Canada is prepared to continue sending military transports back to Kabul to carry on evacuating desperate Afghans in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today.
But that evacuation effort will depend in large part on the ability of U.S. and Canadian troops to secure the city’s airport — the fragile gateway to a tenuous air bridge for thousands of people fleeing the Taliban following the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of President Ashraf Ghani.
At least four Canadian evacuation flights have gotten out of the city over the last several weeks. They’ve brought out at least 807 Afghans and about 500 of them have since arrived in Canada.
Thousands remain stranded in the chaos and panic engulfing Kabul. Some former military interpreters on Canada’s waiting list went out to the airport on Sunday in a futile attempt to board aircraft, but were refused entry at the gate.
Trudeau said he was “absolutely horrified” by the heartbreaking scenes emerging from Kabul of despondent Afghans clinging to the wheels of a departing U.S. Air Force transport plane. He vowed to continue the evacuation effort alongside allies.
The Associated Press, quoting a high-level U.S. official, reported that U.S. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who is in charge of the U.S. Central Command, met face-to-face with Taliban leaders on Monday and warned them not to interfere with the massive evacuation effort.
WATCH: Trudeau says Canada ‘firmly condemns’ escalating violence in Afghanistan
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in Washington that there are now 2,500 American troops at the airport.
Trudeau said Canadian special forces are working alongside the American soldiers to secure the airport. He said Canadian military transports are standing by to return when it’s clear the situation on the ground is secure.
“We have military still in Afghanistan right now,” the prime minister said. “We are staging out of Kuwait, including military aircraft. We’re looking very closely with our allies at what those next steps could be.”
Canada has relied on a mixture of military and contracted airlift for its evacuation. With the security situation on the ground growing worse, however, contractors are increasingly reluctant to make the dangerous journey.
U.S. President Joe Biden — defending his decision to stick with the Trump administration’s withdrawal agreement — today said he has authorized additional troops to help with the evacuation, bringing the total American military presence to 6,000.
He said he wants to see the Kabul airport made able to handle both military and civilian air traffic.
“Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel of our allies.”
The U.S. already has resettled as many as 2,000 Afghan who worked for the military and their families and Biden said his administration intends to continue the effort.
Trudeau said officials will continue processing the applications of Afghans who want to come to Canada at remote locations, now that the Canadian embassy in Kabul is closed.
‘Everybody’ underestimated the speed of Taliban takeover: Garneau
The Liberal government has faced withering criticism from veterans and opposition parties over the pace of its evacuation effort.
The Opposition Conservatives said some constituents, veterans and at least one non-governmental organization (NGO) have tried to get answers out of federal departments on the status of applications of individual Afghans without success.
“Despite repeated attempts to communicate with the Liberal government on what’s being done to save the lives of these individuals, they have yet to respond,”s aid Michelle Rempel Garner, Conservative candidate for Calgary Nose Hill, and Alex Ruff, Conservative candidate for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in a joint statement.
“The lives of these Afghans are in danger, and they need an immediate response.”
The Conservatives blame the calling of the election, which has put the federal government in caretaker mode.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau defended the government’s handling of the crisis, saying events swiftly spiralled out of control.
“Let me just say that everybody, everybody, all intelligence communities, underestimated the speed with which the Taliban moved in to take over the control of the country and how quickly the Afghan military were ready to surrender,” Garneau told CBC’s Power & Politics Monday.
“I can understand the frustration, but this has happened very, very fast. And we have been trying to deal with that reality as quickly as possible, to get as many of the eligible Afghans out of the country as possible, and we will continue to do that.”
On the question of whether Canada would follow the example of the U.S. and refuse to recognize the Taliban government, Garneau was non-committal.
“It’s early days and we have to see what happens,” he said.
He added that the international community will have to see how the Taliban behave now that they’re back in power.
The United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate halt to hostilities in Afghanistan and the establishment of a new government “that is united, inclusive and representative” and also includes women.
It was the council’s first statement since the collapse of Afghanistan’s government. Ghani fled into exile on Sunday.
Trudeau said the Taliban needs to end the violence and restore order outside the airport, where tens of thousands of people are still encamped and waiting for their chance to escape.
“We need to see the Taliban step up and permit the evacuation of those who want to leave, and that is what we are expecting of them,” Trudeau said, noting Canada and dozens of other countries released a declaration Sunday night calling on the new regime to keep the borders open.
Canadians appear eager to take off for sun destinations despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges – CBC.ca
Michel Dubois has packed his bags, even though his planned trip to Cuba is still more than two months away.
