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Northern Iraq airbase targeted by Iran has been key in Canadian fight against ISIS



There was a time — not so very long ago — when the sounds of war were a daily occurrence at the sprawling airbase in Erbil, in northern Iraq.

That was in the fall of 2014, when a contingent of Canada’s elite special forces troops arrived on the ground and helped Kurdish fighters dig trenches and fill sandbags to repulse what seemed, at the time, to be the unstoppable onslaught of Islamic State extremists.

Both the airbase and the city remained on the knife’s edge for weeks until the Kurdish Peshmerga pushed back ISIS in a long, painfully slow campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the terrorist organization.

The sounds and the fury of battle returned early Wednesday (late Tuesday night, Eastern time) with an Iranian ballistic missile attack — one of two in Iraq — that struck the airbase at Erbil, which has been the hub of Canadian military operations against ISIS for more than five years.


The attack, in retaliation for the targeted killing last week of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike, was aimed at U.S. and coalition forces.

Canada has had about 500 troops in Iraq.

About half of them provide support to the NATO training mission, while other half — mostly based in Erbil — are involved in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. The base has hosted Canada’s special forces soldiers, intelligence officers and helicopters.

The Canadian military will not say what sort of contingent may have been at the base, but the country’s top military commander moved swiftly to reassure families of those serving in Iraq that there were no casualties.

“I can assure you that all deployed CAF personnel are safe [and] accounted for following missile attacks in Iraq,” Gen. Jonathan Vance said in a tweet. “We remain vigilant.”



During those long, hard months, as nearby Mosul was liberated from the grip of ISIS, the Kurds in Erbil formed a special bond with the Canadian troops.

“We believed the Canadian people sent good soldiers,” Peshmerga Maj.-Gen Aziz Weisi told CBC News as the campaign to expel extremists kicked into high gear in late 2016. “Good people build good relations.”

The bonds have reportedly held strong, even after the U.S abandoned Syrian Kurds in the face of a Turkish military incursion in northern Syria last year.

In a year-end interview with CBC News, prior to the killing of Soleimani and the rising tensions with Iran, the Canadian military’s operations commander, Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, said the ties have remained strong.

“I think what we built with the Kurdish partners we had in northern Iraq is something that is deeper than the latest crisis,” said Rouleau, referring to the politics surrounding the strain in relations between the Kurds and the Americans.

At one point during the height of the bloody battle to retake Mosul, wounded Kurdish fighters were brought to a Canadian Role 2 military hospital.

The busy airbase also hosted Canadian surveillance planes which were used to spot targets coalition airstrikes and keep tabs on the movements of retreating ISIS fighters.


Canadian Armed Forces medical personnel take part in a simulated patient training exercise at the Role 2 hospital in Erbil, Iraq in 2017. The hospital has since been dismantled. (DND Combat Camera/Sgt. Josephine Carlson, US Army)


The field hospital and the surveillance planes have long since returned home, pieces in the ever-moving chessboard of military assets and personnel that have characterized Canada’s war against the Islamic State.

The defeat of ISIS on the battlefield did not see the end of the presence in Erbil.

Special forces troops, specially trained in counter-terrorism operations, have been advising Iraqi forces troops on how best to hunt down the remaining ISIS holdouts in the barren, semi-mountainous region of northern Iraq and along the border with Syria.


Northern Iraq airbase
Iran has launched ‘more than a dozen’ missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. and coalition forces, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday. (CBC News)

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Man charged after allegedly threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates, police say –



A man is now facing several charges, Toronto police say, after allegedly threatening to shoot mayoral candidates on Thursday, which prompted some leading contenders to pause their campaigns and was followed by the cancellation of a debate.

In a news release issued Friday, police said they were called to the area of Mortimer and Greenwood avenues in the city’s east end around 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

They said a man “entered a location,” allegedly threatened to shoot mayoral candidates and then brandished what looked to be a gun.


Toronto Police spokesperson Victor Kwong said Friday that it was a “blanket threat.”

“There was no threat specifically to one mayoral candidate over another,” Kwong told reporters.

Investigators say 29-year-old Toronto man Junior Francois Lavagesse has been charged with two counts of weapons dangerous, carrying a concealed weapon, uttering threats, and failing to comply with a recognizance. 

He is due to appear in court Friday morning.

Kwong said police are also investigating online threats that investigators were made aware of Thursday. 

“That is going to be a separate investigation … we do believe that it is the same person responsible,” Kwong said.

Kwong said police will not provide further details of the location where the alleged threats were reported as they were “not related to the mayoral candidates” and in effort to protect witness privacy.

