The federal government is promising to resettle more Afghan interpreters and other workers who helped the Canadian Armed Forces during the war — people now in danger of being killed by a resurgent Taliban.
Today, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino and his cabinet colleagues announced the launch of a new resettlement program for interpreters who worked with the Canadian Armed Forces, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards and locally engaged staff employed at the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan, and their family members.
During the war, Afghan interpreters worked with Canadian troops to connect them with local leaders, translate conversations and help them build trust on the ground.
Considered traitors by some in their country, translators say they live in fear of being attacked or killed. Some have received phone calls and letters threatening death and disfigurement for themselves and their families.
In 2009, Canada offered refuge to approximately 800 interpreters fearing for their lives in Afghanistan, but the program had restrictive criteria. Two-thirds of the Afghans who applied for refuge were turned away, according to figures compiled by The Canadian Press.
To qualify under the old program, the advisers had to demonstrate they worked for Canadian troops, diplomats or contractors for 12 consecutive months between October 2007 and July 2011.
That excluded a lot of interpreters. Canada first deployed special forces troops to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, followed by a battle group in 2002 and then a mission in Kabul before Canadian soldiers returned to Kandahar in 2006.
The new criteria would be “based on applicants’ significant or enduring relationship with the government of Canada,” says a government news release.
“It is not a precondition that their family members played the same role that the Afghans have, in part because they too have been targeted very deliberately by the Taliban [with] intimidation, violence and even death,” said Mendicino.
“We have tried to take an approach here that is inclusive and in full recognition of the contributions of those Afghans who have helped Canada in that region for the better part of 20 years.”
Applicants also have to meet other admissibility requirements, such as security, criminal and health screenings. The federal government says processing timelines will be expedited.
Citing privacy and safety concerns, government officials aren’t saying how these Afghans will be evacuated, or when — although Mendicino said his department will begin processing individuals “immediately.”
Mendicino said that he expects “several thousand” Afghans will be eligible to come to Canada under the new program.
Friday’s announcement follows mounting pressure from former generals, veterans, politicians and others for government action.
‘Unconscionable’ delay: NDP
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the government should have made this announcement weeks ago.
“The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result. Instead of putting forward a plan to help the heroic Afghan interpreters, support staff, and their families, the Trudeau Liberals sat on their hands and did nothing,” he said in a statement Friday.
“It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”
Federal NDP defence critic Randall Garrison, who worked in Afghanistan for Amnesty International before entering politics, also attacked the government’s timelines.
“It’s unconscionable that a decade later we are still here,” he said in a statement.
“These collaborators, who played a vital role, have been abandoned for a decade without the support they desperately needed to find safety in Canada, and deserve better. Countless interpreters and vital staff, along with their families, have been living in danger while the Liberals dragged their feet.”
Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan formally ended in 2014.
Former U.S. President Clinton leaves hospital, will return to New York
Clinton, 75, will return to New York and remain on antibiotics, Dr. Alpesh Amin, who had been overseeing his care at the hospital, said in a statement released by Clinton’s spokesman. His fever and white blood cell count have normalized, Amin added.
The former president had been in California for an event for his foundation and was treated at the University of California Irvine Medical Center’s intensive care unit after suffering from fatigue and being admitted on Tuesday.
He left the medical center accompanied by his wife, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The two-term president, who has had previous heart problems, held the White House from 1993 to 2001.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Editing by Nick Zieminski)
China condemns U.S., Canada for sending warships through Taiwan Strait
The Chinese military on Sunday condemned the United States and Canada for each sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait last week, saying they were threatening peace and stability in the region.
China claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has mounted repeated air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the past year, provoking anger in Taipei.
China sent around 150 aircraft into the zone over a four-day period beginning on Oct. 1 in a further heightening of tension between Beijing and Taipei that has sparked concern internationally.
The U.S. military said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed through the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour China along with the Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday.
“Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it added.
China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said its forces monitored the ships and “stood guard” throughout their passage.
“The United States and Canada colluded to provoke and stir up trouble… seriously jeopardising peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
“Taiwan is part of Chinese territory. Theatre forces always maintain a high level of alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations.”
U.S. Navy Ships have been transiting the strait roughly monthly, to the anger of Beijing, which has accused Washington of stoking regional tensions. U.S. allies occasionally also send ships through the strait, including Britain https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/british-frigate-sails-through-taiwan-strait-2021-09-27last month.
While tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen, there has been no shooting and Chinese aircraft have not entered Taiwanese air space, concentrating their activity in the southwestern part of the ADIZ.
While including Taiwanese territorial air space, the ADIZ encompasses a broader area that Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that three Chinese aircraft – two J-16 fighters and an anti-submarine aircraft – flew into the ADIZ again.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Pravin Char and John
No end in sight to volcanic eruption on Spain’s La Palma – Canaries president
There’s no immediate end in sight to the volcanic eruption that has caused chaos on the Spanish isle of La Palma since it began about a month ago, the president of the Canary Islands said on Sunday.
There were 42 seismic movements on the island on Sunday, the largest of which measured 4.3, according to the Spanish National Geographical Institute.
“There are no signs that an end of the eruption is imminent even though this is the greatest desire of everyone,” President Angel Víctor Torres said at a Socialist party conference in Valencia, citing the view of scientists.
Streams of lava have laid waste to more than 742 hectares (1833 acres) of land and destroyed almost 2,000 buildings on La Palma since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19.
About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has about 83,000 inhabitants and forms part of the Canary Islands archipelago off northwestern Africa.
Airline Binter said it had cancelled all its flights to La Palma on Sunday because of ash from the volcano.
“Due to the current situation of the ash cloud, operations with La Palma will continue to be paralyzed throughout today. We continue to evaluate the situation,” the airline tweeted.
Almost half – 22 out of 38 – of all flights to the island on Sunday have been cancelled, state airport operator Aena said, but the airport there remains open.
(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Pravin Char)
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