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How a guy known as 'Canadian Dave' helped get 100 people out of Afghanistan in final days of Taliban takeover – CBC.ca

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For David Lavery, the fall of Afghanistan comes with a soundtrack of men yelling, women weeping and babies wailing — all coalescing into a din of despair that echoes in his mind.

That cacophony surrounded him in the days after the Taliban took the Afghan capital, as the former soldier walked the perimeter of the Kabul airport searching for the Canadians and Afghan allies he was tasked with evacuating.

A founding member of JTF2, the elite counter-terrorism unit of the Canadian Forces, Lavery now operates a private security company, Raven Rae Consultancy, in Kabul. As a soldier for more than two decades, Lavery was no stranger to the devastation of war zones. But the crush of humanity fleeing the Taliban stunned him. 

“It’s horrible and hard to process. There was a constant hum, a 24/7 of noise, desperation and panic,” said Lavery, recounting the chaos of the rescue in a Zoom interview from a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, just days after he himself was airlifted to safety. “It was all about survival.”

After Kabul fell on Aug. 15, Lavery was the only Canadian on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Embassy staff had left on evacuation flights and it would be another four days before Canadian Forces arrived to help.

Lavery was given a list of more than 1,200 applicants seeking refuge in Canada. The names were collected by advocates and Canadian veterans of the Afghanistan war who had banded together to help Afghans escape the looming Taliban threat.

WATCH | David Lavery explains the complications of the rescue operation:

David Lavery describes Afghan rescue operation

13 hours ago

Canadian special forces veteran talks about the chaos of extracting refugees at Kabul airport in August. 1:09

The mission for Lavery’s team was to guide refugees to the airport, then extract those with valid Canadian documentation from the sea of people who had gathered outside the security perimeter set up by U.S. and British forces — which included the airport and the Baron Hotel — and get them on transport planes out of the country. 

The Afghans were told to wear red and look for a man named “Canadian Dave.”

“It will haunt me because I can see the desperation in people’s faces,” said Lavery. “I could hear people on the other side [of the gate] who knew me screaming, ‘David, don’t leave us!’ But I couldn’t open the door.”

Niagara central command

News that the Taliban had entered Kabul on Aug. 15 triggered a stretch of sleepless nights for Wendy Long, the founder of the Afghan Canadian Interpreters (ACI) group.

For the past five years, Long, who lives in Ontario’s Niagara region, had been pushing for a path to immigration for Afghan interpreters who assisted Canadian Forces during the war and were likely targets of Taliban retribution.

The government of Justin Trudeau finally agreed on July 23 and announced that Canada would fast-track immigration applications of Afghan allies.

By then, Long and her volunteers had collected the names of hundreds of Afghans and their families. They weren’t just interpreters, but also drivers, cooks and maintenance workers who worked with the Canadian military over the past 20 years. 

This group of Afghans were extracted by Lavery’s team and brought into the airport. (Submitted by David Lavery)

But to get out of the country, they needed to obtain special immigration visas, which required providing biometric information such as fingerprints and filing paperwork at the Canadian embassy in Kabul. 

Long’s team worked “in a frenzy,” she said, to confirm identities of the Afghans and their connections to Canadian soldiers. Volunteers were frustrated by immigration staff who wouldn’t accept family applications, only individual ones. The process bogged down approvals, but also forced some applicants to choose between escaping Afghanistan and staying behind with loved ones.

“It caused a lot of people to have to make a choice of whether to leave when they got their facilitation letters and go to their airport without their family,” said Long.

Real-time rescues

Earlier in the spring, as the Taliban began to take over swaths of the countryside, an ACI volunteer who was a veteran of the Afghanistan war reached out to David Lavery to ask for assistance.

As the situation grew more dire in July, Canada began airlifting its embassy staff out of the country. Most diplomats were already gone when Immigration Minister Mario Mendicino announced that Canada would accept 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees on Aug. 13. 

But thousands of Afghan allies were stranded without proper documentation when Canada’s embassy in Kabul closed two days later, as the Taliban drove armoured vehicles abandoned by the Americans into the city.

After refugees with valid documentation were extracted from the crowds, they were brought inside the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport and held for further screening. British paratroopers and the U.S. military controlled the entrances to the airport. (Submitted by David Lavery)

Before the Afghan government collapsed, Lavery and his son Brant had been transporting Afghans to the Baron Hotel, near the airport. The hotel was “behind the wire,” meaning it was protected by both U.S. and British forces. But once the Taliban took over, it was too dangerous for the Laverys to venture outside the compound without military support.  So from dawn to dusk in the days after Aug. 15, Lavery would circle the airport from the main entrance to Abbey Gate, which was near the irrigation canal, to the back gate of the Baron Hotel, in search of Canadians. 