That’s because the retired TV cameraman and editor from Saint-Jérome, Que., is eager for a break from the monotony of pandemic life.
“After a year and a half of sitting in front of my TV and computer, it’s time to move on,” said Dubois, 70, who plans to do some scuba diving and enjoy the sun.
Trips like the one Dubois has booked are giving airlines and tour operators something to look forward to as well — seemingly better business prospects after months of severely hampered operations due to pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions.
Some key travel players are reporting increased demand for bookings to sun destinations, despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic that has yet to end inside or outside Canada’s borders.
Better days ahead?
The onset of the pandemic prompted governments — including Canada’s — to urge people to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.
It’s a stance Ottawa still holds, even though the government recently loosened restrictions for incoming travellers who are vaccinated.
“We continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Global Affairs Canada said in an email on Friday, noting that this applies to all countries around the globe.
The department also pointed to practical concerns for those who choose to go abroad.
“Additional travel restrictions can be imposed suddenly. Airlines can suspend or reduce flights without notice. Travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult to return home.”
WATCH | Incoming travellers and Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave:
Indeed, COVID-19 travel restrictions vary from country to country, with vaccine passports gaining traction with some governments. Prior to the current federal election campaign, Ottawa had announced plans to develop such documentation for international travel.
Then and now
Ambarish Chandra, an associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto, says that while the government actively discouraged travel last winter, that didn’t deter all people from going abroad — such as snowbirds who went to Florida.
With the progress on vaccination that has been made, Chandra said he believes Ottawa’s stance on leisure travel may have to shift.
“I don’t think it would be reasonable for the government to go a second winter season saying: ‘Don’t travel,'” Chandra said in an interview.
Jörg Fritz, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at Montreal’s McGill University, says that as travel picks up, Canada will have to keep a close eye on what strains of the virus are circulating here and around the globe.
“We simply need to face that this virus will not go away that quickly,” he said.
“The danger that new variants arise that might escape vaccine-induced immunity is still there and will be there for quite a while.”
It’s also key for Canada to continue increasing its vaccination rate and to ensure that children are protected as soon as that is possible, Fritz said.
A desire to get away
Air Canada says the upcoming fall and winter looks promising for travel to sun destinations.
“When looking to the sun market, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News in a recent email, adding that “we are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”
Meanwhile, Sunwing Travel Group reports seeing “encouraging demand” compared with last fall, which spokesperson Melanie Anne Filipp says shows Canadians are growing more confident about travelling again.
“The rise in vaccinations across the country and easing border measures have without a doubt contributed to Canadians’ increasing interest in travel to sun destinations,” said Filipp, who noted that business remains below pre-pandemic levels.
Montreal-based Air Transat is currently flying passengers to a mix of domestic and international locations. Some of its sun destinations include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.
“We confirm that demand is doing well, and we clearly feel that the urge to travel is back,” Air Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana said via email.
“However, because of the uncertainty that still exists when traveling abroad, bookings are being made more last minute than before the pandemic.”
Being able to back out
A last-minute travel buy was not the story for Dubois, the retired TV cameraman, who booked his own trip back in January.
But he also bought a ticket that will allow him to cancel his plans up to 24 hours before departure, with a full refund.
On prior trips, he hadn’t tended to pencil in the possibility of needing to cancel — but that was before COVID-19.
“Before now, no,” said Dubois, who worked for both CBC and Radio-Canada during his career. “Now, definitely.”
The University of Toronto’s Chandra says the more flexible arrangements being offered by airlines reflects the fact that some customers won’t be willing to book expensive tickets if there’s a chance they will lose their money.
Rolling out the welcome mat
Dubois is heading to Cuba at the end of November, and by that time, travel restrictions will have been eased.
The Cuban Tourism Ministry recently announced that as of Nov. 15, Canadians with proof of vaccination won’t have to take a test before heading to the country. They’ll also be able to travel across the island.
Sunwing’s Filipp said that “numerous sun destinations are already open for travel,” and like Cuba, other destinations are expected to ease restrictions of their own as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 cases decline.
Chandra says he’s doubtful that differing rules between sun destinations will have much of an effect on travel patterns.
That’s because a lot of sun seekers — and snowbirds in particular — are likely to “stick to their choices” when it comes to their desired winter getaways. “They’re not going to go other places,” he said.
They’re also unlikely to go to other regions because they head south to take advantage of the better weather, he said.
What is basic income and which of Canada's main parties support it? – CBC.ca
When the federal government launched the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) last year, it left some wondering whether it could lead to a lasting framework for a national basic income program — one that would help lift struggling Canadians out of poverty.
