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Canada to unveil travel rules for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents

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OTTAWA — Canada is set to detail what quarantine rules citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon have to follow when entering the country.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said last week that “measures” would be announced today that will apply to immunized Canadians, as well as foreign nationals who are permitted entry.

Currently, those without citizenship or resident status can enter the country only if their travel is related to work, school or other essential business, but not for leisure.

As more Canadians get inoculated against COVID-19 and summer weather  has people itching to take some long-awaited trips, pressure is building for the Liberal government to begin relaxing some of its border and quarantine rules.

Over the weekend the country hit an important target of having 75 per cent of its eligible population receive one dose and 20 per cent get two, providing the latter group with full protection against COVID-19.

These were benchmarks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top health officials said needed to be met to safely relax pandemic-related health measures.

Those hoping to see some loosening this month were disappointed on Friday when the Liberal government announced its restrictions on non-essential international travel would remain in place at the Canada-U.S. border until July 21.

In the lead up to Monday’s announcement, the federal government spent the past week teasing at some of the travel changes it considered making for vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said that starting in early July, the government looked to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from having to pay for a three-night stay at a government-approved hotel.

The sites are where Canadians entering the country by air, regardless of their vaccination status, must currently begin a 14-day quarantine while awaiting a negative result from a COVID-19 test required upon arrival.

Among the Canadians who recently went through the process was Trudeau himself, who’s currently in quarantine after spending five days in Europe attending international meetings with G7 and NATO leaders.

The prime minister said that in terms of being able to show border security some proof of vaccination, the country would rely on Canadians uploading images of their records to its ArriveCAN app, which is where returning travellers already have to share where they will stay for their 14 days of quarantine.

Both he and Hajdu say the country’s border rules would be relaxed in phases.

In particular, Hajdu has said the government intends those who are fully vaccinated to still be tested for COVID-19 before leaving for Canada and again on their return, where they would also need a plan for where to quarantine while awaiting a negative result.

An expert panel comprised mainly of doctors that studied Canada’s COVID-19 border measures recently recommended the government scrap hotel quarantines altogether for fully vaccinated travellers, provided they test negative for the virus and have proof they have been inoculated.

As for those with one dose, the doctors suggested travellers quarantine at home until receiving their negative COVID-19 test after having a swab done before departure.

And for those who haven’t been vaccinated at all, the panel said they should be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative before departure, upon arrival and seven days into the full two-week self-isolation period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Did Bernier’s party split votes on the right? The answer is nuanced, expert says

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OTTAWA — If Conservative incumbent James Cumming narrowly loses his seat to the Liberals, he might want to blame Brock Crocker.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Cumming was almost 140 votes behind Liberal Randy Boissonnault, who held Edmonton Centre from 2015 until the Conservative flipped it in 2019.

The result might have been different if not for Crocker, the People’s Party of Canada candidate who garnered just over 2,000 votes, signifying a potential pocket of support on the right that could have launched Cumming into the lead.

The situation is one that repeated itself in other parts of the country as the maverick movement led by Maxime Bernier picked up votes, but fell short of winning a seat in the House of Commons.

Trevor Tombe, an economics professor at the University of Calgary, took a look at the results and plotted 25 seats where the combined Conservative and PPC vote was greater than the winner’s share of the votes.

Among the ridings on the list was Edmonton Centre.

Also on Tombe’s list was Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, where Liberal candidate Leah Taylor Roy defeated Conservative incumbent Leona Alleslev, who first won the Toronto-area riding as a Liberal in 2015.

He also flagged Nickel Belt, where Liberal Marc Serre cruised to re-election, and Kitchener-Conestoga, where Conservative Carlene Hawley was a few dozen votes short of Liberal Tim Louis, with some 3,600 votes for PPC candidate Kevin Dupuis.

Tombe estimated that even a small shift of votes to the Conservatives could have meant extra seats for the Tories, although he cautioned against assuming that Conservative candidates would have won if Bernier’s party didn’t exist.

While Bernier likely picked up votes from supporters disenchanted with his former Conservative colleagues, votes also came from other sources and parties, experts say.

Conrad Winn, an expert on public opinion polling from Ottawa’s Carleton University, said some support may come from disenchanted Conservatives, but it could just as easily be more random. He recounted a story of someone who by chance met Bernier at an event and left impressed with the PPC leader.

“Like all parties, it gets support for different kinds of motives,” Winn said.

Winn cautioned it is just as difficult to draw a straight line between the Liberals and NDP because of the multiple reasons people support a party, such as age, geography and family history just to cite a few.

Tombe found on election night that the combined total of Liberal and NDP votes could have pushed either into the lead in almost double the 25 ridings that came up in his comparison between Conservative and PPC votes.

Kathy Brock, a professor of policy studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said Liberals may have lost votes to Bernier from past supporters unhappy with vaccine mandates. She pointed to research by Abacus Data that found a 42-year-old Ontario woman who typically votes Liberal was most likely to be vaccine hesitant.

