“We have secured an aircraft to bring those Canadians who wish to leave back to Canada,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters Wednesday. “The next step obviously is to work on the diplomatic front, and the logistics, obviously, with our Chinese counterparts
Champagne said the government is currently working with officials in China to organize the flight, which could take several days as the Wuhan area is now under “lockdown.” Global Affairs has said 196 Canadians have now asked for help to leave China amid the outbreak
But while Europe, Japan and the United States have already evacuated at least some of their citizens living in China, health experts say Canada’s timing is appropriate.
Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto, said it would have been a greater health risk to rush this decision.
“The riskier thing would be to pull the trigger too quickly when we are not ready to receive people,” she said. “It sounds like a simple process but it’s actually quite complicated.”
Toronto father trying to bring home toddler from Wuhan
Hota said there will have to be a detailed screening process to ensure that people who are symptomatic don’t get on the flight.
“Even having the right type of plane to do this — it’s a long flight, and they would need to be under medical surveillance,” she said.
Colin Furness, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said evacuating people is more of a political decision than one based on sound public health policy.
“No government wants to be accused of not doing something to protect its citizens,” he said.
“If I were a Canadian in Wuhan, I would be cautious because, by definition, it’s safer to stay home and practice social isolation than get on a plane.”
Steven Hoffman, a global health professor at York University, said Canada’s decision came shortly after other countries began exploring this option.
“The mass quarantine in Wuhan is inconceivable in the Canadian context,” he said. “The government being able to alleviate that for the most vulnerable Canadians there is a good decision.”
The United States and Japan flew some of their citizens out of the province at the epicentre of the outbreak on Wednesday as the World Health Organization said there was “deeply concerning” evidence of person-to-person transmission in other countries.
The European Union sent a passenger plane Thursday to pick up hundreds of Europeans who want to leave China.
“It may look like we are late to the game, but that’s on a political rather than a public health basis,” Furness said.
What happens when Canadians arrive home?
Coronavirus outbreak: How easy is it to catch coronavirus on a plane?
Canadian officials have not clearly outlined how they will manage passengers once they arrive home.
The U.K., which evacuated some of its citizens from the Wuhan area, has told passengers to quarantine themselves for 14 days and watch for signs of illness.
Coronavirus outbreak: Hajdu says they’re working on protocols for return of Canadians from China
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Chinese authorities have a screening process to ensure that no one who may be infected with the virus boards the flight.
“No cases, and no sick people, will be leaving that city,” Tam told the House of Commons health committee on Wednesday. “The protocols and the processes will be put in place to ensure we don’t impact the Canadian public.”
READ MORE: How quarantines work in Canada
As the coronavirus has an incubation period of one to 14 days, Tam said there will be measures on the flight and on the ground to potentially isolate individuals.
“Should anything even happen on the flight, there are measures to separate anyone who suddenly develops symptoms,” she said.
However, health experts say once those passengers from China arrive on Canadian soil, they should be put into a temporary quarantine.
“From a strictly public health standpoint, we don’t know how contagious you are before you’re symptomatic,” Furness said. “If we let them self-report, let’s assume they are all honest, but they won’t know if they are contagious.”
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu did not specify whether Canadians might be quarantined when they arrive home.
“Part of the process now is figuring out exactly what our protocols will be when we return Canadians that wish to come home,” Hajdu said.
“We’re working very closely with our U.S. counterparts, who obviously have some experience in this and have set up some best practices, and we’ll be following their lead very closely.”
The U.S. Department of Defence evacuated roughly 200 of its citizens from Wuhan to the March Air Reserve Base in southern California on Wednesday, where they are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Afghan refugees: Government delays increasing financial pressure – CTV News
Refugee advocates are raising concerns that Afghan refugees granted asylum in Canada are being burdened by escalating costs stemming from the government’s delay in processing their claims.
Before they board their flight to Canada, all refugees are required to sign a loan agreement to pay back the cost of their transportation and pre-arrival expenses which can include hotel stays.
Some Afghans identified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as eligible for resettlement have been waiting months for exit permits while living in hotels arranged by the government. The hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their debt.
The Canadian Council for Refugees says Afghans are being forced to pay for an inefficient bureaucracy.
“It seems like the Canadian government is taking advantage of the vulnerability of people,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. Hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their government debt.
Dench says refugees have no choice but to accept a “legally dubious” contract that doesn’t stipulate a precise loan amount.
“If they want a permanent home they have to sign on to whatever the terms of the agreement are. There’s no negotiation room, so people are forced into this situation.”
LONG WAITS AND BIG BILLS
Because Canada doesn’t recognize the Taliban government Afghans must get to a third country with consular support to complete their refugee applications. Many flee to neighboring Pakistan where Canada has a High Commission in the capital of Islamabad.
Nearly all Afghan refugees deemed eligible for resettlement are placed in the care of the International Organization for Migration while they are overseas.
