Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

October 28, 2021
Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

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Canadian government urged to rescue Afghan interpreters long before American withdrawal, leaked emails reveal

The Canadian government’s stance has long been that no one could have possibly known how quickly the security situation would deteriorate in Afghanistan, but an investigation by CBC’s The Fifth Estate reveals it had plenty of warning.

With the U.S. military’s evacuation from Afghanistan this summer — bringing America’s longest war to an end — Afghan interpreters and mission staff who had worked alongside the Canadian Armed Forces were left at the mercy of the Taliban, who considered them traitors for having assisted Western allies.

The Fifth Estate obtained more than 200 pages of documents, reports, interpreter’s biographies and support letters as well as 45 leaked emails sent to Canadian cabinet ministers and their staff, well before the American pullout, making the case to rescue those Afghan nationals.

“They had so much time to act on this, and they didn’t,” Robert St. Aubin, who worked as a legislative assistant in the House of Commons, told The Fifth Estate. “And then when they did act on it, they did it in such a convoluted and complicated, untransparent and such a bureaucratic, cautious manner that it resulted in … thousands of people being left behind.”

When Canadian soldiers left Afghanistan in 2011, they left behind local Afghans — former interpreters and mission staff — who helped them navigate the country they had landed in nine years earlier.

Canada never made written commitments, but there was an understanding among interpreters and veterans that those who had risked their lives to assist Canadian efforts would be taken care of. 

WATCH | Warnings to the immigration minister’s office: 

Warnings to the immigration minister’s office

In February 2019, the office of the Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP — at that time Don Rusnak — took notice of a local veteran campaigning to bring interpreters he had worked with in Kandahar to Canada and wrote to Immigration Canada on their behalf. 

The documentation was comprehensive — including letters of commendation from the Canadian Armed Forces, along with letters of intimidation from the Taliban. However, the response Rusnak’s office got from the government was underwhelming.

“I don’t want to say that they didn’t care,” St. Aubin, who was working for Rusnak, told The Fifth Estate. “But it was that they didn’t seem all that interested, right? It just seemed like another immigration case to them.” Read more on this story here.

Clearing the pipes

(Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press)

Members of the Iqaluit Fire Department assist with flushing the city’s water pipes on Wednesday. Residents of the city haven’t been able to drink the water since October 12, after fuel contamination was detected. The city says a historical fuel spill is the likely source. Read more here.

In brief

Food banks in Canada have seen a major surge in visits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report says, with the high cost of living and ongoing economic disruption threatening to create countless new clients in the months ahead. The findings are contained in the HungerCount 2021 report from Food Banks Canada, which surveyed almost all of Canada’s 4,750-plus food banks and community organizations. “We’re seeing high food prices, we’re seeing high housing prices, we’re seeing an anticipated pullback of government and we’re seeing high unemployment continuing through the COVID pandemic,” said David Armour, CEO of Food Banks Canada. With all of these factors, food banks are seeing a high increase in demand and they’re bracing for a significant increase in the months to come, he said. In the wake of the report, advocates are also calling for a major overhaul of the country’s social safety net to reduce poverty and food insecurity. Read more on the report here.

Patrik Mathews — a former Manitoba army reservist and an alleged recruiter for a neo-Nazi group — is expected to learn whether he will spend decades in prison at his sentencing this morning in Maryland. The hearing starts at 8:30 a.m. CT in Greenbelt, Md. Mathews pleaded guilty in June to gun charges linked to what the FBI has described as a neo-Nazi plot to attack a gun-rights rally in Virginia last January, which he and his co-accused, Brian Lemley Jr., were hoping would lead to clashes between police and tens of thousands of heavily armed protesters. Lemley is set to be sentenced today too. A U.S. army veteran who served in Iraq, Lemley has also pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including illegally transporting a firearm and obstruction of justice. Read more on the sentencing hearing

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government will reveal new legislation Thursday for the province’s long-term care homes, where COVID-19 outbreaks killed more than 3,800 people during the pandemic. Advocates for seniors are describing this as a now-or-never moment for Ontario to improve long-term care and the living conditions of the vulnerable elderly who reside there. The government is pledging that its bill will bring better accountability, enforcement and transparency to the nursing home sector and enshrine residents’ rights. The long-awaited legislation has been repeatedly promised and foreshadowed by the government since a commission slammed the province for failing long-term care residents both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic began ripping through Ontario’s 626 homes. Read the full story here

