It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.
Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.
“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.
A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.
“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.
But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.
“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.
But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.
“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.
“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”
Ottawa promises to speed up application process
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.
The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.
Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”
“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.
In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.
‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation
But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.
“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.
“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.
Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.
“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.
“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.
“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan. And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”
Canada’s economic activity creeps up, unexpectedly – Al Jazeera English
The economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with a forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, but inflation persists.
Canada’s economic activity unexpectedly edged up in July, data shows, while gross domestic product (GDP) in August was most likely flat, with the surprise gain seen unlikely to change much for the central bank.
The Canadian economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with analysts’ forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday. Growth in goods-producing industries more than offset the first decrease in services-producing industries since January.
“The economy fared better than anticipated this summer, but the showing still wasn’t much to write home about,” Royce Mendes, head of macro strategy at Desjardins Group, said in a note.
The slight gain in July and likely lack of growth in August suggest third-quarter annualised GDP growth of about 1 percent, well below the Bank of Canada’s most recent forecast of 2.0 percent, analysts said.
“After a solid first half of the year, momentum appears to be slowing as multi-decade-high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates weigh on the economy,” Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Economics, said in a note.
The Bank of Canada raised rates by 75 basis points to 3.25 percent earlier this month to fight inflation, which began to cool slightly in July, but is still running at levels not seen in nearly 40 years.
The July GDP data showed oil sands extraction drove growth, jumping 5.1 percent on higher output, with crop production also helping, up 7.2 percent mainly on volumes of wheat and other grains.
Demand for Canadian wheat has increased since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation, helping push up export volumes.
But Canada’s retail trade sector contracted sharply in July, falling to its lowest level since December 2021, pushed down by a 7.1 percent decline in output at petrol stations, Statscan said, though that likely reversed in August.
Accommodation and food services also contracted in July, driven by less activity at bars and restaurants.
Hot inflation meant the Bank of Canada was likely to increase interest rates at its next decision in late October, but then the game may change, economists said.
“The deceleration in economic momentum is why we see the Bank of Canada only hiking rates once more in October,” Mendes said. Money markets are betting on a rise in October, with one more in December or January to bring the central bank’s policy rate to 4.00 percent.
Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News
The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.
“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.
Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.
More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.
Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.
“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.
“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”
On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.
That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.
Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.
Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.
Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.
“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.
“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”
Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.
He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.
That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.
Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.
When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.
“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.
She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”
NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.
She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.
“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.
The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.
“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.
“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.
GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS FORCES SEX WORKERS BACK TO COURT
Sex Worker Legal Media Briefing: Monday, October 3, 2022, 1pm, 330 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court)
September 29, 2022 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker led groups representing thousands of sex workers across the country — along with several individual applicants, is going back to court to challenge sex work laws next week. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) introduced in 2014 has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violations. In 2014, the Liberal government promised to repeal PCEPA; 7 years later they have failed to act and sex workers have been forced to work in the context of criminalization causes harm to their lives.
“Taken individually and together, the PCEPA provisions reproduce harms of the criminal laws struck down in Canada v. Bedford and causes new harms to all sex workers,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) speaking at a media briefing this morning. “We don’t want to be going to court again, it is a waste of precious community resources and time. This government can put an end to this by proposing a Bill for total decriminalization of sex work that would save lives and protect sex workers’ human rights. The harms of these provisions are extensively documented in our evidentiary record, which includes academic and community research on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, racialized, trans, and migrant sex workers across the country, many of whom work in some of the most difficult conditions.”
Sex worker rights organizations are seeking to strike down criminal prohibitions on sex work arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy, and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions.
Before PCEPA became law, sex workers warned of the dangers of criminalization; the Liberal, NDP, and Green Party rejected the PCEPA as it moved its way through the House of Commons. Once passed, however, there has only been government inaction and many expected harms to sex workers’ lives.
This is the first constitutional challenge to PCEPA provisions initiated by sex workers, and the first to challenge all the provisions individually and together arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. Public hearings at Superior Court begin on October 3rd and continue throughout the week.
For more information about the case: http://sexworklawreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Infosheet-ENG.pdf
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