While it was a temporary program, CERB provided a touchstone for many who wondered, if the country can create a standard livable wage during a pandemic, why stop there?
Port Elgin, Ont., resident Mini Jacques was one of many who reached out to Ask CBC to find out where the parties stand on basic income during this election.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s an even playing field for basic living,” she said in an interview.
“The government is saying that for CERB, people get $2,000 just to exist and yet … [we] haven’t had a raise in disability for some time.”
Jacques is blind and relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program for income. Her rent costs $1,022 monthly and she receives $1,169 through ODSP. That leaves her just $147 a month to cover the remaining necessities.
She works part-time to supplement those benefits, but if she earns more than $200 monthly, half of her take home earnings over $200 are deducted from her income support.
Her rent is increasing, and she worries that her ODSP cheques won’t increase at the same pace. She’s 61 years old, and for now she said she’s getting by with the help of friends and family.
What Jacques wants is for the government to create a basic income program that sets the same standard income for everyone who needs help — whether you’re unemployed, disabled, or working but not earning enough to stay above the poverty line.
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What is basic income?
What makes basic income different from other programs, such as income assistance or welfare, is that it comes with no strings attached. In the simplest terms, it’s a regular payment without conditions, sent from the government to families and individuals.
In Canada about 3.7 million people live below the poverty line, according to the 2019 Canada Income Survey. Statistics Canada considers people as living below the poverty line if they don’t have enough income to cover the local cost of necessities such as food, clothing, footwear, transportation and shelter.
Right now, struggling Canadians can access help support through a patchwork of federal, provincial and municipal programs.
Health economist Evelyn Forget, a professor in the department of health sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said that basic income would replace many of those programs, and ideally cut out a lot of the confusing, bureaucratic red tape.
Forget, the author of Basic Income for Canadians: from the COVID-19 emergency to financial security for all, is a firm believer in the benefits of basic income.
She explained there are two types:
Universal basic income (UBI) means that everyone in a society — rich or poor — gets a monthly cheque for the same amount. At the end of the year, the government uses the tax system to balance out the scales and recoup that extra cash from the higher income earners who didn’t end up needing it.
Guaranteed basic income (GBI) is the system most people are referring to when they talk about basic income in Canada. It is an income-contingent system, meaning monthly payments only go to families and individuals with lower income.
The CERB program was not, in fact, basic income, because there were conditions to qualify: Canadians were only eligible if they had earned at least $5,000 in the last year.
Because the cost of living varies across Canada, there’s no single income level that defines poverty. But Forget said generally, advocates have talked about setting guaranteed basic income at around $20,000 a year for a single person between the ages of 18 to 64.
Where has it been tested and how well did it work?
Countries around the world, including Spain, Namibia, Brazil and Iran, have experimented with basic income, mostly through pilot projects and trial runs.
In Canada, Manitoba ran a pilot project called Mincome from 1974 to 1978 in the rural community of Dauphin.
The idea was to test whether a no-strings attached wage would actually help the working poor by supplementing their income, or end up deterring them from working altogether.
Forget studied the outcomes of that project and found that participants were less likely to be hospitalized and more likely to continue their education.
She said for the most part, basic income did not discourage people from working. One of the groups who worked less were new mothers who, in the 1970s in Manitoba, would have only been entitled to a few weeks of parental leave.
The other group that was disincentivized to work by basic income was young, unattached males. Forget discovered the reason those young men, often in their teens, were less likely to work was because basic income meant their families could afford to let them stay in school. Instead of dropping out to earn wages, they were able to get their high school diplomas.
“The fundamental idea behind basic income, I think, is solid,” she said.
“Unconditional money available to people allows them to make choices about their own lives, allows them to make better decisions about how to live their lives, and leads to better outcomes.”
More recently, Ontario introduced a basic income pilot project in 2017. Close to 4,000 people were enrolled and it was supposed to last three years, but was cancelled early following the election of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government. They said the program was too expensive.
A 2021 report by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer found that, if the federal government created a national basic income program similar to Ontario’s, it would cost around $85 billion in 2021-2022 and cut poverty rates by almost half.
“It costs a lot, no question about it,” Forget said.
However, she added that a lot of that cost would be balanced out by eliminating the programs basic income would replace, which might include income assistance or various refundable tax credits.
“A simplified process is always cheaper. It’s always more efficient,” she said.
What are the disadvantages?
In 2018, the government of British Columbia asked a panel of experts to study the feasibility of a basic income for the province. The resulting report found that “the needs of people in this society are too diverse to be effectively answered simply with a cheque from the government.”
