refugees were free of major contagious diseases. What volunteers were told was they should have their inoculation shots up to date, be in good health and take precautions, Ferguson said. Walters’s case is the first that the Red Cross knows of in which a volunteer with Kosovo refugees has tested positive for TB, she said.

A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which was in charge of health screening Kosovo refugees, said THE DEPARTMENT NEVER GAVE ASSURANCES THAT NONE HAD MAJOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES SUCH AS TB. Lorna Tessier said the refugees were screened immediately upon landing at primary reception centres such as Trenton and CFB Greenwood, N.S. Three people had infectious TB, and they were immediately isolated and treated. But she said patients with inactive TB, which is not infectious, may have been sent on to Camp Borden, although she did not know whether any were.

Nielsen and Walters said they have heard that the York Region health department is dealing with several other former Camp Borden volunteers who have contracted TB.

Tammy Lindover, a spokesperson with York Region’s health department, said yesterday that nine cases of tuberculosis have been reported in the region since May. But she said provincial privacy laws prevented her from giving out any other information.

(Toronto Star, September 28, 1999)

“‘Some of them (refugees) were very ill, you know vomiting, that sort of thing,’ said Marc Sutton, one of the infected attendants who tested negative before the flights. ‘I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t have done the flight … if I knew there were those risks.'”

(Victoria Times Colonist, Mon 27 Sep 1999)


“a hundred more refugees does not mean the sky is falling.”

Pat (get the rubber hose) Martin, NDP immigration critic (National Post, Friday August 13, 1999)


Store worker put on leave after testing positive for TB

Fellow employees threatened to walk out

An Aurora woman who tested positive for TB after volunteering with Kosovo refugees has been barred from her job at a local Shoppers Drug Mart even though she’s not infectious. Robyn Walters said her employer phoned her this week to say that customers were worried and fellow Shoppers staff threatened to walk out if she returned to her cashier’s position. “People are very, very ignorant when it comes to TB,” Walters said yesterday. “I’m certainly being treated like a leper.”

She said her employer, Jack Holtzman, owner of the Shoppers branch, laid her off from her part-time $7.90-an-hour job, initially offering to pay her salary only until tomorrow, she said. But Walters said that after a journalist approached Shoppers Drug Mart, her employer called back to say that she would be paid until the end of January “on compassionate grounds,” at which time her case would be reviewed.

Yesterday, Holtzman said he only intended to lay her off until he could educate the four or five staff members who had threatened to walk out about TB. “My intention was to bring her back as soon as this staff was educated,” he said. …

… [Walters] said she was even asked by an aunt to skip a family gathering for fear of infecting an uncle whose immune system has been weakened by leukemia.

Joey Davidson, manager of TB and vaccines for the York Region health department, said yesterday that people like Walters who test positive for TB without contracting the disease cannot transmit it. Only 10 per cent who test positive go on to contract an active form of the disease that is contagious. …

[Walters] says the federal government was negligent in not warning her and other volunteers at the camp of the dangers of being infected with TB by the refugees. She is considering suing the federal government. Federal officials have said they screened and treated Kosovar refugees with infectious TB, but never gave any blanket assurances that there was no danger of infection.

… Meanwhile, results of TB tests for Walters’ four sons, three of whom have had brief contact with Kosovar refugees, will be known today. Her eldest boy has been barred from high school pending those results. Walters said she had to find out on her own that some of Kosovo refugees had TB. Still, the Canadian Red Cross assured her that there was no danger of infection, she said.

The Red Cross has said that no such blanket assurances were given and that volunteers were told to take precautions. Six flight attendants with Royal Airlines also contracted TB, after making humanitarian relief flights to Kosovo. Tuberculosis is a bacterial respiratory infection that can be deadly but RARELY kills when treated with modern antibiotics.”

(Toronto Star, October 1, 1999)


Active – inactive – exposed – contagious

But what does it all MEAN?

“We are going back to a 19th century epidemic, but we now possess the scientific and social qualifications of the 1990’s to conquer it.”

“After tubercle bacilli are inhaled, they grow intracellularly in lesions called tubercles. Within 2-6 weeks after infection, immunity develops and most symptoms of the disease go unnoticed by the affected individual. The bacilli spread from the site of initial infection in the lung through the blood to other parts of the body. Individuals infected with M. tuberculosis have a 10% LIFETIME risk of developing the disease. If a protective immune response dominates, any lesions may be stopped with some damage to the lung or other tissue. If the reaction expands, breaking into a bronchus, a cavity is formed in the lung, allowing many bacilli to spread with coughing to the outside. The inflammatory processes produce the characteristic weakness, chest pain, cough, fever, and possibly bloody sputum.

