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Royal crown slips as Elizabeth prepares to mark 70 years as queen

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Celebrations this year marking Queen Elizabeth‘s seven-decade reign will mask a less happy reality for the world’s pre-eminent royal family: the British monarchy is being questioned in ways that were unthinkable for most of the last 70 years.

From the U.S. sex abuse court case https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/what-we-know-about-virginia-giuffres-lawsuit-against-britains-prince-andrew-2022-01-04 facing son Prince Andrew to her grandson Prince Harry and his wife’s allegations of racism https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-royals-meghan-int-idUSKBN2B003I in the royal household, rarely has the family of 95-year-old Elizabeth, who became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, faced such scrutiny and damaging headlines.

Such is the depth of respect for the queen that while she lives, the institution that goes back nearly 1,000 years looks safe. What comes next is less certain.

“The monarchy and the queen are synonymous for most people,” Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, which has stepped up its campaigning, told Reuters.

“Once we’re past the end of the queen’s reign, all bets are off as to where public opinion is going to go.”

He said while only an act of parliament would be needed to end the monarchy, it was highly likely there would have to be a referendum first.

The monarchy’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed since her ancestor Norman King William I’s 1066 conquest of England, but only during the decade that followed the execution of King Charles I in 1649 has Britain been a republic.

During Elizabeth’s reign, lows came in the 1990s amid the failings of three of her children’s marriages and the 1997 death of Princess Diana, first wife of heir Prince Charles.

Highs included the public outpourings of support at previous jubilees, the 2011 royal marriage of Elizabeth’s grandson – and future king – Prince William, and the birth of royal children.

Buckingham Palace said the four days of celebrations in June to mark Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee will allow “national moments of reflection on the queen’s 70 years of service”.

A spokesman declined to comment on questions about the monarchy’s long-term future.

ROYAL EXTINCTION?

Supporters see the queen as a stabilising factor, and cite economic benefits the monarchy brings Britain through tourism. Opponents argue the institution is a bastion of undeserved privilege, partially funded by taxpayers and undermined by some members’ behaviour.

Andrew, 61, reputed by media to be Elizabeth’s favourite of her four children, was stripped https://www.reuters.com/world/us/prince-andrews-legal-team-decline-comment-us-court-decision-2022-01-13 of his royal patronages and military titles this month as he fights allegations of sex abuse in a U.S. lawsuit.

“For the monarchy it is an extinction-level event. You can’t spend a thousand years telling everyone you’re special and then everyone discovers, in real time, in a court case, that you are really not,” columnist Camilla Long wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry, once the Windsors’ most popular member, and his American wife Meghan gave up their royal duties to move to Los Angeles from where they have delivered some barbed attacks on the family and Buckingham Palace.

Charles has come under scrutiny after Michael Fawcett, his right-hand man and close confidant for decades, quit https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-prince-charless-right-hand-man-quits-charity-role-after-honours-report-2021-11-12 his job running one of the heir’s main charities amid allegations he had offered honours in return for donations.

Fawcett has not commented publicly on the allegations.

“Whether (these scandals) are enough in themselves to make enough people in Britain think that as a result we should have no monarchy, I would doubt,” said royal biographer Penny Junor.

OPINION SHIFTING?

Polls suggest a comfortable majority believe the monarchy should remain, with 83% holding a positive view of Elizabeth, according to one survey in December. But there are worrying signs for the royals.

Last November Barbados ditched https://www.reuters.com/world/prince-charles-travels-barbados-celebrate-creation-republic-2021-11-29 the queen as head of state, Charles is much less popular and support among younger people appears to be waning, with polls suggesting a majority under 30 favour getting rid of the monarchy.

“I don’t think it holds much importance any more,” said student Margaux Butler, 20, in Windsor, where the queen now spends most of her time.

“I despise that idea (of Charles being king). I don’t mind the royal family in general but I think he’s a bit controversial and I think a lot of younger people feel the same.”

However, ending the monarchy will take more than apathy towards Charles or damning tabloid headlines about Andrew or Harry. Indeed, those same papers now rarely run negative articles about Charles, his wife Camilla, William and his wife Kate, all of whom suffered intense criticism in the past.

For some Britons, scandals embroiling Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the tumult of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency also make having an elected head of state a less attractive proposition.

The establishment too remains firmly behind the royals.

There is no sign the ruling Conservative Party would countenance an end to the monarchy, while the main opposition Labour Party suffered a 2019 election drubbing partly because of its former leader’s perceived lack of patriotism.

