TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning Canadians not to be complacent about Ebola virus, suggesting it would be all too easy for the disease to come to Canada.
He brought up the current Ebola crisis on Saturday as he accepted the Rotary Foundation Polio Eradication Champion Award for Canada’s efforts to eliminate polio globally.
Harper said that much like polio, Ebola must not be underestimated.
“What has happened recently with Ebola reminds us that in an age of globalization and particularly global trade and travel, what was a problem that was at one time far away from us could arrive at our shores very quickly,” he said.
The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, and Canada will begin shipping its experimental Ebola vaccine to the WHO on Monday for possible use in the West African countries hardest hit by the outbreak.
The federal government announced Friday it was nearly doubling the amount of money earmarked to fight the outbreak. Canada has committed a total of $65 million dollars.
Canada also has two mobile labs – and the teams to run them – in Sierra Leone. One team is running a diagnostic service for an Ebola treatment unit while the other is working with the group Doctors without Borders to try to determine why health-care workers continue to get infected in this outbreak.
Harper also said that in many countries, including Canada, polio was once a “devastating illness” for thousands of people every year but has now been virtually eliminated as a common concern.
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Harper said that the world is on the verge of completely eliminating polio, but that this has been the case for some time and that “troubling developments in a couple of parts of the world have prevented us from crossing the final goal line with polio eradication.”
Harper said it was the generosity and support of Canadians that has led to great progress toward the elimination of polio, helped in part by the fact that they have supported the initiative and related efforts on maternal and child and newborn health generously over the past few years.
“This is why we must continue to fight to secure the eradication in the few places where polio remains, but also why we must continue to push people everywhere to understand that this is a threat, to continue with their immunizations, which have been so important in the progress we’ve made so far,” he said.
Later in the day Harper attended the 14th Annual National Diwali Celebration at nearby Brampton’s Hindu Sabha Temple, the largest and oldest Hindu Temple in Canada.
Harper said that this and other temples are “true visible monuments to the accomplishments and vitality” of the Indo-Canadian community.
Yet he also alluded to some of the world hotspots like the Ukraine, Iraq and Syria and the need for a celebration such as Diwali, which signifies the victory of light over darkness.
“I will admit that this year, perhaps more than any other, I’m pleased to mark Diwali the festival of lights, because in this year much of our world has become a darker place,” he said.
“And certainly it has become more dangerous, and friends that is precisely why we need to celebrate Diwali. For Diwali reminds us that light always casts out darkness, that truth always dispels ignorance and fear, that there is good in the world, and that in the end good will triumph.”