For one Ottawa resident, it’s good to be back on Canadian soil.
Kai Huang and his 78-year-old mother Yi Huang had been stuck in Wuhan, China, ever since the city was placed in lockdown in late January.
The 50-year-old wasn’t able to board the chartered flight Ottawa sent, but was told by Canada’s embassy in China that he and his mother had seats on a U.S. flight.
Both planes touched down in Trenton Friday.
“It’s really exciting,” Huang told Power & Politics Friday from CFB Trenton.
“We were really anxious and nervous [about] if we were going back to Canada.”
The first plane, carrying 174 Canadians, landed at the military base early Friday. The plane Huang was on, carrying 39 Canadian passengers who hitched a ride on a U.S. government-chartered flight, landed Friday afternoon.
No signs of coronavirus in repatriated Canadians
Ottawa is planning to send another chartered flight to Wuhan to repatriate more Canadians looking to leave Hubei province.
“The repatriated Canadians and their family members were met at Canadian Forces Base Trenton by Canada Border Services Agency officers, and were thoroughly assessed by quarantine officers from the Public Health Agency of Canada,” a joint press release from Public Health and Foreign Affairs reads.
According to the release issued Saturday, none of the repatriated Canadians show symptoms of coronavirus.
Huang has been concerned about whether his mother would make it back to Canada on either flight.
Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents accompanying Canadian children were allowed to board Ottawa’s first flight out of the coronavirus epicentre – a decision made by Chinese officials.
Worried mother would be left behind
Huang, a Canadian citizen, had made the difficult decision to leave his mother behind because he wanted to be with his one-year-old daughter back in Ottawa. But he’s an only child and felt troubled leaving his mother in the coronavirus epicentre.
“If she gets the infection, [it will] probably be life-threatening,” he said. “Because if she goes to the hospital – around the hospital is very dangerous right now.”
But the Ottawa man soon learned that neither he nor his mother, who is a permanent resident of Canada, were on the list of evacuees allowed on Canada’s chartered flight home.
Then, without much warning, the Embassy of Canada in Beijing sent Huang a letter saying both he and his mother could leave on the U.S.-chartered flight. That letter allowed Huang to bypass checkpoints on the way to the airport.
“Before we go to the airport, we don’t know exactly [if she’s allowed] to board or not,” Huang said.
“We don’t know. We just go to the airport. Eventually, we find her name and my name on the list. We can go.”
Now the mother and son will be spending a lot of time together as they’re quarantined together for two weeks at the military base.
Huang said the room where he and his mother are staying in is clean, has WiFi, a telephone and is stocked with a refrigerator, microwave oven, furniture and a television to help pass the time. He describes the living conditions as “comfortable.”
Huang said the guests aren’t supposed to mingle but are allowed outside.
Following the flight, he said his mother is exhausted, but likewise happy to be back in Canada.
“She [lived] here for more than 13 years.”
French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada: census – CTV News
The proportion of Canadians who mainly speak French at home continues to decline in nearly all provinces and territories, including Quebec, the latest census release shows.
Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the percentage of Canadians who speak predominantly French at home fell to 19.2 per cent in 2021 from 20 per cent in 2016. All provinces and territories saw a drop other than Yukon, where the figure was up from 2.4 to 2.6 per cent.
In Quebec, the percentage of people who speak French at home has been declining since 2001.
The federal agency also looks at the proportion of people whose first official language is English or French. It found more than three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a figure that’s increased over the five-year period.
That’s while the proportion of people who report French as their first official language declined.
Eric Caron-Malenfant, deputy head of Statistics Canada’s Centre for Demography, said at a news conference that the latest census report shows a continuation of language trends in the country.
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor of sociology at Laval University, said immigration plays a key role in the trends we see with languages in Canada.
“We know that the composition of the population over time has an impact on … the numbers of people speak French or English or, if you will, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.
The sociologist said the rise in temporary immigration might be having an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.
