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Evacuating as many Afghans as Canada wants ‘nearly impossible’: Trudeau – Globalnews.ca

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It will be “almost impossible” to get many people out of Afghanistan in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned reporters on Thursday.

That’s because the Taliban is continuing to block access for Afghans wishing to leave the country, he said.

“Unless the Taliban shift their posture significantly, which is something the international community and Canada are working on, it is going to be very, very difficult to get many people out,” Trudeau, who is running for re-election, told reporters.

“We will get some, certainly, but to get many people out, as many as we’d want, is going to be almost impossible in the coming weeks.”

Read more:
Canada has reached a deal for 2 military planes to resume ‘flying regularly’ into Kabul

The admission comes just after the Liberal leader announced that two Canadian planes will be making regular flights to and from Kabul to help evacuate people from the region. Canadian troops have also arrived on the ground to help international partners with the evacuation efforts, Trudeau said.

Still, he cautioned, there are lots of hurdles hampering these efforts.

“There are real challenges and impediments on the ground in terms of getting people out, even though there is a clear wish, obviously by Canada and by countries around the world to get as many people out to safety as possible,” he said.

“The situation on the ground is extremely complex, extremely difficult.”


Click to play video: 'Emerging signs of resistance to Taliban rule in Afghanistan'



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Emerging signs of resistance to Taliban rule in Afghanistan


Emerging signs of resistance to Taliban rule in Afghanistan

As the conditions in the country quickly destabilized in the last week, Canada pledged to bring over 20,000 people from Afghanistan into the country.

However, progress on filling those spots has been slow — and while Trudeau pointed to the Taliban as the biggest impediment to evacuation progress, those working on the ground say Canada’s lack of communication has been a much bigger issue for those seeking safety.

“The information that I’m hearing from other lawyers and from people who are contacting me from Afghanistan is that getting to the airport is not really the issue,” said immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges.

“The issue is that there’s just no information out there. The system is so opaque.”

Desloges wasn’t alone in her concerns.

“All we know is that the Canadian government website was updated to state that they will now expand the (refugee) program for vulnerable groups such as human rights leaders, people from the LGBTQ community,” said Roushan.

“But we don’t know anything else about the program.”

Read more:
‘No special hotline’: Canadian hurdles keep Afghan refugee offer out of reach, lawyers say

There’s no clear indication of who is eligible for one of the over 20,000 seats on a plane to Canada, Desloges explained, nor how to go about accessing this help.

“There’s only very general information,” Desloges said. “All of the lawyers have been talking to each other because we’re all getting these calls and nobody really knows what to tell people.”

When pressed on these issues on Thursday, the Liberal leader said the government is working to beat down the barriers preventing Afghans from accessing Canadian help.

“It is an extremely difficult situation, but I can assure you that I, and our ministers, and our government is working extremely hard to ease all the barriers, whether they be around paperwork or bureaucratic, to ensure that people are getting out of there as quickly as possible and to safety,” Trudeau said.


Click to play video: 'Trudeau discusses Afghanistan evacuations, says situation is ‘extremely difficult’'



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Trudeau discusses Afghanistan evacuations, says situation is ‘extremely difficult’


Trudeau discusses Afghanistan evacuations, says situation is ‘extremely difficult’

As the confusion continues, planes are starting to arrive carrying people from Afghanistan. Trudeau confirmed that 92 people arrived on Canadian soil Tuesday night alone — and more will be coming.

“We’ve so far evacuated over 800 Afghans under our Special Immigration Measures, more than 500 of whom are already starting new lives in Canada,” said Alexander Cohen, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, in an emailed statement to Global News.

And as Canada ramps up its flights to the region, other countries have been continuing their evacuation efforts. American, French, Dutch, German, Spanish and British aircraft all left the country with evacuees on Wednesday, the BBC reported.

Trudeau defended Canada’s evacuation efforts, noting that “many” of these international flights “have been leaving Afghanistan and leaving the Kabul airport not full.”

“I can assure you that Canada, our forces and our personnel are working as hard as they can every single day to get people out of Afghanistan following up,” he said.

