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Pandemic travel rules have nurse facing immigration to Canada without her child – CBC.ca

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Katie Hilton is about to move to Alberta from the United Kingdom to take a job as a nurse, but current COVID-19 rules on travel mean she’ll have to leave her son behind. 

Hilton and 10-year-old Ben have been granted permanent residency and she was issued special permission to travel as an essential worker to Canada during the pandemic, but she says the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian embassy in London told her that Ben doesn’t qualify for that same travel exemption.

She is, however, allowed to bring her cat. 

“In a pandemic situation when you’re thinking about health-care, the two groups of people you need more than anything are going to be your nurses and your doctors … But if you want those licensed health-care professionals to come to Canada and to use the exemption, well, then you need to allow their families to come with them,” Hilton told CBC News. 

“At the moment, I just can’t understand the rationale for not allowing my child to come with me.”

Ben could come to Canada at a later date after Hilton has landed and gone through customs, thereby completing the family’s permanent residence process. He could then apply for an exemption to the pandemic travel restrictions as the dependent of a landed permanent resident.

Until then, her options for childcare among relatives in the UK are limited. 

Katie Hilton says her 10-year-old son Ben has been granted permanent residency, but the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Canadian embassy in London told her that Ben doesn’t qualify for a travel exemption she was issued. (Katie Hilton)

COVID-19 travel rules

In March, the federal government changed travel rules in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. People who had been granted permanent residency after that date were asked to delay arriving in the country, unless they qualified for a travel exemption.

Currently, federal travel regulations do allow for family reunification with permanent residents already living in Canada. Because Hilton hasn’t arrived in the country yet, she says officials have said her son doesn’t qualify for that protocol.

The federal government and immigration department did not provide comment, despite multiple requests for one. 

Because Ben is a minor, getting him to Canada to be reunited with his mother means one of three expensive options: A family member would have to fly the round-trip from the UK to Canada to accompany him, Hilton would have to return to get him or she would have to pay for an airline to escort him. 

Hilton said increasing the number of people who have to make that trip elevates the COVID-19 transmission risk and increases the costs.

She has a plane ticket to Canada booked for the early days of December, a home, a car and a start date for work.

Ben also is registered to begin school in Alberta. She said she’s concerned that delaying her arrival to stay with her son instead could cost her job offer or her visa could expire. 

“I’m a health professional, I’m a specialist worker, I’m a key worker. I’m needed. Please, just let my child come with me,” she said. Hilton has already given up her job and sold her home in the U.K.

She’s called several federal politicians with her plight, who have informed her they’re looking into the issue. 

“I’ve never in all my life been so speechless. What kind of a government separates a mother and child?”

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Commander leading COVID vaccine rollout leaves pending investigation

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A top military commander tasked with Canada‘s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has unexpectedly left his assignment pending the results of a military investigation, a government statement said on Friday.

Major-General Dany Fortin was brought in by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to lead Canada‘s vaccine distribution in November, describing the effort as the greatest mobilization effort the country has seen since World War Two.

The brief statement did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation. Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Eyre will be reviewing next steps with Fortin, the statement added.

Fortin, who has decades of experience including in warzones, was a key fixture of the government’s vaccine briefings and his team coordinated the logistical challenge of reaching vaccines to Canada‘s far-flung places.

Canada‘s vaccination campaign has picked up pace after a rocky start, with some 43.1% of the country’s population receiving at least one dose.

 

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Canada slams ‘unconscionable’ Iran conduct since airliner shootdown

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Canada on Thursday condemned Tehran’s “unconscionable” conduct since Iranian forces shot down an airliner last year, killing 176 people, including dozens of Canadians, and vowed to keep pressing for answers as to what really happened.

The comments by Foreign Minister Marc Garneau were among the strongest Ottawa has made about the January 2020 disaster.

“The behavior of the Iranian government has been frankly unconscionable in this past 15 months and we are going to continue to pursue them so we have accountability,” Garneau told a committee of legislators examining what occurred.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport. Iran said its forces had been on high alert during a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

Garneau complained it had taken months of pressure for Iran, with which Canada does not have diplomatic relations, to hand over the flight recorders for independent analysis and said Tehran had still not explained why the airspace had not been closed at the time.

In March, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defense operator. Iran has indicted 10 officials.

At the time, Ukraine and Canada criticized the report as insufficient. But Garneau went further on Thursday, saying it was “totally unacceptable … they are laying the blame on some low-level people who operated a missile battery and not providing the accountability within the chain of command.”

Canada is compiling its own forensic report into the disaster and will be releasing it in the coming weeks, he said.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Mexican union was set to lose disputed GM workers’ vote

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General Motors Co workers in Mexico were on track to scrap the contract negotiated by one of the country’s biggest unions, according to a Mexican government report on a vote last month that led to a U.S. complaint under a new North American free trade deal.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration called for a probe into allegations that worker rights were denied at GM’s Silao pickup truck plant during the vote to ratify workers’ collective contract with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday said he accepted the U.S. recommendation to make sure there would be no fraud in union votes, noting that many “irregularities” had been detected in the union-led vote at GM.

The CTM, which represents 4.5 million workers, is one of several traditional unions accused by workers and activists of putting business interests over workers’ rights.

A ministry report into the vote, reviewed by Reuters, shows that 1,784 workers cast ballots against keeping the CTM contract, while 1,628 workers voted to maintain it.

Allegations of interference – including the ministry’s findings that some blank ballots in union possession were cut in half – have raised suspicions among some activists and experts that the CTM may have been headed for a deeper defeat.

A follow-up vote, which the Labor Ministry ordered to take place within 30 days, could result in a wider margin against keeping the current contract, especially if more workers who were apathetic or scared of voting turned out the second time, said Alfonso Bouzas, a labor scholar at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.

“This whole new opportunity is going to awaken conscience and interest,” Bouzas said.

CTM’s national spokesman, Patricio Flores, said the union supported the regional trade deal and would comply with the law and whatever “would not harm investment in Mexico.”

He did not dispute the vote tally in the labor ministry report, but called for an investigation into the disputed proceeding before a second vote.

“We should listen to the voice of these workers and not let pressure from unions in the United States and Canada have influence right now,” CTM said in a statement.

‘DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT’

The ministry document showed that just over half of the 6,494 workers eligible to vote did so in the first of two days of voting, before labor inspectors halted the process.

If GM workers scrap their contract, either the CTM or a new union could negotiate new collective terms.

Many collective bargaining contracts in Mexico consist of deals between unions and companies without workers’ approval, which has helped keep Mexican hourly wages at a fraction of those in the United States.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which took effect last year and replaced the 1994 NAFTA, sought to strengthen worker rights in Mexico and slow migration of U.S. auto production south of the border.

GM has said it respects the rights of its employees to make decisions over collective bargaining, and that it was not involved in any alleged violations. It declined to comment on the Labor Ministry report.

GM has indicated that it is ready to shift away from the old system that had let companies in Mexico turn a blind eye to worker rights, said Jerry Dias, the head of Canada‘s largest private sector union, Unifor.

“The rules are changing and a company like GM is not going to get caught,” he said.

Dias said he hoped to personally monitor the follow-up vote at the Silao plant.

Contract ratification votes are required under Mexico’s 2019 labor reform, which underpins the renegotiated free trade pact, to ensure workers are not bound to contracts that were signed behind their backs.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christian Plumb, Richard Pullin, Paul Simao and David Gregorio)

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