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Afghan interpreter pleads for help as last Canadian flight out of Kabul expected to depart on Thursday – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the effort to airlift those fleeing Afghanistan out of Kabul will end in the coming days, with a government source confirming to CBC News that last Canadian-operated flight out of the Kabul airport is expected to leave on Thursday. 

Earlier today, another government source told CBC News that Canada could have just 24 to 48 hours to get planes in and out of the capital. 

The source — who has knowledge of the mission but wasn’t authorized to speak publicly — said only a limited number of flights remain for Canada’s military and they’re running against the clock.”Yes, in the coming days this phase will end,” Trudeau told reporters while campaigning today.

“But there’s a lot more work to do that we will continue to do to keep helping the Afghan people.”

The Thursday departure date was first reported by the Globe and Mail. 

In a statement Wednesday evening, the Department of National Defence declined to comment “exactly when the civilian airlift will cease for reasons of operational security.”

“The Canadian Armed Forces will continue working hard to evacuate as many people as possible for as long as conditions permit,” the DND statement said.

Earlier Wednesday during a media briefing, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would not comment on how much time is left. He said things are moving quickly on the ground.

WATCH | Sajjan offers update on situation in Kabul:

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan provides update on evacuation mission in Afghanistan

9 hours ago

Sajjan says Canadian Armed Forces working hard to get as many Afghans to safety as possible. 1:53

“The situation is changing literally by the hour. I’ll be getting a detailed briefing shortly on the withdrawal plan but one thing I can assure you, we will continue to bring out as many Afghans as possible,” he told reporters.

“As the Americans draw down to meet their deadline, partner nations, including Canada, must draw down our troops, assets and aircraft ahead of the Americans. These moves are necessary for the U.S. to safely maintain control of the airport until they depart.”

Allies are up against similar deadlines. U.K. Defence Minister Ben Wallace said the evacuation effort is “down to hours now, not weeks.”

Tens of thousands of Afghans fearing persecution under the Taliban, which swept to power in recent days, have rushed to Kabul’s airport hoping to escape the country.

 It’s like leaving the mouse in the mouth of the lion.– Former Afghan interpreter

Earlier this week, the government said Canada’s special forces are working outside the security zone of the Kabul airport to identify and bring Canadian citizens and eligible Afghan nationals and their families through the security gates to waiting aircraft.

But many advocacy groups and people on the ground have reported problems with reaching officials and have criticized the government for not acting sooner.

One Afghan interpreter who worked for Canada’s military said the the Taliban blocked him from getting onto a military plane and beat him up. CBC News is protecting his identity because he fears for his security and the safety of his three children and pregnant wife.

“They made us wait for two hours then said, ‘You are not allowed to go inside.’ They have plastic pipes and wooden sticks. They just beat you like a stone with a hammer,” he said.

“It’s like leaving the mouse in the mouth of the lion.”

He said the military needs to send buses to escort families like his to the airport. He fears it may already be too late.

“I just count my days until I’m dead.”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said that as of Aug. 24, Canada had airlifted more than 2,700 people out of Kabul, including Afghan refugees, Canadian citizens, permanent residents and other foreign nationals.

Canada has struck an air-bridge agreement with other countries that allows people bound for Canada to catch rides out of Kabul on allied aircraft while Canada steps up in the same fashion.

Mendicino said today that close to 1,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada and over 300 have now finished quarantine.

“We are now going to be moving into the next phase of this operation, which is to provide support to Afghans after the coalition withdraws,” he said.

Canada has so far evacuated more people out of Afghanistan than 10 other countries, including Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, according to the Immigration Minister’s office’s tracking numbers, which are based on media stories. 

The White House says the airlift overall has flown out 82,300 Afghans, Americans and others on a mix of U.S., international and private flights. Britain said on Wednesday it has evacuated more than 11,000 people from Afghanistan.

WATCH | O’Toole says Trudeau has ‘abandoned’ people in Afghanistan:

O’Toole says Trudeau has ‘abandoned’ people in Afghanistan

8 hours ago

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has abandoned people in Afghanistan — but isn’t saying exactly what he would have done differently. 1:46

Just yesterday, following a virtual G7 meeting, Trudeau said Canada will remain in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 date to help evacuate more Canadians and eligible Afghans — as long as the security situation permits.