Read more:
The Taliban are promising they’ve changed. Be ‘highly skeptical,’ experts say

For those who remain trapped in Afghanistan, however, reports of a brutal crackdown have been emerging.

“On the ground, there’s plenty of reports of groups of Taliban fighters knocking door-to-door, looking for those who were, as they believe, conspirators with the Western forces,” said Bessma Momani, a Middle East expert at the University of Waterloo.

“Certainly a lot of women (are) being denied access to education. Already, we’re seeing reports of that.”

The Taliban has been designated by Canada as a terrorist organization. They held power in Afghanistan for five years until the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.


Click to play video: 'Afghan refugees board bus after arriving in Canada from Kabul'



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Afghan refugees board bus after arriving in Canada from Kabul


Afghan refugees board bus after arriving in Canada from Kabul

A report from the U.S. State Department published during that time found women living under the Taliban were forbidden from attending school or work, were subject to rape and forced marriages by the Taliban. They required women to wear burqas in public and refused to let women leave their homes without a male escort.

Punishments were severe. The report found the Taliban also carried out public executions, chopped off the hands of thieves and stoned women accused of adultery to death.

The conditions in Afghanistan improved over the two decades since the U.S. began its longest war in Afghanistan. A new constitution calling for women’s equality was adopted, the first democratic election was held, and nearly all Afghans had access to electricity.

Now, with the Taliban back in power, the future remains foggy.

“Time will tell what the rule of the Taliban will bring,” Momani said.

— with files from Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Taiwan blasts China for Pacific trade pact threats

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China is an “arch-criminal” intent on bullying Taiwan and has no right to oppose or comment on its bid to join a pan-Pacific trade pact, Taiwan’s government said in an escalating war of words over Taipei and Beijing’s decision to apply.

Chinese-claimed Taiwan said on Wednesday it had formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), less than a week after China submitted its application.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it opposed Taiwan “entering into any official treaty or organization”, and on Thursday Taiwan said China sent 24 military aircraft into the island’s air defence zone, part of what Taipei says is an almost daily pattern of harassment.

In a statement late on Thursday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said China had “no right to speak” about Taiwan’s bid.

“The Chinese government only wants to bully Taiwan in the international community, and is the arch-criminal in increased hostility across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.

China is not a member of the CPTPP and its trade system has been widely questioned globally for not meeting the high standards of the bloc, the ministry added.

China sent its air force to menace Taiwan shortly after the application announcement, it said.

“This pattern of behaviour could only come from China,” it said.

In a statement also issued late Thursday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said China’s entry into the CPTPP would benefit the post-pandemic global economic recovery.

China opposes Taiwan using trade to push its “international space” or engage in independent activities, it added.

“We hope relevant countries appropriately handle Taiwan-related matters and not give convenience or provide a platform for Taiwan independence activities,” it said.

The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was seen as an important economic counterweight to China’s growing influence.

But the TPP was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States.

The grouping, which was renamed the CPTPP, links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

 

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Canada's costly election: Could $600M have been spent elsewhere? – CTV News

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EDMONTON —
With an estimated record-setting price tag of $610 million, the 2021 election is the most expensive in Canadian history — at a cost of about $100 million more than the 2019 election.

After all of that spending resulted in little change politically, many are asking whether it was worth the money and where else those hundreds of millions of dollars could have been directed.

Indigenous organizations have criticized the election as being “unnecessary,” suggesting the money could have been better spent on clean drinking water initiatives, reconciliation projects, and mental health initiatives.

Child-care advocates have similarly suggested that the funds could have been used to propel the Liberals’ $10-a-day child-care promise. And many Canadians have spoken out, wishing the money had instead been spent on pandemic recovery.

Experts say that it’s not quite that clear-cut, as governments don’t have a set amount of money in their pot each year – and some say you can’t put a price on democracy, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Ian Lee, associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says it’s important to first understand that government budgets don’t operate like your run-of-the-mill household budget.

“Governments don’t have a ‘fixed, rigidly financed, precise’ amount of money in their pot each year. They roughly know revenues come in and expenditures go out. Sometimes they’re a little short and they just have a deficit, and then they print the money because that’s what governments do,” Lee told CTVNews.ca by phone Thursday.

