As BC Wildfire Service crews continue to fight more than 100 active wildfires across the province, the federal government is vowing to provide any additional support needed in fighting the blazes.
In a news conference Friday evening, Canada’s public safety minister announced Ottawa is currently co-ordinating with the B.C. government to mobilize military support to help where needed.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said a base will be positioned in Edmonton to provide aviation resources and up to 350 military personnel to help fight the fires.
“If needed, it can be used to support evacuations, firefighters and residents from the communities,” Sajjan said.
He also said the military resources will be helpful in providing assistance as the province continues to respond to more fires throughout the summer.
Fires of note across B.C.
Meanwhile, as hundreds of residents in B.C. anxiously prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice, BC Wildfire Service says they are bracing for more fires to be sparked throughout the weekend.
According to the director of provincial operations for BC Wildfire Service, out of 168 active wildfires, nine of them are currently of note, with the Sparks Lake fire near Kamloops being the most concerning. Located about 15 kilometres north of Kamloops Lake, the fire is classified as out of control and is estimated at 310 square kilometres.
“We saw 12,000 lightning strikes, roughly, yesterday,” said Cliff Chapman. “Many of those lightning strikes were hitting near communities, [as] was seen in the Kamloops area.”
On Thursday night, a wildfire near the city’s Juniper Ridge neighbourhood triggered an evacuation order for some 200 residents. Crews managed to tame the fire and keep it under control Friday, eventually rescinding the order and allowing residents to return home.
Some people have said they were already prepared to leave, even before the evacuation order, as the tragedy in Lytton, B.C., is still fresh in their minds.
WATCH | Lytton destroyed by wildfire:
“Yesterday morning … I had gathered all of our special documents two days prior,” a Juniper Ridge resident told CBC News.
In a statement, Kamloops Fire Chief Steve Robinson said the efforts of firefighters saved an estimated 400 homes.
“An absolute near-miss,” another Juniper Ridge homeowner said, as they recounted witnessing the wildfire only 300 metres away from the neighbourhood.
Chapman said more than 1,300 homes are currently under the evacuation order as of Friday and another 950 are under alert.
Wildfire support is currently working with the federal government and Canadian military for additional support and aviation resources, he said.
More fires expected
Chapman said hot, dry conditions, along with thunderstorms, are causing some wildfires in the southeast Interior of the province to grow quickly, which prompted an early start to the 2021 fire season.
“We are three weeks ahead of our drying cycle,” he said. “For comparison sake, in 2017, which was another devastating year for the province and wildfires, the fires didn’t start until July 7 and we didn’t hit that 100,000-hectare mark until mid-July.”
He said there were 70 new confirmed fires in the southeast region of the province throughout Thursday evening and officials were expecting just as many on Friday evening and into the weekend.
There are fires near Lillooet, 100 Mile House, Buckinghorse River and several small communities in the Cariboo, but the closest blaze to a major city was the Merry Creek fire, burning near Castlegar, home to about 8,000 people.
Officials are also keeping a close watch on the Deka Lake fire, estimated at 200 hectares (two square kilometres).
The fires near Lytton have closed Highway 1 in both directions north of Hope to Spences Bridge. Drivers are being asked to avoid this area to support firefighting operations.
Highway 3 is also closed in both directions, according to DriveBC, as crews battle the Merry Creek wildfire between Highway 3B and Crestview Crescent.
Meanwhile campers at Green Lake Provincial Park in the Cariboo are being asked to leave immediately as the Sparks Lake fire continues to grow and threaten the area.
Extreme weather intensifying
Climate scientists are cautious about citing climate change as the cause of any specific weather event, such as the current heat wave in British Columbia. But some say evidence suggests extreme events are intensifying and becoming more common because of global warming.
A 2019 report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada found the country is warming twice as fast as the global average, with the highest rates occurring in the North, the Prairies and northern B.C. Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at three times the global rate.
Jet streams, meanwhile, which essentially move weather patterns, are stalling much longer due to the shrinking temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, according to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.
“You get great [heat] waves, like what’s happening over B.C., that stick around for longer,” she said.
Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centres have been set up in the following locations to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire:
- Castlegar: Castlegar Community Complex, 2102 6th Ave.
- Chilliwack: Chilliwack Senior Secondary, 46363 Yale Rd.
- Kelowna: Salvation Army, 1480 Sutherland Ave.