Johnson last year remarked, after the death of Prince Philip, how Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years had helped his wife steer “the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

The royals themselves are also conscious of how they must adapt to a changing world.

While politicians suffered the “brutal” repudiation by the public at the ballot box, “for us, a royal family, however, the message is often harder to read,” Elizabeth, who has never given an interview during her reign, said in a 1997 speech.

“I have done my best … to interpret it correctly through the years of our marriage and of my reign as your queen. And we shall, as a family, try together to do so in the future.”

 

(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Collett-White)

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A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News

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It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.

Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.

“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.

A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.

“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.

But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.

“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.

“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

Brian Macdonald, the executive director of Aman Lara, says the non-profit has successfully helped more than 3,000 Afghan refugees to safety in Canada since Kabul fell to the Taliban one year ago. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.

But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.

“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.

“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”

Ottawa promises to speed up application process

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.

The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Italian coalition forces assist and escort evacuees for onward processing during an evacuation at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport on Aug. 24. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps/The Associated Press)

Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”

“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.

In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.

‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation

But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.

“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.

“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Deputy prime minister answers questions about Afghanistan

4 days ago

Duration 2:23

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s priority is to focus on the women and children of Afghanistan ‘who have suffered real setbacks.’

Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.

Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.

“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.

“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.

“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan.  And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”

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Maritime veterans working to bring Afghans to Canada – CTV News Atlantic

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John Monaghan’s connection to Afghanistan has withstood the 13 years since his tour there.

The Nova Scotia man and his family keep in constant contact — daily — with a man he met there, who worked with the Canadian military. A man he refers to as “Mr. Jones,” to keep his identity hidden from the Taliban.

The Monaghan’s have been lobbying and fundraising to bring Mr. Jones, his wife, his four older siblings and their large families to Nova Scotia.

But he says, at this point, one year after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, they’re still in limbo.

“You can tell that he’s worried, he’s definitely worried about everything that’s going on,” Monaghan said. “It’s just really frustrating. They need to move these people out of danger and here to Canada, to safety.”

Aman Lara — Pashto for “Sheltered Path” — is an organization that was born after the takeover a year ago, to try and bring as many Afghan interpreters to Canada as possible.

Its executive director is New Brunswicker Brian Macdonald, who also served in Afghanistan. Macdonald says it’s become an urgent passion project for many veterans across the country.

“A year ago, we saw those terrible scenes of people getting crushed trying to leave Kabul. At that time, we thought the window had closed, we weren’t going to be able to get any more people out. But in that year, we’ve doubled down, and we’ve now got 3,000 people out of Afghanistan,” he said.

He says they’ve been working with teams in many different locations, but the bureaucracy in several countries — including Canada — is high.

Their focus is on securing the safety of another 3,000 people, and believe the work will take years to complete.

“There’s some people on our team who still haven’t gotten their families out. We work with these interpreters very closely, they’re here in Canada but their families are still stuck in Afghanistan. So there’s a lot left to do for sure,” he said.

Macdonald believes there are about 8,000 people in Afghanistan right now, who’ve been approved to travel to Canada. But there are thousands more who are eligible, but have yet to be accepted.

“For the Government of Canada, we want them to extend the special immigration measures program, and that will allow us to get everyone that served Canada out of Afghanistan,” he said. “So we don’t think there should be a cap on that in terms of numbers, and we don’t think there should be a timeline on that. Let’s take as long as it takes to get everyone who helped Canada out of Afghanistan.”

On Monday’s difficult anniversary, Monaghan hopes Canadians take a moment to think about the people of Afghanistan.

“Mostly, I would like people to think about how comfortable and happy and safe they are and then in comparison think about the lives that these families are living in Kabul, in terror, where they are afraid for their lives.”

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Public hearings in Emergencies Act inquiry to start in September

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OTTAWA — The inquiry into Ottawa’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during protests in February will start its public hearings next month.

The Public Order Emergency Commission announced today that it expects the hearings to run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 28 at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in a statement that he intends to hold the government to account and wants the inquiry to be as “open and transparent” as possible.

Hearings will be livestreamed online and members of the public will have opportunities to share their views, with a final report expected early next year.

Parties to the inquiry including “Freedom Convoy” organizers, police forces and all three levels of government are expected to testify and contribute documentary evidence on the invocation of the act in February.

The federal Liberals made the move amid border blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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