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The fall of Panjwaii casts a long shadow over Canada's Afghan war veterans –



The declaration that Panjwaii — a wild, angry district of Kandahar province in Afghanistan — had fallen to the Taliban was greeted this week with a mixture of shock, numbness and resignation by many of the Canadian soldiers who fought in that part of the country for the better part of five years.

A lot of Canadian blood was spilled on that lonely, scorched patch of land. Some of it belonged to former corporal Bruce Moncur.

There was also a lot of sweat and heartbreak folded into the gnarled, sun-bleached grape and marijuana fields in this region west of Kandahar City.

Just ask retired leading seaman Bruno Guevremont.

Panjwaii District centre as seen from the Canadian military’s forward operating base at Ma’sum Ghar, west of Kandahar City, in the spring of 2009. (Murray Brewster/The Canadian Press)

In many ways, both men left a little bit of themselves behind in Panjwaii — a sprawling, once-prosperous checkerboard of sand, farmland and ancient, dead volcanic hills that rise steeply out of the desert floor.

When soldiers referred to the killing fields of Kandahar, more often than not they were talking about Panjwaii — where Canadian troops did most of their fighting and dying amid endless fields, mud-walled compounds and empty villages.

Against an often-unseen enemy, they fought for the place over and over again throughout the five-year combat mission, which formally ended a decade ago this week.

The Taliban — the enemy that Canadian soldiers managed to keep at bay but never quite defeat — swept through Panjwaii last weekend, handing Afghan Army troops a significant defeat and delivering a major psychological blow in the wake of the American withdrawal.

‘It’s never going to end’

Following up on their victory in Panjwaii, Taliban insurgents reportedly penetrated Kandahar City late in the week. The Taliban desperately wanted control of Kandahar City, the second largest in Afghanistan, and spilled a lot of their own blood trying to get there — mostly with the Canadians standing in the way.

The city and its surrounding region was their spiritual home, birthplace and first seat of power, a place from which they projected their own brutal version of Islam in the 1990s.

Retired leading seaman Bruno Guevremont, a former bomb disposal technician who served with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan. ( Bruno Guevremont/Facebook)

Guevremont said he was shaken by the thought that the villagers he’d protected, and sometimes shared tea and flatbread with, were about to return to that kind of misery.

“What’s the feeling I got when I heard that Panjwaii, (the Afghan National Army) had withdrawn and the Taliban was moving back in? It was anxiety. It was exhaustion,” said Guevremont, who dismantled insurgent bombs and disarmed a live suicide bomber single-handed in the spring of 2009.

“It’s like, this is never-ending. It’s never going to end. I’m thinking about the local population. I mean, I made friends over there.”

Bruno Guevremont says he is the only member of the Canadian Armed Forces to dismantle a suicide vest on a live bomber. (Bruno Guevremont/Facebook)

He said the news brought back vivid memories of the three times his team was called in to defuse bombs at schools.

“Once, we got there too late where an IED had actually detonated on a school, so a lot of children had died,” said Guevremont. “There were two where IEDs were prepared to go off when the kids came out of school and we got there in time and dismantled those IEDs.”

While he worries about the ordinary Afghans caught in the path of the advancing Taliban, he said he also remembers the insecure feeling of being an outsider among Afghans — of not knowing who could be trusted.

Guevremont recalled being asked by locals to respond to a report of a rocket strapped to the underside of a bridge — only to discover that he’d been led into a minefield. He had to dig and tiptoe his way out.

Ten years later, he is left with a sense of dismay — and futility.

“So, you’re thinking, ‘What did we do for 20 years? What did we do there for the whole time that we were there?'” he said.

He’s not the only one asking those questions.

‘It was an inevitability’

The hardened resolve and patient, wait-and-see attitude shared by the 40,000 Canadians troops who served in Afghanistan showed cracks here and there on social media this week.

What was it all for? It’s a question that, over the past decade, has been answered with the claim that Canada’s intervention empowered Afghans to choose their own destiny.

But for some former soldiers, fatalism has taken over.

“It was an inevitability,” said Moncur, who suffered a major head wound in 2006 at the onset of Operation Medusa, the biggest battle fought by Canadians during the war.

“I honestly thought it was going to happen. I never thought the Taliban stranglehold on Kandahar was going to be broken for that long.”

Bruce Moncur (right) in southern Afghanistan in 2006. (CBC News)

Moncur and many soldiers like him take a pragmatic view of their service in Afghanistan: they had a job to do — keeping the Taliban at bay — and they did it.

“It’s been 20 years now, a generation, and we lost a lot of blood and guts. But they lost too,” he said, referring to the full sweep of western involvement in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. 

