- The Taliban is advancing rapidly across Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw.
- Afghans who aided Canadian troops during the war there are now facing torture and death from the Taliban, prompting urgent calls for the government to help them.
- The program announced Friday will see them and their families welcomed to Canada as refugees, though details on specifics of the plan are scarce.
Canadian officials are on the ground in Afghanistan and working to identify those eligible for a new “path to protection” for Afghans who supported Canadian troops during the war in that country.
The update from the government comes amid what Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino called a “critical” time for those who have helped Canadian soldiers and now face the risk of death and torture by a rapid Taliban advance across the country.
Details on the program are scarce so far but Mendicino said the program will welcome the Afghans and their families as refugees for resettlement. He said while the numbers are in flux, the estimate is that Afghans eligible under the program will be in the “thousands.”
Mendicino said the plan will focus on special immigration measures for Afghan interpreters, Afghans who have worked or are currently working to support the Canadian embassy, as well as their families.
It is also being kept deliberately broad in scope, and will also apply to those who worked in roles such as security guards, cooks, cleaners, drivers, and other roles in support of the embassy.
“We know that time is of the essence,” said Mendicino.
“We expect the first arrivals will be in Canada very shortly.”
Work continues to try to identify the Afghans who will be eligible, he said, but did not provide details when asked on how many individuals will be able to come to Canada or what the timeline is for the effort.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said they could not provide further details because of “operational security,” and said planning with coalition allies on logistics is underway.
“The plan itself has to be guarded for the safety of the people we’re trying to bring to Canada,” he said.
Mendicino talks logistics of resettlement plan for Afghan interpreters, advisors
Canada withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2011 but after roughly 20 years, U.S. forces are now also in the process of withdrawing from the country after waging a war to remove the Taliban from power.
The Taliban are Islamist extremists who enforce sharia law and held power in Afghanistan from roughly 1996 to 2001 when coalition forces overthrew them.
Now, the Taliban insurgency has been making rapid gains and now holds roughly half of the 421 districts as U.S. forces retreat, raising concerns that the militant extremists will be in a position to support other regional terrorist groups like ISIS and also target those who helped Canadian forces during the war.
Thousands of people have fled the Taliban advance.
As the fighters retake broad swaths of territory, former military leaders and veterans of Canada’s fight in Afghanistan have been urging the government to act quickly to honour the “moral obligation” this country owes to the Afghans who supported the coalition mission.
Mendicino echoed those sentiments on Friday.
“Not only does Canada owe them a debt of gratitude, we have a moral obligation to do right by them,” he said, and described the risk they will face retaliation from the Taliban as “grave.”
Afghan interpreters face death threats from Taliban after U.S. troops leave
In recent days, a group of Canadian veterans have been working to virtually try to coordinate a way for some of the Afghans who worked with soldiers to get to a safer place, pending evacuation, by using their existing network of contacts in the country.
“We managed to get a guy who was surrounded by gunfire, active airstrikes coming in to try and clear the Taliban from the area. He was trapped. And we got him to safety,” said Robin Rickards, a Canadian veteran of the war.
“Well, to relative safety.”
Global News was able to speak with that man — a former Afghan interpreter who was stuck in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province currently under siege by the Taliban. Out of concern for his safety, Global News is not identifying the man or where he is currently located.
“They already have information about the people who work with the coalition forces,” said the interpreter of the Taliban fighters entering the city.
He described witnessing fighting just 500 metres from his home, and said Taliban fighters are dumping bodies of those who helped coalition forces on highways and roads to send a signal as they continue to retake territory across the country.
“They wanted to show the people … we’re going to kill all of them,” he said.
“We want the government to start evacuation as soon as possible.”
Canadian veterans mobilize to help, as Taliban targets Afghan translators
The U.S. State Department said on Monday it plans to evacuate around 2,500 Afghans who assisted American troops during the conflict, and fly them to a military base in Virginia within days.
The U.S. also has what’s known as the Special Immigrant Visa program which allows those who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq to apply to immigrate. NBC News has cited U.S. officials as saying thousands of Afghans in the process of applying to that program will be flown to either military bases or a third country in order to be able to complete their application in safety.
It’s not yet clear to what extent Canada could coordinate with the U.S. on the evacuations or on moving the Afghans to a safer third country or area while their paperwork is processed.
Sajjan said while Canada is in discussions, he could not provide specific details.
Both the Conservatives and NDP, though, said the government could and should have acted sooner.
Tory Leader Erin O’Toole said the advance of the Taliban was predictable and that there should have been action before now to get the Afghans and their families to safety.