Complicating matters further is some Tories appear to have voted Liberal because they privately wanted to ensure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears any fallout from the handling of the pandemic, Brock said.

Bernier lost his bid on election night to recapture the Quebec seat of Beauce he comfortably held for the Tories before his split from the party following his failed leadership run in 2017. Winning a seat is a key deliverable for his backers if Bernier wants to keep them from migrating away, Brock said.

“I’m struggling to see what he can deliver to them, other than an outlet for anger, but they can do that at a protest rather than belonging to a party,” she said.

“People have now seen him in two elections. No seat, no deliverable. Maybe they try some other strategy now, but this is going to be a struggle for Maxime Bernier to try to hold this for two years.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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Officials: Many Haitian migrants are being released in US

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DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said Tuesday, undercutting the Biden administration’s public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.

Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands. The official, with direct knowledge of operations who was not authorized to discuss the matter and thus spoke on condition of anonymity

Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.

The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.

A second U.S. official, also with direct knowledge and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti that started Sunday. The official couldn’t be more specific about how many.

U.S. authorities scrambled in recent days for buses to Tucson but resorted to flights when they couldn’t find enough transportation contractors, both officials said. Coast Guard planes took Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso.

The releases in the U.S. were occurring despite the signaling of a massive effort to expel Haitians on flights to Haiti under pandemic-related authority that denies migrants an opportunity to seek asylum. A third U.S. official not authorized to discuss operations said there were seven daily flights to Haiti planned starting Wednesday.

Accounts of wide-scale releases – some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists – are at odds with statements a day earlier by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who traveled to Del Rio to promise swift action.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life,” he said at a Monday news conference.

The releases come amid a quick effort to empty the camp under a bridge that, according to some estimates, held more than 14,000 people over the weekend in a town of 35,000 people. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, during a visit Tuesday to Del Rio, said the county’s top official told him the most recent tally at the camp was about 8,600 migrants.

The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released in the U.S. was unclear, but two U.S. officials said single adults were the priority for expulsion flights.

The Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Mexico has begun busing and flying Haitian migrants away from the U.S. border, authorities said Tuesday, signaling a new level of support for the United States as the camp presented President Joe Biden with a humanitarian and increasingly political challenge.

The White House is facing sharp bipartisan condemnation. Republicans say Biden administration policies led Haitians to believe they would get asylum. Democrats are expressing outrage after images went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against the migrants.

Mexico has helped at key moments before. It intensified patrols to stop unaccompanied Central American children from reaching the Texas border in 2014, allowed tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration courts in 2019 and, just last month, began deporting Central American migrants to Guatemala after the Biden administration flew them to southern Mexico.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, said Tuesday he had spoken with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, about the Haitians’ situation. Ebrard said most of the Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil and weren’t seeking it in Mexico.

“What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States,” Ebrard said.

Two Mexican federal officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed Mexico’s actions.

One of the officials said three busloads of migrants left Acuña on Tuesday morning for Piedras Negras, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) down the border, where they boarded a flight to the southern city of Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco.

The other official said there was a flight Monday from the northern city of Monterrey to the southern city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border. Tapachula is home to the largest immigrant detention center in Latin America. The flight carried about 100 migrants who had been picked up around the bus station in Monterrey, a hub for various routes north to the U.S. border.

The second official said the plan was to move to Tapachula all Haitians who already solicited asylum in Mexico.

The Haitian migrants who are already in Mexico’s detention centers and have not requested asylum will be the first to be flown directly to Haiti once Mexico begins those flights, according to the official.

Around Ciudad Acuña, Mexican authorities were stepping up efforts to move migrants away from the border. There were detentions overnight by immigration agents and raids on hotels known to house migrants.

“All of a sudden they knocked on the door and (yelled) ‘immigration,’ ‘police,’ as if they were looking for drug traffickers,” said Freddy Registre, a 37-year-old Venezuelan staying at one hotel with his Haitian wife, Vedette Dollard. The couple was surprised at midnight.

Authorities took four people plus others who were outside the hotel, he said. “They took our telephones to investigate and took us to the immigration offices, took our photos,” Registre said. They were held overnight but finally were given their phones back and released. Authorities gave them two options: leave Mexico or return to Tapachula.

On Tuesday afternoon, they decided to leave town. They bought tickets for a bus ride to the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, planning to continue to Tapachula where they had already applied for asylum.

Others left without being told. Small groups arrived at Ciudad Acuña’s bus station to buy tickets to Veracruz, Monterrey and Mexico City. The same bus lines prohibited from selling them tickets for rides north through Mexico, sold them tickets to head south without issue.

In Haiti, dozens of migrants upset about being deported from the U.S. tried to rush back into a plane that landed Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince as they yelled at authorities. A security guard closed the plane door in time as some deportees began throwing rocks and shoes at the plane. Several of them lost their belongings in the scuffle as police arrived. The group was disembarking from one of three flights scheduled for the day.

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Verza reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Spagat from San Diego. Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, Felix Marquez in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Evens Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Michael R. Sisak in New York and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, also contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

Elliot Spagat, Maria Verza And Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press

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