The IOM organizes both charter and commercial flights to Canada and coordinates hotel stays for refugees as they wait for their exit permits. IOM doesn’t book flights until after IRCC has completed security and medical checks of its applicants. The organization bills the Canadian government approximately $150 per day to house and provide three meals a day for one family.
Of the 25,400 Afghans who have arrived in Canada since August 2021, IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon told CTV News in an emailed statement Friday the organizations has arranged travel for more than 22,000 of those refugees.
The claims of another 15,000 Afghans Canada committed to accepting after the Taliban took over the country have been delayed.
Irfanullah Noori, 28 and his family of five stepped off a plane at Pearson International Airport less than two months ago at the end of October. Before the Taliban took over his homeland in Noori worked as a logistics coordinator at the Kabul International Airport. He qualified for asylum because his brother served as an interpreter for Canadian soldiers.
Before being issued travel documents to Canada, Nouri, his wife and their three children, all under the age of five – stayed in an Islamabad hotel arranged by IOM for three months.
Irfanullah Noori poses with his youngest daughter on October 25, 2022 at the Pakistan International Airport before he boarded plane bound for Canada.
Before boarding his flight he signed a loan agreement. Nouri says IOM staff told him he would need to repay hotel expenses that added up to more than $13,000. That amount does not factor in the cost of flights for his family that he will also have to repay.
IRCC says 96 per cent of refugees are able to pay back the loans. Monthly payments on the interest free loans are scheduled to begin one year after refugees arrive in Canada and costs can be spread out over nine years.
The federal government puts a cap of $15,000 on each loan per family, but the Canadian Council for Refugees says this is a misleading number.
Refugee families who have older dependents may have to pay back more than the cap. That’s because dependents over the age of 22 years old, can be considered a separate family unit and required to take on a new loan. Dench says this policy puts refugees in a precarious economic position. She’s seen families fight over finances and hopes and dreams put on hold.
“You have young people who should normally be going to university and pursuing their education but they feel that they’re morally obliged to get down to work, even at a minimum wage job in order to pay off the family debt,” said Dench. She argues the Canadian government should stop requiring refugees to repay the costs of getting them to safety, no matter where they come from.
SIMILAR CLAIMS, DIFFERENT TIME FRAMES
Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Veterans Transition Network has helped raise funds to get interpreters and others out of Afghanistan. Oliver Thorne, VTN’s executive director says he’s frustrated that there are huge variations how long it takes for claims to be approved between applicants with similar profiles
“Some migrants are left in the dark. They don’t know why it’s taking them an additional two, four or six months compared to another interpreter who worked with the Canadian armed forces.” Thorne says IRCC needs to hire and train more staff to speed up the processing of claims.
He’s also calling for the removal of loan requirements, especially for Afghans who assisted the Canadian armed forces.
“They protected our men and women in uniform at great risk to themselves and their families. And secondly, these are going to be Canadians. They’re going to live here in our society down the street from us, and we have nothing to gain by making their transition more difficult,” Thorne said in an interview from Vancouver.
NO DEBT RELIEF
CTV News asked the Immigration Minister if it was fair that the Canadian government was burdening Afghans with additional costs due to the government backlog.
On Friday, Sean Fraser blamed a complicated process, but acknowledged that some refugees had been stuck “for a significant period of time.’ But the minister offered few solutions other than a vague reassurance that his department was “working with Pakistani officials to make sure we’re facilitating the smooth transportation of people to Canada.”
Meanwhile Noori is struggling to make ends meet in his new Ontario home, despite finding a job a few weeks ago at the General Motors plant in Oshawa.
Hired as a data-entry clerk, Noori earns $19/hour and is trying to pick up extra shifts on the weekend so he can make his $2,000 monthly rent on a one bedroom apartment.
Even though he won’t have to start paying back his refugee loan until next year, he’s daunted by the impending bill.
“It’s expensive (here.) I work 8 hours a day and six days a week. It will be very hard for me to pay back.”
After surviving the Taliban, Noori now faces subsistence in Canada.
Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries
A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.
Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.
It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.
Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.
Slain RCMP Const. Yang cleared of wrongdoing in shooting: B.C. police watchdog
The Independent Investigations Office says after a review of all available evidence its chief civilian director determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe Const. Shaelyn Yang committed an offence.
It says the matter will not be referred to the Crown for consideration of charges.
Yang, a 31-year-old mental health and homeless outreach officer, was stabbed to death on Oct. 18 while she and a City of Burnaby employee attempted to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.
Yang shot the suspect before she died, and the IIO later said Jongwon Ham underwent surgery for his injuries.
Ham has since been charged with first-degree murder in Yang’s death.
“Due to concurrent court proceedings related to the incident, the IIO’s public report will not be released on the IIO website until that process has concluded,” the IIO said in a news release.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.
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