… When asked to interpret a routine tuberculin skin test, 65 percent of the doctors answered incorrectly and only 58 percent followed the treatment guidelines recommended by the American Lung Association. Even health profesionals need to be educated on the disease.

… A massive effort with WIDESPREAD PUBLIC SUPPORT will be needed because no single effort will be able to control this disease. It may be too late to stop a shocking epidemic.”

excellent explanation of tuberculosis (U of Wisconsin)


“SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tuberculosis, cholera, dengue — they’re back, threatening millions of people in the Americas. Once thought virtually eradicated, the diseases have re-emerged for reasons ranging from the development of drug-resistant strains to the mushrooming of vast urban areas with poor sanitation, say the hemisphere’s top health officials. “Drug-resistant strains of microbes are having a deadly impact on the fight against tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, diarrhea and pneumonia (which) together kill more than 10 million people worldwide each year,” said Dr. George Alleyne, director general of the Pan American Health Organization.” (Canadian Press, World News Digest, Tuesday, September 28)


Canada: 3.3 per 100,000 (native born – mean census year 1991) Canada: 24.4 per 100,000 (foreign born – mean census year 1991) Russia: 75 per 100,000 (high incidence of MDR TB) Latin America: 127 per 100,000 (1990) Haiti: 133.5 per 100,000 Vietnam: 137.0 per 100,000 Africa: 191 per 100,000 (1990) Southeast Asia: 237 per 100,000 (1990) Russian figures – Toronto Star, March 25, 1998

all others – Canadian Medical Association Journal, March 10, 1998

“The rising number of TB infections in previously low incidence countries to which Russians have been emigrating has made health official’s worst fears a reality — the epidemic can and will transcend borders and social classes.”

(Toronto Star, March 25, 1998)


For a good overview on tuberculosis, check out Yahoo’s page (extensive links)


Toronto tuberculosis capital of Canada

TORONTO – The city of Toronto says it’s got a big problem and it wants Ottawa to help solve it. The problem is tuberculosis. The City spends has budgeted more than three million dollars this year to treat people with the disease. It says Ottawa’s responsible for most of the people who have it – immigrants and refugees.

The surge of Tibetan refugees into Toronto this year is what got the city thinking about the problem again. Several of the refugees have tuberculosis. John Filion is the head of the Board of Health. He admits the fact there’s a TB problem is nothing new. Filion says, “We’ve been saying this for years. That we have a problem. It’s just been largely ignored. It’s just being treated as the city telling the other levels of governmnet we need more money.”

T.B. affects a person’s lungs. About a third of the people in the world are infected…but they don’t necessarily get sick. It’s an issue for Toronto because it gets a lot of immigrants and refugees from parts of hte world where the disease is common. The federal government screens immigrants before they arrive to see if they have the disease. They aren’t allowed to come if they’re sick. But they are allowed to come if they’re infected but don’t show the symptoms.

BUT THE PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT SAYS THE SCREENING SYSTEM ISN’T WORKING. The public health department deals with roughly five hundred new cases every year. ONLY ABOUT TEN PERCENT ARE PEOPLE WHO WERE BORN IN CANADA. Barbara Yaffe is the Director of Communicable Disease control for the city’s public health department. She says the recent influx of refugees means the city will have to hire more people to deal with tuberculosis.

Jaffe says, “We really have the conditions here that could cause a resurgence of tuberculosis.” She says Toronto’s has the right combination of people who are more at risk of becoming sick from the disease…people from countries where TB is common…homeless…and people with hiv. This is what happened in New York in 1980s and 90s…they had a resurgence…costing millions of dollars to control.

THE CITY WANTS THE FEDERAL IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT TO IMPROVE SCREENING FOR PEOPLE COMING INTO THE COUNTRY. It also wants the department to pay for the cost of treating people who have already MADE IT THROUGH THE SCREENING BUT HAVE TB. The city is counting on the fact that immigration minister Elinor Caplan is from Toronto. So far though Caplan says she hasn’t talked with the city about the issue, and can’t comment until she does.

If you want more information about tuberculosis, you can call the City of Toronto Health Unit at (416) 392-4701.

(CBC Newsworld, Sep 22 1999 7:07 PM EDT)


— Your MP’s constituency office is listed in the BLUE pages of the phone book – CALL — To find out who your MP is: (or to contact anyone in Parliament)

You can write your MP postage free: c/o House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

— BC residents may wish to contact their MLAs

— e-mail Elinor Caplan – Immigration nb* has spent most of her life as a “public servant” in health ministries or write – c/o House of Commons, etc.

— the Minister of Health – Allan Rock