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Afghan ambassador to Canada warns of risk to Afghans seeking passports from Taliban

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OTTAWA — Afghanistan’s ambassador is urging action to ensure that Afghans who have been approved to come to Canada do not have to risk detention by the Taliban when they apply for a passport.

Hassan Soroosh, ambassador to Canada, said in an interview that Afghans are facing house to house searches, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances under the Taliban.

He said Afghans who helped Canada and its international partners before the Taliban regained control are in a state of “high vulnerability.”

“In Afghanistan, there is the risk of detention and prosecution for those who want to get a passport under the Taliban,” he said. “Those who worked for the Canadian government and international partners — the risk is always there.”

The ambassador called for a relaxing of rules on documents for approved Afghan refugees and immigrants trying to reach Canada.

“We wish and we hope there will be a more flexible approach when it comes to documentation inside Afghanistan and also the paperwork that is required in terms of bringing people to Canada,” he said.

He also called on Canada to widen the eligibility criteria for coming to the country under a humanitarian program set up to help vulnerable Afghans facing Taliban persecution.

Canadian charities helping Afghans say many with permission to travel to Canada are unable to get to neighbouring countries to fly here because they do not have the paperwork or a passport to cross the border.

Others have been waiting so long in countries like Pakistan and Uzbekistan for their applications to be processed by Ottawa their visas have expired and they are being sent back to Afghanistan where they face Taliban reprisals.

Aidan Strickland, spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, said the department was letting Afghans who have been unable to leave know that it “can help facilitate travel to Pakistan.”

She said Canada had been issuing single-journey travel documents for Afghans who had made it out of the country but did not have a passport to board a plane.

“We are doing everything we can to help Afghans inside and outside of Afghanistan, including working with partners in the region, state entities, international organizations and non-profit organizations to identify a path forward to secure safe passage for all,” she said.

Soroosh urged Canadians not to forget Afghanistan, as the world community focuses on the crisis in Ukraine.

The ambassador said Afghanistan is facing “a dire and tragic humanitarian crisis,” with starvation facing a huge proportion of its children, he said.

He said a recent earthquake, which killed around 800 people and injured many more, had damaged buildings, schools and the water network, causing “unimaginable suffering.”

Poverty rates are projected to rise to 97 per cent by the end of the year, when two-thirds of the population — according to the United Nations — will need life-saving food aid, he said.

Soroosh said the Taliban’s increasingly hard-line stance toward women was making the situation worse because many were no longer allowed to work.

“Women are being gradually but systematically erased from public life,” he warned. “They are denied access to education, they are not able to work, they cannot protest — it means they gradually become invisible.”

He added: “Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are denied a secondary education.”

Soroosh, whose embassy has no contact with the Taliban, is still offering consular services to Afghans living in North America, including passport renewal and issuing birth certificates.

He said the Ottawa embassy was also serving Afghans living in the U.S. after Afghan embassies closed there.

The embassy is being funded from fees for passport renewals and other consular services and on a much reduced budget and staff.

Soroosh said he was grateful to Canada for opening its doors to Afghans fleeing the Taliban and providing humanitarian assistance.

“Canada has always been one of the first countries to respond,” he said

Though he said it was important not to legitimize or recognize the Taliban, he supported moves to make it easier for charities to operate in Afghanistan to provide aid.

Currently any dealings with the Taliban are outlawed under Canada’s anti-terror laws, because the Taliban is a prescribed terrorist organization.

Non-governmental organizations have asked for Canada to bring in exemptions to the Criminal Code for humanitarian programs operating in Afghanistan, as in the United States.

“I am very much hopeful that the outcome will help with a kind of solution that will help with the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, without helping the Taliban consolidate their power, without legitimizing the Taliban,” the ambassador said.

Soroosh said the Taliban were becoming increasingly hard-line and were not a moderate or more inclusive version of the previous regime.

He said they are “the same old Taliban — they have not changed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2022.

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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‘Malicious intent’ suspected in wolf escape, Greater Vancouver Zoo says

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LANGLEY, B.C. — The Greater Vancouver Zoo said Tuesday afternoon that a number of its wolves were on the loose after the animals were believed to have been released from their enclosure as a result of “malicious intent.”

