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Why is Ottawa turning away from Afghans who helped Canada? ‘We’re failing them’ – Global News



Concerns is growing about the fate of thousands of Afghans that Canada promised to resettle when the Taliban took control of the country last year.

The federal government is reportedly winding down the special immigration program to bring 18,000 Afghans who assisted Canada. That includes interpreters for the military and their families.

Read more:

Thousands of Afghans who helped Canadian Forces could be left behind: MPs, NGOs

So far, 15,070 applications have been received with 10,730 approved, but only 7,205 have arrived in Canada, according to latest figures by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as of July 14.

Another 9,435 have arrived through a humanitarian program for vulnerable Afghans, including LGBTQ people and human-rights defenders.

Saba Bashiry (pseudonym), an Afghan-Canadian human rights activist has been pressing the government about her six family members who are still in Afghanistan after nearly a year. Despite filing a vast amount of paperwork, the family still hasn’t had heard anything but auto-responses from the immigration department.

“They are living in fear,” she told Global News.

Reports about the program winding down were extremely disappointing for Bashiry to hear.

“It just broke my heart. I feel betrayed,” she said. “Are we not human?”

Click to play video: 'NDP accuses Ottawa of losing 2,900 files of Afghans who helped Canada'

NDP accuses Ottawa of losing 2,900 files of Afghans who helped Canada

NDP accuses Ottawa of losing 2,900 files of Afghans who helped Canada – Jun 8, 2022

Despite reports of the program winding down, IRCC is pushing back and told Global News the government has not closed the program.

“The Government of Canada has not closed the Special Immigration Program for those who assisted the Government of Canada,” an IRCC spokesperson told Global News Friday.

“We continue to process applications as quickly as possible and IRCC will continue to communicate directly with approved applicants in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions,” they said.

The government conceded that there’s enough interest to fill the 18,000 spots through the special program and that there are, in fact, only 18,000 spots.

“To suggest the program is open when the 18,000 spots are spoken for, they’re lying to themselves and they’re lying to the public,” Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for Vancouver East, told Global News.

“And the sad news is this: the people who’ve been left behind, their lives are in jeopardy. If we don’t do anything about it, they will be hunted down by the Taliban. It’s a matter of time before that happens.”

In total, Canada has committed to welcoming 40,000 people from Afghanistan through special government-assisted programs and other routes, including private sponsorship.

Sally Armstrong, journalist and author of ‘Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan’, said Canada’s response so far has been “shameful” with long delays and a lack of information.

“I feel the government has handled the entire file very badly,” said Armstrong, who is also the founding member of Lifeline Afghanistan.

“It’s taken too long. We’ve left people waiting. We don’t provide information and there’s really no excuse for that,” she told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Ongoing calls to bring more Afghan refugees to Canada'

Ongoing calls to bring more Afghan refugees to Canada

Ongoing calls to bring more Afghan refugees to Canada – Jun 20, 2022

Canadian charities helping Afghans say many with permission to travel to Canada are unable to get to neighbouring countries to fly here because they do not have the paperwork or passports to cross the border.

Others have been waiting so long in countries like Pakistan and Uzbekistan for their applications to be processed by Ottawa that their visas have expired and they are being sent back to Afghanistan where they face Taliban reprisals.

With reports of the program wrapping up, Lauryn Oates, from Canadian Women 4 Women in Afghanistan, says an extension should happen.

“I think that we shouldn’t give up,” she told Global News, noting she has 17 staff members still in Afghanistan who have heard nothing from the government.

“The reality is we still have allies on the ground who are in danger,” she said.

“To completely close the program, to stop it completely when the need is still there, just doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t actually honour the commitment that we made,” Oates added.

Read more:

Afghan ambassador to Canada warns over risk to Afghans seeking passports from Taliban

In July 2021, the federal government unveiled a new, expedited “path to protection” for Afghans who supported Canadian troops as interpreters, cultural advisers or support staff, as well as their families.

In November 2021, Ottawa opened up the pathway to permanent residency for extended family members of Afghan interpreters.

But the plan to resettle Afghan interpreters and their families has been plagued with problems, delays and controversy.

Global News reported last month that 2,900 applications from Afghans vetted by the Department of National Defence (DND) remained unaccounted for after senior DND officials testified that only 900 of 3,800 vetted applications had been approved by the IRCC.

The NDP alleged those files were lost, but Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told a parliamentary committee on May 12 that he did not “have any reason to believe any files” were missing.

However, when asked by Global News, his office didn’t provide any information about where they might be.

Armstrong said Canada needs to do better and “fix what’s wrong. I wish we could turn this around quickly,” she said. “There are people in Afghanistan who helped us and we promised to help them and now we’re failing them.”

— With files The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Wolf found dead by roadside, another still missing after ‘suspicious’ B.C. zoo escape



ALDERGROVE — One of the wolves that escaped its enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo this week has been found dead on a roadside, and a second wolf is still missing, the zoo’s deputy general manager said Thursday.

Menita Prasad said both the zoo’s perimeter fence and the grey wolf enclosure were deliberately “compromised” early Tuesday, allowing the zoo’s nine adult wolves to escape while five cubs stayed inside the enclosure.

