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Toronto airport boss tries to rally staff amid continued disruptions – CBC.ca

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The head of Canada’s busiest airport sought to rally staff on Thursday, amid its continued disruptions and delays, but warned they might encounter more angry customers if the problems continue at Pearson International Airport. 

Deborah Flint, chief executive of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), urged hundreds of airport and airline staff to “please stay heartened” as they “continue to work through the challenges.” 

“For every single passenger that many of you see that may vent their frustration in front of you, or maybe they do it in social media, there’s another group of more passengers that have nothing but gratitude for each and every thing you and your colleagues do,” Flint said, to applause, at the staff event.

Her speech, which was audible from a public area of the airport, followed two months of troubles at the Toronto airport, where many passengers have faced flight delays, cancellations and hours-long bottlenecks at security.

The GTAA, which operates the airport, and airlines blame a lack of security screening staff, ongoing federal COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on aircraft movements.

A man walks past a screen showing flight information at Pearson on Thursday. (Esteban Eduardo Cuevas Gonzalez/CBC)

“There’s an expectation that we can just turn the wheel on and make things back to the way they used to be before the pandemic,” Flint said. 

But “travel today is just not the way it was before.” 

Her remarks came three days after former NHL player Ryan Whitney crystallized the frustrations of many travellers, taking aim on Twitter at both Pearson (“the worst place on earth”) and Air Canada after his flight to Boston was cancelled.

GTAA chief operating officer Craig Bradbrook told CBC News it was “heartbreaking” to read travellers’ posts about missed flights to their vacations and family reunions.

“This is not how we want to operate an airport; it’s not the level of service we aspire as an airport to provide to the traveling public,” he said. 

“A lot of effort has been put in over the recent weeks, and we are seeing improvements, and the wait times are reducing … There’s still a lot of work that still needs to be done, obviously, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

‘Quick’ and ‘calm’

International travellers arriving at Pearson on Thursday told CBC News it took just a matter of minutes to pass through customs and collect their luggage.

Meenu Salvan, who travelled from New York City for a wedding, described her arrival as “very calm.”

“I’ve visited worse airports, so you’re good on that part,” she said. 

But others who followed airport officials’ advice to arrive extra early for their flights ran into other problems.

A woman checks her phone after arriving at Pearson on Thursday. The Canadian Border Services Agency has urged travellers to complete their ArriveCAN form before flying to Canada, to avoid adding to delays. (Esteban Eduardo Cuevas Gonzalez/CBC)

Nathan Sterback got to the airport late Thursday morning, four hours before his flight to Edmonton. “They recommended three, but my work was around the corner, and I thought I might as well just wait here,” he said.

He then discovered the luggage check-in wouldn’t open for another 40 minutes — so he had to wait a bit longer to head through security.

A man gets a COVID-19 test at the airport on Feb. 1, 2021. About 2,000 travellers are randomly selected for mandatory tests at Pearson each day. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dina Sowers was randomly selected for a mandatory COVID test after flying in from Miami with her husband and father-in-law, to visit Niagara Falls.

The process was “very smooth,” but added an unwanted delay to their trip, Sowers said. “I just want to get to the car and go … but I understand the safety behind it.”

About 2,000 passengers are randomly selected each day from about 35,000 arrivals at Pearson. The GTAA and airlines have been calling for the federal government to end random testing since the start of this year.

“It continues to be very challenging,” said Bradbrook, adding that after months of discussions with the federal government, “arrangements are being made” for the testing to be moved off airport grounds in order to reduce congestion.

Other travellers expressed confusion about pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements, and some said they found the ArriveCAN app challenging to use.

“We’re senior citizens, so we’re not techies … It’s a little overwhelming,” said Craig Metcalfe, who was travelling with his wife from Williamsburg, Va.

People check in at Pearson on May 12. The Greater Toronto Airport Authority has repeatedly appealed to the federal government to boost airport security staffing and scrap pandemic travel measures, which it says are causing the delays. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Airlines are also calling for the federal government to lift further pandemic restrictions, including scrapping vaccine mandates for aviation employees — a move they say would help boost the aviation labour force in order to speed up airport processing.

“We remain extremely concerned with the state of services provided by government agencies at our air borders and security screening points,” WestJet said in a statement, calling the problems at Pearson “unacceptable.”

The federal government last month announced it was fast-tracking training for 400 new security screening officers who would begin working at airports by the end of June, as well as adding more border services kiosks at Pearson.

In a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said airport processing times were exacerbated by multiple flights arriving at the same time, and by travellers who hadn’t completed their ArriveCAN forms before reaching the arrivals hall.

“The CBSA will not compromise the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times.”

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Canada first to sign off on Finland, Sweden joining NATO – CTV News

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Canada became the first country to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession protocols to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

The move follows NATO leaders officially inviting the two nations to join the alliance during a summit in Madrid last week, and brings the two countries a step closer to becoming full NATO members.