However, it said there was no danger to the public, and it was working with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service to “contain” the animals, while the Langley RCMP investigated what appeared to be a case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

“GVZoo staff continue to actively search for a small number of remaining wolves un-accounted for,” the zoo said in a posting. It highlighted the posting with a Facebook message at 3.25 p.m.

Earlier, British Columbia’s Environment Ministry had said that only one wolf was still missing at the zoo, located about 55 kilometres east of Vancouver in the community of Aldergrove.

It did not say how many had escaped at the facility, which says it has nine adult grey wolves and six cubs.

The zoo said on its website that a number of wolves were discovered outside their enclosure Tuesday morning, triggering what it said was an “ongoing investigation and is suspicious, and believed to be due to malicious intent.”

It said most of the wolves were back in the care of its animal health and welfare team.

The zoo had announced that it was closed on Tuesday morning via its Instagram and Facebook accounts.

The Environment Ministry said anyone who sees a wolf should keep their distance and report it by calling 1-877-952-7277.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Ageism: Does it Exist or Is It a Form of ‘I’m a Victim!’ Mentality? [ Part 3 ]

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Your age is irrelevant.

This is the third column of a 4-part series dealing with ageism while job hunting.

Career coaches and job search experts claim you can fool employers about your age and beat ageism. The truth is, regardless of your age, nobody can “beat” ageism.

Say you land an interview by concealing your age using experts’ tips and tricks. When you meet the hiring manager, will your age not become evident? Deflecting your age until an in-person or Zoom interview is pointless. At some point during the hiring process, your age will be revealed.

Then there’s the Internet, which “experts” never mention. Employers Google candidates to determine if they’re interview-worthy, which’ll turn up many ways to assess the candidate’s age:

  • Your graduating years.
  • The years you played minor league baseball.
  • The picture your son, who tagged you, posted on Facebook, in August 2004, of you dropping him off at university.
  • The whitepaper, Advancing Asian Markets Are Undermining Globalization, you wrote back in 1994 for the brokerage firm you were working at.
  • Last March, you tweeted you were celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary.

There’s plenty of information on the Internet, either placed by you or not, that employers can use to determine your age. The Internet has made attempting to hide one’s age from employers futile. Employers can easily determine, even find, your age outside of your resume and LinkedIn profile. Hence, the advice to leave off dates, etc., seems illogical to me. It’s actually telling that you’re trying to hide your age when you leave off dates.

Employers can find almost anything about potential candidates thanks to the Internet. (e.g., age, place of birth, your social media posts). Consequently, employers won’t schedule an interview if they see something they don’t like about a candidate. The Internet allows employers to exercise their biases, right or wrong, before contacting a candidate. When you apply and don’t hear anything, the reason(s) is unknown to you. It’s a guess—a pacifying belief—to say you’re not getting interviews because of your age.

An employer invites you to an interview because you have the skills, experience, and qualifications they’re looking for, and your digital footprint has passed their scrutiny. If you’re not hired, it’s not because of your age. Assuming you didn’t arrive late, dressed professionally, built rapport with your interviewer, and didn’t knock over the picture of their dog, you weren’t hired because (the two most common reasons):

  • You didn’t sell yourself as the solution to the problem the position was created to solve, or (brace yourself)
  • There were better candidates.

Obviously, candidates get rejected for various reasons, not just the ones I mentioned. However, rejected candidates often use excuses, such as ageism, to justify why they weren’t selected rather than evaluating their interviewing skills.

You’re not owed friendship, love, respect, health, or making a living. Everything in life—everything worthwhile—must be earned. No matter how old you are, you need to earn (READ: prove) why you deserve to be on an employer’s payroll.

Now that you know you can’t beat ageism, what can you do? As regular readers of my columns know, my first advice to jobseekers is to find their tribe. Look for where you belong and will be welcomed. Pursue the right employers! My advice to “find your tribe” applies not just to ageism but to overcoming all perceived “isms.” An undeniable fact: As humans, we prefer to be around people we feel comfortable with.

When you focus on where you belong, your job search will be much more successful.