There is a phrase the Taliban liked to use in their propaganda against western forces: “You have the watches, but we have the time.”

Moncur said he has grown to appreciate the truth of that claim.

“The inevitability was, unless we were willing to retain that presence for a millennia, they were ultimately going to come out on top,” he said.

‘We didn’t finish the job’

Moncur said he believes the war was not worth the sacrifice in lives and treasure. As a veterans’ advocate who is married to NDP MP Niki Ashton, there is an important political dimension to his feelings about Panjwaii.

If Canada, he said, was serious about everything it claimed (and sometimes continues to claim) about its presence in Afghanistan, it would have not walked away from combat operations in 2011 and would not have left the country entirely in 2014.

“I have a hard time grappling with some of the politics that come after this, the decisions to leave,” he said. “I mean, we didn’t finish the job.”

For soldiers like Moncur, mixed in with that remorse and dismay over the fall of Panjwaii is a sense that Canada’s war in Afghanistan is ancient history now.

“I’ve moved on,” he said. “I think a lot of the vets have moved on from this.

“I think if you had to ask them what they’re more concerned about, the Taliban taking over Kandahar province or perhaps the state of the military within our country, I’m pretty sure most guys would be talking about what is going on with the Canadian military now.”

But Canada left some loose ends behind in Afghanistan — flesh-and-blood ones.

Growing calls for Ottawa to rescue the local Afghan translators who worked for the Canadians and were left behind after 2014 have put the Liberal government on the spot in recent days.

Those calls started with ordinary soldiers but are now coming from some of the country’s top former commanders — who say they’re not prepared to see people who risked their lives for Canada sacrificed to the Taliban.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Wednesday –



The latest:

  • Travellers who were fully vaccinated in the United States or European Union won’t have to quarantine when entering England — but vaccinated Canadians will still need to follow quarantine rules. 
  • Tokyo reports 3,177 new COVID-19 cases — a new single-day high.
  • Man charged with emailing death threats to Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. prosecutors say.
  • INTERACTIVE | Where is the coronavirus pandemic getting better or worse?
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: or join us live in the comments now.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says new mask-wearing guidance, coupled with higher rates of vaccination against COVID-19, could halt the current escalation of infections in “a couple of weeks.”

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBS This Morning she hopes more stringent mask-wearing guidelines and other measures won’t be necessary as the country heads into the fall.

“We can halt the chain of transmission,” she said. “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”

With the delta variant fuelling a surge of infections across the country, the CDC on Tuesday recommended even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the variant is prevalent.

Walensky said 80 per cent of the counties with the highest number of infections have less than 40 per cent of people vaccinated.

The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

From The Associated Press last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | The push to target Canada’s unvaccinated: 

What could it take to convince the small but determined group of Canadians who remain wary of the COVID-19 vaccines on offer? Experts say there isn’t one answer. 2:05

What’s happening around the world

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives her Johnson & Johnson vaccine at State House in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday. (Emmanuel Herman/Reuters)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 195.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.1 million.

In Africa, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan received her vaccine in public, in the most decisive signal yet of a break from the policies of her late predecessor who repeatedly dismissed the threat of the pandemic.

Zimbabwe has authorized the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the first Western-made shot to be approved by the southern African nation, its medicines regulator said.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution on Wednesday about drawing conclusions from a seven-day decline in COVID-19 cases in Britain, saying it was too early to assess whether it was a definite trend.

“We have seen some encouraging recent data. There’s no question about that but it is far, far too early to draw any general conclusions,” Johnson told LBC radio.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged continued caution around COVID-19 this week, even as case numbers declined. (Henry Nicolls/Reuters)

In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia recorded 47,791 new cases and 1,824 confirmed in the last 24 hours. The Health Ministry recorded 558,392 active cases in Indonesia, with more than 81,000 cases from Sumatra regions.

In the Middle East, Israel is considering giving a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to its elderly population, even before FDA approval, to help fend off the delta variant.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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Canada not among countries exempt from quarantine for travel into England –



The government of the United Kingdom announced today that travellers to England who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the European Union or United States will be exempt from mandatory quarantine upon arrival — but fully vaccinated travellers from Canada will still have to undergo quarantine.

The change goes into effect on Aug. 2, according to a news release from the U.K. government. While the U.K. Department for Transport has confirmed for CBC News that the change does not apply to Canadians, no reason has been given for the exclusion.

In a statement issued to CBC News, a Department for Transport spokesperson did not say why Canadians are not exempt.

“We are taking a phased approach to restarting international travel while protecting public health,” it reads. “We want to welcome all international visitors back to the U.K. and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations.”