A recent study by the Institut du Quebec found that while non-permanent residents represented nine per cent of international immigration to the province from 2012 to 2016, that number had climbed to 64 per cent by 2019.
In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language topped one million, while one in 10 Quebecers report speaking predominantly English at home.
As the country becomes more linguistically diverse, the percentage of Canadians who reported English or French as their mother tongue has also declined.
The agency defines mother tongue as a citizen’s first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual.
Corbeil said that while some people put a lot of emphasis on French losing ground in Quebec, that phenomenon has already played for the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ mother tongues are not English.
Outside of Quebec, the number of people who speak predominantly French at home declined by 36,000.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s hoping to increase the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023.
In 2021, 3.6 per cent of arrivals outside of Quebec were French-speaking immigrants.
It would be more effective to direct French-speaking immigrants to Quebec, given the limited influence of the language outside of the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired mathematics professor from the University of Ottawa who specializes in the language landscape of Canada.
“That will do much more to stabilize the weight of French in Canada than scattering these immigrants,” he said.
English-French bilingualism remained unchanged over the five-year period, with 18 per cent of Canadians reporting they can conduct a conversation in both languages.
However, a closer look at the numbers shows the rate of bilingualism is up in Quebec but down in the rest of Canada.
The census release comes after Quebec introduced a new language law this year that restricts access to government services in English. In June, Quebec Premier Francois Legault drew criticism for sounding the alarm over a decline in the number of people who speak French at home.
Legault declared that “nobody could deny” French is in decline, saying fewer Quebecers were speaking the language at home as well as at work.
Corbeil said the impact of Bill 96 would not be reflected in the data given it was passed this year.
“It’s really the immigration policy and immigration measures (where) I think the focus should be put, because it’s difficult actually to see ΓÇª what are the measures that will have an impact on the language dynamics,” Corbeil said.
Statistics Canada will publish a census report on workplaces later this year that will shed light on languages spoken in work environments.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Passport delays: Canada opens new service sites – CTV News
The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.
Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.
“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”
The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.
No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees.
Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.
She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person.
Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.
“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.”
Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling.
More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.
Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller.
Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.
Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.
But a large backlog remains.
In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.
That is largely because of mailed applications.
During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.
For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.
The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.”
The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.
The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.
Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.
Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.
As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue.
Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said.
Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.
Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
UK: Inflation hits 40-year high
London, United Kingdom (UK)- According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) has risen to 10.1 percent in the 12 months to July, up from 9.4 percent in June and remaining at the highest level since February 1982.
Food price inflation hit 12.7 percent in July, the highest rate in the category for more than 20 years.
The biggest increases came from bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which were also reflected in higher costs for takeaways. Price rises for other staple items such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also sent inflation soaring to the highest rate in four decades.
Driven by a summer rush, with travellers flocking to packed airports across the UK, prices for package holidays also rose, while airfares increased.
“A wide range of price rises drove inflation up again this month. Food prices rose notably, particularly bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which was also reflected in higher takeaway prices.
Price rises in other staple items, such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also pushed up inflation in July.
Driven by higher demand, the price for package holidays rose, after falling at the same time last year, while airfares also increased.
The cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories continued to rise, driven by the price of metals and food respectively,” said ONS’ chief economist, Grant Fitzner.
Separate ONS analysis showed that poorer households were facing greater rates of inflation than those with higher incomes because they spent a bigger proportion of their budgets on energy and food, which are rising fastest in price.
While all advanced economies have seen a rise in inflation, it has been stronger in the UK than in other G7 countries and most European nations.
This reflects the country’s greater use of gas, the underlying strong growth in spending last year, pay growth in the private sector rising above five percent and the ease with which companies expect to pass on higher costs to customers.
Many economists on Wednesday said the upward surge in inflation along with robust wage growth in the second quarter would stiffen the Bank of England’s resolve, encouraging the Central Bank to raise interest rates further and faster.
Households are expected to come under further pressure this autumn from a fresh rise in energy bills, which the Bank of England forecasts will drive inflation above 13 percent and trigger a long recession as families rein in their spending.
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