I’m confident there are just as many employers who value the experience a seasoned candidate will bring to their company as there are employers who prefer less seasoned candidates for what they’ll not bring to their company. (I know, this is a bit of a mind pretzel. Flip it around in your head for a few minutes. Slowly it’ll make sense.)

Regardless of whether you consider yourself young or old, you can make your age irrelevant by:

  • Demonstrating your ability to generate revenue, save money, improve processes, improve safety, etc. (Share your expertise and track record of delivering results.)
  • Adopt a consulting mindset. (Treat interviews as consulting conversations. Show curiosity and a learning mindset.)
  • Communicating your confidence in your ability to hit the ground running. (This isn’t your first rodeo.)
  • Show you’re energetic and enthusiastic.

Look at that; I provided ways to negate your age over which “older candidates” have more leverage.

Whatever your age, remember, an interview isn’t about you. It’s about convincing your interviewer you’re the best solution to their problems. Remember, you were vetted before getting the interview; your age isn’t an issue.

Next week, in my final column of this series, I’ll discuss having the right mindset to cope with ageism during job searches.

______________________________________________________________

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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Canada eyes cash for critical minerals in Biden's big new climate bill – CBC News

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A historic climate bill just passed by the U.S. Congress could have implications in entrenching Canada’s role in the shift toward clean transportation.

The legislation that passed last week established preferential tax treatment for electric vehicles assembled anywhere in North America.

That made-in-North-America approach generated some news headlines by bringing an amicable resolution to a months-long Canada-U.S. irritant.

Less noticed in the bill was a pot of money containing hundreds of millions of dollars to jump-start a new domestic industry in components for electric-vehicle batteries.

The ripple-effects could eventually be felt across the border, up into remote Canadian mining communities.

At issue is growing U.S. concern about becoming dependent on its great geopolitical rival, China, for the critical minerals powering future vehicles. 

President Joe Biden invoked the U.S. Defense Production Act earlier this year allowing him to fund projects that would lessen dependence on U.S. rivals.

He’s now getting the funds to do it: $500 million US set aside in this incoming law, after another $600 million was tucked into a recent Ukraine assistance bill, atop an older multibillion-dollar loans program.

Those funds are now at Biden’s disposal to enact his stated plan to develop new suppliers for lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese, as well as heat pumps.

An ‘opportunity’ for Canada

Could some of that money create new battery-component projects in Canada? Canadian officials are hopeful it will.

They point to a document recently posted on the White House website, from a binational panel: It explicitly mentions Canada being included as a domestic source under the U.S. Defense Production Act and says that creates potential co-operation opportunities on critical minerals.

“There is an opportunity the way [the bill is] structured — to take advantage of some of that,” Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, told CBC News in an interview. 

“This will spur domestic production [in the U.S.]. It also includes Canada as a domestic source. So we look forward to shared opportunities.”

Princeton University’s Zero Lab estimates the incoming budget bill will result in U.S. emissions falling by 42 per cent. That’s not quite as ambitious as an earlier unpassed version of the bill known as Build Back Better, or at the level scientists say would halt global warming, but it’s a big jump from the current emissions trajectory. (CBC News)

The broader story of the new bill, which Biden will soon sign, is that it’s by far the most significant U.S. federal action ever against climate change.

It passed with relatively little media coverage last Friday, with the country’s politics distracted by the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s home.

What’s in that big climate bill

But analysts who’ve studied the bill have predicted a major impact on carbon emissions through its more than $400 billion Cdn in tax credits and subsidies for a wide range of energy projects.

Those estimates project U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will fall faster now to anywhere between 31 per cent and 42 per cent from 2005 levels, which would take the U.S. significantly closer to achieving its 2030 target under the Paris accord.

The so-called Inflation Reduction Act would remove one billion tons of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, says Princeton University’s Zero Lab — that’s equivalent to reducing two per cent of all current global emissions.

But there’s uncertainty in the projections: One reason the estimates vary so widely is it’s far from clear how quickly new energy projects will get started.

WATCH | U.S. EV tax credit changes a relief for Canada’s auto sector: 

U.S. EV tax credit changes a relief for Canada’s auto sector

19 days ago

Duration 2:06

Canadian automakers breathed a sigh of relief after a U.S. climate bill that would have seen consumer tax credits for American-made electric vehicles expanded to include North American-produced EVs, batteries and critical minerals.

