Two aircraft carrying diplomats, troops and Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover of their country touched down late Monday night on Canadian soil as the world continues to reel amid the fall of Kabul.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada on Tuesday morning confirmed one flight landed in Toronto carrying Afghans who qualified to come to Canada under the government’s recently announced special immigration measures for former interpreters and embassy staff who helped Canadians on the ground.
The second flight landed in Ottawa and included returning staff from the Canadian embassy in Kabul, which has been evacuated as the Taliban insurgents seize control of the country.
It is not clear at this time how many Afghans were on the flight that landed in Toronto.
Thousands of desperate people have packed the Kabul airport in recent days hoping to escape the extremist Islamist group. American and Canadian soldiers are among the allied forces holding down the airport as part of an international race to evacuate citizens and refugees from the country.
The Department of National Defence confirmed that some of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan have now returned, “including elite operatives.”
“The flight was chartered,” the department said in a statement.
Taliban takeover in Afghanistan overshadows Trudeau’s election campaign
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is running for re-election, faced questions from journalists on Monday about the actions being taken now to help the Afghans still stuck in Kabul, had initially dodged questions on whether he will recognize the regime.
“Right now our expectation and demand of the Taliban is that they permit, first of all, an end of violence and hostilities and restore order for those who want to leave Afghanistan,” said Trudeau, Liberal Party leader, on Monday.
“We need to see the Taliban step up and permit the evacuation of those who want to leave.”
On Tuesday though, he said the government has “no plans” to recognize the Taliban.
They are a recognized terrorist organization under Canadian law,” he said.
Trudeau said 807 Afghans who supported Canadians on the ground had been evacuated so far, and 500 of them have arrived in Canada for resettlement, but did not answer whether he plans to recognize the Taliban regime that has seized control of the country.
He said Canada “firmly condemns” the violence unfolding and is working with allies, including the U.K. and U.S., on planning for what comes next.
He added he has not ruled out using military resources to evacuate Afghans.
“We have military still in Afghanistan right now. We are staging out of Kuwait, including with military aircraft. We are looking at, very closely with our allies, what those next steps would be. And that is certainly something that we are looking at, that we haven’t ruled out,” he said.
Trudeau added there are still Canadian citizens and dual citizens who remain on the ground in Afghanistan, and that the government is working to track them “as much as possible in the chaos.”
News that evacuation flights will resume comes after one former Afghan interpreter who worked with Canadian troops told Global News he is hearing from some still trapped in Kabul that they are feeling “ashamed” to have helped Canada as they watch officials flee the chaos with so many still left behind.
Some Canadian military and special forces members have remained in Kabul as part of an allied effort to secure the airport, effectively the last remaining air bridge for international flights.
U.S. President Joe Biden said American troops are now in command of air traffic control at the airport and has warned any attempts to target Americans at the airport will be met with force.
The U.S. and Canada have each said they expect to take in roughly 20,000 Afghans for resettlement.
Afghanistan crisis: Desperate locals cling to side of US Air Force plane taking off from Kabul
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Air Canada suspending flights to Calgary from YXE and YQR – CTV News Saskatoon
Starting in mid-January Air Canada will no longer be offering direct flights to and from Calgary for the province’s two biggest airports.
Travelers at the Saskatoon Airport were not happy with the announcement.
“I want them to continue. There are many people in Saskatoon that go to Calgary,” said Josephine Regan.
“Who wants to go to Vancouver and then fly back again,” said Anne McDonald.
Air Canada passengers will now have to catch a connecting flight through Vancouver, more than tripling the time it takes to reach Calgary with a direct flight.
“It was a surprise, we were not aware that this decision was going to be made,” said Vice-President of Business Development for Skyxe Airport CJ Dushinski.
“It’s obviously disappointing anytime a carrier decides to cease service from a market, especially when we’re talking about a market like Calgary which is one of our largest markets out of Saskatoon.”
Saskatoon and Regina both see approximately two in-bound and out-bound flights to Calgary daily.
“We know loyal Air Canada customers will be disappointed. It provides a few less options for connections through a variety of places,” said Manager of Customer Experience for Regina Airport Authority Justin Reves.
In a statement to CTV News the airline provider said “Air Canada has made some changes to its flights to/from Calgary. We are continuing to rebuild our business in a prudent and disciplined way and that means looking at every aspect of our network and deploying our resources where they will be most productive. After careful review, we’ve decided that we must continue to strategically focus on rebuilding our main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to suspend a number of regional routes from Calgary effective Jan. 2023.”