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves today for Europe, where he will participate in high-stakes talks with other world leaders about pressing issues like climate change and the race to vaccinate people in low- and middle-income countries. While much of the nearly week-long trip will be dominated by the G20 meeting in Rome and the subsequent 26th “conference of the parties” (COP26) climate summit in Glasgow, Trudeau has carved out time for an official visit to the Netherlands, a country with close historic and diplomatic ties to Canada. A meeting of the G20 environment ministers arrived at an impasse earlier this year when it failed to reach an agreement on priorities like phasing out coal and limiting global warming to 1.5 C. Multiple countries, including China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia, balked at some of the proposed language. Canada and the Netherlands could help broker a pragmatic solution through creative “wordsmithing,” Independent Senator Peter Boehm told CBC News. Read more on this story here

On the eve of the COP26 United Nations climate conference, a level of unease across the Canadian oilpatch might be expected. There are calls for countries around the world to wind down their oil and gas production as a critical step needed to slash emissions and address climate change. But after several years of low commodity prices, many energy companies are enjoying a return to hefty profits. Oil and gas prices are at multi-year highs — though that’s leading to calls for companies to earmark those funds to speed up their efforts to reduce emissions. In Canada, many in the oilpatch also see opportunity in using technology to drive down greenhouse gas emissions. They contend the sector can play a role in helping the country achieve its climate goals. Read the full story here.

That increase in mortgage rates that everyone has been warning you about may be coming faster than you thought. Depending on who you listen to, it may be a lot faster. Yesterday’s decision by the Bank of Canada to stop stimulating the economy with bond buying is already having a small effect on lending rates, said people who watch the mortgage market. But perhaps even more important is the fact that Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has dramatically changed his message from one of relative complacency — that inflation would look after itself — to one where the central bank has committed itself to actively drive inflation down with cuts to stimulus. Read more from CBC business columnist Don Pittis.

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: Five young men whose quick thinking saved the lives of two others earlier this month in B.C.’s Golden Ears Provincial Park received special commendations this week from the Ridge Meadows RCMP and the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Ajay Kumar, Arvindjeet Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Kuljinder Singh and Gurpreet Singh pulled off the dramatic rescue by tying their turbans and jackets together to make a 10 metre-long makeshift rope. They then pulled the stranded men, who were in danger of being swept into fast-moving water near the 10-metre high Lower Falls, to safety. The rescuers, all in their 20s and current or former international students, were presented with a special coin and a community leader award by Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Wendy Mehat, who made special mention of the cultural significance of the men using turbans, a Sikh religious symbol, to perform the rescue. Read more on the commendations given to the rescuers

Front Burner: Labour shortage or short-changed labour?

What’s driving a huge labour shortage in Canada right now? In the second quarter of 2021, Statistics Canada reported record-high job vacancies, especially in industries like food, tourism and retail, but no one to fill them. At the same time, workers have described convoluted hiring processes, trouble getting shifts at their jobs and potentially illegal layoffs.   

Today on Front Burner, guest host Angela Sterritt speaks with David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, on major changes in the country’s workforce. We also hear from Canadians once a part of those key industries, now fighting their way back from pandemic unemployment. 

Front Burner25:37Labour shortage or short-changed labour?

Today in history: October 28

1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis ends. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev informs the United States that he had ordered the dismantling of Soviet missile bases in Cuba. Kennedy praised Khrushchev for his “statesmanlike decision.”

1977: Solicitor General Francis Fox tells the House of Commons that the RCMP had entered a Montreal office of the Parti Québécois in 1973, without a warrant, to copy party membership lists. The revelation was one of several incidents of RCMP activities that led to a Commons debate in November on the force’s Security Service.

1998: Winnipeg becomes the first major Canadian city to elect an openly gay mayor. Glen Murray defeats his main opponent by more than 10,000 votes.

2011: Commonwealth leaders agree to new succession rules for the Royal Family, where the first-born child, regardless of gender, would inherit the throne.

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