- Merritt: Merritt Civic Centre, 1950 Mamette Ave.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.
Those looking for loved ones can contact the Canadian Red Cross for family reunification services at 1-800-863-6582
Fauci says prospect of open border for fully vaccinated Canadians part of active U.S. talks – CBC.ca
U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says the prospect of opening the U.S. border to fully vaccinated Canadians is part of an “active discussion” in the White House.
“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics in an exclusive Canadian interview.
“As a public health official, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out why policies haven’t changed.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. government issued a renewal order keeping the borders with Canada and Mexico closed until August 21.
According to U.S. Homeland Security officials, the move is part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious delta variant.
The delta variant has been wreaking havoc south of the border, where infections and hospitalizations are up in nearly all 50 states.
Fauci said the delta variant now accounts for 83 per cent of cases in the U.S. Those cases are concentrated in southern states, where vaccination rates are lower than the national average.
“In some of the southern states where the level of vaccination is very low and the level of the transmission of the virus is very high, we’re seeing a significant surge in cases,” Fauci said.
“This virus has an extraordinary capability of efficiently spreading from person to person.”
The White House has enlisted the help of celebrities and athletes to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, particularly in states led by Republican governors. In recent days, high-profile conservative figures such as Fox pundit Sean Hannity have encouraged Americans to get vaccinated.
Concerts, vaccines, bobbleheads, and even <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ManCrushMonday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ManCrushMonday</a>: watch Olivia Rodrigo and Dr. Fauci read fan tweets. <a href=”https://t.co/NnwKwrkNWW”>pic.twitter.com/NnwKwrkNWW</a>
Fauci said the U.S. must increase its vaccination rate to end current outbreaks of COVID-19.
“We’re seeing some of them starting to come around, which is a really good thing, because we’ve got to realize and act on it, that the common enemy is the virus,” he told Power & Politics.
“The virus doesn’t have any idea who’s a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent.”
Permanent residents in limbo waiting to immigrate to Canada – CBC.ca
Aashray Kovi refreshes his email several times a day hoping for good news from Canadian immigration officials.
The 28-year-old computer programmer who lives in Bangalore, India, is one of about 23,000 aspiring immigrants with expired or soon-to-be expired documents waiting to enter Canada.
“It’s really depressing for all of us,” said Kovi, who plans to settle in Ottawa but can’t travel because his confirmation of permanent residency (COPR) document expired in early June, prior to travel restrictions being lifted.
Late last month, the federal government lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, allowing anyone with a valid COPR to enter Canada, but that didn’t help Kovi’s case.
Despite having started the immigration process in 2018, Kovi says he’s never struggled to get clear answers from the government until this point. He says he’s been emailing and calling for weeks, waiting for the documents to be reissued, but has had no luck getting an answer on when he can expect to arrive in Ottawa.
WATCH | Waiting to enter Canada:
“I know it is not simple, there is COVID, the only issue with all of this is a lack of communication,” said Kovi.
“If provided with better communication, I could wait till 2022, but this is putting my life in limbo.”
Sameer Masih, his wife and son are similarly stuck in a mostly empty apartment in New Delhi, seven months after they got their initial approvals and started selling their belongings.
“I am actually surviving on a bare minimum setup,” said Masih. He says the wait cost him a job at his employer’s Toronto office.
‘It’s hard for my family’
Sophie Ballesteros, from Barcelona, had a job lined up in Halifax and her husband, Carlos, quit his in January to ready himself for the move to Canada. The delay has been devastating for the couple, who started their immigration process in November 2019.
Carlos says he left his job because the permanent residency invitation told him to get his affairs in order, and he felt he had just a certain amount of time to immigrate or else he’d lose out on his dream of moving to Canada.
Their COPR documents also expired in June and there’s been no word yet on when they’ll be renewed.
The only communication they’ve received from the government was in March, when a generic email advised them that a previous communication of theirs had been received and that they would need to continue waiting.
“This is the first time in my life that I am unemployed,” said Carlos. “I don’t sleep at night.”
Sophie says she is struggling to immerse in her new digital marketing job in Canada while staying physically in Barcelona, and also trying to find a preschool for her four-year-old daughter.
“I have to work within the time zone of Canada and sometimes there are some clients that are from Vancouver,” she said. “It’s hard for my family.”
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged that global migration has been a nuisance for many people and that officials are working to help permanent residency holders into the country.