His feet were battered from walking the equivalent of a marathon a day. He had to ignore the pleas of people who stood in raw sewage for hours, some of them injured and elderly, and prioritize only those who had hard-to-forge documentation like passports and visas.

Chaotic scenes

Lavery initiated WhatsApp video calls to Long’s team in Canada from his cell phone. He would show them exactly where at the airport he was, and then Long would use another messaging app to tell their contacts to wave something red and yell out to “Canadian Dave.” 

Lavery tied a red bandana around his neck so he would be recognized.

“I would be in one chat room [with Afghans] and I would say, ‘Canadian Dave is looking for you,'” said Long. “Then I would go back to the other chat and I would see people waving red scarves and chanting ‘Canada’ and Dave walking toward them.”

The rescues were chaotic, especially at the back gate of the Baron Hotel. After identifying Canadians by their red clothing, Lavery would send a handful of his local staff out into the crowd to bring people closer to the doors of the hotel gate, while he negotiated with British paratroopers who controlled the entrance to open the door while holding back crowds.

WATCH | Wendy Long describes how the operation unfolded at her end:

Founder of Afghan Canadian Interpreters group

13 hours ago

Wendy Long explains how her organization communicated with Lavery’s team during the Afghan rescue operation. 1:03

“You would have hundreds of people trying to push their way in. And you would be grabbing people, grabbing their luggage, grabbing their babies and pushing people’s faces and shutting the doors [of the entrance],” said Lavery. “Peoples’ hands and feet were getting caught in the doors. There was so much screaming and crying.” 

As traumatizing as those scenes were for Lavery, the results lifted the spirits of the Canadian volunteers at ACI, who were able to see some of the rescues in real time.

“Seeing those smiling faces on the other side of the gate was invaluable to us and it encouraged us to keep going,” said Long, who credits Lavery for helping save the lives of at least 100 Canadian passport and visa holders.

Once they were pulled to safety, Lavery’s wife, Junping Zhang-Lavery, would take the refugees into the Baron Hotel and ensure they had food and water. She would also help console their children and do what she could to keep them comfortable until they could be further screened by immigration officials.

Looming threat of suicide attacks

The first Canadian transport plane landed in Kabul on Aug. 19, four days after Lavery arrived at the Baron Hotel. That night, Canadian officials offered Lavery and his son a flight out of the country. 

Lavery and his wife, Junping Zhang-Lavery, boarded the last German airlift out of Kabul on Aug. 26. As they were boarding, they could hear explosions from a suicide attack. (Submitted by David Lavery)

Lavery wanted to stay and help extract more Canadians, along with German banking clients he needed to assist. But Canada refused to take Zhang-Lavery, who had a Chinese passport, unless Lavery was also on the plane. 

That’s when Lavery said goodbye to his son and brokered a deal with German officials for space on their transport plane.

His wife’s prolonged presence at his side was both a comfort and a burden. Zhang-Lavery bandaged his cuts and made sure he was eating and taking his medication. But Lavery also feared that he was putting her in harm’s way, especially since the threat of suicide attacks near Kabul airport was growing with each passing day. 

On Aug. 26, Lavery and wife boarded the last German airlift. As they were walking up the ramp of the cargo plane, they could hear the sound of explosions and see a grey plume of smoke coming from the direction of Abbey Gate. 

Fifteen minutes after the sirens started wailing, Lavery could see vehicles transporting injured people and bodies. Then the ramp of the C-17 Globemaster went up and began its taxi down the runway.

When their plane landed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, two hours later, the couple found out it had been a suicide attack.

Since landing in Germany last week, Lavery has been trying to decompress and catch up on sleep, but he knows his work isn’t done. 

The couple were transported on a German airlift to Uzbekistan after Canada refused to board Junping Zhang-Lavery because she didn’t have a Canadian passport. (Submitted by David Lavery)

The Canadian government says it successfully rescued 3,700 people, but Wendy Long estimates that only 20 per cent of the people ACI secured visas for were actually able to escape Afghanistan. 

Lavery says he will go back to help get the remaining interpreters if his safe passage can be negotiated with the Taliban. He’s also concerned about his staff and their families. Raven Rae employed approximately 50 local Afghans. The employees didn’t have the necessary documentation to leave, and now their lives are at risk. 

