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In today's Morning Brief, doctors are warning there is no consistent or reliable national system to collect and share information on maternal deaths and close calls.

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Canada significantly undercounts maternal deaths — doctors are sounding the alarm

According to Statistics Canada, 523 women died from complications of pregnancy or childbirth between 2000 and 2020.

But Canada's count of maternal deaths is so incomplete that Dr. Jocelynn Cook, the chief scientific officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, says no one really knows how many mothers die during pregnancy or in the months after.

She says the true number is probably closer to 800, possibly higher. 

She's not alone in her suspicion that Canada undercounts the deaths of mothers. Canada's data is so incomplete that an international report by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and others estimates the country's maternal mortality rate to be as much as 60 per cent higher than what is reported by Statistics Canada.

If those estimates are correct, Canada's maternal mortality rate, while still low by global standards, was in the top third of countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2017 — and was double the rate of other high-income countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Japan. 

There are a number of reasons the death of a mother might slip through the cracks, Cook explains. Canada's national maternal death count is calculated from death certificates. A death is considered maternal if it has been flagged as either a death of a pregnant woman or a woman in postpartum. But experts told CBC that these forms are routinely filled in incorrectly. 

Even what counts as a maternal death is different depending on the province or territory where it happened. Some provinces use WHO's definition of up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy. Others count up to a year postpartum. Others may not count the postpartum period at all.

Only six provinces have mandated maternal death reviews, which means that if a woman dies in the other seven Canadian provinces or territories, her death will not be independently investigated.

"If we don't capture information the same way across systems, if we don't ask the same questions, we're never going to be able to really understand what's happening," said Cook. Read the full story here.

Blessings for the animals

(Lisa Marie David/Reuters)

A priest sprinkles holy water at dogs at a drive-thru pet blessing at a mall in Quezon City, Philippines, on Sunday, ahead of World Animal Day on Oct. 4.

In brief

After more than five weeks of listening to promises by candidates from across the political spectrum, the day has finally come for Quebecers to have their say on who will form the next government. François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec party is seeking a second straight mandate from voters. While thousands of voters are expected to queue up at polling stations across the province throughout the day, a record number of people have already voted in advance polls. Some 23 per cent of Quebec's 6.3 million eligible voters cast an early ballot — almost double the percentage that voted early in the 2018 election, according to Élections Québec. Read more here and check where the parties stand on the issues

Auto thefts are up nearly 45 per cent in Toronto so far in 2022 when compared with last year. As of Sept. 26, there have been 6,497 thefts reported to Toronto police. For all of 2021, there were 4,498 reported thefts. Toronto isn't alone — data collected by CBC News shows that as of Aug. 31, auto thefts in neighbouring Peel Region are up 54 per cent compared with the same period last year. In Ottawa, thefts are already up nearly 27 per cent this year compared with last, while Montreal is on track to surpass the number of thefts from 2021. "I don't think anything has changed with respect to the demand for the vehicles. I think what has changed is the supply," said Toronto police Det. Sgt. Peter Wehby. In 2020 and 2021, Wehby said, there were far fewer newer vehicles available due to supply-chain issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those orders came in this year, flooding the market with more vehicles. Read more on this story here.

Svante Pääbo of Sweden is this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution. Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel's medicine committee, made the announcement Monday at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. "Through his pioneering research, Svante Pääbo accomplished something seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans," the prize committee said in a release. Pääbo's win kicks off a week of Nobel Prize announcements. Read more here.

The top two candidates in Brazil's presidential election are heading to a second round of voting after no clear winner emerged in the first round. Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva garnered 48.3 per cent support while incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro got 43.3 per cent support. Bolsonaro outperformed expectations as pre-election polling had given da Silva a commanding lead. "This tight difference between Lula and Bolsonaro wasn't predicted," said Nara Pavao, who teaches political science at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | No clear winner in Brazil's presidential election: 

No clear winner in Brazil’s presidential election

2 months ago
Duration 3:28
Brazil’s presidential election is still without a clear winner after no candidate could capture half the vote in the highly polarized election. Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will now face off in a run-off vote later this month.


Now here's some good news to start your Monday: It's hard to miss David McKee's colourful uniform and powerful voice. It was his voice and clever writing that earned the Brantford man first place at the Ontario Guild of Town Criers provincial championship. It's his seventh title, which ties him with his younger brother, Bill — who is town crier for Oshawa, Port Perry and Scugog — and Kingston town crier Chris Whyman for the most wins. "It was great to win the provincials especially because it was the first competition after the pandemic.... It was a treat to win that," said McKee, who is town crier for the City of Brantford. Read what it takes to win the competition.

First Person: I was proud to work in oil and gas. But with layoffs and wage cuts, all I cared about was my crew

Dave Mackenzie supervised welding crews that built massive steel structures for oil and gas fields. But with so many layoffs in a struggling industry, he reflects on what his career and crew meant to him. Read his column here.

Front Burner: Trudeau and Poilievre face off in Parliament

The fall sitting of Parliament is in full swing, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau facing off for the first time against new Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre. And the hottest topic for debate remains how to deal with the affordability crisis.

Today, Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos is back on the podcast to talk about what's on the agenda in Ottawa and the shape this new session is taking.

Today in history: October 3

1882: Landscape painter A.Y. Jackson is born in Montreal. In 1913, he moved to Toronto, where he became a founding member of the Group of Seven.

1914: During the First World War, the first group of Canadian volunteers leaves from Quebec for England. A total of 33,000 troops, including a group from the Dominion of Newfoundland, and 7,000 horses departed aboard 31 ships.

1922: Rebecca Felton of Georgia becomes the first woman to be seated in the U.S. Senate. Appointed by the state governor to fill a vacancy, Felton served for less than two months and didn't stand for election in November 1922.

1990: East and West Germany end 45 years of post-war division, declaring the creation of a new unified country.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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