Applications for Canada Emergency Student Benefit to open May 15

$1,250 per period available for eligible students, $2,000 for students with disabilities, dependents

Applications for Canada Emergency Student Benefit to open May 15

Students will finally be able to apply for the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) beginning on Friday, May 15 after the benefit was originally announced on April 22.

The government launched the CESB to assist students and recent graduates who are unemployed or making less than $1,000 a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible students and graduates include Canadian citizens, registered Indians, permanent residents, and protected persons who are currently enrolled in a postsecondary institution, have graduated since December 2019, or are enrolling in a postsecondary program that begins before February 1, 2021.

The CESB provides a benefit of $1,250, which may be increased to $2,000 for students with disabilities, children under 12, or other dependents. If students are eligible, they can apply for the benefit for the first four week period, which runs from May 10 to June 6. Students must reapply for the CESB for each consecutive four-week period from May to August, and applicants must attest to the fact that they are searching for work throughout this period.

Those who have already applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance cannot apply for the CESB. 

While the CERB was launched earlier to help those who lost work due to COVID-19, “the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is coming out at a time when we know that students would normally be finding jobs and gaining income to prepare for the fall semester,” said MP Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, in an interview with The Varsity. 

The Varsity has reached out to the Government of Canada for comment.

“This is in our hands, and our hands alone”: bioethical dilemmas under COVID-19

Kerry Bowman, Ross Upshur on hospitals facing a pandemic with limited resources

“This is in our hands, and our hands alone”: bioethical dilemmas under COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the vulnerabilities of our health care systems and inequalities in our societies to light, especially with the introduction of physical distancing measures and the rising number of admitted patients in hospitals.

Since fighting a pandemic is a multi-pronged approach, a number of possible bioethical dilemmas and red flags can arise in situations, such as resource allocation or when imposing restrictive measures.

Dr. Ross Upshur, Associate Director of the University of Toronto-affiliated Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health, outlined some of his concerns regarding bioethical decisions in an interview with The Varsity.

Upshur was a co-author of “Stand on Guard For Thee,” a series of ethical guidelines and issues that the U of T Joint Centre for Bioethics Pandemics Influenza Working Group drafted during the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak.

According to Upshur, the most important takeaway from the guidelines is that pandemics raise critical ethical questions that are important to address. “As SARS-CoV-2 is showing us, we may lack important scientific evidence to inform our decisions and so [our] values will be a helpful way to orient our thinking,” he wrote.

“As many of us [who] have done work in ethics know, you cannot presume agreement on which values should prevail or how they are interpreted and implemented in policy, which is why preparedness and public engagement is important.”

Facing resource shortages due to the pandemic

Upshur remarked that, when drafting guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic, the first problem that arises is time. The second is getting people to pay attention. He also wrote that, “There is a debate about whether ethics expertise actually exists.”

A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by Upshur, highlights how some health care resources face shortages in the first place. According to the paper, which used data from US hospitals, ventilator shortages might have more to do with the limited number of staff who are trained to operate them rather than the number of ventilators itself.

“Diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative interventions will also be scarce,” according to the paper. Other solutions, such as pharmaceutical products and experimental treatments, are being studied. However, even if these products prove effective, it will take time to supply them. 

Deciding how to allocate resources

Given these shortages, the question emerges as to how hospitals allocate treatments. In an interview with The Varsity, Dr. Kerry Bowman, a conservationist and bioethicist cross-appointed to the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Environment, illuminated some of these decisions.

“The great recommendation after SARS was our hospitals have to have surge capacity,” he said. “Surge capacity is exactly like it sounds. If we have a surge in cases, the hospitals have to be able to accommodate for that.”

“Therefore, it looks like the best way from an ethical point of view [on how] to make those decisions is how do we maximize survival,” he said. “We need to choose people that are most likely going to be able to get on a breathing machine, survive that, get off [of it], and continue on with their lives.”

However, this mindset isn’t necessarily the ideal method. “Many countries are beginning to strike age limits, such as no one over 60. I think that’s very problematic, and I don’t think that fits with Canadian values.”

Bowman clarified that while he thought that age was an extremely important medical factor, he did not think it should be the only deciding factor.

Upshur, on the other hand, conveyed that these decisions should be based on four values: maximizing the benefits of scarce resources, treating people equally, promoting and rewarding instrumental value, and giving priority to people who are worse off.