On Labour Day, Lavery received a text saying that the Taliban had taken over his company’s office.

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Canada COVID-19 booster update coming 'very shortly': Tam – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Canadians can expect an update on the potential use of additional COVID-19 shots for the most at-risk “very shortly,” the country’s top doctor says.

Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters she expects the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make recommendations on whether or not additional doses for those at the highest risk are needed.

In particular, the committee is looking at those who received a COVID-19 vaccine around the beginning of the year, Tam added.

“So that includes, for example, those in long-term care homes or congregate living for seniors,” she said. “So I expect the committee to have their deliberations completed on this group … very shortly.”


Click to play video: 'Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot'



1:50
Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot


Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot

Tam did not elaborate on a timeline further, but her comments come after the United States approved booster shots for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk settings, like a workplace or congregate living.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the plan on Thursday, which is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the extra shot earlier this week.

Pfizer-BioNTech is the vaccine of choice. The extra shots will also be rolled out in long-term care facilities and are open to more than 20 million Americans who received their second Pfizer shot more than six months ago.

Read more:
U.S. CDC overrules advisors, recommends COVID-19 boosters for all high-risk people

Tam said in addition to looking at American data on boosters, Canada has its own measures to follow as its vaccine approach is different.

“For example, while we use the mRNA vaccines that are the same as the United States, many Canadians actually had an extended interval compared to the United States, and what the data is showing us is that the extended interval produces a more robust immune response and vaccine effectiveness is better with a longer interval,” she said.

“So the Canadian data must be analyzed on top of what we’re gathering from the international community as well, and we are taking a thorough, thoughtful and phased approach to looking at additional doses.”

Read more:
NACI backs 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised

Canada has already OK’d additional doses for some immunocompromised individuals, announcing the new measure on Sept. 10.

“NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time,” Tam said at the time.

Booster shots, however, continue to be a divisive issue among health experts and internationally.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine inequity now top of mind at United Nations meeting

Vaccine inequity was among the agenda items at the United Nations’ annual meeting this week. The leaders of many African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the shots, spoke out.

It is “of great concern” that the global community has not supported the principles “of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, said.

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries.”


Click to play video: 'U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines'



0:47
U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines


U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

On Wednesday during a global COVID-19 summit, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s shots to share one billion doses with the world, in an effort to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population within the next year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also in attendance, committed to that goal.

“In order to get this done, Canada will build on the important progress we have made so far, and focus on increasing the production, availability, and delivery of vaccines,” a read-out of the summit said.

“To date, Canada has contributed more than $2.5 billion to help address this crisis globally. We have also committed to sharing tens of millions of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, including through the COVAX facility.”

Tam said on Friday that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, 32.71 per cent of the world’s population is fully inoculated.

Earlier this month, University of Toronto bioethics professor Kerry Bowman told Global News that Canada needs to fight the pandemic with a global approach.

“Booster shots may well be required for immunocompromised people and a subset of people, (but) I think in the short term, we should not have widespread booster shots — meaning third doses — at all, for ethical reasons and epidemiological reasons,” he said.

“We really have to start making a deeper commitment to the larger world to protect ourselves and because it’s the right thing to do.”

–with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

New Brunswick has reinstated its COVID-19 state of emergency as the province’s chief medical officer of health warned the province is at a “tipping point.”

“The pace of the fourth wave is beyond what we had anticipated,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell at a briefing Friday as the province reported a single-day record of 78 new cases and three additional deaths.

As part of the mandatory order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. AT Friday, residents must stick to their household bubbles and a “steady 20” of close contacts.

The order will be reviewed every two weeks and come into effect whenever there are 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, said Premier Blaine Higgs. The number of people hospitalized currently stands at 31, including 15 in intensive care, he said.

Dr. Gordon Dow, infectious disease specialist with the Horizon Health Network, said the lifting of health-protection measures almost two months ago was an error.

“Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake,” he said at a technical briefing earlier Friday, citing Alberta, Saskatchewan, the U.S. and the U.K.

WATCH | Lifting restrictions was a mistake, N.B. official says: 

‘That was not the right decision to make’

9 hours ago

One of the province’s top infectious disease specialists says lifting restrictions at the end of July was a mistake. 1:39

Dow said the province’s previous efforts to combat the virus focused on a successful “elimination strategy” that was used to rapidly shut down seven distinct outbreaks. But the province wasn’t ready for the delta variant, he said.

“Did we under-call this one? I would say yes, and I think most New Brunswickers would agree with that,” he said. “But I would also say that we got it right 85 per cent of the time.”