Panel chair David Green, a labour economist and a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of B.C., said the better solution is to reform the programs that already exist.
“If our problem is really, the full heterogeneous, complex issue of poverty — how do we make a more just society — then, in many cases, sending people a cheque and hoping they will do better is not going to answer the problem,” Green said.
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Green said it would be better to tackle issues head-on, targeting poor working conditions and low wages, reforming the disability assistance program and boosting rent assistance.
Still, others believe basic income is the right solution for Canada.
Two of the calls for justice in the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said Canada should establish a guaranteed livable income for all.
Where do the main parties stand?
Like economists, Canada’s main parties are also divided on basic income, though none are promising universal basic income. Here’s where they stand:
The Green Party:
Platform commits to establishing a guaranteed livable income program.
“The federal government would provide an initial base-level subsidy across the country, and an intergovernmental body would determine and administer the necessary supplemental amounts.”
Platform commits to a guaranteed livable basic income.
“New Democrats will work to expand all income security programs to ensure everyone in Canada has access to a guaranteed livable basic income.”
Would start by lifting seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty, and build on that to establish a basic income for all.
The Liberal Party:
No platform commitment to basic income.
Strong support from within the party for a basic income program.
Liberal MP for Davenport, Julie Dzerowicz, tabled a bill calling for a national basic income strategy in 2021. The bill died at the dissolution of parliament when the election was called.
The Bloc Québécois:
The People’s Party of Canada:
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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
Union leaders representing thousands of medical workers in Alberta have asked Premier Jason Kenney to deploy the military and Red Cross to shore up a health-care system they say is “collapsing right in front of our eyes,” due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases.
“It’s time to call in the military to help our overwhelmed hospitals,’ says a letter issued Saturday and addressed to the premier, with a warning that hospitals have “run out of staff” to treat severe cases.
It was signed by the presidents of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as well as the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
The letter notes that military units were deployed in April to support Ontario’s long-term care facilities. Also in April, the Canadian Armed Forces sent dozens of service members to help out at COVID-19 testing centres in Nova Scotia.
Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical health officer for Alberta and co-chair of Alberta’s Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee, issued his own dire warnings last week.
“We’re in crisis, Surgeries are being cancelled … ICUs are more than 50 per cent above normal capacity,” he said.
As of Thursday, there were 911 people in Alberta’s hospitals with COVID-19, including 215 in intensive care beds.
Between 18 and 20 severely ill Albertans — most of them unvaccinated — are being admitted to ICU every day, said Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.
Alberta Health Services has commandeered beds in operating rooms, recovery wards and observation spaces to create more ICU capacity and is prepared to transfer Albertans to Ontario for care if needed.
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 228.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled a roadmap to easing restrictions in Australia’s Victoria state on Sunday. He said the state’s weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 per cent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, no matter if there are new cases.
Victoria is expected to meet that vaccination threshold on Oct. 26, Andrews said.
As of the weekend, just under 43 per cent of people in the state and just over 46 per cent of people nationwide had been fully vaccinated.
Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, while Victoria state registered 507 new cases.
In Asia, tens of thousands of devotees packed the old palace courtyard in the heart of Nepal’s capital on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.
The week-long Indra Jatra precedes months of other festivals in the predominantly Hindu nation.
Armed police guarded the alleys and roads leading to the main courtyard in the capital, Kathmandu, while volunteers sprayed sanitizers and distributed masks to the devotees.
Nepal has imposed several lockdowns and other restrictions since the pandemic hit. According to the country’s Health Ministry, there have been 784,000 confirmed cases with more than 11,000 deaths. Only 19 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
In the Americas, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health says a government advisory panel’s decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans 65 and older, as well as those at high risk of severe disease, is a preliminary step, and he predicts broader approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks.”
Dr. Francis Collins told Fox News Sunday that the panel’s recommendation on Friday was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the U.S. and Israel continues to come in showing waning efficacy among broader groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
In Europe, Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his closeness to the victims of a flood in Mexico, which led to the deaths of at least 17 people, most of whom had COVID-19, at a hospital in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. The pontiff was speaking to faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City for his weekly Angelus prayer.
Torrential rains caused Mexico’s River Tula to burst its banks on Sept. 7, and more than 40 other patients in the public hospital in the town of Tula were transported away by emergency service workers. An initial assessment showed about 2,000 houses had flood damage, the Mexican government said in a statement.
Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad told local media that 15 or 16 out of the 17 fatalities were COVID-19 patients. The media said the deaths occurred when flooding caused by days of rain knocked out electricity at the hospital.
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