Here’s an example of that uncertainty: The much-discussed electric vehicle credit.

For almost a year, it was a festering irritant in Canada-U.S. relations. An earlier version of the bill, previously known as Build Back Better, allowed only U.S.-assembled vehicles to access certain tax credits.

What happened to that EV tax irritant?

That triggered threats of trade retaliation. Ottawa warned that the bill violated the new North American trade deal and would wipe out auto jobs and investment in Canada.

Two electric vehicles are parked on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 5, 2021, at an event on clean cars and trucks. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

The head of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, Flavio Volpe, called the friendlier language in the new, final, bill a relief for Canadian jobs: “It’s a bullet dodged,” he said.

“Probably more of a missile dodged.”

But wait. There’s an important caveat in the new, friendlier language. U.S. auto-makers are now calling the new credit practically useless, under current conditions. 

For an electric car to qualify for the maximum $7,500 US in the new version of the credit, the car’s battery will increasingly need North American components: from 50 per cent of the battery in 2024, to 100 per cent in 2028.

The problem? North America doesn’t make that many battery components. 

“[No vehicles] would qualify for the full credit when additional sourcing requirements go into effect. Zero,” said a letter from a U.S. auto industry lobby group.

Biden speaks about climate change and clean energy at Brayton Power Station on July 20 in Somerset, Mass. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

An analysis for the non-partisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office projected that only a tiny percentage of vehicles will wind up receiving the tax credit. 

In a 10-year fiscal forecast for the bill, the CBO estimated the U.S. treasury will wind up paying out just enough to deliver the full credit to slightly over 1 million vehicles over a decade.

That amounts to less than one per cent of an estimated 150 million total vehicle sales in the U.S. over those 10 years. During that period, an increasing percentage of vehicles sold will be electric.

The bottom line: Very few cars are expected to have enough North American components to qualify.

That’s where Canadian mining comes in.

A key architect of the final version of the bill, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, has repeatedly stated his skepticism about the original plan.

He said it made no sense to rush into the electric-vehicle age while America’s chief adversary still has a stranglehold on vital inputs.

This map shows the locations of early exploration projects currently underway in Ontario for critical minerals. It appears in the provincial government’s new strategy document for the sector published earlier this year. (Government of Ontario)

But after Manchin visited Canada earlier this year, he opined that the two countries should be working more closely together on minerals.

This new bill appears designed to do just that, through the tax credits for North American vehicles, and the cash for critical-minerals projects.

If U.S. mining companies want access to some of that money, they can submit proposals to the American government.

Quebec mining project

One company eyeing U.S. public funds happens to have an important investment in Quebec.

Keith Phillips, president of North Carolina-headquartered Piedmont Lithium, said he’s not yet clear on what conditions the U.S. government will set and what projects it’s looking to fund.

More details about the administration of the bill will be revealed in regulations to be drafted in the coming months. 

Governments in North America are working to build more charging stations for electric vehicles. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press)

“I’m not sure anyone’s entirely clear on what the priorities are,” Phillips said in an interview.

His company is a minority investor in a Quebec lithium mine that’s now forecast to begin producing next year. 

The next goal is to build a plant in Quebec for value-added processing with the majority partner, Australia’s Sayona Mining. 

The project is in its infancy and there’s no site picked out yet. 

Phillips said a similar plant would cost $600 million US to build in the U.S. and he said public money is a lifeline for projects that banks have little history of supporting. 

“Of course it would be a priority,” he said of figuring out the potential for U.S. federal loans. 

“If government assistance could be involved, it’s very helpful.”

Building a North American battery industry

The Canadian government also recently budgeted $4 billion to develop the country’s critical minerals sector.

Yet North America is starting way behind. 

Canada, for instance, has a minute share of the world’s discovered deposits of lithium, cobalt and manganese.

Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, said he’s relieved by some of the changes in the U.S. bill.

But he’s still concerned — that auto-makers can’t meet the zero-emissions sales targets set by Ottawa without major improvements, in charging capacity, energy infrastructure and sales incentives.

As for a North American battery supply chain, he said: “[It] won’t emerge overnight.”

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