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Tornado leaves 'catastrophic' damage in Barrie, Ont. –



Eleven people were injured and about 25 buildings damaged in Barrie, Ont., Thursday, after a tornado tore through a southeast neighbourhood in the city north of Toronto, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. 

Environment Canada said early Friday that the tornado had a preliminary rating of EF-2 with wind speeds up to 210 km/h. A damage survey team concluded that the tornado’s path was about five kilometres long and up to 100 metres wide at some points. 

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman told CBC News this morning that a total of 11 people were injured, after paramedics had initially put the figure at eight.

Four of those people were taken to hospital, said Andrew Robert, chief of Simcoe Paramedic Services, at a news conference Thursday night. Paramedics also set up a triage area at Saint Gabriel the Archangel Catholic School on Prince William Way, in the southeast neighbourhood of the city that was most severely affected by the tornado. 

Of the 25 buildings that were damaged, three were demolished, officials said at the news conference.

“I can’t tell you how incredible it is that nobody has been killed,” Lehman said

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to visit the city later this morning to meet with first responders.

Residents emerged from their basements to find caved-in walls, roofs torn off destroyed buildings, flipped cars, broken gas lines and downed wires — and sirens wailing all around them.

WARNING: This video contains profanity.

“This is an incredibly difficult day,” Lehman said at the conference. “We will respond and rebuild, most of all we want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Lehman said he was heartened to see “incredible offers” from people showing up with water, food, and other supplies for their neighbours.

After the tornado touched down, emergency workers responded to “multiple reports of damage” in the southeast part of the city.

‘The damage is catastrophic’

“The damage is catastrophic. It is significant. It is major,” Barrie police spokesperson Peter Leon said during the emergency response, urging people to stay away from the area.

Environment Canada had issued tornado warnings across the region throughout the afternoon, but downgraded those warnings across Ontario in the hours after the twister tore through Barrie.

Take cover immediately: Barrie, Collingwood, Hillsdale, Orillia, Lagoon City, Washago, Innisfil, New Tecumseth, Angus, Ontario. Video credit: @splendahearn/Instagram 0:22

In the hours after the tornado touched down, Barrie residents took to social media, posting photos and videos of destruction caused by the storm. Many homes had damage to roofs, backyards and fences. 

Those images on social media along with Environment Canada’s own data helped confirm the storm was a tornado, said the agency’s warning preparedness meteorologist Geoff Coulson. He said the tornado touched down around 2:30 p.m., just minutes after Environment Canada upgraded its tornado watch to warning.

At the corner of Monarchy and Majesty in Barrie, families fled their destroyed homes after the tornado hit. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Neighbourhoods near Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way in the southeast part of the city took the brunt of the damage.

After the storm, some residents drove around assessing damage, which included flipped vehicles, and destroyed fences.

“There is extensive damage from the tornado touchdown in the area of Prince William Way and Mapleview in SE Barrie,” Lehman said in a tweet. “Please avoid the area as emergency crews are focused on making sure everyone is safe.”

Homes were damaged in a Barrie, Ont., neighbourhood after a tornado tore through the region Thursday. (Edward Loveless/Twitter)

Barrie Police, with assistance from OPP and fire services, said they were going door-to-door to check on residents in the Mapleview area.

“My thoughts are with everyone in Barrie and Innisfil affected by the severe weather today,” Ford said in a tweet. “A big thank you to our first responders that are currently on the ground helping the situation. Please stay safe everyone!”

‘Houses that have come off their foundations’

“There’s houses that have come off their foundation, obviously lots of roofs that have been blown off,” Barrie-Innisfil Member of Parliament John Brassard told CBC News. “I’ve seen trampolines in people’s pools, so the damage is quite devastating.

Brassard is in the area checking on friends and residents. He noted the smell of gas near several homes as barbecues had been “ripped right from the gas line,” he said.

“Gas crews are here, water crews are here. They’re doing everything they can to shut things down,” Brassard said. “And right now, police are going door to door just to make sure that everybody is accounted for.”