“I emphasized that Canada is ready to stay beyond the 31st deadline, if it’s at all possible, because we want to save as many people as possible and Canadians are ready to work to try and do that,” he said.

A PMO spokesperson later clarified that the prospect of Canadian Forces’ remaining in Kabul beyond the end of the month depends on the extension of the U.S. military presence, and that Canada would not remain in Afghanistan after the U.S. pulled out its troops.

Direct appeal to Taliban

As the Taliban were taking Kabul on Aug. 15, Trudeau dismissed the notion that Canada would recognize them as a legitimate government. This week, he seemed to be shifting that position. 

“The international community has a few very clear expectations and demands of the Taliban if they want to be even engaged with constructively and positively, whether it’s financially, whether it’s in terms of food security, whether it’s plenty of things that are needed in order to set up a functional society that they have just taken by violence,” he said.

Today, Maryam Monsef, the minister for women and gender equality, made a direct appeal to the Taliban to allow Canada to evacuate people safely.

“I want to take this opportunity to speak to our brothers the Taliban. We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country,” she said.

After fielding more questions, she said her use of the word “brothers” was a cultural reference.

WATCH | Maryam Monsef calls on Taliban ‘brothers’ to permit Afghans to evacuate:

Maryam Monsef calls on Taliban ‘brothers’ to allow safe passage to people fleeing Afghanistan

5 hours ago

Monsef, the Liberals’ minister for women and gender equality, says Muslims often refer to each other as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ but she still views the Taliban as a terrorist organization. 1:14

“Muslims refer to one another as brother and sisters,” said Monsef, who fled the Taliban with her widowed mother and two younger sisters in the 1990s.

“But let me be very clear, we do not support the Taliban, we are horrified that the hard won gains of the past 20 years are at stake like this and being eroded like this.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the “language used by the Trudeau government is completely unacceptable.”

“I would never abandon people as Mr. Trudeau has,” he said in Brampton, Ont. today. “We had months to act when it would have been much less of a risk to operate.”

WATCH | Singh says ‘it looks like Canada has failed’ its Afghan allies:

Singh says ‘it looks like Canada has failed’ its Afghan allies

10 hours ago

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Canada needs to do everything it can to get its allies out of Afghanistan. 1:32

When asked what he would have done differently, the Conservative leader said he would work with the Canadian Armed Forces and allies.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Canada should not recognize the Taliban.

“When it comes to our relationship with Taliban, I am very firm on this is a terrorist organization that we should not be dealing with,” he said during a campaign stop in Windsor, Ont.

“We should not be recognizing but we need to do everything we can to secure the release of our allies.”

Watch | Retired journalist Kevin Newman says Afghans have virtually no way to get into Kabul airport: 

‘There is virtually no way to get into the [Kabul] airport’: Retired journalist on Afghan evacuations

2 hours ago

Retired journalist Kevin Newman, who is actively involved in the humanitarian effort to get eligible Afghans out of Afghanistan, told Power & Politics Wednesday that he doesn’t have much hope that Canada will be able to move a significant number of Afghans out of the country in the next 24-28 hours. 7:15

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

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The latest:

U.S. President Joe Biden received his COVID-19 booster shot on Monday, days after federal regulators recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans aged 65 or older and approved them for others with pre-existing medical conditions and high-risk work environments.

“The most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said before getting the booster. He said he didn’t have side-effects after his first or second shots.

Biden, 78, got his first shot on Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, on Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden.

Speaking on Friday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer booster, Biden told reporters, “I’ll be getting my booster shot. It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot. “

Biden emerged as a champion of booster doses this summer, as the U.S. experienced a sharp rise in coronavirus cases from the more transmissible delta variant. While the vast majority of cases continue to occur among unvaccinated people, regulators pointed to evidence from Israel and early studies in the U.S. showing that protection against so-called breakthrough cases was vastly improved by a third dose of the Pfizer shot.

