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G7 transport ministers want ‘common platform’ to recognize travellers’ vaccine status

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OTTAWA — G7 countries have agreed that resuming international travel once the pandemic recedes will require a co-ordinated approach to COVID-19 testing and recognizing whether passengers have been vaccinated, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday.

“We have committed to working on a common set of principles to guide the resumption of international travel when it’s safe to do so,” Alghabra said in a statement following his virtual participation in the G7 transport ministers’ meeting.

“At the centre of this effort must be a co-ordinated approach for testing and a common platform for recognizing the vaccinated status of travellers,” Alghabra said.

“As we work to build back better, the establishment of a system that will protect our privacy and personal information, and that will be accessible, fair, and equitable is imperative,” he continued in the statement.

“We must apply lessons learned from innovative technologies to identify long-term, sustainable solutions and expand upon them globally.”

Alghabra said the transport ministers of G7 countries have a leading role to play in advancing a new global framework for international travel that will be key to safely resuming the free movement of both people and goods around the world.

The G7 includes the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, along with the European Union.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said his department is involved in discussions with the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization around setting a universal standard to promote the safe travel of those who have been vaccinated.

Speaking to a virtual news conference Wednesday, Mendicino said the government is working to put in place a system to recognize people who have been vaccinated.

“We’re continuing to work towards a world in which there will be a system in place to recognize passports,” he said. “We are certainly advancing that work both domestically as well as abroad.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Tuesday that Canada may require international travellers to prove they were vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can enter the country.

Trudeau said the federal government hopes to align its policy on the issue with its international allies, but he also said Canada might require American visitors to prove they were vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering the country regardless of whether the United States will require Canadians to do so or not.

“Our responsibility is to do everything necessary to protect Canadians, and we are going to do that, even if there isn’t automatically symmetry with other countries,” Trudeau told a news conference.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said he and his G7 counterparts discussed global issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights.

Garneau said the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting was an opportunity to breathe new life into some of Canada’s priorities, including ending arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations.

Canada and a coalition of 57 other countries offered support in February for a new international declaration denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.

“We’re very, very pleased with the very strong support that we received from the G7,” Garneau told a virtual news conference, saying that “global momentum continues to build” on the declaration.

China detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in December 2018, a few days after Meng Wanzhou, an executive of the Chinese tech company Huawei, was detained in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

Garneau said the G7 foreign ministers called on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and expressed their deep concerns about the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

Garneau said the ministers also discussed the need to fight the growing problem of misinformation around the world.

The G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, which took place in London is the first major in-person diplomatic gathering since the pandemic began. It is also the first gathering of G7 foreign ministers since 2019.

Garneau said the delegation from India didn’t participate in face-to-face meetings after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

“I have been tested five times in the last two and a half days, so testing is extremely rigorous,” Garneau said.

“We are essentially living within a bubble, very restricted in terms of movement, going from the hotel to the meetings and then returning.”

He said he will go through the normal protocol for all returning Canadians when he returns home later Wednesday, including doing PCR COVID-19 tests before and after boarding his flight and staying in a quarantine hotel for three days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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Biden nominates Cindy McCain to UN food and agriculture post

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President Joe Biden is nominating Cindy McCain to be the U.S. representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, one of 17 nominations announced Wednesday that included major diplomatic and arts assignments.

McCain, the widow of Arizona Sen. John McCain, broke with Republicans and endorsed Biden for president, making her a key surrogate for the Democrat after Donald Trump spent years criticizing her husband. McCain is the chair and director of the Hensley Beverage Company, a Phoenix-based distributor of beer, wine, spirits and nonalcoholic drinks.

The president is also nominating Massachusetts state Rep. Claire Cronin to be ambassador to Ireland. Biden frequently emphasizes his Irish heritage and has stressed the U.S. support of the Good Friday Agreement, which provided for peace with Northern Ireland but has come under stress after the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

Michael Carpenter, managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, is being nominated to represent the U.S. to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Jack Markell, a former Delaware governor, is being nominated to represent the U.S. to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The president also announced nominations to the National Council on the Arts, including Fiona Whelan Prine, widow of the singer-songwriter John Prine and president of Oh Boy Records, the country’s second-oldest independent record label still in operation.

