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Canadian special forces ready to evacuate embassy after Kandahar falls to the Taliban –



Special forces troops are on standby to help evacuate Canada’s embassy in Kabul, a defence source tells CBC News.

The highly-trained soldiers are expected to work alongside allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are sending thousands of troops to the Afghan capital to aid in the partial evacuation of their embassies as security throughout the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.

In what can only be described as a major military and psychological victory, on Thursday the Taliban captured both Kandahar and Herat — Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities.

The confidential source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that at the moment the government has no intention of deploying a large conventional force, as both the Americans and British plan to do. (The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops, the British 600.)

There has been extensive discussion between the Canadian military and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) — which is responsible for the Middle East — about providing logistical and transport assistance to Canada, should it be required, said the source — who is not being identified by CBC News because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The decision to shut down the Canadian embassy or reduce its operations lies with the federal government.

WATCH | Kandahar was hub of Canada’s combat mission:

Dreams of progress lost with fall of Kandahar

2 hours ago

For many in Canada, the fall of Kandahar is especially bitter because it was a hub for Canada’s combat mission and filled with dreams of progress that have now been dashed. 2:02

Ciara Trudeau, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, would not confirm the embassy is in the process of being shut down, but did say that the federal government is closely monitoring the situation and that Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is “in close coordination with our allies” and the country’s ambassador in Afghanistan.

“The security of the Canadian Embassy and the safety of our personnel in Kabul is our top priority. For security reasons we do not comment on specific operational matters of our missions abroad,” said Trudeau in an email late Thursday night.

Separately, the U.S. State Department confirmed Garneau spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Washington’s plan to reduce the size of the U.S. civilian contingent in Afghanistan.

The ‘security situation is deteriorating’ — Sajjan

Earlier Thursday, before the news out of Afghanistan, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan acknowledged that Kandahar — the city Canadians fought and died to protect for five years — could fall.

“We’re monitoring the situation extremely closely,” Sajjan said during a media availability in South Vancouver. “In fact, I have daily briefings on this, and I had one this morning.

“All I can say is right now, yes, the security situation is deteriorating. We do have contingency plans in place to make sure that our personnel are safe.”

Sajjan would not elaborate on those plans.

Members of the Afghan National Police are seen at a shura (meeting) with soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, on April 20, 2006. (John D McHugh/AFP/Getty Images)

Addressing one portion of his remarks to members of the military and to the families of the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Sajjan said their sacrifices and contributions to Canada were “extraordinary.”

He even tried to suggest those sacrifices will endure, noting that the Taliban committed many heinous acts in Kandahar before they were driven from power in 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion and that Canada helped to transform the city in the years afterward.

“The stadium in Kandahar City that was used for atrocities, it was again used for people to play soccer. Girls were able to go to school …” he said.

“There’s a generation of Afghans who have benefited from the tremendous sacrifice that have been made by Canadians and our allies. And I want to say this — no one can erase that now.”

Taliban reportedly hunting down those who worked for western forces

Sajjan acknowledged, however, that Canada can’t “choose a destiny” for Afghanistan. He said that Canada will continue to support the Afghan people.

In areas conquered by the Taliban recently, humanitarian groups — notably Human Rights Watch — have reported militants executing prisoners and hunting down people who worked for western forces and civilian agencies. 

Canada has been working to bring some of those Afghan workers to Canada under a special immigration program. A first government flight carrying dozens of Afghans who assisted the Canadian military during the war in Afghanistan arrived in Toronto.

More are expected to arrive in coming weeks.

Tonight a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC News that the agency is processing applications as quickly as possible. It is also adapting the program to help workers who have had to leave Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and volatile,” Nancy Caron said in an email. “Given this situation, we are adapting our processes to accommodate those who may now find themselves outside Afghanistan.”

Individuals who want to come to Canada may now apply for the program from anywhere, provided applicants or their eligible family members were in Afghanistan on or after July 22, 2021, according to Caron. 

Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. The Taliban captured the provincial capital near Kabul on Thursday, the 10th the insurgents have taken over a weeklong blitz across Afghanistan as the U.S. and NATO prepare to withdraw entirely from the country after decades of war. (Gulabuddin Amiri/Associated Press)

Quoting an anonymous Afghan official, the Associated Press reported that Kandahar had fallen after weeks of heavy street-to-street fighting.

The news agency said the provincial governor and other officials managed to flee the city by air on Thursday.

The capture of both Kandahar and Herat brings to 12 the number of provincial capitals which have fallen to the Taliban offensive in recent days.

Earlier this week, the city of Ghazni was also overrun. It is on the main highway between Kandahar and the capital and its demise means the hardline Islamist movement is tightening its grip on Kabul.

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Medical assistance in dying given to 10K Canadians in 2021 – CTV News



More Canadians are ending their lives with a medically-assisted death, says the third federal annual report on medical assistance in dying (MAID). Data shows that 10,064 people died in 2021 with medical aid, an increase of 32 per cent over 2020.

The report says that 3.3 per cent of all deaths in Canada in 2021 were assisted deaths. On a provincial level, the rate was higher in provinces such as Quebec, at 4.7 per cent, and British Columbia, at 4.8 per cent.

“It is rising remarkably fast,” University of Toronto law professor Trudo Lemmens, who was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, wrote in an email to CTV News. He noted that some regions in the country have quickly matched or surpassed rates in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the practice has been in place for over two decades.

Advocates say it isn’t surprising because Canadians are growing more comfortable with MAID and some expect the rising rates may level off.

“The…. expectation has always been it (the rate) will be something around four to five per cent, (as in) Europe. We will probably, in the end, saw off at around the same rate,” said Dr. Jean Marmoreo, a family physician and MAID provider in Toronto.

The report uses data collected from files submitted by doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists across the country involving written requests for MAID.

Among the findings:

  • All provinces saw increases in MAID deaths, ranging from 1.2 per cent (Newfoundland & Labrador) to a high of 4.8 per cent (British Columbia);
  • More men (52.3 per cent) than women (47.7 per cent) received MAID;
  • The average age was 76.3 years;
  • Sixty-five per cent of those provided with assisted death had cancer. Heart disease or strokes were cited in 19 per cent of cases, followed by chronic lung diseases (12 per cent) and neurological conditions like ALS (12 per cent);
  • Just over two per cent of assisted deaths were offered to a newer group of patients: those with chronic illnesses but who were not dying of their condition, with new legislation in 2021 allowing expanded access to MAID.

Documents show that 81 per cent of written applications for MAID were approved.

Thirteen per cent of patients died before MAID could be provided, with almost two per cent withdrawing their application before the procedure was offered.

Four per cent of people who made written applications for medical assistance were rejected. The report says some were deemed ineligible because assessors felt the patient was not voluntarily applying for MAID. The majority of requests were denied because patients were deemed not mentally capable of making the decision.

But other countries with long-established programs reject far more assisted death requests, said Lemmens, citing data that shows 12 to 16 per cent of applicants in the Netherlands are told no.

“It ….may be an indication that restrictions (in my view safeguards) are weaker here than in the most liberal euthanasia regimes,” he wrote in his email to CTV News.

But Marmoreo, who has offered MAID since 2016, sees Canada’s low rejection rate differently.

“It is more like that the right cases are put forward,” she said.

“We have a very good screening process right from the get-go. So before people actually even make a formal request to have assisted dying, they have a lot of information that’s been given to them by the intake….here’s what’s involved in seeking an assisted death, you must meet these eligibility criteria.”

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B.C. ‘clear’ there’s not enough housing as Vancouver encampment ordered dismantled



VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s acting attorney general says the province was “clear” with Vancouver officials that the Crown corporation responsible for subsidized housing does not have enough spaces available for people who are being told to dismantle their tents along a street in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Murray Rankin, who is also the minister responsible for housing, says housing is a human right, and the “deeply concerning scenes from Hastings Street demonstrate how much more work we have to do to make that a reality for everyone in our communities.”