All but two of the adults were contained within the zoo’s property, she said.

The zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., has been shut for three days as workers and conservation officers searched for the wolves, while Langley RCMP investigate the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

The fences had been cut, Prasad said. An earlier statement from the zoo said the escape was “suspicious, and believed to be due to malicious intent.”

Searchers were “heartbroken” to find a three-year-old female wolf, Chia, dead by the side of 264 Street in Aldergrove on Thursday morning, Prasad told a press conference through tears.

It’s presumed Chia was hit by a car, she said.

A one-year-old female wolf named Tempest is still missing and believed to be in the vicinity of the zoo, Prasad said, adding that the animal, which was born at the facility, has a slim chance of surviving in the wild.

Prasad described Tempest as a “shy wolf” who poses no threat to public safety, though she said she could not say what the wolf might do if a person approached her. She urged anyone who sees the animal not to approach her and instead call authorities to report the location.

The wolf’s prime motivation would be to get back to her family, she said.

“As a result of this senseless act, our wolf pack has lost two family members,” Prasad said. “We watched these wolves grow up. We consider the animals at the zoo a part of our family.”

She said the “search and rescue operation” would continue and is asking for the public’s help “to reunite Tempest with her family.”

“She is a small wolf with grey brown puppy fur and white markings on her muzzle and her brow,” Prasad said.

Anyone who spots Tempest is asked contact the Greater Vancouver Zoo, Langley RCMP or the BC Conservation Officer Service by calling 1-877-952-7277.

The zoo, which is about 55 kilometres outside Vancouver, is set to reopen on Saturday, Prasad said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Canada stable, but higher than past summers – Global News



COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and confirmed case counts across Canada are relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than past years, data shows.

As of Wednesday, Canada is seeing an average of 3,475 lab-confirmed cases and 44 deaths per day, according to provincial and territorial data compiled by Global News. Currently, 5,158 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 305 patients who are in intensive care.

While those numbers are down slightly from the brief wave of infections in June and July, they remain far higher than the rates seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021.

In past years, there was an average of roughly 350 patients in hospital per day during the summer months. Even as hospitalizations climbed in August 2021 and into September of that year, they peaked at half the current rate.

The current death rate has also vastly eclipsed past summers, when the average number of deaths per day was in the single digits.

Previous evidence pointed to the summer months as predictable lulls in the pandemic, as people spend more time in outdoor spaces where there is less transmission of the virus.

But the more infectious Omicron variant upended that thinking, and further mutations — including the current BA.5 subvariant and its predecessor, BA.2 — have led to more waves of infections this year than in the past.

Read more:

‘We cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week’: WHO warns on rise in COVID fatalities

The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that BA.5’s dominance has led to a 35 per cent increase in reported COVID-10-related deaths globally over the past four weeks.

In the last week alone, 15,000 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus, but we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths,” he said at a press conference.

“We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools. Learning to live with COVID-19 does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves and protect others.”

Click to play video: 'COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well'

COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well

COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that will likely lead to further waves this year, warning back in June that COVID-19 “has not left the stage.”

Public health officials have shifted their focus toward a potential serious wave in the fall and winter. Planning is underway to provide vaccine booster doses to all adults that request one, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive an extra dose.

Experts say the boosters are important, as current vaccines do not sufficiently protect against Omicron and its subvariants, allowing for “breakthrough cases” and even reinfections among vaccinated people.

“However, there is evidence that if you have the vaccine, more than likely you don’t end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.

“People (infected with COVID-19) will say, ‘It’s just kind of a flu, that’s okay, I’ll stay home.’ That is the result of the vaccines.”

Click to play video: 'Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter'

Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter

Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter

The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that between June 6 and July 3 of this year, unvaccinated cases were three times more likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated cases.

Tedros urged everyone who has access to a booster dose to get one, and to continue to wear masks when it is impossible to keep distance from others.

As of Monday, 86.1 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have received at least two doses. Yet just under half — 49.7 per cent — have gotten at least one more booster dose.

Despite hospitalizations nationally remaining relatively stable, signs are emerging that more patients are being admitted with symptoms.

Hospitalizations are on the rise in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, according to the most recent updates. Most provinces besides Quebec have shifted to reporting data weekly, while Saskatchewan is due to release its first monthly report on Thursday.

To date, provinces and territories have confirmed more than 4,125,000 cases of COVID-19 including 43,471 deaths.

— With files from Rachel Gilmore

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Commercial bankruptcies rising in Canada, says business lobby group – CBC News



A small business lobby group says commercial bankruptcies are rising in Canada and even more small businesses are at risk of closure.

Statistics Canada data shows small business insolvencies have been on an upward trend since May 2021.

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says its own survey data indicates only 10 per cent of Canada’s small business owners would file for bankruptcy if their business was no longer solvent.

It says 46 per cent of business owners say they would simply stop operating rather than go through the bankruptcy process.

The CFIB also says more than one in six Canadian small business owners say they are currently considering going out of business.

The lobby group wants government support to help Canada’s small business sector get through the next few months and deal with challenges like pandemic-related debt and supply chain issues.

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