Josh Boak, The Associated Press

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O’Toole against cancelling Canada Day; ministers, NDP say it’s time for reflection

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OTTAWA — Federal politicians are faced with the country’s legacy of residential schools as July 1 approaches, with the Conservative leader railing against calls to cancel Canada Day, while Liberal ministers and the NDP leader say it should be a time of reflection.

Leader Erin O’Toole says Conservatives are committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, but stands firm against so-called activist efforts to “cancel” Canada, particularly on the national holiday.

O’Toole offered his insights on the moment the country finds itself in to members of his caucus and staff gathered in Ottawa before the House of Commons breaks for summer.

He called the discovery in British Columbia of what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children from a former residential school “a necessary awakening for our country.”

O’Toole pledged that a government led by him would be dedicated to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples, as speculation swirls that the minority Parliament may be headed toward an election.

The Conservative leader said the road to repairing the country’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples and better equality doesn’t involve attempts to destroy Canada.

“I’m concerned that injustices in our past, or in our present, are too often seized upon by a small group of activist voices who use it to attack the very idea of Canada itself,” he said.

Standing up to cancel culture and the “radical left” was part of the platform O’Toole ran on to win the party’s leadership last summer, where he billed himself as the “true blue” candidate to the Conservative faithful.

He’s also been trying to modernize some of the party’s positions and broaden its support base to include more people, including those who are Indigenous.

Like other federal party leaders, O’Toole has in recent weeks had to respond to the discovery of the unmarked burial site in late May and renewed demands for the government to make better progress on calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Canada Day, known for its fireworks, festivities and flapping Canadian flags, has in recent years become viewed with apprehension in some quarters, as more people reckon with the country’s colonial past and the harm it caused Indigenous communities.

The focus on unmarked burial sites at residential schools has pushed those feelings further. Where before some called for Canada Day celebrations to be boycotted, some organizers decided it was best to cancel.

St. Albert, a city northwest of Edmonton, said it wouldn’t have a Canada Day fireworks show because it was to be held on the site of a former residential school.

City councillors in Victoria also announced it would forgo its holiday broadcast to instead host another event later in the summer, where people could reflect on what it means to be Canadian.

At a press conference Wednesday, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says he himself has mixed feelings about Canada Day. He drew on his own experience being from Quebec to say he knows the national holiday can be controversial, and is not universally celebrated.

For himself, he said, it’s a time of reflection and a chance to look at “what we are as a country.”

“The flags are still lowered to continue to commemorate the children that were stolen from their communities and taken to residential schools. Those wounds are still very much open in Indigenous communities,” Miller said.

Appearing virtually alongside Miller was Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, who agreed the holiday should be used to think about Canada’s ugly past.

She said the summer itself will be a time for people to wrestle with the country’s racist wrongdoings, as Canada prepares to mark its first statutory holiday remembering the legacy of residential schools on September 30.

“On Canada Day I will be wearing an orange shirt,” said Bennett.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh says people are looking at Canada Day differently this year.

“It does us a disservice when we ignore the injustice, we ignore the bad parts of our history and the ongoing legacy and the impact of those horrible things that have happened and continue to happen,” he said.

O’Toole, for his part, spoke out against calls from some to cancel Canada Day celebrations and singled out the actions of activists and those “always seeing the bad and never the good.”

“As someone who served Canada and will soon ask for the trust to lead this country, I can’t stay silent when people want to cancel Canada Day.”

O’Toole, who served in the military for 12 years, says he’s proud to be a Canadian, as are millions of others. He suggested that collectively, people use the pain felt from where Canada has failed in the past to build a better home.

“We are not a perfect country. No country is. There is not a place on this planet whose history can withstand close scrutiny.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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