Rankin in a statement Friday says BC Housing has accelerated efforts to secure new housing for encampment residents including pursuing new sites to lease or buy and expediting renovations on single-room occupancy units as they become vacant.

He says BC Housing is aiming to make a “limited number” of renovated units available next week, with more opening later in the fall.

Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry ordered tents set up along Hastings Street sidewalks dismantled last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety risk.

Police blocked traffic Tuesday as city staff began what’s expected to be a weeks-long process of dismantling the encampment but little had changed by the end of the week with most residents staying put, saying they have nowhere to go.

The city has said staff plan to approach encampment residents with “respect and sensitivity” to encourage the voluntary removal of their tents and belongings.

Community advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Area of Drug Users and Pivot Legal Society, have said clearing the encampment violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the B.C. government and Vancouver’s park board, because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing.

The stated aim of the agreement struck last March is to connect unsheltered people to housing and preserve their dignity when dismantling encampments.

The City of Vancouver may enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors,” it reads.

The province is not involved in the fire chief’s order or the enforcement of local bylaws, which prohibit structures on sidewalks, but it is “bringing all of BC Housing’s resources to bear to do what we can to secure housing for people, Rankin said.

“I recognize the profound uncertainty and upheaval people impacted by the fire order are facing, and we will provide updates on this work as we have news to share,” he said.

Rankin, who had been serving as minister of Indigenous relations, was appointed acting attorney general after David Eby stepped down to run for leadership of the B.C. NDP.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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N.W.T. RCMP deploy controversial roadside cannabis screening devices



YELLOWKNIFE — RCMP in the Northwest Territories have begun using roadside cannabis-screening technology that has faced criticism from defence lawyers elsewhere in Canada.

Mounties in the territory announced late last month that they had deployed devices designed to take a saliva sample and test for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. They said the technology would help them detect impaired drivers and make roads safer.

But some criminal defence lawyers have raised concerns about these devices’ ability to deliver reliable test results, particularly in cold temperatures. They argue the technology isn’t effective at determining whether someone is impaired.

“It can lead to people being arrested who are actually innocent,” said Kyla Lee, a lawyer based in Vancouver.

Lee said research has shown the devices may be more likely to deliver false results in extreme cold temperatures, and movement during analysis could also affect outcomes. She added that while the devices can deliver either a positive or negative test result, they do not indicate how much THC may be in a person’s bloodstream.

Lee recently represented a Nova Scotia woman in a constitutional challenge of the law that allows for roadside drug testing technology in Canada.

Michelle Gray, who uses cannabis for multiple sclerosis, had her car impounded and her licence suspended for a week after she failed a cannabis saliva test at a roadside checkpoint in 2019, even though she passed a sobriety test that same night.

“The technology just doesn’t exist yet to allow police to make a determination of impairment via drugs using physical equipment,” Lee said.

Lee is awaiting a decision on the constitutional challenge in Nova Scotia. She said she expects there will be further court challenges in other Canadian jurisdictions where these devices are used, including the Northwest Territories.

There are two devices approved for roadside cannabis screening in Canada: the Drager DrugTest 5000 and the Abbott SoToxa mobile test system. The companies that manufacture the devices recommend they be used in temperatures no lower than 4 C and 5 C, respectively.

Cpl. Andree Sieber of the Regina Police Service, which began using roadside devices to detect cannabis use in early 2020, said officers bring drivers to their vehicles for testing to prevent issues with weather conditions or temperatures.

“We’ve used it throughout all seasons here in Regina,” she said. “We have very cold winters and some pretty nasty, snowy cold days and you have the person attend back to your vehicle with you where it’s heated and it’s not an issue.”

Sieber said the more THC a person has consumed, the more likely they are to show signs of impairment and to test positive.

The RCMP said roadside screening devices are just one tool they use to detect and investigate drug-impaired drivers alongside officers’ observations. They said field sobriety testing and drug recognition experts remain the primary enforcement tools.

“Police officers rely on what they see and hear, as well as what they smell when investigating impaired drivers,” the RCMP said in a written statement. “Regardless of how a drug is consumed, there are signs of that consumption and police are trained to recognized them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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