What about research funding?

Money also plays a role in research allocation during a pandemic, such as when discussing the budgets that certain hospitals in Toronto allocate toward research and development. For example, the SickKids Research Institute funding in this area, for the 2018–2019 fiscal year, was $245.5 million dollars. During a pandemic, the question emerges as to whether it is wise to continue to allocate this much money to emerging technologies.

According to Bowman, “massive amounts of money” have been invested into emerging technologies — from stem cell research to CRISPR-Cas9, an approach to genome editing. “With this pandemic, we may have to re-evaluate if so much money going into emerging technology is really the best way to go, when in fact we don’t have a public health infrastructure that is robust enough and our hospitals don’t have surge capacity,” he said. 

According to Upshur, at the end of the day, the pandemic sheds light on the theme of ethics and public health. “A pandemic of this magnitude has been predicted for many years,” he wrote. He noted that since 2003, the world has faced numerous “public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC) by the [World Health Organization(WHO)] under the International Health Regulations.”

“There will be more in the future. We are all vulnerable to these novel pathogens and they also expose the vulnerability of our health, economic and social systems.”

How people in Canada can respond

“This pandemic will require… all of society [to respond] and will require Canadians to make sacrifices the likes of which we have not had to make since WW-2,” emphasized Upshur. “Without vaccines or medications, we are reliant on each other and so solidarity, a value often mentioned by WHO Director General Tedros, is critically important.”

Upshur continued, explaining that a decade from now, “we may be able to look back with pride that we pulled together and managed a coherent response, or look back in shame that we did not do what was required of us to end the pandemic and that many died and were ill on account of our actions.”

“This is in our hands, and our hands alone.” 

Discovering high-brow culture from the comfort of your couch

How and where to maintain your title of 'art connoisseur' during a pandemic

Discovering high-brow culture from the comfort of your couch

Living through a pandemic is something that none of us anticipated, to say the least. Adjusting to physical distancing and the ‘new normal’ is hard, and it’s common to feel out of touch with the real world. 

While Netflix is always there to provide hours of binge-worthy shows and movies, you may be missing your regular dose of high-brow culture, whether that be trips to your local art gallery, museum, theatre, or even through summer travels to discover the arts and culture of a new place.

But all is not lost! Here are a few ways to enjoy high-brow culture from behind a screen.

Prada’s Possible Conversations

To their consumers, high fashion houses are more than just clothes and shoes: they are an entire community. In order to stay connected with their community, Prada has launched Possible Conversations, a series of live talks on Instagram with people who excel in their respective fields, including the likes of actress Olivia Wilde, who appeared in the conversation titled “Storytelling, Narrative & Fashion post Coronavirus,” and artist Francesco Vezzoli, who discussed “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.”

UTM’s Blackwood Gallery

Blackwood Gallery’s new project is something closer to home. UTM’s art museum launched an online publication, Tilting, in April in the hopes of encouraging artists to make the most of the current situation. Each issue features 20 artists’ works, focusing on “the world as it was and the world that could be” through a variety of media, from performance pieces to installation work and acrylic on paper, according to UTM’s News Room.

Google Arts & Culture

This is perhaps the best way to get your fill of culture, at least according to me. Google Arts & Culture has something for everyone, offering museums and monuments from all around the world to discover, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Sistine Chapel, Tate Modern, and the Palace of Versailles, to name a few. You can also get your fill of classical music with recorded shows accompanying venues such as the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

The Met 360° Project

If you’re a fan of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, whether you’ve been there or not, this is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Using a series of short videos, this project gives you an immersive experience of the art and architecture of The Met while it’s completely empty — a state in which it’s rarely seen.

The Royal National Theatre

For those of us who enjoy going to plays, or had tickets to upcoming shows that were cancelled, the absence of live shows is painfully felt. The National Theatre has free weekly showings of plays in their archives, including Ralph Fiennes in Antony & Cleopatra, which is definitely something you should take advantage of, given how hard it is to come by these shows.


If you’re more into musicals, Broadway is available online. BroadwayHD is a streaming service where you can watch countless recordings of Broadway performances with the original company or remakes, including classics like Kinky Boots and Les Misérables and new additions to the stage, like Falsettos. It does come with a subscription price, but it offers a week-long free trial!