“Budgeting, unlike for the average consumer, is not a zero-sum game – consumers, if they don’t have the money for something, you’re just out of luck. You don’t buy it. Governments don’t face that dilemma, especially the federal government.”

In other words, just because a certain amount of money million was spent on the election, that doesn’t mean there is the same amount less to spend on something else.

But as for the principle of calling a pricey election during the fourth wave of a pandemic, experts are split.

“For me – it is true that anytime the government spends money it could be spent elsewhere and the point of elections is to judge the government on how they spent money and the decisions they made,” Michael Johns, visiting professor in the Department of Politics at York University, told CTVNews.ca by email Thursday.

“There are far too many examples of things that could be funded and are not and other things that are spent that are problems.”

But Johns says he is uncomfortable with the idea that spending money on an election should be considered an issue, suggesting that those upset with the timing of the election should have reflected such in their ballot.

“There would have been an election a year ago if the opposition had been successful in voting out the government on a matter of confidence; there would have been one in probably a year if it had not been triggered now due to the nature of minority governments,” he explained

“Either way the act of voting and having our preferences registered matters and costs money. People could judge the government on its timing and vote accordingly but we should be very careful when we start making decisions about holding elections based on their cost.”

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a non-profit citizen group advocating democratic reform, has a different view, saying the money spent on the election could have been spent on “anything else.”

“The prime minister decided to hold an election even though 327 MPs voted against holding the election at the end of May,” Conacher told CTVNews.ca by phone Thursday.

“And he knew in calling an election that Elections Canada would have a right to spend any money it needed to run it, which ended up being more than usual because of the costs of, for example, buying one pencil for everybody.”

As for what that money could have been spent on instead, Conacher says the government should make those decisions based on what the large majority of the country needs – like health-care solutions during a pandemic.

“In terms of where the $600 million could be spent, there’s many areas where the health of Canadians is at risk or where Canadians want money spent – pharmacare, child care – the polls show the large majority want those in place,” he said.

Lee disagrees that it has to be one or the other, saying that “you cannot make the argument that because they spend $600 million on the election, that therefore some other spending item will be cut by $600 million.”

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Billionaire countries: Canada jumps up the list – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada added seven billionaires in 2020, increasing its total to 53, tied for 12th-most in the world, up from 14th the previous year, according to a new global report.

The combined wealth of Canadian billionaires also tops US$100 billion, an increase of 4.5 per cent from last year.

In its latest billionaire census, Wealth-X, an ultra-high net worth (UHNW) data company, stated the number of billionaires in the world surpassed 3,000 (up to 3,204) for the first time in 2020, after an additional 670 individuals entered the billionaire class. The combined wealth of this group is now approximately US$10 trillion.

The share of wealth held by billionaires among the UHNW class, which is defined as those with a net worth of US$30 million or more, has also increased to 28 per cent, despite billionaires making up just one per cent of the UHNW population.

Seven of the top 15 billionaires in the world made their fortunes in the technology sector.

These are the top five billionaires by net worth as listed by Wealth-X:

  1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon, US$201.2 billion
  2. Elon Musk, Tesla, US$181.1 billion
  3. Bernard Arnault, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, US$154.4 billion
  4. Bill Gates, Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, US$142.4 billion
  5. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, US$137.4 billion, Facebook

Here’s a breakdown of the top 15 countries ranked by billionaire population and their combined wealth.

  1. U.S., 927, US$3.709 trillion
  2. China, 410, US$1.303 trillion
  3. Germany, 174, US$515 billion
  4. Russia, 120, US$397 billion
  5. U.K., 119, US$225 billion
  6. Hong Kong, 111, US$282 billion
  7. Switzerland, 107, US$318 billion
  8. India, 104, US$316 billion
  9. Saudia Arabia, 64, US$144 billion
  10.  France, 64, US$238 billion
  11.  Italy, 60, US$169 billion
  12.  Brazil, 53, US$151 billion
  13.  Canada 53, US$100 billion
  14.  United Arab Emirates, 50, US$151 billion
  15.  Singapore, 50, US$86 billion 

Wealth-X lists Hong Kong as a semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China.

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