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‘Nothing short of miraculous’: Immigration minister defends Canada-Afghanistan evacuation – Global News

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Canada’s minister of immigration says that the country’s current evacuation effort in Afghanistan, which to date totals the rescue of over a thousand refugees, is “nothing short of miraculous” given the current logistical obstacles and Canada’s lack of military presence within the country.

Marco Mendicino made the statement during an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson on Sunday, after being asked if he was worried that they would not be able to bring home everyone they had promised to by the time the Americans wrap up their evacuation efforts.

Read more:
Second Canadian flight leaves Kabul airport with 106 Afghans on board

“The last time the Canadians had a military operation in Afghanistan was 10 years ago, our last armed forces member left seven years ago,” said Mendicino.


Click to play video: 'Global National: Aug. 21'



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Global National: Aug. 21


Global National: Aug. 21

“And so to be able to in a few short weeks, get a military presence back on the ground, start flights running again, established an air bridge with our coalition forces, set up an entirely complex, dynamic process — to get people on those flights as quickly as possible has been nothing short of miraculous.”

The question for the immigration minister comes amid what some have described as a slow process to resettle approximately 21,000 people from Afghanistan. Government officials, including Mendicino’s own department, have faced heavy criticism over the last week on their handling of Canada’s evacuation and refugee resettling process.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it would be “almost impossible” to get many people out of the country in the coming weeks due to the Taliban blocking access to Afghans wishing to leave.

“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 told reporters on Thursday.


Click to play video: 'Canadians caught in chaos in Kabul'



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Canadians caught in chaos in Kabul


Canadians caught in chaos in Kabul

The Liberal leader had also previously announced that two Canadian aircrafts would be making regular flights to and from Afghanistan to help evacuate people.

While Trudeau pointed to the Taliban as being the main hindrance to the evacuation process, some of those working on the ground there said that Canada’s lack of communication has presented a much bigger issue.

“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,” immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges told Global News earlier this week.

Read more:
Evacuating as many Afghans as Canada wants ‘nearly impossible’: Trudeau

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

According to several military and foreign affairs sources, the U.S. will most likely stay on the ground until the end of the month.

That timeline — less than two weeks from now — presents a tight challenge to Canadian officials organizing the evacuation effort, as well as to the thousands of Afghans awaiting rescue within the country.

Officials on Saturday confirmed the departure of a transport plane that carried 106 more Afghans to a safe third country. It was the second Canadian flight to leave Afghanistan since the country fell to the Taliban last weekend.

The first flight, which departed Thursday, had about 198 people on board, officials told Global News. In comparison, one of the earlier U.S. transport flights brought 823 people on the same exact plane — a C-17 Globemaster.


Click to play video: 'Chaos escalates at Kabul airport as Afghans try to flee Taliban'



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Chaos escalates at Kabul airport as Afghans try to flee Taliban


Chaos escalates at Kabul airport as Afghans try to flee Taliban

Sources and officials told Global News that there was a discussion on limiting the amount of people on the planes over seatbelt capabilities and issues with crews not being trained on air-to-air refueling. The planes have, however, been cleared to take on more than the 188 passenger limit, though aircrew would determine whether to surpass it on a case-by-case basis.

Mendicino pointed to Canada having already completed at least 10 flights carrying passengers from Afghanistan prior to the Taliban’s takeover, and said that he has already instructed his department to cut through “all the red tape,” opting to waive passport and COVID-19 test requirements.

“The bottom line is we’ll do whatever it takes to get as many people out as quickly as possible,” said Mendicino.

— With files from The Canadian Press, Rachel Gilmore and Mercedes Stephenson

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

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

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The latest:

U.S. President Joe Biden received his COVID-19 booster shot on Monday, days after federal regulators recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans aged 65 or older and approved them for others with pre-existing medical conditions and high-risk work environments.

“The most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said before getting the booster. He said he didn’t have side-effects after his first or second shots.

Biden, 78, got his first shot on Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, on Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden.

Speaking on Friday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer booster, Biden told reporters, “I’ll be getting my booster shot. It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot. “

Biden emerged as a champion of booster doses this summer, as the U.S. experienced a sharp rise in coronavirus cases from the more transmissible delta variant. While the vast majority of cases continue to occur among unvaccinated people, regulators pointed to evidence from Israel and early studies in the U.S. showing that protection against so-called breakthrough cases was vastly improved by a third dose of the Pfizer shot.