“Canada has full confidence in Finland and Sweden’s ability to integrate quickly and effectively into NATO and contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Their membership will make NATO stronger and we call on all NATO members to move swiftly to complete their ratification processes to limit opportunities for interference by adversaries.”

According to The Associated Press, all 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols on Tuesday, sending the membership bids to each nation for legislative approval. Both Canada and Denmark were quick to turn around their ratification documents.

“Thank You Canada! Canada is the first country to deliver its instrument of ratification to the United States Department of State, the depository of the North Atlantic Treaty!” tweeted Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada Urban Ahlin.

In Canada, the federal government made moves domestically to move through the ratification quickly, Trudeau said. This included issuing orders-in-council authorizing Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to “take the actions necessary to ratify, on behalf of Canada.”

Ahead of Parliament adjourning for the summer, the House of Commons debated and voted on a motion signalling their support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

In May, the House Public Safety and National Security Committee adopted a motion expressing “strong support” for the two Scandanavian countries’ membership in the alliance. The motion also called on all NATO members to approve their applications as quickly as possible.

A debate was held on this motion on June 1, and it passed unanimously when put to a vote the following day.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has actualized something that was once only theoretical. An authoritarian state led by an autocrat has attacked a democracy: It has demonstrated that it is willing and able to attack a democracy. It has made clear that democracies that stand alone and are not part of military alliances are most vulnerable,” said Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong during the House debate. “That is why it has become necessary to bring both Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance. This is an urgent matter.”

Also taking part in the debate, NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said she supports Finland and Sweden doing all they can to prevent their countries from being threatened further by Russia.

“Prior to the further invasion of Ukraine, support for NATO membership was around 20 to 30 per cent in Sweden and Finland. Now, 76 per cent of Finnish people support joining NATO. Very simply, Vladimir Putin and the aggression of the Russian Federation are responsible for escalating tensions in the region and leading Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership,” McPherson said.

With NATO member countries having different processes for completing ratification, it could be some time still before the two nations formally become a part of the longstanding intergovernmental military alliance.

With files from Senior Political Correspondent for CTV News Channel Mike Le Couteur

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Canada Day Ottawa: 12 arrested, 50 charges laid – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa police say 50 criminal charges were laid over the Canada Day long weekend and 12 people were arrested.

Last Friday marked the first Canada Day in Ottawa with major in-person events since 2019. Thousands of tourists and residents came downtown to celebrate the holiday. In the mix were several hundred protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” movement that paralyzed downtown Ottawa in February.

Ottawa police were out in force starting June 29 with the implementation of the downtown vehicle control zone, which was meant to prevent another vehicle-based occupation of the city.

Police said they arrested a dozen people in downtown Ottawa between June 29 and July 3, including people who were not involved in Canada Day events or protests. On top of the 50 criminal charges, four charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were also laid.

One man was arrested on Parliament Hill June 29 for causing a disturbance. He was taken back to Toronto on an outstanding warrant.

On June 30, police charged one person with breach of release orders and Highway Traffic Act offences after a traffic stop on Highway 417 at Anderson Road.

Later that day, three people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial in which a police officer was allegedly choked. Charges include assaulting police, resisting arrest, causing a disturbance, and assault by choking. This incident came shortly after Canadian soldier James Topp, who is facing a court martial for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rules in uniform, completed his cross-country walk protesting vaccine mandates. Hundreds of people had gathered at the War Memorial to hear Topp speak.

On Canada Day, one man was arrested and charged for allegedly pulling a knife on RCMP officers near LeBreton Flats after officers broke up a fight. Two more people were arrested and face several assault charges after an attack in the ByWard Market.

On July 2, police arrested two people in a vehicle and seized a handgun. Several gun and drug charges were laid. Patrol officers also seized a gun in Sandy Hill that afternoon and charged a man with drug and gun offences.

On July 3, police arrested a woman for public intoxication who allegedly spit in an officer’s face. She now also faces an assault charge.

Ottawa police did not name any of the accused.

Police are also investigating paint on public property in Strathcona Park and on Wellington Street. Protesters painted messages about convoy organizers Pat King and Tamara Lich on Wellington Street on Canada Day. Police also said earlier they laid 19 impaired driving charges over the long weekend.

Ottawa Bylaw towed 121 vehicles from the vehicle control zone between June 29 and July 3 and issued 513 parking tickets. 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to take part in G20 despite Russia’s presence

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OTTAWA — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will take part in a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, this week, even though Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend.

In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had brought sanctions against days earlier, began speaking.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a walkout of a G20 meeting for finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In May, International Trade Minister Mary Ng joined her counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand in leaving an APEC meeting in Bangkok when the Russian representative began to speak.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would take part in the G20 leaders’ meeting in November, even if President Vladimir Putin goes too, saying it is important to counteract the voice that Russia will have at that table.

Joly, who recently said it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, is expected to join other foreign ministers at the G20 meeting in opposing the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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