“This is going to be a long operation because the damage is that extensive,” he added.

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Ward 6 city councillor Natalie Harris was visiting her son and ex-husband when the tornado hit their neighbourhood. They quickly ran to the basement just as it struck the house.

“We could hear the tornado above us,” she said. “The house was shaking. It happened so fast, we had no idea when it would finish.”

Harris assessed the house and neighbourhood after and said there was “so much destruction,” and that the entire street was damaged.

“Everything’s just destroyed,” Harris said. “I can’t believe it.”

Several homes in Barrie, Ont., were damaged following a heavy thunderstorm and tornado on Thursday afternoon. (Brandon Vieira/Twitter)

Environment Canada had first issued a severe thunderstorm watch just before noon for Barrie, Midland, and Orillia. That was upgraded to a tornado warning by early afternoon which ended just before 3 p.m. ET.

By 3 p.m., Environment Canada issued another tornado warning for Newmarket, Georgina, Uxbridge and surrounding areas, but had ended it by 3:30 p.m. A tornado warning was also in effect for the Peterborough-Kawartha Lakes area.

The storm also touched down in nearby Keswick, Ont., but whether that was also a tornado remains to be determined, Coulson said.

“It looks like, as it’s moving further east, it will start to weaken somewhat, but it is still going to be a very dangerous storm for the next little while,” he said.

“It is also important to remind folks that it does continue to be an ongoing situation, (thunderstorm) watches continue to be in effect for much of southern and eastern Ontario, and there is still a potential for damaging storms to occur through the late afternoon and evening hours in parts of the province.”

Residents in area recall the moment tornado hit

Residents in the area recalled the moment when the tornado struck.

“My buddy said he’ll go check on his boat. He came back home and his house was totalled,” Shane said. “Roof ripped off, and his trailer was in the neighbour’s driveway.

Many homes had severe damage to roofs, backyards and fences after Thursday’s storm tore through the region. (Brandon Vieira/Twitter)

Olivia Michalski was on the way home when the tornado tore through the area. When she arrived her neighbour told her she had seen the tornado’s funnel clouds and ran into the basement.

“It just went by us by a couple streets,” Michalski said. “Thankfully, I wasn’t near where the tornado touched, my parents were home at the time and they didn’t even know what was happening.”

Tracy Miller remembers the tornado that hit Barrie in 1985, and she experienced her second tornado Thursday. Her grandmother’s house, she said, was demolished.

“You don’t think you’ll be in that twice in one lifetime,” she said. “My heart goes out to all those in Barrie today.”

WATCH |Tornado inflicts devastating damage in Barrie, Ont.:

A tornado has touched down in Barrie, Ont., leaving several people injured and a trail of destruction in its path. 4:20

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society said it would offer support to anyone affected by the tornado who may be struggling to care for their animals following the damage.

The City of Barrie has setup a tornado assistance line to help anyone who needs it at 705-728-8442.

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Fauci says prospect of open border for fully vaccinated Canadians part of active U.S. talks –



U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says the prospect of opening the U.S. border to fully vaccinated Canadians is part of an “active discussion” in the White House.

“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics in an exclusive Canadian interview.

“As a public health official, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out why policies haven’t changed.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. government issued a renewal order keeping the borders with Canada and Mexico closed until August 21.

According to U.S. Homeland Security officials, the move is part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious delta variant.

The delta variant has been wreaking havoc south of the border, where infections and hospitalizations are up in nearly all 50 states.

Fauci said the delta variant now accounts for 83 per cent of cases in the U.S. Those cases are concentrated in southern states, where vaccination rates are lower than the national average.

“In some of the southern states where the level of vaccination is very low and the level of the transmission of the virus is very high, we’re seeing a significant surge in cases,” Fauci said. 

“This virus has an extraordinary capability of efficiently spreading from person to person.” 

The White House has enlisted the help of celebrities and athletes to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, particularly in states led by Republican governors. In recent days, high-profile conservative figures such as Fox pundit Sean Hannity have encouraged Americans to get vaccinated.