“The Liberal government should have made this announcement weeks ago. The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result,” he said in a statement.
“Instead of putting forward a plan to help the heroic Afghan interpreters, support staff, and their families, the Trudeau Liberals sat on their hands and did nothing. It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison accused the government of treating the Afghans as an “afterthought” and criticized the lack of details about the plan from the government.
“The US government has committed to providing airlift services for Afghans while their applications are processing, but details of the program are lacking from the Canadian government, including how quickly they will be able to bring them to safety,” he said.
“These collaborators, who played a vital role, have been abandoned for a decade without the support they desperately needed to find safety in Canada and deserve better. Countless interpreters and vital staff along with their families have been living in danger while the Liberals dragged their feet.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
Ontario and New Brunswick rolled out vaccine passport systems on Wednesday that require people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to show proof of vaccination before entering non-essential indoor spaces.
The programs require people who are eligible for the vaccines to show proof of vaccination at non-essential businesses where large numbers of people gather, including dine-in restaurants, gyms, sports events and clubs.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, urged people to be patient as workers and businesses adjust to the new requirement. Moore said he hopes the new system will help boost vaccination rates — particularly among 20- to 39-year-olds, who currently have the highest rate of infection in Ontario.
Proof-of-vaccination systems are becoming more common across Canada, as governments work to boost vaccination rates amid increasing COVID-19 numbers. However, the systems are not without controversy — some view them as an infringement on individual rights, others argue that the systems put undue burdens on businesses that have already been hit hard by pandemic closures and ever-changing regulations.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the divisions around vaccine mandates at a news conference on Wednesday, but he said the province can’t afford to shut down again or see another sudden surge in cases.
The vaccine certificate system is a temporary and exceptional measure, Ford said, as he again urged people to be patient as businesses adapt.
Ford said the province would not use the program for “one day longer” than needed.
But when asked later at the news conference about what metrics he would use to determine when the vaccine passport requirements would be lifted, he didn’t offer specifics. The premier instead said the decision, when it came, would be made based on advice from the chief medical officer of health and the province’s science table.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 463 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.
187 people are in ICU due to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>. 178 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and nine are fully vaccinated.
The systems put in place by officials in Ontario and New Brunswick allow for medical exemptions for people with documentation from their health-care provider.
However, experts in New Brunswick tell CBC that medical exemptions are rare because there’s little to no reason people physically can’t get vaccinated.
In announcing New Brunswick’s new rules last week, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province’s original target of having 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated is no longer enough with the new highly transmissible variants. The goal is now 90 per cent.
Also starting Wednesday, New Brunswickers are once again required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.
The province reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a new record high for daily cases. It also reported one additional death. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell has said the province is on a trajectory to have 100 new cases confirmed per day, every day.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, more than 229.9 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 Europe, Germany will stop sick pay for unvaccinated people who have to go into quarantine because of COVID-19. Previously, Germans could claim for income lost due to having to go into quarantine after returning from abroad or coming into contact with a positive case.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the move was a matter of “fairness,” arguing that by the time the new rule comes into force on Nov. 1, everyone who wants a vaccine will have had an opportunity to get one. Those who choose not to “will need to bear responsibility for this then, including the financial costs,” he said.
Germany has fully vaccinated 63.4 per cent of its population. The government has said it wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 75 per cent to prevent a sharp rise in cases during the winter months.
In the Asia-Pacific region, officials in the northeast China city of Harbin say national level health officials have been sent to the city to deal with what may be a coronavirus outbreak. The city of 9.5 million people reported three infection cases on Wednesday, a day after discovering a first case of community transmission.
After the initial finding, authorities started mass testing and closed schools. The city also ordered businesses such as mahjong parlours, cinemas and gyms to shut. City authorities say residents must display a negative virus test to be able to leave for only essential travel. Otherwise, people are being told to stay home.
In the Middle East, as coronavirus infections plummet and vaccinations accelerate in the United Arab Emirates, authorities have loosened a long-standing face mask mandate.
The Gulf Arab sheikhdom said Wednesday that residents no longer need to wear masks while exercising outdoors or visiting beaches and pools in the country. Those who receive medical or beauty treatments may also forgo the mask. However, face masks will still be required in indoor spaces such as shopping malls and public transportation.
In the Americas, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, just back from the United Nations, isolated himself at home on Wednesday and cancelled a trip after his health minister tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in quarantine in New York.