Debate cancelled out of ‘abundance of caution’

The incident led several leading candidates to cancel public appearances, and a debate that was scheduled to take place at The Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University Thursday night was cancelled.

An OCAD spokesperson told CBC Toronto Friday that the event was cancelled “out of an abundance of caution,” after some candidates raised concerns for their safety.

Several candidates had withdrawn, including Brad Bradford, Josh Matlow and ex-police chief Mark Saunders.

Olivia Chow, Chloe Brown and Mitzie Hunter were also set to attend and Ana Bailão had previously pulled out of the debate over a scheduling conflict.

There were no reported injuries and several candidates issued statements saying they, along with their teams and families, were safe.

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Air Canada flights delayed due to IT issue – CTV News



Air Canada reported a technical issue with its flight communications system on Thursday, causing delays across the country for the second time in a week.

In a statement to, the Montreal-based company said it was experiencing a “temporary technical issue” with the system it uses to communicate with aircraft and monitor the performance of its operations.

By Thursday afternoon, the airline said the system had “begun to stabilize,” though flights were expected to be impacted for the remainder of the day.


“The communicator system has begun to stabilize, and aircraft continue to move although still at a lower than normal rate. As a result, customers may experience delays and in some instances cancellations as we move through recovery,” Air Canada said.

“Customers are advised to check the status of their flight before going to the airport as we anticipate the impact will persist through the balance of the day.”

As a result of the system failure, the airline said it implemented a “flexible policy,” allowing customers who wished to change their travel plans to do so at no cost.

Speaking to reporters before question period, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the federal government has been in touch with Air Canada and is encouraging the airline to get its communications system back up and running “as quickly as possible.”

“They understand the consequences of these delays and we’ll keep following up on the situation,” said Alghabra.

The system failure caused delays for the majority of flights scheduled to depart from the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Thursday morning, said Michel Rosset, communications manager for the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

Some Air Canada flights in the afternoon and evening were scheduled to run on time at the Winnipeg airport, but Rosset advised passengers to look online for updated flight information as that could change.

“With flights, even on a good day, things could change pretty quickly. So I’d recommend, if you’re looking for updated (flight information) throughout the day, the best bet is just to head to our website,” he told in a phone interview.

Leah Batstone, communications and marketing advisor for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said the Halifax airport was aware of the “IT issue” that Air Canada was experiencing and recommended passengers to keep tabs on their flight status.

“As always, travellers are advised to check their flight status directly with their airline before coming to the airport,” Batstone said in an emailed statement to

Air Canada was forced to ground its planes last week due to a similar problem with its communications system, which delayed nearly half its flights.

The airline said the issue it experienced this Thursday was in the “same systems as that of May 25, but it was unrelated.”

“We have been in the process of upgrading this system using a third-party supplier’s technology. Air Canada will continue to work with the manufacturer to ensure stability in the system in the future,” it said.

“We apologize for the impact on our customers and appreciate their patience. We are working hard to get people on their way as soon as possible.”

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Air Canada flight delays at Toronto Pearson | CTV News – CTV News Toronto



Several Air Canada flights are delayed at Toronto Pearson International Airport due to a temporary technical issue.

The Canadian airline said its system used to communicate with aircraft and monitor operational performance is impacted. Flights were delayed all across the airline’s system as a result, a spokesperson for Air Canada confirmed to CTV News Toronto.

At around 1:30 p.m., the airline said the communicator system has “begun to stabilize,” with flights continuing to move “although still at a lower than normal rate.”


“As a result, customers may experience delays and in some instances cancellations as we move through recovery,” the statement reads.

Greater Toronto Airports Authority media manager Rachel Bertone told CTV News Toronto that Toronto Pearson passengers are encouraged to check their flight status before making their way to the airport.

“We have also put in place a flexible policy for those who wish to change their travel plans at no cost,” Air Canada said.

As of Thursday afternoon, numerous Air Canada flights initially scheduled to leave Toronto Pearson this morning have been delayed to the afternoon.

Plus, many of Air Canada’s flights headed to the Toronto airport from places like Orlando, Fla., Vancouver, B.C., and New York’s LaGuardia Airport, have been delayed.

In terms of cancellations, however, just over two per cent of departures and roughly 3.5 per cent of arrivals have been cancelled – though it should be noted these percentages include all airlines. 

“We apologize to those affected, and appreciate their patience,” the statement reads.

This is the second time in a week that Air Canada has suffered a technical issue with its computer system, which delayed nearly half of all its flights.

The airline confirmed in its statement, “The issue today was in the same systems as that of May 25, but it was unrelated.”

Air Canada has not said how long the technical issue is expected to last, but said they are “working hard” to get fliers on their way as quickly as they can.

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