Fauci said the U.S. must increase its vaccination rate to end current outbreaks of COVID-19.  

“We’re seeing some of them starting to come around, which is a really good thing, because we’ve got to realize and act on it, that the common enemy is the virus,” he told Power & Politics.

“The virus doesn’t have any idea who’s a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent.” 

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Permanent residents in limbo waiting to immigrate to Canada –



Aashray Kovi refreshes his email several times a day hoping for good news from Canadian immigration officials.

The 28-year-old computer programmer who lives in Bangalore, India, is one of about 23,000 aspiring immigrants with expired or soon-to-be expired documents waiting to enter Canada.

“It’s really depressing for all of us,” said Kovi, who plans to settle in Ottawa but can’t travel because his confirmation of permanent residency (COPR) document expired in early June, prior to travel restrictions being lifted.  

Late last month, the federal government lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, allowing anyone with a valid COPR to enter Canada, but that didn’t help Kovi’s case.

Despite having started the immigration process in 2018, Kovi says he’s never struggled to get clear answers from the government until this point. He says he’s been emailing and calling for weeks, waiting for the documents to be reissued, but has had no luck getting an answer on when he can expect to arrive in Ottawa.

WATCH | Waiting to enter Canada:

Sophie and Carlos Ballesteros got ready to make a move to Canada months ago, lining up jobs and bank accounts in Halifax. But border closures prevented the couple from moving and their confirmation documents expired in June. 1:14

“I know it is not simple, there is COVID, the only issue with all of this is a lack of communication,” said Kovi.

“If provided with better communication, I could wait till 2022, but this is putting my life in limbo.” 

Sameer Masih, his wife and son are similarly stuck in a mostly empty apartment in New Delhi, seven months after they got their initial approvals and started selling their belongings. 

“I am actually surviving on a bare minimum setup,” said Masih. He says the wait cost him a job at his employer’s Toronto office.

‘It’s hard for my family’

Sophie Ballesteros, from Barcelona, had a job lined up in Halifax and her husband, Carlos, quit his in January to ready himself for the move to Canada. The delay has been devastating for the couple, who started their immigration process in November 2019.

Carlos says he left his job because the permanent residency invitation told him to get his affairs in order, and he felt he had just a certain amount of time to immigrate or else he’d lose out on his dream of moving to Canada.

Aashray Kovi, a 28-year old from Bangalore, is stuck in India until his permanent residence documents get renewed. (Submitted by Aashray Kovi)

Their COPR documents also expired in June and there’s been no word yet on when they’ll be renewed.

The only communication they’ve received from the government was in March, when a generic email advised them that a previous communication of theirs had been received and that they would need to continue waiting.

“This is the first time in my life that I am unemployed,” said Carlos. “I don’t sleep at night.”

Sophie says she is struggling to immerse in her new digital marketing job in Canada while staying physically in Barcelona, and also trying to find a preschool for her four-year-old daughter.

“I have to work within the time zone of Canada and sometimes there are some clients that are from Vancouver,” she said. “It’s hard for my family.”

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged that global migration has been a nuisance for many people and that officials are working to help permanent residency holders into the country.

“We know that these disruptions have had a significant impact on many people hoping to start a new life in Canada, and we thank them for their patience at this difficult moment,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

Sophie and Carlos Ballesteros hope to resettle in Halifax, but the Spanish couple doesn’t know when their expired permanent residence documents will be renewed. (Supplied by Carlos Ballesteros)

Holding pattern

Immigration lawyer Kyle Hyndman, in Vancouver, estimates more than half of those holding expired COPR documents are skilled workers who were chosen “to contribute to the Canadian labour market.”

He says communication from the federal government has been messy. He says sending documents that would expire to incoming residents, with directions to get their affairs in order, created a sense of working against the clock.

“These people are kind of in a holding pattern … you do a bunch of things to get ready to move that are kind of hard to undo,” Hyndman said.