Pushback from WHO on boosters

But the aggressive American push for boosters — before many poorer countries have been able to provide even a modicum of protection for their most vulnerable populations — has drawn the ire of the World Health Organization and some aid groups, which have called on the U.S. to pause third shots to free up supply for the global vaccination effort.

Biden said last week that the U.S. was purchasing another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — for a total of one billion over the coming year — to donate to less well-off countries.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, 56, received the Moderna vaccine, for which federal regulators have not yet authorized boosters — but they are expected to in the coming weeks. Regulators are also expecting data about the safety and efficacy of a booster for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot soon.

At least 2.66 million Americans have received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine since mid-August, according to the CDC. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer shot. U.S. regulators recommend getting the boosters at least six months after the second shot of the initial two-dose series.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, 79, a polio survivor, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and revealed he had also received a booster dose Monday.

“Like I’ve been saying for months, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus,” he said.

— From The Associated Press, last updated at 4:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Alberta, Sask. hospitals strain under 4th wave: 

Health-care systems in Alberta, Saskatchewan ‘broken’ by COVID surge, doctors say

8 hours ago

Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER physician in Edmonton, and Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU and critical care physician in Saskatoon, share how the provinces’ hospitals and medical professionals are struggling amid a fourth wave of COVID-19. 16:41

The pressure on Alberta and Saskatchewan’s health-care systems continues to grow amid COVID-19 surges, with both provinces hitting new records on Monday.

In Alberta, health officials reported an unprecedented 312 patients in intensive care units (ICUs), the vast majority of whom have COVID-19. Doctors have warned that triage protocols would be activated in a worst-case scenario, and some say patient care is already being affected.

“It’s not just unvaccinated patients who are suffering; it’s vaccinated patients who are suffering, it’s everybody,” Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER doctor in Edmonton, told CBC News.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 289 people with COVID-19 in hospital on Monday, breaking a record set the day before. Of those, 63 are in intensive care, tying the record first reported on Saturday.

Premier Scott Moe said his government has not asked the federal government for military or health-care workers to support the COVID-19 battle in hospitals, but has discussed other areas of potential assistance.

Ottawa is assisting in Alberta after it made a formal request. It will help with air-lifting patients to other provinces, and by sending ICU-registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

— From CBC News, last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A girl receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in Concon, Chile, on Monday. Chile is lifting its state of emergency following a sharp decrease in cases. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)

As of Monday evening, more than 232.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Middle East, Jordan’s royal palace says Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II has tested positive for COVID-19 and is displaying “mild symptoms.” The palace said in a statement that King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, the 27-year-old crown prince’s parents, have both tested negative but will self-quarantine for five days. All three members of the royal family have been vaccinated.

In Europe, President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said France would give 120 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries, doubling an earlier pledge, French news agency AFP reported.

In the Americas, Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, following a sharp decrease in cases. The state of emergency had allowed the government to impose nighttime curfews and forced quarantines on hard-hit districts amid the worst of the outbreak.

Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. Cuban scientists have said the vaccines are more than 90 per cent effective against illness, though — like all vaccines — less so against mere infection.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan plans to lift its COVID-19 state of emergency, which covers 19 prefectures, in all of the regions at the end of September, broadcaster NHK reported on Monday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he discussed easing measures with relevant ministers on Monday and would seek the views of a government panel of advisers on Tuesday.

A mother comforts her child being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a hospital in Bangkok last week. (Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

Thailand’s COVID-19 task force approved a plan to procure a combined 3.35 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, a spokesperson said. The country will also waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and nine regions beginning Nov. 1 to vaccinated arrivals, according to authorities.

In Africa, Tunisia will entirely lift its nightly curfew against COVID-19 beginning Saturday, the presidency said, after about a year in force.

— From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

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Huge homecoming parties result in arrests, fines across Canadian college towns – CTV News

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HALIFAX —
On several big Canadian campuses Monday, the morning chatter wasn’t about classwork or assignments. Instead, students traded gossip about some of the huge parties that took place over the weekend.

Thousands of post-secondary students packed the streets in Guelph, Ont., London, Ont. and Halifax on Saturday, breaking liquor laws, COVID-19 restrictions and in some cases, property.