Meanwhile, Ontario is easing capacity limits at certain venues where proof of vaccination is required, including sports facilities, cinemas and concert venues.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says the province’s COVID-19 cases and health indicators have been stable recently, though it doesn’t mean the province can let its guard down in the face of the delta variant.

Ontario on Friday reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. There are 193 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.

— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Tam is asked to advise parents considering vaccinating children against COVID: 

Tam is asked to advise parents considering COVID-19 vaccines for children

10 hours ago

A reporter asks Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, for her advice to parents considering vaccinating their children once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to those younger than 12. 4:01

Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is seeing about 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, up from about 3,500 per day three weeks ago.

The bulk of cases and severe outcomes are among the unvaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news briefing Friday.

From early August to early September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 was 11 times higher in those who were unvaccinated than in fully vaccinated people, she said, while hospitalization was 38 times higher.

While more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, more than six million people still have not received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.

— From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A woman wearing a mask sits near an open-air café, which has been cordoned off, in Seoul on Friday. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 230.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country’s biggest holiday of the year.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 1,750 of the 2,434 new cases reported Friday were from the greater capital area, where officials have raised concern over an erosion in citizen vigilance despite the enforcement of the strongest physical distancing rules short of a lockdown since July.

In the Americas, a live televised interview with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the The View learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.

Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.

In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions after becoming the world leader in vaccination rollout. The country has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.

The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafés and restaurants, at weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.

Meanwhile, Norway’s government says the country will reopen society on Saturday, ending pandemic-curbing restrictions that have limited social interaction and hobbled many businesses.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime …. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, left, is hugged by the country’s Health Minister Bent Hoie as they provide an update about the COVID-19 situation in the country on Friday. (Javad Parsa/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

The decision to no longer require physical distancing will allow culture and sports venues to utilize their full capacity, rather than just a portion of seats, while restaurants can fill up and nightclubs reopen.

About 76 per cent of all Norwegians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 67 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Institute of Public Health.

In the Middle East, Yemen received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the health ministry said

In Africa, Egypt has authorized Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Friday. The country approved Russia’s two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.

— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

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BENANTHONY LAVOZ AND DELON OM GET RAW WITH “The Gentleman and Scholar”

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Toronto, ON – Canadian Latin Pop sensations BenAnthony Lavoz and Delon Omdropped their new EP “The Gentleman & Scholar.”  Coming off the success of their summer hit single “One More Time” the pop sensations went dark for their new project. The multi-talented artists wanted the lyrics of their new EP to describe the struggles we keep to ourselves, the ones that lead us to walk in the darkness.  Lavoz and Om brought in some heavy hitters to produce “The Gentleman and Scholar.  The EP was produced by David Neale (Karl Wolf, Danny Fernandes, Peter Jackson) and multi-platinum Grammy award winning producer, Sensei Musica (Fat Joe, Pitbull, and Shakira).  The project serves as an emotional outlet for Lavoz and Om, who bring to the table a genuine connect and passion.  The Gentleman and Scholar” reminds us that there are many parts that make up who we are, but at the heart of it all … is our truth.  Do we own it, or do we hide?   One of the singles on the EP, Follow the Leader” features Canadas own Danny Fernandes.  The three artists connected over their dark pasts to create the song about vulnerability, redemption and finding a new and forgiving path to walk. 

 

BenAnthony Lavoz, a Toronto native and Latin Grammy award winner has performed with Prince Royce, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna. Delon Om, is a former Canadian Idol contestant, song writer and music producer signed to Ultra Records. Oms single, Someone Special To Me” was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary This is for Toronto.”  Together they produced an EP that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, in hopes that lessons learned, and paths walked will give others hope and encouragement to step out of the dark and into the light.   

 

The Gentleman and Scholar” is raw and ready.  Step into the light on all music platforms today…

https://open.spotify.com/album/3UVffFHFUTktYpTCGN1Ba7?si=OsBEakH7Si2mb_Y1HseJoA&dl_branch=1

 

FOLLOW Delon OM: 

INSTAGRAM: @delon_om 

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5rQzEmQuzhHIyn1N1g12s6?autoplay=true 

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5DcyrsEUpnb2r3X786nKyQ/featured 

 

FOLLOW BENANTHONY LAVOZ: 

INSTAGRAM: @benanthonylavoz 

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3PSLZvxcutlF9L42d4Y9YJ?autoplay=true 

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIXjnthAd2L7d7NImU6atBA 

 

 

  

Media Inquiries:  

Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:
Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804

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