OTTAWA – All Canadian diplomats have left Afghanistan, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, raising new questions and concerns about the government’s promise to help hundreds of former interpreters and their families who are still trapped in the country.
The prime minister revealed during an election campaign event in the greater Toronto area that a total of nine flights from Afghanistan arrived in Canada in recent weeks, including two planes that arrived late Monday night.
The Department of National Defense confirmed that one of those planes carrying Canadian diplomats and special forces troops landed in Ottawa, while a second plane arrived in Toronto with Afghans who previously assisted Canada in Afghanistan.
Both were civilian chartered aircraft and not military aircraft.
“In the past few weeks, we have had nine flights from Afghanistan, including the total evacuation of all of our diplomatic officials,” Trudeau said during an event in Markham, Ontario, highlighting a promise regarding child care funding.
“We are also working closely with the US and looking at how we can eliminate more people in the coming days and weeks. And we are working with our allies on what Canada, as part of the international community, can do to stabilize the situation, protect civilians and end the violence. “
There was no immediate word on how many Afghans were on board the Toronto flight, although hundreds remain trapped in the country, with reports of families hiding in safe houses or trapped in parks and other places with nowhere to go.
Trudeau revealed on Monday that more than 800 former performers, cultural advisers, cleaners, drivers and other Afghans who supported Canada and their families have been resettled under a special program launched last month.
That program followed significant pressure from Canadian veterans and others concerned about their former colleagues. Since then, many of those veterans and opposition parties have accused the government of being slow to respond and have complained of excessive bureaucracy.
Trudeau did not say how Canada would continue to evacuate former interpreters and their families now that all Canadian diplomats have left, and he sidestepped a question about what has been described as onerous and unrealistic requirements for those trying to escape.
“Immigration officials have assured me that all flexibility is being given to allow people who cannot complete data online to transmit their information,” he said.
All Canadian diplomats have left Afghanistan, Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, raising new questions and concerns about the government’s promise to help hundreds of former interpreters and their families who are still trapped in the country. #cdnpoli
“Obviously, the situation at the moment is extremely fluid,” he added. “The Taliban have taken control of the accesses to the airport, which makes it extremely difficult for people to get to the airport to leave. And that’s something we continue to work on. “
The government also announced last week that Canada would accept 20,000 Afghans who have already fled the country and are now languishing in refugee camps or elsewhere. Those Afghans are separated from former interpreters who are still trapped in the country.
Veterans and opposition parties have accused the government of being slow to help former interpreters in recent months despite learning that the United States had been withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan since the spring.
However, the speed of the Taliban’s seizure of power took many by surprise, and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has cast a long shadow over the federal election campaign launched on Sunday.
Andrew Rusk, the founder of a national advocacy campaign to bring interpreters and local staff to Canada, has said his group is aware of at least 2,000 people still in Afghanistan waiting to be evacuated.
Afghans rushed to Kabul airport on Monday as thousands tried to flee after the Taliban seized power. Some clung to the side of a US military plane before takeoff, in a widely shared video that captured a sense of despair as America’s 20-year war comes to a chaotic end.
Senior US military officials said the chaos at the Kabul airport left seven people dead, including some who fell from a departing US military transport plane.
This Canadian Press report was first published on August 17, 2021.
– With files from The Associated Press