First plane carrying Canada’s former Afghan staffers lands in Toronto

First plane carrying Canada’s former Afghan staffers lands in Toronto

On a hot Wednesday evening, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino waited patiently on the tarmac of Toronto’s Pearson Airport to greet the first planeload of Afghan refugees evacuated under a special resettlement program he helped roll out about two weeks ago.

As the CC-177 Globemaster military aircraft pulled into the gate, he said he was overcome with pride in the collaborative effort to bring home those Afghans whose work with Canada meant their lives were threatened by the Taliban amid a civil war.

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“Every single life that came down that ramp is now better for it. Little infants and girls who no longer have to live the nightmare of being under the thumb of the Taliban. An expectant mother who will deliver her child in a safe Canadian hospital and whose child will grow up to enjoy the freedoms we can sometimes take for granted,” he said.

“The first group are now beginning their new life in Canada, and we welcome them with open arms.”

On July 23, under tremendous pressure from the veteran community and advocates, Ottawa followed other allied forces’ lead and announced the resettlement program to bring home its former employees including translators, drivers, cleaners and cooks who risked their lives to support the Canadian mission during the war.

The Afghan civilians and their families have been targeted and deemed “infidels” by Taliban insurgents who are getting closer to taking over Afghanistan with the retreat of U.S. and NATO forces by Aug. 31.

While veterans and advocates were happy to see the first flight carrying the three-dozen Afghan refugees in Canada, they said the group only included embassy staff, support staff and their families, and that none of the threatened interpreters and civilians they’ve diverted to safe houses were aware of the news or among those who arrived.

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“I think there has been a misrepresentation on the part of the government to try and instil in the Canadian public that the government has fulfilled the promise that they made, so they can look good,” said Corey Shelson, a retired captain who served in the Canadian forces from 2002 to 2015, and spent eight months in Kandahar in 2010 as a combat engineer.

“I’m happy for those families and we should have welcomed them, but by virtue of only evacuating embassy staff, the government has signalled that there are different classes of human beings.”

Shelton said he and other war veterans, who have been in touch with their former interpreters, only learned about the arrival of the flight through the media.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. That was embassy staff and support staff and their families. And that plane was 20 per cent full,” he said. “There was 150 people who could have gotten on that plane if the government would start co-operating and communicating with the advocacy groups.”

At a news conference Thursday to announce the arrival of the Afghan refugees, Mendicino was adamant about the need for confidentiality in order to protect the Canadian personnel and the local people still stranded in Afghanistan. He refused to reveal details of the operations, not even the number of people who arrived.

“Over the course of this operation, we will not be able to share the details of our work on the ground, lest it give any advantage to those who would hurt the people we are seeking to help,” said Mendicino, who also credited the veteran and advocacy groups for their support.

“We know there is still much more work to be done, and I know with more families arriving in the weeks ahead, the Canadians are up to the task. Our communities will band around them to give them the support that they need to thrive in their new home.”

Retired lieutenant Dave Morrow, whose group is working with about 700 of the former Afghan employees and their families on the ground, said veterans and advocates have no interest in compromising those security concerns but are simply asking for more transparency.

“We’re just sniffing around for more details. We’re grabbing information from the (media) videos and photos that we’ve seen. Clearly, it wasn’t a full flight. So that begs the question, why wasn’t the plane full now?” said Morrow, a spokesperson for Afghan-Canadian Interpreters.

“We’re just asking for more transparency, like how many people? Who are they? Where are they landing? How many more flights are there? We don’t need to know all the tactical details for security reasons, obviously, but at least give us an idea.”

During his news conference, Mendicino was repeatedly asked by reporters what the government is doing with the interpreters and other staff who worked for the Canadian government and are still in hiding along with their families.

His response was: “For reasons that are entirely attributable to operational safety and security, we will not be commenting on the precise number of individuals that arrived … we just simply do not want to give any advantage to the Taliban or any other group that might seek to hurt those individuals that we are trying to bring to Canada.”

Mendicino was also asked about the heightened danger faced by the stranded family members of the Afghans Ottawa resettled here under a previous program by the Conservatives that brought in 780 Afghan civilian staffers, their spouses and children between 2009 and 2011.

He maintained the new program is “flexible and inclusive” and refused to provide any update to the number of resettlement requests received so far under the new program.

Andrew Rusk of Not Left Behind, a group formed by the family of late Canadian Army Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was killed by the Taliban, said Ottawa’s handling of the Afghan resettlement is in sharp contrast to the White House, which welcomed its first group of 221 Afghans in Virginia last Friday under Operation Allies Refuge.

“The overwhelming majority of Afghans who need our help continue to remain in Afghanistan, and many continue waiting to be contacted by the Canadian government. We are continuing to see the downstream impact of the pandemonium created by the gap in the rollout of the (Canadian) government policy,” Rusk said.

“Compared with the transparency we’ve seen from the United States on their first arrival last week, it’s disappointing and it’s further contributing to the panic on the ground.”

Mendicino said the newly arrived Afghans, here as government-sponsored refugees, were vetted for security and tested for COVID-19 before departure. They are currently in quarantine in an unspecified location and will be matched with communities where they have families or already have support in place for schooling, housing, employment and language training.

“This isn’t just going to be a whole of government operation. This is going to take all Canadians,” he said. “What we have seen time and time again is that when the world calls on Canada to step up and to provide a safe harbour for the world’s most vulnerable, we answer.”


  1. أريد الهجرة الى كندا لاني امرأة كبيرة في السن أعيش لوحدي في إسطنبول اعرف مهنة الخياطة أولادي في ألمانيا لم استطيع السفر إليهم أرجو المساعدة وشكرا

  2. انا مريض غسيل كلى اب لثلاثة اطفال اعيش في تركيا وظروفي صعبة اتمنى الهجرة الى كندا واكون لكم من الشاكرين

  3. أريد الهجرة إلى كندا انا متزوج ولدي طفلة عمرها سنة واحدة وزوجتي حامل أتمنى الهجرة الى كندا أو أي دولة تعطيني الحرية والأمان وشكرا

  4. انا من سوريا أعيش في تركيا في مدينة بورصة متزوج ولدي طفلة عمرها سنه واحدة وزوجتي حامل أريد إعادة توطين إلى كندا أو أي دولة أوربية تحفظ كرامتنا وتعطينا الحرية والأمان
    شكرا لكم على أي حال

  5. I am a Syrian young man, I am 20 years old, and I have many problems with my family and society because I am gay. I am afraid for my family to find out that I am gay because my life will be in danger.I hope you can help me

  6. ارجو المساعده للهجرة الى كندا انا واولادي الاثنين وزوجتي

  7. لسلام وعليكم ورحمة الله وبراكته انا اياد من سوريا احنا 6 اشخاص وضعنا سيئ بتركيا وحالتنا مبهدله ارجو الرد علي للجوء الا كندا وشكرآ لكم جزيلآ
    Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you. I am Iyad from Syria. We are 6 people. Our situation is bad in Turkey and our situation is very poor. Please reply to me for asylum except for Canada. Thank you very much.

    1. اريد التقدم بطلب هجرة الى المانيا او كندا بعد ان ضاقت بنا سبل الحياة في سوريا وتركيا انا متزوجه ولدي اربعة اولاد اثنان بسوريا واثنان معي بتركيا
      وزوجي لايستطيع العمل بتركيا

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