“We know that these disruptions have had a significant impact on many people hoping to start a new life in Canada, and we thank them for their patience at this difficult moment,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.
Immigration lawyer Kyle Hyndman, in Vancouver, estimates more than half of those holding expired COPR documents are skilled workers who were chosen “to contribute to the Canadian labour market.”
He says communication from the federal government has been messy. He says sending documents that would expire to incoming residents, with directions to get their affairs in order, created a sense of working against the clock.
“These people are kind of in a holding pattern … you do a bunch of things to get ready to move that are kind of hard to undo,” Hyndman said.
Cohen says the pandemic has significantly impacted immigration processing times, and that the government will be contacting individuals with expired papers in the “weeks and months to come.”
Canada permitted 184,000 immigrants last year — the fewest since 1998 — compared to 341,000 in 2019. The government is aiming to jump-start immigration with 400,000 new residents per year for the next three years.
India flights to Canada: When will they be allowed? – Canada Immigration News
Earlier this week Canada extended its ban on flights from India until at least August 21.
The extension of the ban comes amid Canada continuing to ease its coronavirus travel restrictions for the rest of the world.
Denying flights from India is extremely disruptive to both Indians and Canadians alike. India is one of Canada’s most important allies and by far the largest source of new immigrants and international students. Some 20 per cent of Canada’s new permanent residents come from India. Indians comprise 30 per cent of Canada’s new international students. In Canada’s 2016 Census, nearly 1.4 million respondents identified themselves as being of Indian heritage.
Hence, it goes without saying that the flight ban is currently a major challenge for Indians, Indian-Canadians, families, and the Canadian economy.
While health is the main reason Canada introduced the ban, the decision to lift it will likely be influenced by other factors as well.
When making its COVID-19 travel policies, the Canadian government looks at factors such as domestic case counts, the rate of vaccination, as well as case counts and vaccination rates in other countries. It also evaluates variants, their transmissibility, and whether existing vaccines are proven to protect against variants.
In a written statement to CIC News on July 22, the Canadian government explained “While progress is being made, the situation in India is still very serious. This extension of the travel ban is based on scientific evidence and has been put in place to protect Canadians from an increased introduction of the Delta variant, which is prevalent in India.”
While health is the main consideration, an argument can be made that the Canadian government is also influenced by other factors, namely the impact of restrictions on its economy. Canada has stated it will begin to welcome fully-vaccinated tourists from the United States beginning on August 9. This decision comes amid rising COVID cases in the U.S. and that country’s vaccination rate stagnating.
On the other hand, the U.S. has extended its ban on Canadian tourists driving across the border. This means that it was not political pressure from the U.S. that caused Canada to decide to welcome American tourists again, but rather a combination of health and economic considerations.
As mentioned, the rising case count in the U.S. is cause for concern and has resulted in some Canadian media commentators questioning the decision to lift restrictions on American tourists. Conversely, the decision is being celebrated by those with an economic interest at stake, namely the Canadian tourism industry. Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed 15 million American tourists per year and tourism supported about 10 per cent of Canadian jobs. Given the pandemic has decimated the tourism industry, the Canadian government likely felt significant pressure to reopen its border to U.S. tourists even if there were compelling reasons to keep it closed.
This should give us reason to believe that non-health reasons will play a role in Canada’s decision on India flights.
The pressure will be on from Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs)
Canada does not have any strong special interest groups that lobby on behalf of immigrants. This explains why groups such as Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders have faced significant challenges throughout the pandemic. Temporary foreign workers, however, are backed by the Canadian business community while Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) advocate on behalf of international students.
International students are a major source of revenue for Canada’s colleges and universities. DLIs played a crucial role in getting Canada to lift its travel restrictions on international students last October. Given that Indians are by far the number one source of new international students, DLIs will remain vocal as they seek to obtain concessions from the Canadian government by August 21, ahead of the start of the academic year when the fast majority of new study permit holders arrive to Canada.
There may also be political pressure
It appears likely that prime minister Justin Trudeau will call a new federal election in the coming months as he seeks to obtain a majority government.
The stakes for the India flight ban may be higher than usual going into the election given the significant influence of Indian-Canadians, who tend to live in the country’s most vote-rich cities. Courting their votes will be key to Trudeau’s electoral ambitions, and he may feel it is worthwhile lifting flight restrictions on India to further encourage them to vote for him.
© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.
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