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2 Canadian flights arrive in Ontario carrying staff, Afghans fleeing Kabul – Global News

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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.

READ MORE: Evacuation flights resume out of Kabul as Taliban cements its hold on Afghanistan

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.


Click to play video: 'Taliban takeover in Afghanistan overshadows Trudeau’s election campaign'



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Taliban takeover in Afghanistan overshadows Trudeau’s election campaign


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.

READ MORE: The Taliban control Afghanistan once more. How did we get here and what comes next?

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.

READ MORE: Afghan interpreter says some feel ‘ashamed’ for helping Canada as officials flee Kabul

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.


Click to play video: 'Afghanistan crisis: Desperate locals cling to side of US Air Force plane taking off from Kabul'



0:42
Afghanistan crisis: Desperate locals cling to side of US Air Force plane taking off from Kabul


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.

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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after nearly 3-year detention in China – CBC.ca

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Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are back on home soil, almost three years after they were first detained in China.

The two men landed in Calgary shortly before 8 a.m. ET Saturday aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger aircraft. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the airport to welcome the two men, who had flown from China along with ambassador Dominic Barton.

Trudeau announced Friday evening that the two were out of Chinese airspace, just hours after the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was dropped. Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities related to fraud charges against her on Friday and landed back in China Saturday morning.

“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal,” Trudeau said Friday. “For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace.”

Kovrig, a diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur who worked in North Korea and China, were first detained in December 2018 — just after Meng was arrested in Canada on behalf of U.S. authorities. Their detention is widely considered to be a retaliatory action in response to the Huawei executive’s arrest.

Chinese authorities had consistently denied that the cases were linked.

Spavor was found guilty of spying and sentenced to 11 years in prison and extradition by a Chinese court in August. The trial for Kovrig concluded in March, but he had not yet been sentenced.

Michael Spavor waves after landing in Calgary Saturday morning. He and Michael Kovrig returned home after being detained in China for nearly three years. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Timing shows clear link between cases, experts say

Speaking earlier in outside a Vancouver courthouse after her extradition case was dropped, Meng thanked the court and the Canadian government for “upholding the rule of law.”

“I’m also grateful to the Canadian people and media friends for your tolerance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused,” she said.

The timing of the releases of Meng, and Spavor and Kovrig, show China clearly saw a connection between the two, several diplomats and foreign policy experts told CBC News.

LISTEN | Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor freed:

CBC News: The House14:38Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor freed

What does Friday’s turn of events all mean for Canada’s relationship with China? Experts Colin Robertson, Guy Saint-Jacques and Lynette Ong join The House to discuss. 14:38

“China … up until now, has said that there’s been no linkage between the two, but by putting them on the plane [Friday night], they’ve clearly acknowledged that this was hostage-taking,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat for more than 30 years.

Robertson told CBC’s The House “it really was one for the other” in an exchange that was reminiscent of Cold War swaps.

“The timing, it’s totally undeniable that the two Michaels were unjustly detained because of the arrest of Ms. Meng in Vancouver,” Lynette Ong, a specialist on China at the Munk School of Global Affairs, told The House host Chris Hall.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou reads a statement outside the B.C. Supreme Court following the conclusion of her extradition hearing. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The rapid series of events Friday “was a surprise,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

She noted Spavor and Kovrig’s detention had already sent a message to other countries “that if they cross China, then Beijing will just pick up a couple of their citizens and hold them hostage.

“And that’s a chilling message for other countries to be receiving today.”

Robertson said Canadians should give significant credit for the release of the men to U.S. President Joe Biden.

“As the prime minister said, this was the top issue in terms of Canada China relations, but also a top issue in Canada-U.S. relations,” he said. “President Biden has delivered now for Justin Trudeau.

Michael Kovrig and Dominic Barton reboard a plane at the Calgary airport, after Kovrig and Michael Spavor touched down on Canadian soil for the first time since they were detained in China nearly three years ago. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Changed relationship with China

Trudeau has said the return of the so-called two Michaels has been a top foreign policy priority for the government.

But the prime minister deflected questions Friday about how the return on the two men would affect Canada’s relationship with China.

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, said it is impossible to ignore China, given its strength and importance in the world, but the approach should be “strategic” and “restrained.”

“The message to China is simple, it’s we have no problem with you being a superpower. But as long as you respect international treaties, international obligations and you don’t engage in bullying tactics,” he said.

Ong said she believes the relationship with China has been permanently damaged. She said public opinion in Canada has turned decisively against China and a return to normal would be “very hard” to execute.

“I don’t think Canada-China relations could actually be repaired. We’re living in an entirely different world now.”

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Canada COVID-19 booster update coming 'very shortly': Tam – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Canadians can expect an update on the potential use of additional COVID-19 shots for the most at-risk “very shortly,” the country’s top doctor says.

Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters she expects the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make recommendations on whether or not additional doses for those at the highest risk are needed.

In particular, the committee is looking at those who received a COVID-19 vaccine around the beginning of the year, Tam added.

“So that includes, for example, those in long-term care homes or congregate living for seniors,” she said. “So I expect the committee to have their deliberations completed on this group … very shortly.”


Click to play video: 'Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot'



1:50
Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot


Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot

Tam did not elaborate on a timeline further, but her comments come after the United States approved booster shots for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk settings, like a workplace or congregate living.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the plan on Thursday, which is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the extra shot earlier this week.

Pfizer-BioNTech is the vaccine of choice. The extra shots will also be rolled out in long-term care facilities and are open to more than 20 million Americans who received their second Pfizer shot more than six months ago.