Pushback from WHO on boosters

But the aggressive American push for boosters — before many poorer countries have been able to provide even a modicum of protection for their most vulnerable populations — has drawn the ire of the World Health Organization and some aid groups, which have called on the U.S. to pause third shots to free up supply for the global vaccination effort.

Biden said last week that the U.S. was purchasing another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — for a total of one billion over the coming year — to donate to less well-off countries.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, 56, received the Moderna vaccine, for which federal regulators have not yet authorized boosters — but they are expected to in the coming weeks. Regulators are also expecting data about the safety and efficacy of a booster for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot soon.

At least 2.66 million Americans have received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine since mid-August, according to the CDC. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer shot. U.S. regulators recommend getting the boosters at least six months after the second shot of the initial two-dose series.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, 79, a polio survivor, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and revealed he had also received a booster dose Monday.

“Like I’ve been saying for months, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus,” he said.

— From The Associated Press, last updated at 4:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Alberta, Sask. hospitals strain under 4th wave: 

Health-care systems in Alberta, Saskatchewan ‘broken’ by COVID surge, doctors say

8 hours ago

Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER physician in Edmonton, and Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU and critical care physician in Saskatoon, share how the provinces’ hospitals and medical professionals are struggling amid a fourth wave of COVID-19. 16:41

The pressure on Alberta and Saskatchewan’s health-care systems continues to grow amid COVID-19 surges, with both provinces hitting new records on Monday.

In Alberta, health officials reported an unprecedented 312 patients in intensive care units (ICUs), the vast majority of whom have COVID-19. Doctors have warned that triage protocols would be activated in a worst-case scenario, and some say patient care is already being affected.

“It’s not just unvaccinated patients who are suffering; it’s vaccinated patients who are suffering, it’s everybody,” Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER doctor in Edmonton, told CBC News.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 289 people with COVID-19 in hospital on Monday, breaking a record set the day before. Of those, 63 are in intensive care, tying the record first reported on Saturday.

Premier Scott Moe said his government has not asked the federal government for military or health-care workers to support the COVID-19 battle in hospitals, but has discussed other areas of potential assistance.

Ottawa is assisting in Alberta after it made a formal request. It will help with air-lifting patients to other provinces, and by sending ICU-registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

— From CBC News, last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A girl receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in Concon, Chile, on Monday. Chile is lifting its state of emergency following a sharp decrease in cases. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)

As of Monday evening, more than 232.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Middle East, Jordan’s royal palace says Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II has tested positive for COVID-19 and is displaying “mild symptoms.” The palace said in a statement that King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, the 27-year-old crown prince’s parents, have both tested negative but will self-quarantine for five days. All three members of the royal family have been vaccinated.

In Europe, President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said France would give 120 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries, doubling an earlier pledge, French news agency AFP reported.

In the Americas, Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, following a sharp decrease in cases. The state of emergency had allowed the government to impose nighttime curfews and forced quarantines on hard-hit districts amid the worst of the outbreak.

Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. Cuban scientists have said the vaccines are more than 90 per cent effective against illness, though — like all vaccines — less so against mere infection.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan plans to lift its COVID-19 state of emergency, which covers 19 prefectures, in all of the regions at the end of September, broadcaster NHK reported on Monday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he discussed easing measures with relevant ministers on Monday and would seek the views of a government panel of advisers on Tuesday.

A mother comforts her child being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a hospital in Bangkok last week. (Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

Thailand’s COVID-19 task force approved a plan to procure a combined 3.35 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, a spokesperson said. The country will also waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and nine regions beginning Nov. 1 to vaccinated arrivals, according to authorities.

In Africa, Tunisia will entirely lift its nightly curfew against COVID-19 beginning Saturday, the presidency said, after about a year in force.

— From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

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Huge homecoming parties result in arrests, fines across Canadian college towns – CTV News

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HALIFAX —
On several big Canadian campuses Monday, the morning chatter wasn’t about classwork or assignments. Instead, students traded gossip about some of the huge parties that took place over the weekend.