Bolsonaro defied UN rules that asked all those attending the assembly be inoculated against the coronavirus and was the only member of his entourage in New York who has not been vaccinated. Before travelling to the United States, he said he believed his antibody count from a bout with COVID-19 protected him better than a vaccine.
Meanwhile, United Airlines officials said 97 per cent of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated, with less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline has 67,000 U.S. employees.
In Africa, officials with the World Health Organization’s Africa region said this week that 14 countries on the continent had reached a goal of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September. But the same health officials noted that a “crippling vaccine supply shortage” remains a major issue for countries across Africa.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
Evolution of Canada as a Modern Payments Leader
With Silicon Valley taking most of the tech headlines from the North American continent, Japan being regularly publicized for its leaps in robotic technologies, and the UAE constantly investing in the latest tech, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many forget about Canada as a leader in the world.
However, just because Canada doesn’t command international headlines doesn’t mean that the country hasn’t proven to be incredibly tech-savvy, especially in the realms of payments and money. As a developed market, Canada has long boasted one of the highest credit card penetration rates in the world, at 83 percent (17 percent higher than the United States).
This is the start of a trend that will likely see Canada become the example of how payments around the world will take place, especially as it’s reported that the country will likely be the first to banish banknotes. Already, over 80 percent of Canadian bank transactions are made digitally, with there being many solutions available to the population. Yet, there’s more to come from the world-leading market in modern payments.
Rapid adoption of innovative cashless payment services
While VISA, MasterCard, and American Express still form the foundations of much of Canada’s payments preferences, eWallet and mobile payment solutions have become incredibly prevalent. Both PayPal and Apple Pay boast a strong customer base across the country, with a 2019 survey indicating that over 20 percent of Canadians had the PayPal app, with over 15 percent installing the Apple Pay app.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, due to the influx of these once-termed ‘alternative’ payment methods, new industries have quickly embraced them to appeal to Canadians. This isn’t anywhere more apparent than with the online casino industry, with the very best accepting PayPal as well as Skrill, Neteller, Trustly, and the two card providers. By offering these safe and popular methods, players are happy to try out thousands of online games.
PayPal looks to be positioning itself as the leader of a cashless Canada, and yet it’ll be expanding its offering even further soon. In September 2021, PayPal paid US$2.7 billion to acquire Japanese online payments firm Paidy, which specializes in buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) and payments without credit cards. This could further enhance its appeal to the Canadian population.
Growing into an ever-more digital space for money
Despite the rate of adoption of the newer or tech-savvy payment methods among customers, many still experience payment friction. It was found that over half of all Canadians have experienced a vendor not accepting their preferred payment method or there being a limit on the amount that can be transferred with any one purchase. This is why PayPal’s entry into BNPL could enhance its scope in Canada.
The BNPL market is tipped to be worth nearly US$4 trillion by the end of this decade, making it a powerhouse option in eCommerce. It will certainly become popular in less-developed markets, where people want more expensive goods than they can afford outright. However, it also has its place in a market like Canada, which will make all tiers of purchase more accessible to all, particularly if the PayPal rollout gains traction.
Another digital area of finance that Canada is seen to be particularly smitten with is that of cryptocurrencies. The government has created a remarkably crypto-friendly regulatory landscape, helping all kinds of coins to know where they stand, appeal to Canadians, and be used across the country. It’s said that around 1.2 million people (3.2 percent of the population) own cryptocurrencies in Canada already.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Canada is tipped to become the first cashless nation in the world, particularly with the adoption rate of eWallets and the embrace of even more modern solutions.
Alberta province replaces health minister
The premier Alberta province replaced his health minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, as a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases swamped the healthcare system and the government came under fire for mishandling the pandemic.
Hospitals in Canada‘s western oil-producing province are buckling under a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. There are a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, and Alberta has cancelled all non-elective surgeries and discussed transferring patients to other provinces.
United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Kenney and Shandro both face criticism for loosening public health measures much faster than other provinces earlier this year and delaying proof of vaccination requirements as cases started to rise.
“This cabinet shuffle is once again Jason Kenney refusing to take responsibility for his actions and his decisions,” independent lawmaker Drew Barnes, a member of the legislative assembly, told Reuters. “The best thing he could do is resign.”
Barnes was thrown out of the UCP caucus in May for publicly calling for Kenney’s resignation.
Alberta is a conservative stronghold but support for the federal party led by Erin O’Toole slipped in Monday’s election, which some Conservatives blamed on dissatisfaction with Kenney.
On Tuesday the province wrote to the federal government formally requesting more critical care staff and for help transporting patients out of Alberta.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Barbara Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)
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