Read more:
U.S. CDC overrules advisors, recommends COVID-19 boosters for all high-risk people

Tam said in addition to looking at American data on boosters, Canada has its own measures to follow as its vaccine approach is different.

“For example, while we use the mRNA vaccines that are the same as the United States, many Canadians actually had an extended interval compared to the United States, and what the data is showing us is that the extended interval produces a more robust immune response and vaccine effectiveness is better with a longer interval,” she said.

“So the Canadian data must be analyzed on top of what we’re gathering from the international community as well, and we are taking a thorough, thoughtful and phased approach to looking at additional doses.”

Read more:
NACI backs 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised

Canada has already OK’d additional doses for some immunocompromised individuals, announcing the new measure on Sept. 10.

“NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time,” Tam said at the time.

Booster shots, however, continue to be a divisive issue among health experts and internationally.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine inequity now top of mind at United Nations meeting

Vaccine inequity was among the agenda items at the United Nations’ annual meeting this week. The leaders of many African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the shots, spoke out.

It is “of great concern” that the global community has not supported the principles “of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, said.

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries.”


Click to play video: 'U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines'



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U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines


U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

On Wednesday during a global COVID-19 summit, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s shots to share one billion doses with the world, in an effort to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population within the next year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also in attendance, committed to that goal.

“In order to get this done, Canada will build on the important progress we have made so far, and focus on increasing the production, availability, and delivery of vaccines,” a read-out of the summit said.

“To date, Canada has contributed more than $2.5 billion to help address this crisis globally. We have also committed to sharing tens of millions of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, including through the COVAX facility.”

Tam said on Friday that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, 32.71 per cent of the world’s population is fully inoculated.

Earlier this month, University of Toronto bioethics professor Kerry Bowman told Global News that Canada needs to fight the pandemic with a global approach.

“Booster shots may well be required for immunocompromised people and a subset of people, (but) I think in the short term, we should not have widespread booster shots — meaning third doses — at all, for ethical reasons and epidemiological reasons,” he said.

“We really have to start making a deeper commitment to the larger world to protect ourselves and because it’s the right thing to do.”

–with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

New Brunswick has reinstated its COVID-19 state of emergency as the province’s chief medical officer of health warned the province is at a “tipping point.”

“The pace of the fourth wave is beyond what we had anticipated,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell at a briefing Friday as the province reported a single-day record of 78 new cases and three additional deaths.

As part of the mandatory order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. AT Friday, residents must stick to their household bubbles and a “steady 20” of close contacts.

The order will be reviewed every two weeks and come into effect whenever there are 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, said Premier Blaine Higgs. The number of people hospitalized currently stands at 31, including 15 in intensive care, he said.

Dr. Gordon Dow, infectious disease specialist with the Horizon Health Network, said the lifting of health-protection measures almost two months ago was an error.

“Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake,” he said at a technical briefing earlier Friday, citing Alberta, Saskatchewan, the U.S. and the U.K.

WATCH | Lifting restrictions was a mistake, N.B. official says: 

‘That was not the right decision to make’

9 hours ago

One of the province’s top infectious disease specialists says lifting restrictions at the end of July was a mistake. 1:39

Dow said the province’s previous efforts to combat the virus focused on a successful “elimination strategy” that was used to rapidly shut down seven distinct outbreaks. But the province wasn’t ready for the delta variant, he said.

“Did we under-call this one? I would say yes, and I think most New Brunswickers would agree with that,” he said. “But I would also say that we got it right 85 per cent of the time.”

Meanwhile, Ontario is easing capacity limits at certain venues where proof of vaccination is required, including sports facilities, cinemas and concert venues.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says the province’s COVID-19 cases and health indicators have been stable recently, though it doesn’t mean the province can let its guard down in the face of the delta variant.

Ontario on Friday reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. There are 193 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.

— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Tam is asked to advise parents considering vaccinating children against COVID: 

Tam is asked to advise parents considering COVID-19 vaccines for children

10 hours ago

A reporter asks Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, for her advice to parents considering vaccinating their children once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to those younger than 12. 4:01

Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is seeing about 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, up from about 3,500 per day three weeks ago.

The bulk of cases and severe outcomes are among the unvaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news briefing Friday.

From early August to early September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 was 11 times higher in those who were unvaccinated than in fully vaccinated people, she said, while hospitalization was 38 times higher.

While more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, more than six million people still have not received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.

— From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A woman wearing a mask sits near an open-air café, which has been cordoned off, in Seoul on Friday. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 230.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country’s biggest holiday of the year.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 1,750 of the 2,434 new cases reported Friday were from the greater capital area, where officials have raised concern over an erosion in citizen vigilance despite the enforcement of the strongest physical distancing rules short of a lockdown since July.

In the Americas, a live televised interview with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the The View learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.

Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.

In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions after becoming the world leader in vaccination rollout. The country has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.

The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafés and restaurants, at weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.

Meanwhile, Norway’s government says the country will reopen society on Saturday, ending pandemic-curbing restrictions that have limited social interaction and hobbled many businesses.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime …. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, left, is hugged by the country’s Health Minister Bent Hoie as they provide an update about the COVID-19 situation in the country on Friday. (Javad Parsa/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

The decision to no longer require physical distancing will allow culture and sports venues to utilize their full capacity, rather than just a portion of seats, while restaurants can fill up and nightclubs reopen.

About 76 per cent of all Norwegians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 67 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Institute of Public Health.

In the Middle East, Yemen received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the health ministry said

In Africa, Egypt has authorized Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Friday. The country approved Russia’s two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.

— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

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