But some students got more than a homecoming hangover for their efforts, as police in Halifax issued tickets and arrested 10 people for public drunkenness. Police in London arrested one person and issued a number of fines. Partygoers in Guelph were limited to tickets and fines.

College town rowdiness may not be new, but it seems public patience has evaporated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Enjoy the fines & upcoming academic discipline hearings you rightly deserve,” Guelph mayor Cam Guthrie tweeted Saturday.

Halifax city councillor Waye Mason blamed the high number of first-year students as a result of the number of high-school graduates who deferred post-secondary studies amid the pandemic.

“You have twice the population of students who have no kind of grounding in adult behaviour in public,” he told CTV National News.

In a news release, Dalhousie University admonished those who attended what it called an “unsanctioned” and “illegal” event, urging them to get tested for COVID-19 and “not to attend classes or general on-campus activities for one week.”

Dalhousie’s student union fired back, insisting the incident was predictable and preventable while criticizing school administration.

“Dalhousie currently has an on-campus dry policy. You’re also not allowed to have visitors in residence,” Madeleine H. Stinson, president of the student union, told CTV National News. “We know students were going to party and Dalhousie created it so that they couldn’t do so on campus.”

Meanwhile, Halifax police are investigating the events of the weekend and said it could result in charges. Dalhousie has also threatened to fine or even to expel students who participated in the party. 

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Canada seeks to attract U.S. frequent flyers with perks on Air Canada

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Canada is trying to use the lure of travel perks to convince America’s frequent-flying elite to fly north on Air Canada, as the country steps up efforts to revive crucial traffic from the United States, a Canadian official said.

COVID-19 has battered travel from Canada‘s largest tourism market. During the first half of 2021, Canada had only about 178,000 overnight arrivals from the United States, compared with 6.8 million during the same period in 2019, according to government data.

To help reverse that decline, government tourism body Destination Canada on Monday rolled out its first campaign targeting U.S. frequent flyers, in partnership with the country’s largest carrier.

It is part of broader, C$14 million ($11.2 million) efforts by the tourism commission to boost traffic after Canada recently opened its borders to vaccinated travellers. It is not clear how much the specific frequent flyer campaign will cost.

“This is super-focused in terms of our ability to reach frequent flyers,” Gloria Loree, Destination Canada‘s chief marketing officer told Reuters, ahead of the launch.

Under the plan, up to 20,000 U.S. frequent flyers with carriers like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines Co and Delta Air Lines could get matching status when flying Air Canada north of the border.

Delta declined to comment and American Airlines did not immediately respond.

Southwest, which does not serve Canada directly, said by email that the government arm’s support contributes to the industry’s collective efforts “to restart substantive air travel.”

Frequent-flyer status gives travelers perks like priority boarding that would normally cost a premium fare or a fee.

While status-matching is common among airlines, Destination Canada said this is the first time a tourism organization has used the practice to attract tourists to their country.

“This is the push to get them coming to Canada,” Loree said.

Eligible U.S. frequent flyers who book and travel north on AC before Jan. 15, 2022, will keep their status with the carrier for all of 2022, she said.

It comes as countries ease restrictions on international travel, with the United States set to reopen in November to vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries.

Loree said funding frequent-flyer status matching is no different from other incentives paid for by Destination Canada, such as a separate campaign this year with Air Canada‘s rival, WestJet Airlines.

Loree said the goal is to restore routes from the United States, while trying to attract travelers who will return to Canada.

In April, hard-hit Air Canada received an estimated C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) government aid package with the country gaining a stake of roughly 6% in the carrier.

While Canada‘s high vaccination rate could reassure tourists, the cost of the country’s COVID-19 PCR test requirements for arrivals could dissuade some travelers, said Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University.

Loree said targeting U.S. frequent flyers is a plus because they are largely accustomed to those requirements.

“They’ve figured out how to travel,” Loree said. “So we want them to consider Canada as their next trip.”

Air Canada shares closed up 3.48% in Toronto trade.

($1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in ChicagoEditing by Denny Thomas, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)

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