That means travellers from Canada to England will still have to quarantine at home or in the place they’re staying for 10 days, and take a COVID-19 test on or after their eighth day in the country. A few exceptions apply — one of which covers travellers who have been vaccinated in the U.K. A full list of rules can be found on the Department for Transport’s website.

“Passengers who are fully vaccinated in the EU with vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or in the USA with vaccines authorised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or in the Swiss vaccination programme, will be able to travel to England without having to quarantine or take a day 8 test on arrival,” the news release says.

The exemption applies to some European countries outside of the EU, such as Norway and Iceland, but travellers from France will still have to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated.

No updates for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

According to BBC News, the government of Scotland has not made a decision on exempting fully vaccinated travellers from the U.S. and Europe. As of today, Wales and Northern Ireland also have not updated their rules for travel — which require a quarantine upon arrival from outside the U.K. unless the traveller was fully vaccinated through the U.K. vaccination programme.

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IRCC: Canada welcomed over 35,000 new immigrants in June – Canada Immigration News



Published on July 28th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT Updated on July 28th, 2021 at 07:14am EDT

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Canada recorded its strongest month for new permanent resident arrivals during the pandemic in June 2021, according to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the minister says “We are going to make good on our commitment to land 401,000 new permanent residents.”

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers.

The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Only once has Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants in a year. This took place in 1913, but Canadian immigration plummeted immediately after due to the onset of the First World War.

The minister’s office estimates that Canada welcomed over 35,000 new permanent residents in June. In follow up email correspondence with CIC News, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said its preliminary figures show Canada welcomed 35,700 immigrants last month. This figure is significantly higher than Canada’s totals in recent months.

Canada got off to a strong start to the year. It welcomed 24,680 new immigrants in January but lost momentum in the months to follow. The country then welcomed 23,395 in February, 22,425 in March, and 21,155 in April, and 17,100 in May.

Altogether Canada has welcomed some 143,000 new permanent residents through the first six months of 2021 which remains well short of the pace it needs to welcome 401,000 newcomers by the end of this year.

In order to achieve this newcomer target, Canada needs to land another 258,000 immigrants — an average of 43,000 per month — over the rest of the year.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Welcoming this volume of immigration over the remaining six months will be difficult but there is an outside chance it can be achieved.

Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 newcomers per month. Immigration levels tend to be higher in the warmer months as more newcomers arrive during favourable weather conditions and leading up to the start of the academic and business calendar in September.

In 2019, levels were stronger in the second half of the year compared to the first as Canada welcomed 180,000 newcomers between July and December.

Assuming Canada welcomes that same level in the second half of 2021, it will conclude the year at just over 320,000 new permanent residents which is still below its target.

However there are several tailwinds remaining that could propel Canada closer to its newcomer goal.

Some 23,000 additional Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders are now eligible to move to Canada after restrictions on them were eased on June 21st.

Anyone else newly approved for permanent residence can also immediately move to Canada as a result of this easing.

IRCC also introduced six new permanent residency streams that will enable some 90,000 international student graduates and essential workers to remain in Canada. The department’s goal is to process some 40,000 of these applications by the end of this year.

The third tailwind is also from the domestic pool of permanent residence candidates. IRCC has been breaking various Express Entry records throughout the year as it prioritizes Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

Draw sizes are larger than ever while cut-off scores are at record lows. According to IRCC, some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada so it is easier for the department to transition them to permanent residence amid the pandemic than candidates abroad. IRCC has already issued nearly 100,000 Express Entry invitations this year which is almost double the invitations it issued at the same point in 2020. A significant portion of those invited during the pandemic should complete their permanent residence landing by the end of 2021.

The minister’s office told the Globe that the 45,100 permanent residence applications IRCC processed in June were the highest ever, which suggests that IRCC has the capacity to process and finalize the necessary number of applications to achieve its levels goal.

There are risks along the way that could disrupt IRCC’s plans. The global coronavirus situation remains volatile and things such as increased case levels and travel restrictions could get in the way. For example, Canada continues to restrict flights from its main newcomer source country, India.

A prolonging of this restriction could get in the way of IRCC’s goal. Further delays to COPR holder arrivals is another risk. IRCC is currently seeking to correspond with thousands of expired COPR holders to arrange their landing in Canada. This is a time-consuming process as IRCC needs to individually contact each COPR holder to ensure they have all the necessary documents to complete the immigration process.

Nonetheless, the coming months should see immigration levels remain high. There also remains a strong chance that monthly immigration totals will hit record highs by the end of the year due to the combination of more overseas arrivals and in-Canada applicants completing their landings.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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