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A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News



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.”

Brian Macdonald, the executive director of Aman Lara, says the non-profit has successfully helped more than 3,000 Afghan refugees to safety in Canada since Kabul fell to the Taliban one year ago. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

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.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Italian coalition forces assist and escort evacuees for onward processing during an evacuation at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport on Aug. 24. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps/The Associated Press)

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.”

Deputy prime minister answers questions about Afghanistan

4 days ago

Duration 2:23

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s priority is to focus on the women and children of Afghanistan ‘who have suffered real setbacks.’

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.”

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Privacy commissioner probing customers’ claims they can’t delete PC Optimum accounts



GATINEAU, Que. – The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says it’s opened an investigation into allegations that some Loblaw customers have been unable to delete their PC Optimum accounts.

Spokesman Vito Pilieci said in an email that the office has received several such complaints.

He said the office can’t comment further due to the active investigation.

Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said in an email that the company has processes to respond to account deletion requests in a timely manner, and that it will fully co-operate with the privacy commissioner’s office.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner oversees compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act as well as the Privacy Act.

According to Loblaw’s 2023 annual report, the PC Optimum loyalty program has more than 16 million active users.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

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B.C. wildfire tally surges as firefighters take to air to battle blazes



The numbers seem ever increasing for British Columbia wildfire statistics, including more than 400 fires, tens of thousands of lightning strikes and at least six homes lost.

The homes were in the Venables Valley, and Colton Davies with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District says they were among 20 buildings destroyed by the Shetland Creek wildfire.

The BC Wildfire Service says recent thunderstorms brought 58,000 lightning strikes, and they expect to see new fire starts from those over the next few days.

More than 80 per cent of current wildfires were started by lightning and about two-thirds of the fires remain out of control.

The wildfire service says local planes and helicopters as well as aircraft from the Yukon, Ontario, Quebec and Alaska have joined the fire fight, with almost 100 airtanker missions from July 18 to 21 dropping 5.4 million litres of suppressant.

People using bodies of water near out-of-control fires such as Shawnigan Lake adjacent to the Old Man Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island have been warned to “keep well away” from aircraft either skimming water or operating otherwise in the area.

The B.C. Ministry of Emergency Management says about 470 properties have been ordered evacuated, while another 3,100 properties are on alert.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

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Bank of Canada expected to deliver second consecutive rate cut today



OTTAWA – The Bank of Canada is set to announce its interest rate decision this morning as economists widely expect a rate cut.

Forecasters say slowing inflation and a weak economy justify a second consecutive cut by the central bank.

After a historic run-up, the central bank lowered its policy rate for the first time in June, bringing it down from five per cent to 4.75 per cent.

Governor Tiff Macklem signalled at the time that if inflation continues to ease, it would be reasonable to expect more rate cuts.

Last week, Statistics Canada reported the annual inflation rate ticked back down to 2.7 per cent in June after flaring up again in May.

Weak economic conditions have also slowed activity in the job market, bringing the unemployment rate up to 6.4 per cent last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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