The end of winter break for schools and limited travel options between Iran and Canada contributed to the loss of Canadian lives on board a flight bound for Kyiv that crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran, according to a spokesperson for the Iranian Canadian Congress.
All 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 were killed early Wednesday morning, including 138 passengers travelling to Canada, many of whom were students, researchers or lecturers with ties to schools across the country.
“Unfortunately, because of sanctions, there are not many options available to the Iranian-Canadian community to travel to Iran, and the ones that are available are not very affordable,” said Younes Zangiabadi, research director and board member of the ICC. Sixty-three of the dead were Canadian citizens.
Canada broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012. There are no direct flights between Canada and Iran, which means passengers have to use connecting flights. They would have had no choice but to take the longer but most affordable route through Kyiv, Zangiabadi said.
“We hear that most of the people, especially the students, had gone to Iran for winter holidays and were just coming back now as school is starting,” said Zangiabadi. Iranian Canadians frequently choose this time of year to visit relatives in Iran while children are out of school, he said.
“I personally know nine people who were on the flight, and they all went to Iran for holidays and they were just getting back — which unfortunately never happened.”
On the 2016 census, 210,405 Canadians list Iran as their ethnic origin, but Zangiabadi pegs the number at closer to 300,000 now, a little less than one per cent of the population of Canada.
“Our Iranian Canadian community have long requested the Canadian government to establish a direct flight between Canada and Iran,” he said.
The ICC discussed this with federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau but never reached a conclusion, he said.
U.S. travel ban also limits options
Travelling via U.S. flight hubs is not an option because Iran is one of the countries subject to a travel ban issued by U.S. President Donald Trump shortly after he took office in January 2017.
Although the ban faced several court challenges, it came into full effect in December 2017.
Reuters is reporting that Edmonton’s tight-knit Iranian Canadian community lost 30 people in the crash.
“There’s no real words for it. It’s devastating. We lost about one per cent of our entire community on that flight,” said Payman Parseyan, who knew many people from the city’s Iranian community who perished in the crash. “Every one of our community members was touched in one way or another when that plane went down.”
“Many gave up a life that they had in Iran, the people that they knew, they worked tirelessly to get to the place where they were, and to lose it like this, it’s terrible.”
WATCH | Payman Parseyan talks about the loss to the Iranian community in Edmonton
Among the numerous members of the academic community who died in the crash are 10 University of Alberta students, faculty members or alumni, said David Turpin, president of the university in Edmonton.
“Everyone on campus today is mourning the incredible loss of talent. These are wonderful people who have already contributed so much to our institution and had such bright futures ahead of them,” said Turpin.
The university has close to 500 Iranian students on campus at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
“We are in mourning and offer our complete support and condolences to the family, friends and all of those affected.”
Canada a popular destination for Iranian students
Data compiled by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a non-profit group of Canadian educational institutions, found that students from Iran comprise two per cent of Canada’s international student population, numbering around 11,000 as of 2018.
It also said that in 2017-2018 Iranian students were the second-fastest growing group of international students in Canada.
In addition to the University of Alberta, the institutions that have confirmed that their students, faculty or recent grads were on board are:
- University of Manitoba.
- University of Waterloo.
- University of Windsor.
- University of British Columbia.
- Western University.
- University of Guelph.
- University of Toronto.
- McGill University.
- Aviron Technical Institute.
- Concordia University.
- Dalhousie University.
- St. Mary’s University.
- Langara College.
The University of Windsor said Wednesday that at least five individuals who appear on the passenger list are members of its student and research community.
“The entire University of Windsor is heartbroken by this news and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of everyone impacted by this terrible tragedy,” said president Robert Gordon in a written statement.
Four University of Toronto students have been identified as victims of the crash.
“On behalf of the entire University of Toronto community, I want to say how deeply saddened we are, and how concerned we are for the families and friends of those who lost their lives,” Meric Gertler, president of the university, said in a statement.
Likewise, Western University in London, Ont., confirmed it was aware of four students who perished in the crash, according to a statement from the president.
Saint Mary’s in Halifax said in a statement that two students in its Master of Finance program were on the flight manifest.
Also in Halifax, Dalhousie University confirmed in a statement that members of its community had also died in the crash but did not share names or numbers.
For Canada, the crash represents the largest loss of life involving an aircraft since the bombing of Air India Flight 182, which exploded over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland in 1985, killing all 329 on board, of which 268 were Canadian.
U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia
The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.
Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.
“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.
In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.
In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.
“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.
“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”
In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.
Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.
“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.
Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)
Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held – Globalnews.ca
Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.
Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.
Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”
“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.
“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.
“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”
In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.
On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions
Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.
It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.
Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.
In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.
He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”
The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.
Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.
“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.
“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”
The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.
“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.
When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.
She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.
Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.
— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Omicron ‘blaming’ shows persistence of racism in healthcare -advocate
The persistence of racism is evident once again with the “blaming and shaming” of African nations for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, health advocate Dr. Joia Crear-Perry said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Reuters Next panel on racial disparities in Black maternal healthcare, Crear-Perry said the medical profession in the United States needed to stop resorting to racist tropes and start truth-telling.
“Even if you look at the latest blaming and shaming that’s happening around the latest Omicron variant you see the same history, the same racist trope of blaming certain places, assuming white nations and nations that have majority-white populations are going to need to be protected from places who are not,” she said.
“That’s the same legacy and history that shows up in health and same legacy and history that we have to have truth-telling around in order for us to stop that behavior of blaming and shaming and harming people.”
More than 50 countries have reportedly implemented travel measures to guard against Omicron, many of them banning travelers from southern African countries.
In guidance issued this week as reports of the Omicron variant spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) said: “Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here https://reutersevents.com/events/next/
(Reporting by Donna Bryson in Denver; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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