Cohen says the pandemic has significantly impacted immigration processing times, and that the government will be contacting individuals with expired papers in the “weeks and months to come.” 

Canada permitted 184,000 immigrants last year — the fewest since 1998 — compared to 341,000 in 2019. The government is aiming to jump-start immigration with 400,000 new residents per year for the next three years.

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India flights to Canada: When will they be allowed? – Canada Immigration News



Published on July 24th, 2021 at 01:00am EDT

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Earlier this week Canada extended its ban on flights from India until at least August 21.

The extension of the ban comes amid Canada continuing to ease its coronavirus travel restrictions for the rest of the world.

Denying flights from India is extremely disruptive to both Indians and Canadians alike. India is one of Canada’s most important allies and by far the largest source of new immigrants and international students. Some 20 per cent of Canada’s new permanent residents come from India. Indians comprise 30 per cent of Canada’s new international students. In Canada’s 2016 Census, nearly 1.4 million respondents identified themselves as being of Indian heritage.

Hence, it goes without saying that the flight ban is currently a major challenge for Indians, Indian-Canadians, families, and the Canadian economy.

The Canadian government first introduced the travel ban on India on April 22 due to its concerns about COVID-19 variants which public health officials said showed higher rates of transmissibility.

While health is the main reason Canada introduced the ban, the decision to lift it will likely be influenced by other factors as well.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Health factors

When making its COVID-19 travel policies, the Canadian government looks at factors such as domestic case counts, the rate of vaccination, as well as case counts and vaccination rates in other countries. It also evaluates variants, their transmissibility, and whether existing vaccines are proven to protect against variants.

In a written statement to CIC News on July 22, the Canadian government explained “While progress is being made, the situation in India is still very serious. This extension of the travel ban is based on scientific evidence and has been put in place to protect Canadians from an increased introduction of the Delta variant, which is prevalent in India.”

While health is the main consideration, an argument can be made that the Canadian government is also influenced by other factors, namely the impact of restrictions on its economy. Canada has stated it will begin to welcome fully-vaccinated tourists from the United States beginning on August 9. This decision comes amid rising COVID cases in the U.S. and that country’s vaccination rate stagnating.

On the other hand, the U.S. has extended its ban on Canadian tourists driving across the border. This means that it was not political pressure from the U.S. that caused Canada to decide to welcome American tourists again, but rather a combination of health and economic considerations.

As mentioned, the rising case count in the U.S. is cause for concern and has resulted in some Canadian media commentators questioning the decision to lift restrictions on American tourists. Conversely, the decision is being celebrated by those with an economic interest at stake, namely the Canadian tourism industry. Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed 15 million American tourists per year and tourism supported about 10 per cent of Canadian jobs. Given the pandemic has decimated the tourism industry, the Canadian government likely felt significant pressure to reopen its border to U.S. tourists even if there were compelling reasons to keep it closed.

This should give us reason to believe that non-health reasons will play a role in Canada’s decision on India flights.

The pressure will be on from Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs)

Canada does not have any strong special interest groups that lobby on behalf of immigrants. This explains why groups such as Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders have faced significant challenges throughout the pandemic. Temporary foreign workers, however, are backed by the Canadian business community while Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) advocate on behalf of international students.

International students are a major source of revenue for Canada’s colleges and universities. DLIs played a crucial role in getting Canada to lift its travel restrictions on international students last October. Given that Indians are by far the number one source of new international students, DLIs will remain vocal as they seek to obtain concessions from the Canadian government by August 21, ahead of the start of the academic year when the fast majority of new study permit holders arrive to Canada.

There may also be political pressure

It appears likely that prime minister Justin Trudeau will call a new federal election in the coming months as he seeks to obtain a majority government.

The stakes for the India flight ban may be higher than usual going into the election given the significant influence of Indian-Canadians, who tend to live in the country’s most vote-rich cities. Courting their votes will be key to Trudeau’s electoral ambitions, and he may feel it is worthwhile lifting flight restrictions on India to further encourage them to vote for him.

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