Sandy Levinton who operates Marlin Travel Agency says the direct flight suspensions will force her company to switch up some flights for customers.
“We have to find alternate routes for them,” she said. “The airlines have to streamline their operations whenever they can. They’re seeing that flights are not filling up and they’re just going start pulling those or suspending them.”
In the wake of the suspension Levinton says WestJet Airlines has already added more direct flights to Calgary.
Air Canada says it does “review opportunities to add services,” which could have the company add the flights back to the province’s two major airports, however it provided no timetable for when that could happen.
Blood Donations: The Gift We take for Granted
How has the pandemic affected the blood pool within the North America Region? Has the blood supply so needed by the racialized, Black and Asian Communities suffered?
Black and Racialized North Americans tend to die or have blood-related illnesses more often than White Folk. The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely a combination of genetics, behavior, and risk factors entering into it. Blacks tend to have smaller blood vessels, leading to heart-centered illnesses. Ethnic health issues are front and center, in front of our political and health officials these days.
Canada is facing a blood shortage, and 100,000 donors are required to maintain the nation’s blood supply. This is a challenge to accomplish in itself. There are racial communities that have particular needs not being serviced. For many of these people, there is a shortage of donations from their specific genetic community, causing a life-or-death situation.
“Most of the time, blood really never sees race,” says Madeline Verhovsek, a hematologist from St. Joseph’s healthcare in Hamilton. Matching blood transfusions between donors and recipients is usually an easy endeavor, but in some special cases, the blood types available are not sufficient. Sometimes a person with special unique medical conditions or complications may require extended matching, challenging the system’s blood pool. In some cases, people from specific ethnic communities are required to donate to their kin and community members.
One such condition is sickle-cell anemia, which affects people living in malaria-prone areas of Sub-Sahara Africa and The Middle East Regions. Sickle Cell Anemia can require patients to experience up to 25 transfusions annually. While there are 4 main blood types (O, A/B, A, and B are antigens that sit upon red blood cells), there are other antigens contained in blood, and their genetic codes can vary. Blood from the black community is like gold to the Canadian Blood Services, mostly because of its rarity and availability. That is not to say that the black community does not donate blood, but rather that there are stumbling blocks placed before racialized community members. If you have had malaria, you are not allowed to donate in Canada. In America, those who have had malaria are not banned for life.
Margaret Media of Canadian Blood Services (director of philanthropy) said “Canadians must realize and acknowledge that some government policies are a hindrance to people donating their blood, marrow, and stem cells”.
Sikh Nation, a community-based organization, raises the Sikh Community into donating their blood. They want a safe supply, but also adequate supply, so when there is a need the supply is there. The ban that disallowed LGBTQ Community Members to donate has been re-imaged recently. Those communities with a historic rare blood record have been organizing community drives, as well as blood storage with the Canadian authority’s assistance and cooperation. Those that help themselves through organizing and determining action seem to achieve wonderful results. In our crazy energetic world, finding the time to donate is another problem. The Business World has often responded to this difficulty through employee-encouraged blood drives, paid wages while donating, and promoting blood donations. The blood agency and activist organizations pursue diligently those employed in super active jobs, such as truck drivers and seasonal workers to encourage and achieve blood donations.
Governmental action to lower the barriers to donating blood, especially within Black and African, and Asian populations seems to be achieving its necessary goals. The Indian community of Brampton has responded well to the presence of increased donation centers in Brampton. Sikh Canadian activists point out that blood donation is perfectly in line with Canadian – Sikh values, to save lives.
Sources…Canadian Blood Services, CBC, and Brampton Guardian.
Military faces calls to return general to duty after sexual assault acquittal
The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to return Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to duty after the senior officer, who previously oversaw the Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, was acquitted of sexual assault.
The military says it is considering the implications of the ruling, which was handed down by a Quebec civilian judge on Monday following a high-profile trial.
Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says her client is ready, willing and able to return to service after being essentially put on paid leave for more than a year.
But Rodriguez also says that Fortin’s career and reputation have suffered as a result of the allegation against him, and the way it was handled by the Liberal government and the military.
Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the acquittal should pave the way for Fortin should be immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.
But he and others say the government may instead offer a settlement in return for Fortin’s retirement, similar to what happened when the breach of trust case against vice-admiral Mark Norman was dropped in May 2019.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.
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