OTTAWA — International arrivals at Canadian airports are so backed up that people are being kept on planes for over an hour after they land because there isn’t physically enough space to hold the lineups of travellers, says the Canadian Airports Council.
The council blames COVID-19 protocols and has called on the federal government to do away with random tests and public health questions at customs to ease the serious delays passengers face when they arrive in Canada.
The extra steps mean it takes four times longer to process people as they arrive than it did before the pandemic, said the council’s interim president Monette Pasher. That was fine when people weren’t travelling, but now it’s become a serious problem.
“We’re seeing that we clearly cannot have these public health requirements and testing at our borders as we get back to regular travel,” she said.
The situation is particularly bad at Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, where passengers on 120 flights were held in their planes Sunday waiting for their turn to get in line for customs.
Sometimes the wait is 20 minutes, other times it’s over an hour, Pasher said.
Airports are simply not designed for customs to be such a lengthy process, she said, and the space is not available to accommodate people. The airport is also not the right place for COVID-19 tests, she said, especially since tests are rarely required in the community.
“Getting back to regular travel with these health protocols and testing in place, the two can’t coexist without a significant pressure and strain on our system,” Pasher said.
The government is aware of the frustrating lineups at airports, a statement from the transport minister’s office said.
“Current health measures in place are based on the advice of public health experts to protect Canadians. We will continue to base our measures and adjustments on their expert advice,” the statement read.
The ministry is working with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to post more screening officers at checkpoints, the minister’s office said, and the agency is working on hiring even more.
The government will not ask airlines to cut back their flight schedules, the statement noted.
Between May 1 and May 7, about 1.3 per cent of 1,920 travellers tested at airports were COVID-19 positive.
For comparison, 3.46 per cent were positive between April 1 and April 9, though significantly more tests were performed during that time.
Public health measures have scaled up and down over the course of the pandemic as waves of the virus have come and gone. Right now, they are the least restrictive they have been in months, with vaccinated travellers tested only on a random basis.
The requirements are out of step with peer countries, said Conservative transport critic Melissa Lantsman. She said she wants to know why the Canadian government is acting on advice that is different to that of other countries.
“We’re effectively taking the government at their word that they are receiving advice and that they are acting on it, but they haven’t shared any of that with the Canadian public,” she said.
The lengthy delays at the airports send a negative message to travellers and she worries about the impact it will have on Canadian tourism as the industry struggles to get on its feet this season after the pandemic lull.
“It tells you to go elsewhere, that we’re not open for business,” she said.
On Monday, several industry groups, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, pleaded their case for fewer COVID-19 restrictions at the House of Commons transport committee.
“These are costing our economy deeply and are hurting our international reputation as a top destination for tourism, international conferences and sporting events,” Robin Guy, the chamber’s senior director for transportation policy, told the committee.
The witnesses urged the government to review their COVID-19 regulations at the border and do away with those that are no longer necessary.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.
The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.
The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”
Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.
Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.
“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.
“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.
“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”
During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.
“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.
“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”
Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.
“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”
David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.
Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.
“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”
Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.
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All Flesh Redux
Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou
MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.
Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”
With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael Stellick
Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.
All Flesh REDUX
Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750, avenue Henri-Julien
Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm
Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm
Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15
Seating is limited
About THE OTHER THEATRE
Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.
Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts. From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.
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