Thousands of post-secondary students packed the streets in Guelph, Ont., London, Ont. and Halifax on Saturday, breaking liquor laws, COVID-19 restrictions and in some cases, property.

But some students got more than a homecoming hangover for their efforts, as police in Halifax issued tickets and arrested 10 people for public drunkenness. Police in London arrested one person and issued a number of fines. Partygoers in Guelph were limited to tickets and fines.

College town rowdiness may not be new, but it seems public patience has evaporated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Enjoy the fines & upcoming academic discipline hearings you rightly deserve,” Guelph mayor Cam Guthrie tweeted Saturday.

Halifax city councillor Waye Mason blamed the high number of first-year students as a result of the number of high-school graduates who deferred post-secondary studies amid the pandemic.

“You have twice the population of students who have no kind of grounding in adult behaviour in public,” he told CTV National News.

In a news release, Dalhousie University admonished those who attended what it called an “unsanctioned” and “illegal” event, urging them to get tested for COVID-19 and “not to attend classes or general on-campus activities for one week.”

Dalhousie’s student union fired back, insisting the incident was predictable and preventable while criticizing school administration.

“Dalhousie currently has an on-campus dry policy. You’re also not allowed to have visitors in residence,” Madeleine H. Stinson, president of the student union, told CTV National News. “We know students were going to party and Dalhousie created it so that they couldn’t do so on campus.”

Meanwhile, Halifax police are investigating the events of the weekend and said it could result in charges. Dalhousie has also threatened to fine or even to expel students who participated in the party. 

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Canada seeks to attract U.S. frequent flyers with perks on Air Canada

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Canada is trying to use the lure of travel perks to convince America’s frequent-flying elite to fly north on Air Canada, as the country steps up efforts to revive crucial traffic from the United States, a Canadian official said.

COVID-19 has battered travel from Canada‘s largest tourism market. During the first half of 2021, Canada had only about 178,000 overnight arrivals from the United States, compared with 6.8 million during the same period in 2019, according to government data.

To help reverse that decline, government tourism body Destination Canada on Monday rolled out its first campaign targeting U.S. frequent flyers, in partnership with the country’s largest carrier.

It is part of broader, C$14 million ($11.2 million) efforts by the tourism commission to boost traffic after Canada recently opened its borders to vaccinated travellers. It is not clear how much the specific frequent flyer campaign will cost.

“This is super-focused in terms of our ability to reach frequent flyers,” Gloria Loree, Destination Canada‘s chief marketing officer told Reuters, ahead of the launch.

Under the plan, up to 20,000 U.S. frequent flyers with carriers like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines Co and Delta Air Lines could get matching status when flying Air Canada north of the border.

Delta declined to comment and American Airlines did not immediately respond.

Southwest, which does not serve Canada directly, said by email that the government arm’s support contributes to the industry’s collective efforts “to restart substantive air travel.”

Frequent-flyer status gives travelers perks like priority boarding that would normally cost a premium fare or a fee.

While status-matching is common among airlines, Destination Canada said this is the first time a tourism organization has used the practice to attract tourists to their country.

“This is the push to get them coming to Canada,” Loree said.

Eligible U.S. frequent flyers who book and travel north on AC before Jan. 15, 2022, will keep their status with the carrier for all of 2022, she said.

It comes as countries ease restrictions on international travel, with the United States set to reopen in November to vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries.

Loree said funding frequent-flyer status matching is no different from other incentives paid for by Destination Canada, such as a separate campaign this year with Air Canada‘s rival, WestJet Airlines.

Loree said the goal is to restore routes from the United States, while trying to attract travelers who will return to Canada.

In April, hard-hit Air Canada received an estimated C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) government aid package with the country gaining a stake of roughly 6% in the carrier.

While Canada‘s high vaccination rate could reassure tourists, the cost of the country’s COVID-19 PCR test requirements for arrivals could dissuade some travelers, said Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University.

Loree said targeting U.S. frequent flyers is a plus because they are largely accustomed to those requirements.

“They’ve figured out how to travel,” Loree said. “So we want them to consider Canada as their next trip.”

Air Canada shares closed up 3.48% in Toronto trade.

($1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in ChicagoEditing by Denny Thomas, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)

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